A sneak peek into the CESL

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The front doors of the CESL building sit closed in the Riddell Centre.
A CESL-abration for the students. Gillian Massie

The program that replaced UR Guarantee

“As one who serves” is more than just a motto at the University of Regina, it’s a way of life. The recent opening of the Centre for Experiential and Service Learning (CESL) is an attestation to this purpose. Located on the first floor of the Riddell Centre, the CESL is set to empower students to serve and lead with purpose. From volunteering opportunities to co-op placements and internship programs, the CESL has something for everyone.  
On March 30, the Centre for Experiential and Service Learning hosted a spectacular event, the UR CESL celebration, to honour and recognize the dedication of its outstanding volunteers and ambassadors. The Carillon had the opportunity to speak with Rhea McFarlane, the acting manager of CESL, as she shared insights about the centre’s mission, services, and its impact on the students’ community at the University of Regina. 

How long has CESL been operating at the University of Regina, and what kind of services and programs does it offer to students? 

The CESL officially opened in November 2022 and within that time, we’ve added a lot of amazing services to already what we have going. We have kind of three main pillars of our programming: Experiential Learning, Service Learning, and Work Integrated Learning.  
The Experiential Learning portion is anything that is going to help students get involved in the events organized on campus and in faculty panels and ways to help them reflect on what is going on in the classroom. Service Learning is the opportunity to give back to the community, whether it’s the university community through the Ambassador Program that has been going on for many years now or the new volunteer centre which is focused on working out in the community and being in partnership with community organizations. Work Integrated Learning focuses on finding paid and unpaid learning opportunities for students which is what they are learning in the classroom and putting it to use in a working environment.  

In our office, we do have co-op and internship programs. That has been going on since 1999, which was the very first co-op program in western Canada. We’re proud of the work that we’ve been continuing to do. We are very excited to continue this work as we move forward in the next years. 

Can you tell us about the recent UR celebration for the CESL ambassadors? What was the purpose of the event, and how was it organized?  

UR celebration has been going on for many years. It started off as a UR Guarantee celebration, then we incorporated the ambassadors into it and now it kind of incorporates all aspects of CESL, an even bigger opportunity to celebrate students’ successes. The purpose of the event is to celebrate students’ successes. A lot of wonderful things happen in our centre, and we do have those opportunities throughout the year to congratulate students on their great work.  

The UR CESL celebration is that one big day where we can say to all our volunteers, our ambassadors, and students who engage in Experiential Learning, that “Hey, you’ve done a really good job. We’re really proud of you and we want to you to be celebrated not just by us but also by your peers.” That kind of peer-to-peer celebration and promotion of growth is so important. We’ve had almost all of our staff members at some point including our student assistants as well to organize this event. And now that we’re with CESL, we have a much larger group. So, moving forward, we hope to continue to grow that event. It’s really exciting how we get to see changes that get to be even more inclusive and diverse so that more and more students are able to take part. 

How many ambassadors were recognized at the event, and what were the specific types of volunteer work they engaged in to support the department’s mission and goals? 

39 ambassadors received certificates on the occasion of the UR CESL celebration. […] With our ambassadors in particular, they do a lot of work by being engaged on campus, kind of that first friendly face that new students get to see for their orientation or even for some of the larger events. Getting to be part of that mentorship process is a hands-on version of learning mentorship here at the university before they leave for whatever their careers might be.  

In other areas such as co-op programs and Integrated Learning, our students get the opportunity to meet employers, network, and learn soft skills just as much as disciplinary skills. We’ve seen many of our students go up straight from the co-op placement in a company getting into a full-time job with them and it’s so exciting to see that. […] There is part of that community-engaged learning for students, understanding that their place is connected to people. 

What are the plans or initiatives that the CESL has in store for international students and newcomers in the upcoming years? 

Actually, a large majority of our students who engage with our centre are international students who have emigrated to Canada. It’s so exciting to see that we have such a breadth of knowledge and diversity. […] It’s really exciting to have drawn in a wide variety of students. So, we continue to invite the students to join us at any point and we’re excited to have them with us. 

The interview above has been edited for length and clarity. 

Maliha Jabeen Khan, a second-year Science student, was the recipient of the prestigious title of Ambassador of the Year 2023, which meant a lot to Khan. “Being recognized as the Ambassador of the Year is truly an honour, and I am humbled by this recognition. I feel grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Ambassador Program and for the wonderful experiences it has brought me.” 

 Khan went on to share that her journey as an ambassador, starting as a junior ambassador and advancing to the role of ambassador leader, has been both gratifying and exhilarating.  “When I joined the program, I was looking for a way to socialize and make friends in Regina, and I can confidently say that the program has delivered much more than that,” she continued with enthusiasm.  

“The Ambassador program is like a triple threat to students, giving them public speaking skills, time management skills, and communication skills that they can use in the future to ace interviews and charm people. It’s like a social skills boot camp!” Khan explained. “As an ambassador, you’ll not only enhance your skills, but you’ll also build beautiful relationships – just like how I met all my closest friends through the program. I encourage students to make the most of this program during their undergrad by seeking out opportunities and cultivating relationships with like-minded individuals.”  

She concluded with a compelling insight: “So, why settle for just a degree when you can also gain a social life? In a nutshell, being an ambassador means you get to network like a boss, show off your passion, enthusiasm, and dedication, and leave a legacy that impacts the campus community and fellow students positively.” 

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