In Trinity’s Ethics, Society & Law (ES&L) program, academically excellent students in their final year of study are invited to enroll in an innovative course: Community Research Partnerships in Ethics (CRPE).
CRPE provides an incredible experiential learning opportunity for students to learn about and conduct ethical community-based research through an extended partnership with a community organization and a faculty supervisor.
“CRPE students undertake an in-depth independent research project with meaningful community impact,” said Adjunct Prof. Stephanie Silverman, ES&L Instructor for CRPE (TRN407). “The course is challenging, but through the guidance of faculty mentors and their placement activities, students gain valuable research and workplace skills that extend beyond the academic setting. The faculty members and community partners also gain a lot from working with these incredibly talented and thoughtful students.”
“TRN407 was one of the most fulfilling and rewarding course experience that I have had throughout my four years of undergraduate study at the University of Toronto. The hands-on experience provided through the student-placement enabled me to put theoretical concepts from politics, economics and ethics into the real world,” said ES&L student Alessia Avola.
Guided by a Course Coordinator who teaches research design and facilitates the partnerships, each CRPE student designs a research project to investigate an ethical issue that illuminates the work of the community organization.
“The CRPE course provided me with a platform to conduct meaningful, original research on a topic that I am incredibly passionate about,” said ES&L student Raoof Zamanifar. “I can confidently say that this course was the highlight of my undergraduate studies.”
Fellow ES&L student Mahta Talani noted that the year-long CRPE research project provided a remarkably eye-opening experience. “The knowledge and experience I gained by being outside the classroom was truly tangible and an experience like none other in my five years at the University of Toronto.”
As the culminating project, students produce a novel research paper and often additional materials requested by the partner organization for distribution to their staff or clients. CRPE students are also involved in three workshops so they can share their learning with peers.
“The course helps students apply an interdisciplinary approach — often to address issues that lie at the intersection of ethics, society and law — to political, legal and ethical questions that are crucial to the contemporary world,” Prof. Silverman added.
“The CRPE program is undoubtedly the most practically applicable course in my four years at the University of Toronto and has offered me a priceless opportunity to contribute both to the scholarly body of knowledge and effect real change in the Canadian legal system and society itself,” said ES&L student Ryan Chan. “Thanks to this course, I will be continuing to work with the WWF, who will be providing me funding to further develop my research and begin a new project focusing on offshore operation liability and look forward to continuing my relationship with this internationally renowned NGO.”
This year, CRPE students worked with non-profit organizations on research projects that addressed challenging issues in community health, human rights, social justice and the environment.
“TRN407 was one of the most fulfilling and rewarding course experience that I have had throughout my four years of undergraduate study at the University of Toronto. The hands-on experience provided through the student-placement enabled me to put theoretical concepts from politics, economics and ethics into the real world. It has reinforced to me the importance of experiential learning, and broadened my interests into the arena of community health. I attribute a large part of my sense of fulfillment in this course to the support and encouragement I received from my classmates, my supervisor Professor Charlotte Lombardo and Professor Stephanie J Silverman, as well as my peers at SEEN (Supporting East End Neighbourhoods) and community members in Toronto.”
“This course was by far the most supported and rewarding course of my undergraduate degree! Everyone I interacted with in this process, including the supervising professors, coordinators, community partners, and my peers, are brilliant, kind, and motivated individuals who made this project feel like a community effort, rather than an independent studies course. I feel so honoured and humbled to be able to share my research with the community.”
“The CRPE program is undoubtedly the most practically applicable course in my four years at the University of Toronto and has offered me a priceless opportunity to contribute both to the scholarly body of knowledge and effect real change in the Canadian legal system and society itself.
My project focused on challenging the government’s Frontier Offshore Regulatory Renewal Initiative (FORRI), which was a government initiative to update the Arctic oil and gas exploration safety regulations. My project challenged the government’s application to admit the As Low As Reasonably Practicable (ALARP) standard of safety, which I argued was overly vague and unclear in jurisprudence, inconsistent with international good practices and effectively set no clear regulations. Working with the WWF’s Arctic Project Team, we have delayed the government’s implementation of FORRI pending review of the issues I raised as well as other challenges forwarded by the WWF.
