York Undergraduates are Mobilizing Knowledge for Regional Economic Development through Experiential Education

On December 10, six students in a fourth year Regional Economic Development course at York University presented their research findings to representatives from their community partner, the South Simcoe Economic Alliance. The opportunity to apply their skills to a real world problem came through one of the KM Unit’s sister offices on campus, the Experiential Education (EE) unit. York’s KM Unit has been pleased to collaborate with students from the EE program on previous projects and it was a pleasure to attend the  students’ final presentation.
The South Simcoe Economic Alliance (SSEA) is a dynamic partnership of three municipalities and Nottawasaga Futures: Township of Adjala-Tosorontio, Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury, and Town of Innisfil (the South Simcoe region also includes New Tecumseh and Essa). This region is home to two multinational industries, Honda (automotive) and Baxter (pharmaceuticals) yet the lives of it citizens are also shaped through agriculture and many small and medium sized businesses. To realize the South Simcoe brand as “The Best of All Worlds”, SSEA was seeking:

  • guidance on attracting and retaining investment monies that will drive business growth and enhance the quality of life for the community
  • analysis on the recommendations and results of strategic/core activities arising from two background reports – ECAP and Competitive Analysis 2004
  • analysis of the SSEA website and benchmark it against other Canadian regional economic alliances

The students made a presentation and provided a written report and executive summary to SSEA. Valerie Ryan of Nottawasaga Futures said she “appreciated depth and clarity of recommendations from students. They were all very earnest and displayed a high level of integrity.” Valerie was joined by her Nottawasaga colleague Margo Cooney and Adjala-Tosorontio counselor Mary Brett.
They heard from the students that SSEA communities need to view economic development as an investment and expand budget allocation to support economic growth activities. It was recommended that South Simcoe take a leadership role in promoting the region to the Greater Toronto Area (with specific recommendations on transforming the SSEA website into a successful marketing tool) and that local economic developers could establish a partnership fund to leverage joint marketing initiatives. According to the students, SSEA could integrate programs and services to retain and attract business investment and accelerate job creation by developing employment parks that are serviced, readily available, and prominent to possible developers.
On of the students, Christina Kroner said that the EE experience “was a fantastic educational experience that brought our learning to life! The discussion that followed the presentation was very stimulating”.
Thanks to Geoff Webb and his team in the EE Office for remaining an excellent partner for York’s knowledge mobilization activities. York’s KM Unit has added to our growing relationship with SSEA by placing two KM Interns funded by the MITACS Accelerate program to assist in the development of the Nottawasaga Futures Green Transformation Program – stay tuned to Mobilize This! for more on that collaboration.

(l to r) Prof Frank Miele, Daniel Hernandez, Byung Mark Yoo, Tri Ngo, Xiaomin Liang, Ali Waris, Mary Brett, Christina Kroner, Margo Cooney Valerie Ryan

About Experiential Education: Experiential Education is a form of engaged learning that blends theory and coursework with practical, hands on experience. As part of their academic studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies students apply key course concepts to a wide variety of case studies and projects involving both profit and not-for-profit organizations. Faculty members serve as guides in the background, facilitating student engagement with EE opportunities that lend concrete credence to LA&PS’s innovative blend of liberal and professionally-relevant programs.  For more information please contact Geoff Webb, Manager of Experiential Education at gwebb@yorku.ca.