December 08, 2011



Experimental program finds success in building new links between campus and community


Hamilton, Ont. December 08, 2011For eight weeks, groups that might never have come together have been learning from one another in an educational experiment that has brought McMaster University and parts of the community closer to one another -- and to their city.


The first session of the McMaster Discovery Program is to culminate this weekend in a mutual celebration for students and the partners who put the pilot project together.


On Saturday at 2 p.m., students, their families and friends are to join Discovery Program organizers and McMaster president Patrick Deane for a completion ceremony in Council Chambers (Gilmour Hall, Room 111) on campus.


The Discovery Program invited a diverse group of adult learners, many who had faced personal barriers to post-secondary education, to take part in a non-credit, humanities-based university course called Voicing Hamilton.


Starting in mid-October, the group of 18 adult students, ranging from their 20s to their 70s, met every Saturday to study written, illustrated and video material about the city and to work on individual projects that expressed their views of Hamilton.


The forms of their expression included painting, filmmaking, writing and even heritage cooking, and covered such topics as architecture, history, immigration and neighbourhoods. Projects will be on display at the celebration.


Instructor Daniel Coleman, a professor in McMaster’s English and Cultural Studies Department, says he and other team members, including students from the Arts & Science Program, have learned as much as they have taught over the course of the Discovery Program.


“This has been a reminder for me of why I became a teacher in the first place,” Coleman says. “The thing I’ve been so impressed by is the creativity and resources the students brought to the class. The love of learning and the passion they have shown has created this incredibly generous class atmosphere that’s been like a magnet.”



The Discovery Program students took part at no cost to themselves. President Deane’s office provided the major part of the funding for the pilot, in conjunction with partners including the Adult Basic Education Association, the McMaster Community Poverty Initiative, the Hamilton Public Library, Hamilton Community Foundation and the City of Hamilton.


Though the classes were all held at the Hamilton Public Library’s central branch, the students asked to have their completion ceremony on campus, Coleman said.


“We asked them where they’d like to be and they said, ‘This is a university class and we’d like to celebrate at the university,’” Coleman says.


One student, a school bus driver, volunteered to drive her classmates to campus in a bus provided by her company.


The students also told the organizers they did not want to be the only ones receiving certificates for the course. They are planning to present their own certificates to the people who organized the course and volunteers who prepared weekly lunches for Discovery participants.


McMaster University, one of four Canadian universities listed among the Top 100 universities in the world, is renowned for its innovation in both learning and discovery. It has a student population of 23,000, and more than 150,000 alumni in 128 countries.




For more information, please contact:


Wade Hemsworth

Public Relations Manager

McMaster University

905-525-9140 ext. 27988


Michelle Donovan

Public Relations Manager

McMaster University

905-525-9140 ext. 22869