Skip to main content
Claire

Claire Patterson

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication

empty
David Oyetola
“Through the Semester in Dialogue I learned what it means to be impactful in the field I am interested in,” says David.

In university courses, it isn’t often that the theoretical knowledge you read about can be made into a project that impacts the community. Nor are you able to ask for career advice from professionals that work in the field you are interested in. Your papers often go unpublished, only to be read by your professor and you sometimes end the course without having truly gotten to know your classmates due to large lecture sizes. This was not David Oyetola’s experience when he partook in the Semester in Dialogue’s Semester in Wicked Problems in Spring of 2021. 

David is an undergraduate student at SFU who balances studying psychology with working as a mental health worker in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. For the past two years, he has acted as a first responder in emergency situations to coordinate harm reduction for those who can’t otherwise access resources such as safe housing. In his free time, he works with international students to assist with admissions and settlement. His work within the community comes from a deep desire to help people. This desire is what led him to study psychology and to sign up for the Semester in Dialogue program, which is dedicated to community engagement. 

He was excited when he signed up but initially wasn’t sure what exactly to expect. It was a new environment and the classes were being provided online, but within the first few days, David was meeting classmates who came from all different faculties and life experiences to discuss what wicked problems keep them up at night. Through deep dialogue with his classmates, he came to learn how the problems he faces affect people coming from varying cultures and contexts in different ways.

All the classmates came together in group projects to tackle a wicked problem that was facing their community. David and his group worked on a pamphlet for domestic violence support services in the community. The pamphlet was aimed to be a space where the general population can access resources and was distributed online. David notes that the pamphlet was created after talking to professionals in the community who work with people who experience domestic abuse. The professionals they spoke to highlighted that resources like this are a gap in the field of work being done to help domestic abuse survivors. 

David said that he was once skeptical about group projects, but in the Semester in Dialogue, he developed the skills to organize meetings and balance different members’ preferences. This allowed him to hone the skills of both research and planning. He had to coordinate different time zones and look at how to highlight members’ individual skills and working styles. Through this, David made friends with classmates who were studying from home in Ghana. These friendships, built on the basis of discussing the deep topic of wicked problems, have continued even after the class has ended. 

The depth of content matter meant that class members were able to learn about a variety of different subjects under the topic of wicked problems. They were able to explore polarized politics, mental health, reconciliation, educational reform and so much more. They also got to speak with professionals in different fields of work and gain relationships with these guest lecturers. 

“Through the Semester in Dialogue I learned what it means to be impactful in the field I am interested in,” says David.
 

Beyond the Blog

About the Author

Claire

Claire Patterson

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication
Claire is a fourth-year Communication and Dialogue student at SFU. Her passion for traveling led her to pursue a semester studying Communication Science at the University of Amsterdam and then move to Barcelona to pursue a co-op teaching English. Time abroad sparked a very keen interest in digital literacy, democracy, civic engagement, and environmentalism. She is looking for ways that communication can make these topics accessible to large audiences. Connect with Claire on LinkedIn and to read more of Claire's articles and work, check out her website.

Posts by Author

A man writing on a see-through whiteboard.
Blog
Finding Your Unique Path To Success

It’s easy to feel burnt out and demoralized when looking around at your peers and contemporaries, but following your path comes with success that feels uniquely yours.

Image of 3 students sitting outside of SFU Burnaby Campus Library
Blog
The Library: More Than Just for Studying

Want a little more out of your university experience? Here’s why studying at the library is the best way to make the most out of your time at SFU academically and socially.

You Might Like These... Volunteering, Equity, Diversity + Inclusion, Community Engagement, Job Description

Children playing hopscotch
An SFU student perspective on the Big Sisters Study Buddy program

You may have heard of them–you may even have an idea of what they do. But have you ever thought of being one? Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland has been serving girls in one-to-one mentoring relationships since 1960, with the mission of “enhancing the confidence, self-esteem and well-being of girls through supportive friendships with caring women”. Each Big and Little Sister match gets together once a week for at least one year. 

STC West Coast
Alumnus Profile: How Crystal Kwon Advanced Her Career Through Volunteerism

Students often overlook one important benefit of volunteerism. While students realize that scholarships and bursaries usually require community engagement, they often forget that volunteerism can also give you the edge you need after you finish your degree.

Kyle and volunteers
Kyle Jung: Expand Your Horizons through Volunteering

Did you know that you can make a difference through volunteering, as well as discovering your passions and career goals? These are just some of the benefits of volunteering, according to Kyle Jung, a 5th-year SIAT student who is also the Vice President of Operations, Interactive Arts & Technology Student Union (IATSU) and the SFSS Forum Representative.

David Oyetola
library_books
Blog
What Does It Mean to Make an Impact with Your Studies?
Community Engagement, Personal Development, Academic Success

David Oyetola’s Semester in Dialogue experience and how you can learn to make an immediate impact on the world while studying your career.

David Oyetola
library_books
Blog
What Does It Mean to Make an Impact with Your Studies?
Community Engagement, Personal Development, Academic Success

David Oyetola’s Semester in Dialogue experience and how you can learn to make an immediate impact on the world while studying your career.

David Oyetola
library_books
Blog
What Does It Mean to Make an Impact with Your Studies?
Community Engagement, Personal Development, Academic Success

David Oyetola’s Semester in Dialogue experience and how you can learn to make an immediate impact on the world while studying your career.

David Oyetola
library_books
Blog
What Does It Mean to Make an Impact with Your Studies?
Community Engagement, Personal Development, Academic Success

David Oyetola’s Semester in Dialogue experience and how you can learn to make an immediate impact on the world while studying your career.

David Oyetola
library_books
Blog
What Does It Mean to Make an Impact with Your Studies?
Community Engagement, Personal Development, Academic Success

David Oyetola’s Semester in Dialogue experience and how you can learn to make an immediate impact on the world while studying your career.

You Might Like These... Indigenous Community Stories

Community picture
Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre

The Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre, a non for profit charitable organization, has been meeting the needs of aboriginal people making a transition to the urban Vancouver community since its doors opened in 1963. Read about one 17 year-olds summer experience.

Children running and playing
Helping Children Attend School

SFU Kinesiology student Kayla Donnawell is in Botswana, Africa volunteering with the Students Without Borders program (SWB).  In this article, the third in the series, Kayla explains her role in helping vulnerable children attend school.

SFU mascot
The Indigenous Student Ambassador Program

FNSA Board member, Angela Semple has lead the implementation of the Indigenous Student Ambassador program, helping to highlight important Indigenous resources to potential SFU students and part of the Indigenous Recruitment Team.