Humber College’s Bachelor of Community Development program was designed for solution-oriented students with a passion for advocacy

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When you think about community development, concepts like human rights, social justice and inclusion often come to mind – it’s about working for people, not for profit. Those working in the field are employed by local councils, government departments, non-profit organizations and the health and education sectors.

Along with creating the capacity for change, careers within community development offer job security, an excellent salary and benefits. It’s a fulfilling path for people who are passionate about leading projects and advocating for those who face barriers that keep them from living a productive life.

“Community development is important because we all want to live in a safe, healthy environment,” says Linda Hill, program coordinator and professor in the Bachelor of Community Development degree program at Humber College. “The main goal is social justice for all, and it’s a way of being in the world that builds social capital and a community’s capacity for greatness. It’s about understanding the root causes of problems and trying to find real solutions with the people who are most impacted.”

For example, community workers might find themselves addressing the problem of hunger in low-income neighbourhoods. Instead of building food banks as a quick solution, they would rather understand the root causes of hunger and address these specific factors.

Humber’s Bachelor of Community Development degree program, within the Faculty of Social & Community Services, offers a unique blend of theory and practice-based experience. Throughout their four-year journey, students learn how to work in communities and support different groups of people as they navigate challenges that impact their quality of life.

Hill began her career as a social worker but after realizing that many of the problems people faced were a result of poorly constructed systems, she shifted her focus.

In 1995, she started an agency in Toronto’s Etobicoke area, for older adults with physical and mental health challenges who were eligible for nursing home care but wanted to live independently in their own homes.

“This was a new concept from warehousing folks in long-term care that valued peoples’ resiliency and right to make decisions that impacted their lives,” she shares. “It confronted ageist views and formed supportive and interdependent ways of caring for one another. My supportive housing agency allowed frail older adults to age-in-place and created a strong sense of belonging.”

With determination to change the long-term care system in Ontario, Hill obtained her graduate degree in Community Development at the University of Toronto. After completing the intensive program, she began consulting with community groups that were seeking funding to develop innovative social programs. She also started teaching at the college level, which eventually led to a full-time position at Humber, working with students who were keen on changing the world in small and big ways.

“I enjoy teaching the skills-based courses like interpersonal communication, group dynamics and leadership; mostly because I see students grow and change through these courses,” she says. “They become better communicators, group facilitators and leaders. It’s rewarding to watch the transformation that occurs. The community foundation courses are also near and dear to my heart because I get to talk about my passion and espouse the values and theories of the practice.”

The Bachelor of Community Development degree program also includes a 420-hour field experience. This provides students with the opportunity to fine-tune their skills while making connections with others in the industry. Students are given the option to collaborate on an applied community development project with their peers or to work directly with established community partners.

“It’s incredible to see the students take all the knowledge and skills they’ve learned throughout the degree and apply it to a real project that impacts organizations and the sector. I’m always in awe at the calibre of projects and am genuinely happy to know my students will soon be my colleagues as community workers,” she shares.

At the end of the program, graduates will have a strong understanding of how the world is organized and will feel comfortable speaking up against social inequity. They’ll also be knowledgeable in the areas of counselling, sociology, psychology, organizational structures, social movements and advanced issues in community development.

“Community workers use their skills to help facilitate groups and move agendas forward while understanding that they are not the experts. The members of the community are the experts and their lived experience is what guides the work,” says Hill. “It’s about people coming together collectively to solve real problems with the shared goal of positively changing the world.”

To apply for the fall 2022 semester, click here. For more information on the Bachelor of Community Development, visit their website here.

For more from Humber College at NOW Magazine, click here.

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