Georgian College’s continued commitment to fostering a culture of innovative research, scholarship and collegiality that connects students, employees and the community was recognized with $240,000 in funding from the Government of Canada recently.
Kirsty Duncan, minister of science and sport, announced investments to support 94 forward-thinking partnerships to address challenges that affect all Canadians, locally and nationally. These projects will receive over $45 million through the College and Community Innovation Program and the College and Community Social Innovation Fund.
Georgian’s research project, An Innovative Therapeutic Dog Program: Fostering Mental Health and Well-Being in School Communities, will receive the funding over a two-year period.
The project is a collaboration between Georgian, the Simcoe County District School Board and Sweet Charity Medical Assistance Dogs, a local charitable organization that offers a Canine Ambassador Program (CAP) to train staff and therapy dog teams in settings such as hospitals, seniors’ residences, nursing homes, schools, libraries, colleges and universities.
Faculty and student researchers will design a standardized training package with Sweet Charity to evaluate the CAP in 50 schools in Simcoe County. Georgian will share the findings in publications and will host a conference to celebrate the therapeutic potential of the human-animal bond and potential for use in community organizations.
Georgian College faculty members Dr. Howard Bloom, project director, and Dr. Adam Stibbards, faculty collaborator, will oversee the project. They are both excited about the opportunity to work with students who are keen to learn about the world of research.
“This funding allows Dr. Stibbards, myself, and our team of faculty and students to engage in meaningful applied research in collaboration with community partners,” said Bloom. “This is a cutting-edge opportunity for our students to work with researchers and there will thousands of hours of student research jobs. This project nurtures student project work and employment opportunities for student and faculty researchers. It encourages skill development in our college community and promotes a culture of research and innovation at our campus.”
He added that he was also excited about how it may impact school communities and wellness.
Dr. Mira Ray, director, research and innovation at Georgian, added that social innovation is a key research theme at the college.
“It reinforces our position as an Ashoka Changemaker College,” said Ray. “Dr. Stibbards and Dr. Bloom’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council funding provides an amazing opportunity for the college to collaborate with the school board to increase supports for the youth and pave the way for a healthier community.”
She added that students from many different programs will be engaged as research assistants or through their academic studies, which will help them build the skills and mindsets to be innovative thinkers and changemakers.
The Simcoe County District School Board is also excited about the announcement.
“We’re very proud to partner with Georgian and Sweet Charity in this grant — which will ultimately allow this innovative canine ambassador program to grow in schools,” said Chris Samis, superintendent of program and special education.