On April 7, students from Trent University and Fleming College showcased community-centered research, innovative solutions and project evaluations in the Community Innovation Forum.

The yearly event hosted by Trent University, Fleming College, the Trent Community Research Centre and the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster, and sponsored by Bell, brought together students from a variety of fields, academics and community members in a celebration of research and innovation.

The Community Innovation Forum showcased the research and evaluations of Trent University students who undertook community-based projects facilitated by the Trent Community Research Center (TCRC).

The TCRC seeks to be a “catalyst for community action through research,” by providing a space for collaboration between local actors and Trent students.

Local actors propose a research question or project, which is then undertaken by students who learn to translate theory into practice in the process.

Dr. John Marris, director at the TCRC, noted that community-based research is an opportunity for Trent students to give back to the community that they live in by meeting local research needs, while also providing students a powerful learning experience and a rare opportunity at the undergraduate level.

These research opportunities are what set universities and their graduates apart, as students reported that the challenge of a community-based research project provided them with skills that would have been unattainable in a traditional classroom setting.

In addition, such an opportunity to be engaged with the Peterborough community broadened students’ networks and ties to the area.

Ngina Kibathi is a fourth-year Trent student in the forensic science program examining opportunities for youth in Peterborough.

“The community-based research project is a one of a kind opportunity to step out of the traditional classroom to learn, explore, and understand different elements of the Peterborough community,” said Kibathi.

In addition, Trent Browett, a fourth-year Trent student studying international development conducted an evaluation of Peterborough’s pre-charge diversion program.

“[Community-based research] provides an opportunity to students to have a real impact on the community they have the privilege of sharing through the four years that they attend Trent University,” Browett stated.

The TCRC is a unique program that truly emphasizes and facilitates research at the undergraduate level that also has lasting impact on the Peterborough community. It is the kind of program that foments applicable skills, makes a university and its graduates stand out and successfully links theory with practice and campus with community.

The forum welcomed 25 projects from Trent University conducted by over 40 students. The showcased projects stemmed from fourth year international development, forensic science and geography courses and various independent projects from business, economics, history, nursing, biology and indigenous studies departments.

Over 20 projects from Fleming College were also showcased at this event. These projects were undertaken in collaboration with local businesses, the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster and Fleming students.

Students from Fleming College were partnered with a local business or local sponsors in order to provide their expertise in computer technology, wireless information networking, marketing and international trade and business.

The Fleming model allows students to act as consultants for local businesses and simulates a real workplace environment that has monetary and human resource implications.

These projects often constitute the first time that students are exposed to the managerial aspect of the workplace, and provide students with practical skills and networking opportunities.

Dr. Raymnod Vip Choy, the program coordinator for Fleming College and professor at Trent University, noted that this program allows students to enhance their network in the business and not-for-profit sectors in Peterborough and to apply their learning to real world situations.

For the businesses involved, this program provides them with the expertise of students and their faculty supervisors, exposure to graduating students and a way to informally evaluate potential future employees.

“The Fleming approach is unique,” Choy stated and also noted that students who engaged in the program were more likely to find employment in their field than their counterparts.

Both Trent’s and Fleming’s programs provide students the rare opportunity to engage with their local community and gain real-world transferable skills.

These programs are essential in creating experienced, community-conscious graduates that have learned the value of community-based research and overcome the challenge of translating theory into practice.

The Community Innovation Forum, hosted to showcase the outcome of community-based projects, celebrated students’ accomplishments and provided a space for the sharing of ideas, networking and more opportunities for collaboration.

The evening ended with a panel discussion featuring local entrepreneurs D’Arcy Hutton, Ribbat Chowdry, Sana Virji and Lindsay Brock and was moderated by “The Voice of Business,” Sandra Duek.

The event also recognized students’ work by presenting a series of awards, including the Faststart Awards, Student Choice Award, Community Impact Award, Innovation Awards, and Academic Achievement in Community Setting Award.