Brock University’s Political Science students are making a positive impact in the local community, all while planning their path to future success.
Students in Citizen Politics (POLI 4P12/5P12) spent the Fall Term learning about advocacy groups and social movements, and their impact on the world of politics.
To get a better understanding of how those groups engage formally and informally in the political process while representing the interests of those they represent, students took part in online experiential learning partnerships that allowed them to work with various community organizations.
For master’s student Felisia Milana, this meant exploring her interest in Indigenous incarceration rates with the Niagara Chapter for Native Women (NCNW), a local organization that encourages Indigenous women to become active participants in society while remembering and honouring their unique cultural and spiritual beliefs.
The partnership allowed Milana to prepare helpful resources for NCNW about Indigenous incarceration while forming the basis for her major research paper and a career she hopes to pursue in law.
“I knew about the discrimination experienced by Indigenous Peoples before, but I am now coming into a field and I want to know what I can do to benefit that community,” she said. “I want to understand and help create change and the project with NCNW was a great way to start that journey.”
With volunteer opportunities tougher to come by due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Milana was thankful for the experience she was able to gain.
“It would be hard for me to find an outside job that related to this field, but this merged the two, and fits within the course curriculum,” she said. “It’s like a miracle to get experience and keep up with school.”
Like Milana, fifth-year student Eve Nyambiya also paired her experiential opportunity with a passion she hopes to turn into a career.
Through a partnership with Positive Living Niagara, an organization that provides support, education and advocacy for HIV-positive individuals, Nyambiya was able to prepare resources that lobby for the decriminalization of narcotics use.
As an aspiring policy analyst, Nyambiya said the assignment was the perfect way to prepare for her future while also giving back to the community.
“I love the work Positive Living does, and it’s important because they provide so much support for people with substance use disorders. They help to care for people who might be on the fringe of society,” she said. “Giving back to the community in that way while also improving my policy skills was something I really enjoyed.”
Nyambiya said the assignment gave life to the theories she had learned in the course.
“There is a difference between just discussing what you read and actually applying what you learned in the world,” she said. “I want to help vulnerable people through policies and there’s no better way to do that than in person with an organization that does that every day.”
The course’s instructor, Associate Professor of Political Science Livianna Tossutti, said the chance for students to apply their in-class experience would set them apart as they pursued their careers.
“Although there is great value in discussing and talking about theories and concepts and listening to others, ultimately you need to be able to implement those ideas on the ground,” she said.
Tossutti finds it rewarding to see her students gain valuable experience and is thankful her teaching is making a positive impression.
“When the course has an impact on the students, it’s a joy,” she said. “It reaffirms my belief that we can make a positive difference in our students’ lives by supporting our partners and experiential learning.”
Milana said the course has provided her with a new confidence.
“As students, we can feel like we are not capable of changing the world, but we can,” she said. “I was able to contribute to the organization and the community, and they will use that information to help people going forward.”