Thanks to this course, I will be continuing to work with the WWF, who will be providing me funding to further develop my research and begin a new project focusing on offshore operation liability and look forward to continuing my relationship with this internationally renowned NGO.”
“The Community Research Partnerships in Ethics program was one of the highlights of my undergraduate education. I was given the opportunity to partner with a relatively small organization that I had not heard of before the program. The experience gave me an enormous amount of admiration for both them, and all the other people working on grassroots initiatives to make Toronto a better and more equitable place to live. It also helped me properly contextualize my academic experience, by showing me that it was only one way of understanding the issues that I study. I was inspired to consider career paths that I otherwise would not have, and to question many of the assumptions I had unconsciously adopted about how social change occurs. It was an incredible program, and I am very lucky to have taken part in it.”
“As an undergraduate student in my final year, the CRPE program provided me with an invaluable opportunity to conduct academic research on a topic I cared about while volunteering for a community organization and thereby gaining insight into social justice work as it operates on the ground.
My research project was a partnership between myself, Professor Vincent Chiao at the Faculty of Law, and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), an organization that advocates for the importance of protecting free speech and freedom of the press in Canada. Launching off a bill passed in October 2017, I wrote my paper about laws protecting confidentiality between journalists and their sources and the ethical challenges and dilemmas associated with preserving these relationships in different circumstances. The topic was one close to my heart — my own background in student journalism, and particularly an investigation I conducted this year into online sexual harassment, has involved sensitivity to many of the kinds of considerations I encountered throughout my research.
The CRPE program and the interdisciplinary nature of the partnership allowed me to conduct academic research in a meaningful and grounded way, and the support I received in this regard from my supervisor, my community partner, and the Centre for Ethics was remarkable.”
“In my final year at the University of Toronto I had the privilege of partaking in the Community Research Partnership in Ethics (CRPE) program. This program was a remarkably eye-opening experience for me, as I truly understood the work put into a large year-long research project. It was especially pleasant to step outside the classroom as a part of my learning process and travel to the Stride headquarters. The knowledge and experience I gained by being outside the classroom was truly tangible and an experience like none other in my five years at the University of Toronto.
My main take away from this program was to understand that the world differs from the black and white landscape we learn in theory and academics. In order to produce wholesome research in hopes of restoration, reparation and justice, we must understand all the complexities that one may not be aware of through reading texts and sitting in a classroom. The CRPE program was a significant milestone in my academic learning and is an experience I will always cherish.”
“I was partnered with the Center for Social Innovation (CSI) for the 2017-2018 CRPE program. Through the CSI, I was able to connect with Robert Shirkey, founder of the non-profit organization Our Horizon. With the help of Rob and my supervisor Prof. Hilary Cunningham, I produced two research papers; one on how legislation moves forward in the EU (to show how legislation relating to climate change solutions can be implemented), and another on how civil initiative and civil disobedience can be utilized by climate change initiatives.
The CRPE program allowed me to conduct research on two extremely interesting and practical topics. With the help of my community partner and supervisor, I further developed my legal, academic research and communication skills. Overall, this was a highly unique and rewarding experience and I would highly recommend the CRPE program to all ES&L students.”
“In this year’s CRPE course I had the privilege of conducting research in collaboration with The Rights of Non-Status Women Network (RNSWN), a grassroots coalition of activists, service providers, lawyers, and academics based in Toronto. The CRPE course provided me with a platform to conduct meaningful, original research on a topic that I am incredibly passionate about. In specific, the purpose of my research was to identify the concrete barriers that prevent individuals without immigration status from accessing subsidized housing in Toronto.
My research reveals that despite the City of Toronto being a self-proclaimed sanctuary city, non-status individuals are prevented from accessing subsidized housing because of: A) an oversight by the City of Toronto, namely, the Rent-Geared-to-Income Administration Manual, and B) The Province of Ontario’s Housing Services Act. Being unable to access subsidized housing is troubling for non-status individuals — and especially for non-status women — in light of the vast amount of research that demonstrates their dire living and housing conditions.
During my time with the program, I had the opportunity to interview service providers one-on-one. I am incredibly grateful for the platform and independence that the CRPE course gave me. I can confidently say that this course was the highlight of my undergraduate studies, and that my final research paper was the most meaningful work that I have produced up until this point.