University of the Fraser Valley Hosts Community Celebration
From a postsecondary perspective, how is “community engagement” defined? Is it the relationships between the student body, the academic and support staff, alumni and governing bodies of the institution? Is it connecting and working with government, industry, small and large organizations? Is it about building bonds with Indigenous and equity-deserving communities, both on and off campus? Is it some of the above, or all of the above?
For the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), community engagement is at the heart of what they do. Just about to enter its 50th year (and you’ll no doubt be hearing about that in the months to come), their mission–– engaging learners, transforming lives, building community—serves as a roadmap for making a meaningful difference in all the communities they serve.
During the week of September 11, UFV launched its first ever Community Report with a series of programs focused on sharing and celebrating the deep relationships they see as the key to successful community-campus engagement.
When work began to build the community report, called St’elt’elawtexw: Celebrating Community Across the Fraser Valley (St’elt’elawtexw is a Stó:lō word that closely translates to “community”), the goal was to highlight, through storytelling and examples of achievement, how deeply the roots of UFV connect to all the people of the Fraser Valley.
Susan Mide Kiss is Vice-President, Community Engagement (Susan is also co-chair of the CCECanada Management Committee); she led the cross-functional Community Engagement portfolio (Marketing, Communications, Alumni Engagement, Community Programming & Experience, and Advancement teams) to develop, design and launch the report.
“Community is woven into the fabric of this university, and we are grateful for the meaningful relationships that contribute to our collective success,” says Susan. “Community—and everyone is part of it—shapes UFV’s identity.”
The publication was launched with students, faculty, staff, volunteers and alumni at two programs (UFV has several campuses in the Valley) early in the week of September 11, with the Student Union Society serving as hosts and emcees for the launches. Sharing the report with the campus community prior to a larger, broader community celebration gave internal audiences an opportunity for a first look at the report before the larger public launch on September 14.
“We know it’s important to engage our internal community, to give them a sense of pride and ownership over their stories and the stories of the people around them,” explains Susan. “In that way, we build community from within.”
St’elt’elawtexw: a Celebration of Community was held on a beautiful, clear early fall evening at the EcoFarm, a UFV community partner in Abbotsford, B.C.; 250 members of the university and broader community were in attendance to celebrate achievements of all sorts. Students were recognized for their unique and impactful community engaged projects; outstanding alumni received awards, as did long standing individual and corporate supporters of UFV. A special musical presentation was a highlight of the evening, with Good Medicine Songs, a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous performers who present songs that weave together English and Halq’eméylem, the language of the Stó:lō (People of the River) in song and stories. The evening also featured a special student presentation of a reading from The Laramie Project, a play about the murder of a gay university student and its aftermath.
“At UFV, we pride ourselves on creating safe, welcoming spaces for everyone to come, share and exchange ideas about how we can all make our communities stronger and more resilient.”
Susan says the Celebration helped introduce UFV’s emerging approach to engaging the deep and interconnected communities throughout the Fraser Valley and beyond. ”In the coming years,” she says, “UFV looks to build these relationships to expand our student experience, grow our body of research and establish reciprocal relationships with valued community partners.”
View more at the UFV Community page here.