The Importance of Community Building and Engagement at The Chang School


We spoke with Farheen Hasan and Jennifer Ajandi to speak about the importance of community building and engagement and the Certificate in Community Engagement, Leadership and Development that is offered at Ryerson’s G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education.

Farheen Hasan
Experiential Learning Coordinator,
The Chang School,
Community Services Area


Farheen collaborates with organizations across various sectors and industries but specifically in community development. These relationships become the foundation to develop professional project research or service focused learning opportunities for students in Chang School Programs.


Jennifer Ajandi
Academic Coordinator,
The Chang School,
Community Services Area



Jennifer’s role as an academic coordinator allows her to support students navigating throughout their certificate. She ensures the content is well developed and delivered to meet student interests.


Who is the Certificate in Community Engagement, Leadership and Development directed towards?

The Certificate in Community Engagement, Leadership and Development is directed towards bright individuals who are passionate about working in engaging communities. This can include anyone who works in sectors such as education, health care, and social services but also those who have elements of community engagement in their portfolios. For example, the Chang School has had previous students who have worked for non-profit banking, construction, film, and business sectors, Jennifer explains. As community engagement intersects with many industries, its appeal can be quite broad.

What skills can students expect to learn from the certificate?

The certificate will allow students to work with industry professionals so they can learn how to apply what they learn in the classroom to the workplace. They will have the opportunity to work together with community organizations and provide real-world solutions, explains Jennifer. Students will learn how to advocate for social issues, develop problem-solving skills and critical thinking skills– all while meeting community needs. Farheen says that students may be surprised at how much the programs may impact their points of view and attitudes.

“The content of the certificate programs may challenge students’ beliefs and transform how they see the world.”
– Farheen Hasan

What does The Chang School do differently than other similar programs at different schools?

The Chang School is unique in that it offers students individualized service. The Experiential Learning Coordinator consults with each and every student to learn about their academic and professional goals, their strengths and their interests (social, cultural, environmental, etc.). Students are then matched to a learning experience that caters to their needs as well as the needs of community partners. This allows The Chang School to develop lasting relationships with partners that in turn, better serve both the partners and The Chang School students, explains Farheen, creating a win-win scenario.

“The certificate programs are designed to give students not only the knowledge they need but also the practical skills to succeed in their chosen fields.”
– Farheen Hasan

Why is citizen and community participation important?

Citizen and community participation plays a pivotal role in developing healthy communities. Healthy communities serve citizens of all levels, not just the wealthy or the vulnerable and are therefore important to every citizen. In alignment with Ryerson’s mission, Farheen says the Chang School encourages its students to be engaged citizens that contribute to community building which can lead to improved public spaces and public health for their communities.  

“Students will learn to see the gaps in community service areas and come up with ideas, solutions and recommendations to address them.”
– Farheen Hasan

What contributes to a healthy community? And, how can we take steps in our daily lives to contribute ourselves?

Aside from basic needs being met such as a safe and clean environment, active citizens who engage with and contribute to their communities are what makes communities healthy and vibrant. Citizens actively participate by challenging norms and systems, defining solutions, and implementing positive changes. These actions allow communities to serve a wider population where more opinions and belief systems are recognized and valued. 

In our daily lives, we as citizens can participate in these examples regularly. By questioning systems that do not serve us, speaking out against injustices, thinking of new ways to address problems, and supporting individuals and organizations that promote positive action, we create a healthier community around us. 

“Creating structures and processes whereby true participation is embedded is an underlying foundation of social justice and a framework we use in the certificate.”
– Jennifer Ajandi

What does a career in this industry entail?

A career in community engagement entails supporting and working towards sustainable community growth and positive change. By being better equipped to work with communities from the ground up, policies, practices, and procedures are created in ways that directly support marginalized communities and advocate for equitable outcomes.

In the future, how do you see this industry evolving and adapting to the progressively digital world we live in?

For one, this certificate is available to students remotely, so students can further their education digitally. The pandemic has also shown that community engagement can and will happen virtually as we progress in the digital age. For certain people, virtual programming can be even more accessible than traditional methods, which in itself is a positive step towards developing healthy communities. Going forward, Dena Marcos, a Career Education Specialist at The Chang School, predicts that more hybrid models of service delivery will be available that will allow citizens to choose how they themselves want to engage in community initiatives.

How can students and new grads get involved in this industry from home?

For experience-based involvement, many residential coalitions and mental health agencies have also moved their actives online. Volunteering and supporting organizations like these and providing support remotely allowing students and new grads the opportunity to gain real-world experience. Students and new grads can also get involved by applying to sit on boards. By getting involved in these ways, students and new grads are directly contributing to their community as they gain practical experience in the industry.

To learn all about The Chang School and their programs, check out their website.