Students can complete the Reading Week program through an undergraduate course or by applying directly to the program. Project leaders work with community partners to identify short-term projects. The projects are paired to an academic course, or assigned to a student team, led by a project leader. Before the three-day experience, students complete a day-long training session that includes workshops, meetings with their project team and site supervisor, and a presentation from the community partner.
Undergraduate students complete short-term community engagement projects for elementary school and non-profit organizations over a three-day period during reading week. Examples of projects include food desert mapping in Surrey, several full-school takeovers with the Vancouver School Board, and a community-built photography exhibition in the Downtown Eastside.
Students who complete the reading week experience as part of a course complete a pre-experience assignment. They use the assignment to set goals and commitments and identify the organization with which they'd like to work. Students refer to this in the post-experience assignment and reflect on the how the experience relates to course content and personal skill development.
The program is assessed through surveying participating students.
At the end of each of the three days, students complete a group reflection guided by the project leader. Students completing the program as part of an academic course complete an additional reflective assignment.
Key success factors
The three interconnected programs allow for different levels of applied learning and mentorship.
The structure enables greater economies of scale and broad support for community engagement since it decreases the amount of planning time and administration for the community partner. Since the projects are short, they are minimally disruptive to the organization’s routines and reduce training and supervision time.
The program initially partnered with schools, but has expanded to include non-profit organizations as community partners to offer an even greater range of experiences to students.
The program provides a work-integrating learning opportunity for students in first-year and in large arts courses where logistics are typically prohibitive.
In 2019, 53.7% of students participating were international students. For these students in particular, working with a local organization can cultivate shared reference points among students with diverse life experiences. It can also influence how new international students relate to and navigate their host city.
Students work on interdisciplinary teams. Applied learning is not required; students can opt to work on projects in their field or explore a new topic.
The program is open to students from other post-secondary intuitions. Students can spend their reading week at UBC and participate in the three-day program.
The multi-layer aspect of the program means there’s a lot of moving parts. For example, each project leader is assigned a project; if there are more projects, leaders must be added or take on additional work.