We are thrilled and proud to announce that Isabelle Kim, an alumna from the IDS Co-op program, has been appointed as Director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Community Partnerships. We caught up with Isabelle to congratulate her and ask a few questions about the value of her IDS Co-op degree, her conception of development, and her thoughts on the CCDS curriculum.
How did your education at UTSC, and particularly your co-op experience, provide you with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate various professional experiences after graduation?
The interdisciplinary nature of my education at UTSC taught me about the value of interconnectedness: between the local and the global; economic, environmental, political, social and cultural issues are all inextricably linked to one another; the different dimensions of identity (race, class, gender, sexuality, etc.) intersect. International development problems are complex and require the kind of critical, creative, and interdisciplinary thinking that is fostered at CCDS. As an IDS Co-op alumna, I bring to bear the diverse set of knowledges and skills gained from the various CCDS courses when grappling with a challenge – whether with WUSC in Peru on water sanitation, or with a CIDA (now Global Affairs Canada)-funded project in China on nursing education, or with Development and Peace, engaging the Canadian public with global social justice issues, or with Presbyterian World Service and Development (PWS&D) on maternal health and girls’ education (Afghanistan) and food security (Pakistan) projects, or emergency aid and relief efforts. My Anthropology of Development Professor’s (Janice Boddy) words: “Don’t get cynical, get critical” still echo in my mind when things seem hopeless – like when the Taliban recently shut down our implementing partner’s maternal and child health clinics in Afghanistan. My co-op experience in Tianjin, China taught me invaluable skills: event planning, project management, inter-cultural communications, research methods, and Mandarin. Perhaps more importantly, I was able to develop qualities that have helped me to navigate various professional and personal experiences after graduation: adaptability, flexibility, diplomacy, patience, and the importance of listening first (not hard when one’s Mandarin speaking skills is weak)!
What is your conception of community development, and how could we better integrate our “international” development program with community development?
My ideal conception of community development is a long-term and continuous process through which a self-identified group of people develops its collective capacity to access and responsibly manage their resources; realize collective rights and responsibilities to organize; identify and address common problems; represent themselves and participate in matters that concern them, while enabling each member to reach his/her full potential (physical, intellectual, socio-economic, and spiritual).
As for the second part of your question, I am so glad you asked about how to better integrate the “international” development program with community development! Without overstating the obvious, as I mentioned in my answer to your first question, the local and global are interconnected - so much so that we now have a term for it: “glocal.” This is nothing new of course, they always were, but the advances in transportation and information technologies have made it more palpable. Nowhere is the glocal more apparent than in urban centres like the Greater Toronto Area, home to so many diasporic communities. Community development is intrinsic to global social justice work and thus knowledge and experience are essential for CCDS students. Putting the theory of community development principles and methodologies in practice can take place whether in CCDS students’ co-op placements in other countries or right here in the GTA through Community-Engaged Learning (CeL) courses and diverse co-curricular learning opportunities offered by the Centre for Community Partnerships at the University of Toronto (www.ccp.utoronto.ca) , including Alternative Reading Week. Here are some examples of CeL courses offered at UTSC:
ANTD20 Culture and Community (Dr. Mortensen)
SOCD21H3 Immigrant Scarborough (Dr. Villegas)
CITC10 City Studies: Urban Communities in Scarborough (Dr. Allahwala)
HLTD02 Health Research Seminar (Dr. Silver)
HISD44 Nearby History (Dr. Berkowitz)
CITC02H City Studies: Learning in Community Service (Dr. Bunce)
CTLB03 Introduction to Service-Learning (Dr. Persaud)
Hypothetically, if you were to teach a course for the CCDS or help us rethink our curriculum, what would be your focus/what advice would you give us?
As a graduate from the Ph.D. program and past instructor in the Curriculum, Teaching and Learning department at OISE/U of T, I love this question. I would love to teach a course for the CCDS one day! I would like to co-teach a global classroom on community-based participatory action research and other decolonizing methodologies with an instructor working in one of the many university partners of U of T, in India, for example. This would be a project-based course involving experiential learning. The course would take place both face-to-face (in India and Canada) and through an online Community of Practice-building platform to enable Indian and Canadian students to connect and share their learnings and experiences both during the course and, ideally, beyond. As for helping to rethink the CCDS curriculum, that is an interesting question that I would need more time to reflect on, as I graduated 17 years ago and am less familiar with the program today. Ask me again in a few weeks, and I would be more than happy to take part in that conversation. The one thing that I hope will never change is the interdisciplinary aspect, and I like the addition of the word ‘critical’, which reflects the orientation of the program.
We wish Isabelle all the best in her new role!