McGill Student Essays

We are pleased to share the vital perspectives of students reflecting on social connectedness through a new feature here at!

The outstanding students featured here were part of Professor Kim Samuel’s international development seminar entitled, Lessons of Community and Compassion: Overcoming Social Isolation and Building Social Connectedness Through Policy and Program Development at McGill University, Montreal from September to December 2016.

The interdisciplinary 400-level seminar course was the first of its kind and explored the concepts of isolation and connectedness on various levels. Professor Samuel carefully curated the course to focus on marginalized communities around the world, while simultaneously creating a community and a deep feeling of connectedness within the classroom itself.

Decades of research show that students thrive most when schools prioritize social and emotional health alongside academic achievement. Building on this awareness, Professor Samuel advanced a pedagogy grounded in what she refers to as “a second set of three Rs: Respect, Recognition, and Reciprocity”.

The course included guest speakers almost every week to bear witness to personal struggle and triumph, deep experience, passion and commitment. The guests opened doorways for the students to appreciate different perspectives and realize different opportunities that they may explore in their own lives.

In addition, every class was structured to encourage engagement. Every class began with an artistic reflection, such as poetry or music, on the topic for the week and closed with an opportunity for personal inquiry and reflection. In between, students were challenged with both required readings as well as lengthy lists of recommended and optional readings and sources of information to explore. A variety of assignments encouraged students to connect on campus and in their community to deeply consider challenging topics through a variety of lenses.

Students were also formally and informally encouraged to connect outside of the classroom. Professor Samuel created spaces for dialogue and connection on an ongoing basis. Students were included in the 2016 Global Symposium and had numerous opportunities to connect by joining in a community speakers’ series, or simply by attending Professor Samuel’s extended office hours. This remarkable learning opportunity has inspired students to remain connected as they explore ways to take forward their learning in the next phases of their careers and lives.

Professor Samuel sums up the experience of teaching the course and inspiring others to advance community in the classroom: “When we nurture creativity and connection, when we create dialogue and learning opportunity grounded in respect, recognition and reciprocity, we empower young people to lead in building a more connected and compassionate future beyond the classroom, too.”

Below are outstanding contributions from students and keep checking back as we add more in the future!


Research to Practice Essays