From the Ground Up: Critical Reflections About Co-Constructing A New Non-Profit Sector Undergraduate Certificate


  • Gloria C. DeSantis Department of Justice Studies, University of Regina
  • Angela N. Tremka Salthaven West Wildlife Rehabilitation



community-university engagement, emergent design, knowledge exchange-creation-mobilization, non-profits, curriculum design


Community-university engagement is a growing field and takes many different forms. We explain and reflect critically on a community-university developmental process that we created to design a new non-profit studies undergraduate certificate. A steering group comprising students, non-profit organizations (NPOs), and faculty guided our process. We adopted a community-based, emergent, multi-tactic process that went from testing an idea, to collectively designing and co-constructing the certificate to building momentum to operationalize it, over an 18-month period. Our strategy was based on the convergence of three main bodies of literature—community-engaged scholarship, citizen participation, and naturalistic inquiry—and included seven tactics: community-university dialogues, e-communication, interactive booths in public places, presentations and learning circles, student research projects, student and NPO surveys, and pilot-testing undergraduate courses. The outcomes of our process revealed strong community support for a new certificate, which was then co-constructed and later approved by the University Senate. Today, five years later, we reflect on the ebb and flow of our process, in particular: emergent design challenges, the space-in-between, community/university black boxes, ownership, and facilitation work. This exploration contributes to the knowledge base on co-construction processes. 

Author Biographies

Gloria C. DeSantis, Department of Justice Studies, University of Regina

(corresponding author) recently retired from her work as an Associate Professor in the Justice Studies Department at the University of Regina. She has decades of experience doing social justice work including participatory action research for program and public policy development with a diversity of communities. Email: 

Angela N. Tremka, Salthaven West Wildlife Rehabilitation

is the Community Engagement Manager at Salthaven West Wildlife Rehabilitation. She also volunteers in the non-profit sector in Regina, Saskatchewan. She has experience mobilizing for progressive change at both provincial and local levels.


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How to Cite

DeSantis, G. C., & Tremka, A. N. (2023). From the Ground Up: Critical Reflections About Co-Constructing A New Non-Profit Sector Undergraduate Certificate. Engaged Scholar Journal: Community-Engaged Research, Teaching, and Learning, 8(4), 23–45.

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