Embracing a ‘global outlook’

In an increasingly globalized world the sharing of information, including education, has become increasingly relevant.

Many Ontario universities have formulated plans to increase the number of international students their campuses will accommodate.

One such plan includes the University of Waterloo’s (UW) “Sixth Decade Plan,” which mandates that 20 per cent of the institution’s undergraduate population will be international students by 2017.

Although much discussion surrounds the monetary gains that international students provide for universities, there is also much to be said for the other benefits that international students can provide an institution.

Numerous Ontario institutions are administered by individuals who are foreign-born and educated abroad.

These institutions include the University of Western Ontario, whose president Amit Chakma was born in Bangladesh but received his undergraduate education in Algeria and McMaster University, whose president Patrick Deane, who immigrated to Canada from South Africa.

Both Chakma and Deane, among others, have a unique and insightful view into the realm of internationalism on today’s Ontario campuses and how we can and must foster it.

“I was very interested in exploring other ways of thinking and learning,” said Deane of why he came to Canada from South Africa in 1978.

“The range of reasons runs from the
purely career-driven to the curious
and I think all motives of that sort
ought to be encouraged.”

The creation of other realms of learning were highlighted by many of Ontario’s foreign-born administrators, including Geoff McBoyle, who received his education in Scotland and now serves as vice president: academic and provost at UW. “I brought the view of my discipline that was a European view, which was different,” he said.

This exchange of knowledge and creation of a realm of international thought-processes have led many, like acting principal and vice president of Wilfrid Laurier University’s Brantford campus Lesley Cooper, to encourage a “global outlook” to education in the province.

“We have to be open-minded to thinking about education more broadly,” said Australian-born Cooper, highlighting that many students will not stay in Canada, but go abroad for work and our education system must prepare them for this case.

“We need to have an international and global outlook to what we’re doing.”
In a world where those seeking education and employment will do so internationally, Ranjana Bird, vice president of research at the University of Windsor, explained that Ontario universities must recruit from abroad because the numbers for graduate programs like those in the fields of science and technology are so low domestically.

“So how are we going to be competitive?” asked Bird, who was born in India and received her master’s and PhD at the University of Guelph. “Might as well take advantage of those people who are seeking those opportunities and coming from other countries.”
Bird went on to explain that in developing countries like India, many students lose out on opportunities when they lack the funds to attend their local institutions.

She said recruiting talent from abroad in this case is “the approach we have to take” as educators in Ontario.

McBoyle explained three ways that Ontario universities can foster an atmosphere of internationalism on their campuses — one that will be beneficial to both foreign and Canadian students.

“We can take in more international students and as a result of that hopefully get a mixing of cultures within the university and different cultures have a greater appreciation of each other’s cultures,” he explained, the second way being to increase the number of Canadian undergraduate students who have exchanges overseas.

“We also need to increase the number of international graduate students so that we can increase the mixing of movement forward in research and innovation, particularly at the graduate level,” he concluded.

Drawing on his experience as a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, Chakma said, “You create an international setting within your campus and you invite students to go explore opportunities elsewhere and then you facilitate that,” of his philosophy regarding fostering an international community on campus.

International experiences can come at a high expense, as pointed out by Deane, who encouraged alternative ways that Ontario institutions can foster and expand the international experience for students who stay within the province.

“It’s possible to erect national boundaries into a kind of false threshold,” explained Deane.

“You can provide an international experience through providing contact with international world views and international students and faculty.”

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