Our History

University in the Community is a free, humanities-based program for low-income residents in the city of Toronto.  It is an initiative of the Workers’ Educational Association (a non-profit, non-partisan, charitable organization that has promoted life-long learning since 1918).  In 1992, WEA hosted the general conference of the International Federation of Workers’ Educational Associations (IFWEA).

UitC is currently supported by Senior College and Innis College at the University of Toronto.  It is modelled on the Clemente Course in the Humanities, a program that has inspired many similar programs across North America and elsewhere including eight programs across Canada.

The first classes of University in the Community (UiC) took place in the summer of 2003 as a pilot project, sponsored by a partnership between the Workers’ Educational Association, Davenport Perth Neighbourhood Centre and the University of Toronto’s Woodsworth College.  By our tenth anniversary in 2012, University in the Community had offered 61 courses to over 240 students.

Our partnerships have included St. Stephen’s Community House, Senior College and Innis College at the University of Toronto and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

University in the Community owes a debt of gratitude to a number of people who, over the years, have contributed their time and talents to ensure that UitC would continue to thrive and provide a valuable humanities education for our students.  They are:

Anne McDonagh
Anne (along with Wendy Terry and Sara Sniderhan) helped establish University in the Community. Until recently, she did the administrative work for UitC, including marketing the program by creating posters and flyers, contacting many social service agencies and interviewing interested applicants.  She also was responsible for obtaining several grants which kept UitC going.

Keith McNair
Keith was the executive director of Davenport Perth Neighbourhood Centre when we broached the idea of a humanities course for the community served by DPNC.  When the 2003 pilot project proved to be successful, Keith secured funding for us from the Trillium Foundation, twice—covering a period of 5 years.

Mariel O’Neill-Karch
Mariel was the principal of Woodsworth College when we first put together the pilot project.  From the beginning, she was enthusiastic about the project and, in fact, it was Mariel who suggested our name, University in the Community. She continued to support us until her retirement.

J. Barbara Rose
J. Barbara, senior lecturer at Woodsworth College, U of T, was the lynchpin of UitC for most of its existence. She not only recruited professors and senior Ph.D. students to teach courses, she helped them develop the curriculum and taught many courses herself.

Sara Sniderhan
Sara, an accomplished artist, was the third member of the group that introduced the idea of a humanities program to DPNC.  The other two were Wendy Terry and Anne McDonagh.  Sara taught an art history course for the pilot and, once UiC was established, she continued to teach a number of courses in the program.

Wendy Terry
Wendy Terry read an article about Earl Shorris and the Clemente Program. She shared the ideas in the article about the power of a humanities education with Anne McDonagh and Sara Sniderhan.  Together they got DPNC on board.


Below is a list of funders and community partners who have contributed to the success of UitC in the past

With thanks to the following:

Anonymous (1)

Ed Barbeau

Victoria Baronow

Alison Beaumont

Severino Centritto

Jean Cuddy

Art Davis

Sandra Gentles

Janette MacDonald

J.M. MacDonald

Patricia MacKay

Mary McColl

Anne McDonagh

McFeeters Family Fund

Jennifer Mills

Valerie Nielson

Marion Penrose

David Switzer

Salma Yassin