Universities Without Walls

Title of Proposal

Universities Without Walls: Teaching and learning with a new generation of Canadian HIV researchers

Presenter Name(s)

Francisco Ibanez-Carrasco, Shauna Butterwick, Cathy Worthington, Sean Rourke, Elisabeth Marks, and Jean Bacon


“Universities Without Walls” (UWW) is a national HIV health research training program that embraces interdisciplinarity, community based research (CBR) and progressive pedagogy principles and practices. The UWW is funded by a Strategic Training in Health Research (STIHR) grant of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and housed at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN). UWW admits an annual cohort of between 12-15 graduate students from a variety of health and social science disciplines as well as community-based researchers. The UWW program include on-line colloquia on topics related to CBR and HIV research, a community service learning (CSL), and a week-long Learning Institute. The UWW program is structured to build and strengthen a community of active, engaged CBR practitioners to move the HIV research field forward in Canada. UWW is linked to the REACH centres of research (CIHR funded, both national research grants share one same PI, Dr. Sean Rourke and a number of investigators). REACH gives UWW fellows opportunities to participate in HIV research across Canada with senior HIV researchers, policy makers, and people living with HIV. 

In this paper, we argue that UWW is an illustration of a program built on a central commitment to community engaged scholarship. We will first describe the pedagogical foundations of the UWW program (self-directed individualized and group learning as well as CSL) and its integration of CBR to HIV/health investigation, interdisciplinarity, and ethics frameworks such as the TCPS (Tri-Council Policy Statement), OCAP (Aboriginal ownership, control, access and participation) and GIPA (the greater and meaningful involvement of persons living with HIV/AIDS). We will then describe the results of our first year evaluation which include individual, academic and community impacts and challenges. Our discussion will include our lessons learned in keeping UWW pan-Canadian, implementing CSL opportunities for our Fellows in governmental policy and non-profit organizations, in navigating the dynamics/logistics of supporting a collaborative World Café with community participation, and brokering community partnerships to hold a Learning Institute. Also, we evaluate the gains and challenges for academics engaging with hybrid pedagogical ventures that may or may not be recognized by their home disciplines and universities.

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