Dialogue Fellow, Diane Finegood, Honoured for Dedication to Experiential Learning

March 09, 2023

 The Awards for Excellence in Teaching recognize instructors who inspire and facilitate student learning in ways that make a sustained, substantial and positive influence on how students think, engage and act in the world.  Congratulations to Dialogue Fellow, Dr. Diane Finegood for receiving the Excellence in Teaching Award for Community Engaged or Experiential Education. 

The experience of students in the Semester in Dialogue program has undoubtedly been enhanced by the thoughtfulness, vision and dedication of Dr. Diane Finegood, one of our Semester in Dialogue instructors. 

Dr. Finegood has been an SFU faculty member since 1996, but her extensive contributions to leadership in the field of health research previously left fewer hours for teaching. However, in 2017 she was seconded to the Centre for Dialogue, where she now occupies a dual role as a Dialogue Fellow and faculty member in the Centre’s dialogue-centred pedagogical program. 

She wholly welcomed the change from teaching physiology in a traditional classroom to instructing in dialogue-focused courses. 

“I saw the Centre for Dialogue and the Semester in Dialogue as an opportunity to do something different, and to bring all the experience and connections I developed throughout my career into the classroom,” she says. “It’s a good place to do that because it’s such a diverse and creative place to be.”

Dr. Finegood is always contributing to that diversity and creativity. She’s known for her inclusive and innovative approach to teaching, and for her commitment to pedagogical improvement. Her work extends far beyond the classroom and into the community. 

“The work I do as a scholar and the work that I do for teaching really meld together at the Centre for Dialogue,” she says. “Having access to the expertise in the Centre to bring into the classroom and having students who can engage with Centre projects and to the various social enterprises we work with…it’s really at that nexus of community-engaged experiential learning, and that to me is what it’s all about,” she says. 

Her ability to adapt quickly under changing circumstances and her willingness to work with her students to co-develop customized curriculum have continually enriched the dialogue-centred programming. Throughout the pandemic, she worked closely with students to re-imagine and re-invent various aspects of the program and to respond to the difficult external circumstances. When her course was fully online in 2021, she welcomed international students from France, Ghana and Croatia into her classroom.  When a quick pivot to a less intensive course was necessary in 2022, she used the opportunity to invite community members into her dialogue-centred course on wicked problems. 

“The diversity of life experiences in the classroom enabled rich dialogues that all of us were able to learn from,” she says. 

Dr. Finegood is also admired for the way she encourages and facilitates deep reflection in her students. She says that through written reflections before, during and after the course, as well as the self-reflection she asks for in one-on-one meetings, she is able to build stronger relationships with her students and the students get to know themselves better. 

“I think probably one of the most important skills that students learn in our dialogue-focused courses is self-reflection.  Dialogue and self-reflection are not a focus of most post-secondary coursework, but they are essential skills that our students need to be able to thrive in an increasingly complex world,” she says.

Across a long and distinguished career, Dr. Finegood says teaching in the Semester in Dialogue stands out as a clear highlight.

“I feel super fortunate to be where I am at this stage of my career,” she says. “I really love it, and I’ve been known to say many times this is probably the most important work I’ll do during my career. I’ve had a number of big jobs and titles, but this is way more important, because preparing and supporting young people, to go out into the world and change things has a ripple effect. If I can support even a few people to think differently about the complex world in which we live, equip them through practice with some skills like self-reflection, dialogue and working in teams and in community, the impacts will likely be greater than all the research I’ve done or the organizations I’ve led.”

We at the Centre deeply appreciate Diane’s creative and thoughtful approach to her work, and her commitment to continually improving the experience of our Semester in Dialogue students. 

SFU’s Semester in Dialogue is an immersive, cohort-based, semester-long program offered through the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue. The program is designed to inspire students with a sense of civic responsibility and encourage their passion for improving society.