Balsillie campus looks back at year

Last September, the Balsillie School of International Affairs, which is a joint partnership between Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Waterloo (UW) and the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), opened up a campus in Waterloo with the intention to foster an environment where students from both universities had a common place to collaborate and discuss the issues that plague the twenty-first century.

And collaborate they did.

While the Balsillie School has been open since 2007, the two local universities previously hosted it. “It is difficult to have a school that is spread out over two campuses,” said Fred Kuntz, vice president of public affairs at CIGI.

Now that the campus is reaching the anniversary of its first year, the success of the school and its location can be adequately measured.

When asked how the first year went, Terry Levesque, director of masters in international public policy program at Balsillie, responded, “I think that goes a long way toward creating a fence of organizational loyalty, commitment to the idea, the school.”

The school offers three programs, a PhD in global governance (WLU/UW), a masters in global governance (UW) and a masters in international public policy (WLU).

“The two universities provide [everything for] the academic side,” Kuntz explained. “The faculty, they enlist the students, enrol the students, they provide the curriculum, everything you would expect a university to do, and the two universities grant the degrees.”

He clarified that CIGI’s role in the partnership, apart from providing the space, is supplying funding for research.

While it’s easy to assume that this campus was built in order to facilitate the gap in geography between the partners, Levesque affirmed that, although the geographic separation played some role in the new campus, it had a lot more to do with bringing the students and faculty together into a space where they could discuss their studies and help each other.

“If I have one message that I think is important, [it] is that the Balsillie School is this common space where a group of individuals who are either, through scholarly interest or public concern, [are able to talk] about the big challenges of the twenty-first century, it is a place where they can come together… and you know, collate both their knowledge and their impressions of the big problems.”

It also sheds light on these problems to the surrounding community in Waterloo, who are able to visit the campus and participate in events that help them become more aware of the school’s research.

“So if you care about the environment, or the global economy, or security issues in the world,” Kuntz suggested, “ [Then] you can come to the CIGI campus and learn about those things and get engaged with those issues, so that’s the mission that we have.”

“Think about the Balsillie School as the realization of a collaborative work between the two universities… and that this space is sort of the concrete evidence of that idea that they will be better off talking to one another than working in isolation,” Levesque concluded.

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