What is Universities Without Walls (UWW)?

UWW is an intensive education program designed specifically to meet the needs of both university students who want to pursue a career in HIV research and community-based champions who are involved in HIV research, and help them achieve their academic and professional goals. UWW is funded by a Strategic Training Initiative in Health Research (STIHR) grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and supported by and housed at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN).

What are UWW’s pedagogical objectives?

To enhance the Fellows’ knowledge of the HIV research sector, the HIV health system, the HIV/AIDS service organizations’ (ASOs) networks, HIV-related community based organizations’ (CBOs) networks , and relevant health policy environments (e.g. PHAC, Health Canada), learn from selected HIV related content, including HIV research trends across disciplines and HIV theory and research methods in their home discipline/area of community work, and other disciplines/ areas of community work, and to apply HIV research ethics principles across disciplines, communities, and contexts.

Who can apply?

The UWW Fellowship is currently aimed at graduate students (Master’s, PhD) pursuing HIV research in a range of disciplines – particularly, population health and health services, social sciences (e.g., sociology, anthropology, psychology), arts and humanities, and professional disciplines (e.g., nursing, social work, occupational therapy). The UWW Fellowship is also aimed at individuals working in community-based organizations who are involved in HIV research. The application, review and selection process is characteristically highly competitive. We accept applications from MA and PhD students at any stage of their home program of studies whose academic supervisors are prepare to provide strong and continuous support.

How many fellows are accepted to each cohort?

Up to 14 persons from across Canadian regions are invited to participate as fellows in each cohort, starting in September and ending in May of the following year. Each cohort includes up to 10 students registered full-time in Canadian universities, up to 2 persons working in HIV research in Aboriginal communities, and up to 2 excellent community based scholars, persons living with HIV involved in HIV research, and community based research champions.

What is expected of the UWW fellows?

The Fellows are expected to complete all the tasks of the program in addition, and without neglecting, their home university program of studies. UWW Fellows are expected to have a drive to succeed in the field of HIV research, and demonstrate the ability to apply theory in competent HIV research practice. Research practice may involve experimental research, quantitative approaches, qualitative methods, or mixed methods, as well as professional practice. Competent research practice also includes the principle of ethical scholarship that adheres to the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans. Ethical scholarship involves exploration, investigation, creativity, analysis, reflection, synthesis, and transformation of ideas, events, history, and experiences in ways that are honest, respectful, contextually informed and sensitive, and self-aware. In addition, the Fellows must fill out self-directed educational entry and exit surveys, Fellowship Plan and Field Mentoring Plan available in the UWW internal website. It is strongly encouraged that Fellows acknowledge their academic work accomplish during the tenure of the UWW fellowship.

What do fellows receive in return?

In addition to a stipend to cover training related costs for nine months (UWW is not a salary grant) the Fellows must participate in 2 in-person events per cohort, one near the start (The UWW Research days in Ontario) and one week culminating intensive retreat in a Canadian city (The Learning Institute). In addition, Fellows join up to 20 synchronous online seminars for which the Fellows must read, write and prepare discussions; they receive individualized attention from mentors and Program Manager to prepare discussions, abstracts, grants, papers for submission, etc.; one 9 months Field Mentoring Placement in an area and discipline different from the Fellow’s home discipline or program of studies; and continuous support after the end of their fellowship (e.g. in applying to conferences, grants and employment as pertinent).

What is the Field Mentoring Placement?

The Field Mentoring Placement (FMP) is a nine month placement based on the community service learning approach. The FMP is carried out in an AIDS service organization, policy environment, or REACH research project and provides an opportunity for Fellows to develop relationships with people and organizations working in the field, understand contextual factors that will make research projects more relevant, and build research skills in a community environment.

Do Fellows receive Academic Credentials?

UWW does not currently offer credits for completing the program. However, we will help students get some of their coursework and Field Mentoring valued and validated by their home universities or home community institutions.

What skills do Fellows learn?

The Fellows learn to adopt various perspectives to approach research questions/problems while strengthening their reflection and action in their home disciplines. They learn to prepare basic ‘tools of the research trade’ such as academic and community oriented presentations, abstracts submission, writing for peer-review, program evaluation and grant crafting. Also, the Fellows learn to integrate research knowledge into theory, evaluation, policy, and practice (KTE).

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