PhD-Community Initiative

Graduate Students In and For the Community

Registration for the PhD-CI has closed.

PhD-Community InitiativeThe PhD-Community Initiative began as a pilot program in Fall 2016. The incredible success of the pilot has led the School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs to expand the initiative to seek more community partners, additional mentors, and provide opportunities for more doctoral students to be involved. The PhD-Community Initiative (PhD-CI) responds to community organizations that have identified challenges and opportunities that are meaningful to their operation or mission. PhD students bring advanced research training and critical inquiry and creative thinking skills to an interdisciplinary team to support the organization鈥檚 challenge. Working in partnership with the organization and with a team mentor, teams of students will define (or scope) the project, plan an approach, and identify the outputs to be achieved and/or delivered by the project completion date.

Questions? Please contact Heather Merla at


What is it?

The initiative brings together PhD students from different programs of study into interdisciplinary teams of 3 to 5 members to assist community organizations in addressing a particular issue or challenge of importance to them. With the benefit of a fresh, interdisciplinary, analytical approach, the organization may receive the help needed to move forward in a positive way. Each team will be assigned a mentor who will provide guidance and advice about working as a team, managing a project, and working with partners.

The PhD-Community Initiative provides PhD students with an exceptional interdisciplinary, experiential learning opportunity that requires the application and translation of skills and knowledge gained in graduate training to address a problem outside of their area of research or scholarship.

Teams are formed in consideration of the project preferences of each participant and in accordance with the following criteria: each team will have 3 to 5 members; have representation from various discipline clusters (i.e., Social Sciences, Humanities, Physical/Natural Sciences, Health Sciences, Engineering); no more than 2 members from any single discipline cluster (no more than 1 in a team of 3); and a team cannot have more than one member from a single academic unit.

Why Participate?

Students who participate will:

  • Gain experience working as a member of an interdisciplinary team
  • Gain experience in developing a plan of action and deliverables from ambiguous beginnings
  • Learn to apply skills and knowledge outside of the academic arena
  • Build and enhance professional skills (e.g. project management, leadership, building effective teams, communication, design thinking, interpersonal and inter-professional networking)
成人大片 Campus

鈥淚t's an opportunity to get perspectives of individuals that are excited to participate in it, are eager, and bring perhaps a revitalized energy to something that you just haven't had the time to attack and complete.鈥
- Sonia Nobrega, QUBS

鈥淭he workshops have given me confidence that I can add value to my local community. I have already encouraged several of my peers to register for the next session.鈥
- Michael Carter, a PhD student in geography who worked with Sistema Kingston

鈥淲hat was most valuable about the experience for me was watching a team of people who didn't know my organization actually get to know it really quickly, understand its bones, and to provide me with some new ideas and some incentives to go the next step.鈥
- Karma Tomm, Sistema Kingston


Students who would like to participate must be prepared to dedicate 5-8 hours/week to the project over a period of 7-8 months, which includes a commitment to the following:

  • Participate in person in all aspect of the project from start to finish
  • Participate in preparatory workshops and meetings (for details, see below)
  • Engage with the community partner
  • Attend regular meetings with their team and mentor
  • Actively participate in and contribute to the work of the team
  • Participate in monthly progress meetings with each team presenting briefly on their progress to date
  • Present the project output/deliverable at a public capstone event
  • Time commitment: 5-8 hours per week (generally up to 5 hours at the start of the project and more towards its completion)

Community Partners interested in participating must identify an issue or challenge that is relevant to their organization and be prepared to identify a contact person to liaise and act as a resource for the team of PhD students aiming to address the challenge. Community Partners must commit to:

  • Attending an introductory meeting to 1) present the issue or challenge that the organization faces and what you hope a team of PhD students might address; and 2) answer questions from the students
  • Having a contact person who will meet with the team at the start of the project and serve as a resource as needed throughout the project period (October to April)
  • Attend the capstone event

Workshops and Meeting Times

PhD-Community Initiative Information Session

For all those interested in participating in the PhD-Community Initiative. Learn more about the program and decide if you want to sign on!

Thursday, September 14, 12:00 鈥 1:30pm
Kingston Hall, Room 200


Meet the Community Partners

Learn about the proposed projects and partner organizations, ask questions, and identify your project preferences.

Tuesday, September 19, 5:00 鈥 6:30pm
Kingston Hall, Room 301

Meeting Effectively as a Team

Tuesday, September 26, 6:00 - 9:00pm
Gordon Hall, room 324

Presenter: Diana Drury (Director, Team and Executive MBA/Master Coaching Programs, Smith School of Business)

Description: This interactive workshop will go through the essentials of working effectively as a team and managing a collaborative project to completion. You will learn how to arrive at agreement on team practices and processes, team decision-making, project planning and scheduling, monitoring and reporting progress, and positive management of unforeseen constraints or challenges. By the end of the session, each team will have identified a team coordinator, budget officer, and a plan outlining next steps to ensure the project gets underway.


Principles of Community Engaged Learning

Thursday, October 12, 12:00-1:00pm
Gordon Hall, room 302


November Progress Report

Thursday, November 16, 12:00 鈥 1:00pm
Gordon Hall, room 302


December Progress Report and Holiday Social

Thursday, December 14, 12:00 鈥 1:45pm
Gordon Hall, room 302


January Progress Report and Skills Evaluation and Reflection Workshop

Thursday, January 25, 12:00 鈥 2:00 pm
Gordon Hall, room 302


February Progress Report

Thursday, February 22, 12:00 鈥 1:00 pm
Gordon Hall, room 302


March Progress Report and Skills Articulation Workshop

Thursday, March 21, 12:00 鈥 2:00 pm
Gordon Hall, room 302


Presentation and Media Training Workshop

Monday, April 15, 1:00 PM
Stauffer Library, Room 121

Capstone Event

May 2, 2024, 4:30 PM
Memorial Hall, Kingston City Hall