Joseph Mwesigwa Ssendikaddiwa on the experience of being a CERi graduate fellow

July 08, 2021

This blog is authored by Joseph Mwesigwa Ssendikaddiwa, a SFU Faculty of Health Sciences MSc. graduate and a member of CERi's 2020/21 Graduate Research Fellowship cohort.

Can you describe your experience?

Firstly, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the Community-Engaged Research Initiative team for the work you put into organizing material, bringing fellows together and above all running a successful program during such a difficult time. My experience as a fellow in this program has been nothing short of moments of learning from peers, educators, and experts in the field of community engagement. Time during this program felt like a hideout to listen to what my peers were going through, a time to unwind and slow down yet learn at the same time.

Did anything unexpected happen? 

Going into this program I was not sure what to expect and how much work I was to put in given that I was also finishing up my MSc thesis. I was honestly dreading how much I would be required to do. Thankfully the program was designed in ways that met students’ where they were in their respective studies. I was also really amazed at how the staff and my peers stayed up to pace with the program, showing up every day even when the world around us was crumbling.

What did you like about this experience? 

I really liked the diversification of projects that my peers were working on, this really gave me an opportunity to learn about what fellow graduates in other disciplines were doing and the problems they were solving. The diversity of educators and speakers that led various workshops really made the program rich with knowledge, experience, background, and expertise to learn from. The representation of different disciplines and ways of knowing provided opportunities to widen my horizon and knowledge in community engagement.

What challenges did you face?

Time was not on my side to take as much as I could from the wealth of resources and knowledge that was offered in the program. Juggling workshops, assignments and readings with my thesis project that was in its latter stage was really a challenge. I look forward to going through the resources on canvas at a much slower pace to learn and grasp the concepts better.

What were you drawn to? 

I was really drawn to the experiential learning piece that was interwoven with the breadth of knowledge and skills during workshops. The side-by-side organization of the two provided opportunities to practice the skills and concepts as we interacted with community partners, mapped out community engagement activities and solving problems that came up in the process. I was also drawn to the opportunity to connect with community partners to learn from their experience and the relationships formed as a result.

What might you want to learn more about because of this? 

The community-engagement research program has opened up opportunities for praxis-based learning. I am interested in learning more about how community engagement can be used as a tool to nurture democratic processes toward problem solving. Particularly, how engagement with communities through research and the reciprocity in learning between the researcher and the community can pave paths to a kind of inclusive problem-solving process that best accounts for community needs and context. I believe community engagement research methods may very well be the answer to societal issues that have withstood the taste of time as these methods get to the root of problems as lived and experienced by the community.

What was the most enjoyable moment?

I really enjoyed the check-ins with peers and CERi staff especially during a time when social connectivity was at its lowest. The check-ins really gave me opportunities to learn from my peers but to also feel what others were going through during such a tense year.

How will you use what you've learned in the future?

This program has helped me build relationships with communities and organizations that I intend to develop further as we work through various projects. Lessons and skills learned will offer an upper hand in future projects in Uganda where there are gaps in community engagement and research. There is so much community engagement methods have got to offer in bridging gaps created by elitist education that rarely gets into the trenches were real problems happen.

What advice do you have for other grad students interested in CER?

I would advise any graduate student interested in community development and a praxis-based education to take up the opportunity CER offers. While our academic programs have provided opportunities to learn the theories and to master concepts, I somewhat believe real knowledge happens when it is people/community centered. To learn, to act and to develop with and for the community, that is what CER offers.

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