U.lab brings together Concordians and community members for a unique blended-learning experience

‘We are breaking boundaries with this new approach to education’
August 19, 2019
Eva Pomeroy: “Participants build their capacity to act with greater consciousness, effectiveness and awareness of the whole system.”

Concordia is gearing up for a fourth year of a unique immersive learning experience at the u.lab’s Social Innovation Hub.

“We are breaking boundaries with this new approach to education,” says facilitator Eva Pomeroy, Concordia’s social innovator in residence. She is based in the Department of Applied Human Sciences.

“FAS has supported the u.lab since its very beginning at Concordia and its success reflects the efforts of our Social Innovator in Residence, Eva Pomeroy,” says André Roy, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science.

“Eva and her team bring together Concordia community and external partners in a meaningful way. By doing so, the u.lab truly represents the FAS 2025 objective of establishing new networks and breaking boundaries.” 

In advance of its September 12 start date, the u.lab is hosting a series of tasting sessions for people to get a sense of the overall experience.

‘An evolving process’

Students wishing to participate can sign up for Leadership, Change and Social Innovation (AHSC 498).

The u.lab employs a novel approach, inviting participation from both registered students taking the course for credit and community members. Together they attend the 11-week course both in-person and online.

Researcher Otto Scharmer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and his team at the Presencing Institute originally created u.lab as a Massive Open Online Course. It integrates social science, mindfulness and design thinking, all in the hopes of creating a better world for both individuals and civil society.

“I am really excited this year, because the u.lab is an evolving process,” says Pomeroy. “When I first ran it, I was still learning what it was myself. Now I see it as an incubator for a new approach to higher education.”

The u.lab journey

U.lab participants move through three broad “movements” during the process, which are represented by the curve of a U. The first involves participants building their capacity to listen and observe themselves, others and the world around them from a place of greater openness. The second moves into deep introspection and mindfulness, followed by a period of action to realize a project.

Projects can be as simple as engaging in conversations in a new way or as complex as launching a new social enterprise.

“Throughout the process, there is an emphasis on developing our awareness of the place from which we operate when we perceive, think, act and communicate. This helps participants build their capacity to act with greater consciousness, effectiveness and awareness of the wider system,” Pomeroy explains.

Senior independent student Marlene Chan was one such participant.

“It was a very personal, invigorating voyage of self-discovery within a community and even a world context,” she says. “It was a catalyst for change. It allowed me to bring intention into action and for the system of my ‘self’ to see itself.”

An invitation to Concordians

Last year’s u.lab saw increased participation from Concordia faculty and staff, including from the dean of students, Andrew Woodall.

“I found the u.lab to be one of the most innovative and useful experiences I have had in post-secondary education,” Woodall says. “The combination of creative design, expert facilitation and engaging content were inspiring intellectually and immensely helpful to me in my daily work.”

This year, in addition to students and community members, Pomeroy hopes to attract even more Concordia staff and faculty.

With this goal in mind, u.lab has switched its traditional Thursday-morning schedule to one from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Pomeroy hopes this will be more appealing to professionals who can come to the office early and work through lunch, rather than miss working hours.

“It’s an experiment, but so far we have had some positive feedback.”

Social innovation at work

“This year, more than ever, I want to use new framing to deepen the interactive experience of u.lab,” Pomeroy adds.

“Who are we? Who and what do we want to be? What do we want the future of education to look like? These are all questions we want to explore.”

She also plans to use her current experience collaborating with the Presencing Institute, which has further inspired her heading into u.lab Concordia’s new season.

“I am so excited to co-initiate this year’s u.lab hub on September 12 and look forward to meeting a diverse range of people who come to our taster sessions to find out more.”

Check out U.lab's two free public taster sessions on August 29 and September 4 on the Sir George Williams Campus. Find out more on the
Social Innovation Hub website.


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