Many students now consider volunteering an extracurricular activity that can enhance their education. Volunteering allows students to explore opportunities or career paths.
The UBC Learning Exchange focuses on providing the Downtown Eastside community with access to free programs to improve different elements of their lives, as well as working with students to make use of their skills and abilities to help the community and offer students the opportunity to test and build new skills. It brings a refreshing “choose your own path” element when it comes to volunteering.
Matt Hume, the current Student Learning Coordinator at the UBC Learning Exchange, first started off at the Learning Exchange as a part-time student member. He ran a senior community theatre class there for two years before becoming a staff member.
To say that Matt approaches the concept of student volunteering with enthusiasm is an understatement. He works one on one with each student volunteer to help them set goals about what they would most like to become involved with and learn while volunteering, called “learning outcomes”. Furthermore, Matt helps students to adapt and change said learning outcomes if they become inspired to change their type of involvement with the Learning Exchange after interacting with the community.
I interviewed Matt in order to gain a deeper insight into the Learning Exchange and to learn more about how students interacted with the campus community hub. Here’s a bit of what we chatted about.
What do you think draws students to the Learning Exchange?
Matt: When students join the Learning Exchange they are able to set their own learning outcomes and they are drawn to the range of opportunities that are offered. Whether they want to concentrate on assisting or facilitating digital literacy programmes in the form of workshops, [or] digital tech cafes and English language literacy programs that go out into the community and provide 1-to-1, peer-to-peer, tech skills.
Something that particularly stood out to me while I was interviewing Matt was the way that he described what students could gain from connecting with the community.
Matt: Students typically become involved in the Learning Exchange due to a course that has a community engagement component or they join a club that does community engagement work. …employers appreciate [students] applying classroom learning to the real world. It looks good on an application, cover letters, and during interviews that you not only learn from textbooks or articles but that you went out and applied that learning immediately.
Vice versa, what kind of benefits does the Learning Exchange and the community receive from student volunteers?
Matt: We, [The Learning Exchange,] want to find an experience that will be incredibly meaningful for [students], and in turn, that’s always incredibly meaningful for us… If [students] want more behind-the-scenes work, we have something called the Making Research Accessible initiative, which promotes ethical and reciprocal research with the Downtown Eastside community. Students can work with Nick, the Community Engagement Librarian, or…other staff. They can work to support research and other work going on in the community [through becoming involved in this initiative]. When students reach out to us, I like to have a meeting with them to discuss what they can get out of the experience, or rather, what they want to get out of the community work and engagement.
In addition to the Making Research Accessible Initiative, Matt also described the ways that the community benefits from the digital literacy programs and the English communication classes, depicting how the Learning Exchange creates a reciprocal relationship between UBC students and the Downtown Eastside community.
UBC Learning Exchange | English Class
UBC Learning Exchange | Computer Skills
UBC Learning Exchange | Drop-in Activities
For all general enquiries, email email@example.com or call 604-827-2777.
If you’re interested in becoming involved in volunteering with the UBC Learning Exchange, contact the Student Learning Coordinator Matt Hume at firstname.lastname@example.org.