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Concordia’s Community Economic Development program spotlights new curriculum for 2024

The program affords ‘non-traditional’ applicants like Maude Massicotte a chance to boost their social and environmental justice skills
February 5, 2024

a woman in a black t-shirt laughs Maude Massicotte: “I started from a simple observation: many people with physical disabilities face social injustice."

Often, postsecondary education is seen as the stepping stone to a job. However, for students like Maude Massicotte, university can also be an opportunity to boost an existing career.

Massicotte is a student in Concordia’s Community Economic Development (CED) program, a one-year graduate diploma program in the university’s School of Community and Public Affairs.

The program — which launches its new curriculum next month at the SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation — examines current trends and practices of community-based activism and economic development. Students learn about the intersections between politics and culture as well as social and environmental justice frameworks.

School for activists

An atypical program, admission criteria for the CED program does not necessarily include a diploma; prospective students are instead evaluated on their experience. Courses are workshop-style and blend lecture, guest speakers, participatory activities, co-learning, field trips and mentorship.

A social entrepreneur herself, Maude Massicotte has 15 years’ experience as a universal accessibility advocate for causes such as access to recreational accompaniment, adapted housing, universal accessibility, advocacy and equity, and equality for people living with disabilities.

Massicotte was born with three types of disability, including a physical and hearing impairment, as well as a language limitation. Her experiences have inspired her to become actively involved through various forms of volunteering, working to coordinate events for sick children and to achieve equity and equality of services for people with disabilities, laying the foundations for her future commitments.

“I’m committed to the inclusion of people with disabilities in society and encourage society to stop looking away from their reality,” Massicotte says.

Her path also led her to co-found DéfPhys Sans Limites, an non-profit organization dedicated to accompanying individuals with physical disabilities, to help them overcome the challenges of everyday tasks. The organization assumes responsibility for accompanying people on activities and outings outside the home, facilitating the development of its members through an unhindered social life.

“I didn’t become an entrepreneur by choice, but out of necessity. I started from a simple observation: many people with physical disabilities face social injustice,” Massicotte notes.

“When an individual reaches the age of majority, the government cuts the allowances their parents used to receive for respite care, babysitting or help around the house. People like me, who are semi-autonomous and want to work, study or volunteer, have to pay to hire a carer,” she says.

“Finding people who are willing to do this work, and paying all the costs related to food, transportation, etcetera, is no small feat! So some people don’t go out and end up isolating themselves at home,” Massicotte explains.

“When you start life as a young adult, you want to grow and be with people your own age,” she adds. “At DéfPhys Sans Limite, we’re looking for better cohesion between citizens; to have a better way of living together.”

A bilingual program tailored to work-school balance

Noting her wealth of experience and unique academic situation, a colleague suggested that Massicotte would be a great candidate for the CED program. The one-year diploma was designed with non-traditional students like Massicotte in mind — individuals who are already working toward social and economic justice in their personal and professional lives.

As such, the CED program is structured to enable students to continue their work, activism and personal commitments while studying.

It’s also offered in French every second year. For the francophone Massicotte, accessing the program in her first language helped put aside her fears about studying at an English-language university.

She shares that her time at Concordia with the CED program has allowed her to broaden her network and to think bigger in her advocacy work.

“Concordia gives me the tools to see outside the box. With Concordia, I am seeing what is happening elsewhere so I can bring it back to my community — toward better cohabitation, better living together,” Massicotte says.

“I love what I’m learning!”

The Community Economic Development program launches its 2024 curriculum at the SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation on February 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. The bilingual event will include alumni testimonials, networking, catering and more. Registration is required.

Apply to the Community Economic Development (CED) program by April 1 to make sure you get a spot. 


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