Creating a Common Space for Community Engagement

  • Heather McRae University of Alberta


The increased interest in community engagement within higher education provides new opportunities for examining the role of university continuing education (UCE) units in relation to their participation in community university partnerships. This article is based on findings from a qualitative study that used a social theory lens to examine the perspectives and ideas of representatives from the university and the community relating to their experiences and interests in participating in collaborations in support of the social good. While the respondents from community-based research and community organizations identified few constraints affecting their involvement in these kinds of partnerships, the UCE study participants described a number of issues that affected their participation, such as an emphasis on revenue generation and the lack of organizational support for engagement. Considerations for supporting a common space for engagement involving UCE professionals include the development of a partnership model, the adoption of an asset-based approach, affiliations with national organizations and networks, seeking external visibility and recognition, and using social theories to guide the development of community engagement practices.

Author Biography

Heather McRae, University of Alberta
Heather McRae is associate professor and associate dean of engaged learning with the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta. She has extensive experience working in continuing education units in the Okanagan and at the University of Victoria. She has developed curriculum and instructed in an online graduate degree program in community development offered by the School of Public Administration at the University of Victoria. Her research interests include organizational governance, leadership, and community engagement.