Expanding Horizons

Expanding Horizons

Expanding Horizons

Professional Development

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The PhD-Community Initiative

The PhD-Community Initiative began as a pilot program in Fall 2016 under the Expanding Horizons theme Setting Ideas in Motion. The incredible success of the pilot has led the School of Graduate Studies to expand the initiative to seek more community partners, additional mentors and provide opportunities for more doctoral students to be involved.


What is it?

The initiative brings together PhD students from different programs of study into inter-disciplinary teams of 3 to 5 members to assist local community organizations in addressing a particular issue or challenge of importance to them. With the benefit of a fresh, interdisciplinary, analytical approach, the organization may receive the help needed to move forward in a positive way.

The PhD-Community Initiative provides PhD students with an exceptional interdisciplinary, experiential learning opportunity that requires the application and translation of skills and knowledge gained in graduate training to address a problem outside of their area of research or scholarship.

What’s the benefit?

Student who participate will:

  • Gain experience working as a member of an interdisciplinary team
  • Gain experience in developing a plan of action and deliverables from ambiguous beginnings
  • Learn to apply skills and knowledge outside of the academic arena
  • Build and enhance professional skills (e.g. project management, leadership, building effective teams, communication, design thinking, interpersonal and inter-professional networking)

“Working with a non-profit organization encouraged me to reach outside my comfort zone.”
- Mavis Kusi, a PhD student in neuroscience who worked with Sistema Kingston.

“I learned a lot about project management and communications from working with our community partners and stakeholders.”
- Hasan Kettaneh, a doctoral candidate in education who worked with the Kingston Economic Development Corporation’s (KEDCO).

The Framework

Local organizations have identified challenges and opportunities that are meaningful to their operation or mission and are often multi-dimensional in terms of the elements and issues that may need to be considered. PhD students bring advanced research training, and critical inquiry and creative thinking skills from disciplinary perspectives that contribute in a unique way to an interdisciplinary team approach. Working in partnership with the organization and with a team mentor, teams of students will define (or scope) the project, plan an approach, and identify the outputs to be achieved and/or delivered by the project completion date.

“What was most valuable about the experience for me was watching a team of people who didn't know my organization actually get to know it really quickly, understand its bones, and to provide me with some new ideas and some incentives to go the next step.”
- Karma Tomm, Sistema Kingston

Sound interesting? Learn more about how the PhD-Community Initiative will work.