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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Rethinking University-Community Engagement with Am Johal

Beyond the teaching and research mission of the contemporary university is the desire for a commitment to community engagement that deepens democracy, social transformation and social justice and thinks beyond the possibilities of service learning to a transformational learning experience for students. While the expansion of community engagement in universities has had enormous impact, built new partnerships, and created new opportunities for institutions, faculty members, students, and community partners to work together in more intentional ways, the institutionalization of community engagement in Higher Education has also landed down in complex and problematic ways. Community engagement has also been a method for universities to brand themselves in superficial ways when engagement agendas intertwine with communications and recruitment agendas and cover over the university's own role in gentrification in urban universities. In a time of climate emergencies, racial injustice, social and economic inequality, and multiple crises, what is recoverable in community engagement in Higher Education today? What can a tangible and relevant agenda for community engagement in Higher Education look like today? What is the future for community engagement at universities in a post-pandemic world? Using examples from Simon Fraser University's community engagement work in Vancouver, Canada, we will explore these questions in dialogue.



Am Johal is director of community engagement at Simon Fraser University’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement, within the SFU Woodward’s Cultural Unit. Previously, Johal worked on the Vancouver Agreement, a collective effort to address urban economic and social development. He was a co-founder of UBC’s Humanities 101 program and chair of the Impact on Communities Coalition. He has also been an advisor to two provincial cabinet ministers (Transportation and Highways; Community Development, Cooperatives and Volunteers). Johal holds undergraduate degrees in human kinetics (UBC) and commerce (Royal Roads University), an MA in international economic relations from the Institute for Social and European Studies (Hungary) and a PhD in communication and media philosophy from the European Graduate School (Switzerland). 


RSVP Required

This workshop is free and open to the public. Please note that this event will be held in-person and on zoom. Please be sure to RSVP as soon as possible, as we are limiting in-person seating to half the capacity of the room.

Please register for

1. in-person attendance at


2. zoom attendance at