July 6, 2018

It's important for students to travel abroad and improve cross-cultural competence

Best practices shared as UCalgary hosts Canadian Bureau of International Education meeting

Canadian universities work with international students and provide opportunities to Canadian students to gain international learning experiences. But are they doing enough?

Dr. David Ross, PhD, president, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and chair of the board, Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) says, “We’ve had huge success bringing people from all over the world to Canada, but what’s next? We still struggle to have Canadians go offshore to have international experiences. A little over three per cent of students have international opportunities, I think it’s critical we find ways to create more opportunities for students to travel and learn abroad.”

Championing innovation in internationalization was the theme of the CBIE 2018 Western Regional Meeting, hosted at the University of Calgary. Participants from western Canadian post-secondary institutions met to discuss best practices, innovations and challenges in internationalization, and ways to improve cross-cultural competence and diversity on campus.

Above are, from left: Savera Hayat-Dade, director of programs and international development; Graham Pike, dean of international education, Vancouver Island University; Roy Daykan, treasure of board, CBIE; David Ross, chair of board, CBIE and president, SAIT; Leah Nord, director of board, member and stakeholder relations, CBIE; Janaka Ruwanpura, vice-provost (international); and Gavin Cameron, associate dean of internationalization and global initiatives.

“There was a fabulous energy at this meeting, with really engaged participants,” Leah Nord, director, board, member and stakeholder relations, CBIE. “Although topics spanned the international education spectrum, they were all focused on the theme of innovation. Outbound mobility was really prominent among the discussion, with the sharing of strategies and best practices from across colleges and universities in attendance.”

“Institutions must consider internationalization a priority in order to be successful and must develop an institutional international strategy with commitment, resources and sustainability,” said Dr. Janaka Ruwanpura, vice-provost (international), while sharing his seven-point model for success in internationalization. “The University of Calgary has come a long way, and is now a leader in internationalization since the development of our international strategy in 2013, but we still have a lot of work to do. We strive to have more of our students learn abroad.”

From left: Leah Nord, director of board, member and stakeholder relations, CBIE; Natasha Nobell, international relations officer, UBC; Graham Pike, dean of international education, Vancouver Island University; Gavin Cameron, associate dean of internationalization and global initiatives, during a panel discussion at the CBIE regional meeting.

A panel discussion at the CBIE regional meeting.

In a highly interconnected world, it is important for students to travel abroad and improve cross-cultural competence. Post-secondary institutions need innovative international learning models and to partner with institutions around the globe. The meeting was preceded by a professional development workshop delivered by UCalgary International staff on best practices in internationalization, including the use of approaches such as the International Partnership Assessment Rating Index (IPARI) which helps to streamline processes and assesses the level of engagement with existing university partners.

Last year, 4.4 per cent of UCalgary students had internationalized their academic experience, up from the national average of 3.1 per cent. Through awareness campaigns such as Go Global Days which takes place each September, collaborative degree programs and various grants, UCalgary is leading the way and creating opportunities for students to learn abroad.   

Above, from left: Leah Nord, director of board, member and stakeholder relations, CBIE; Natasha Nobell, international relations officer, UBC; Graham Pike, dean of international education, Vancouver Island University; Gavin Cameron, associate dean of internationalization and global initiatives, during a panel discussion at the CBIE regional meeting.

Other topics discussed at the meeting related to proactive international student advising and supportive environments for international students, the advantage of volunteering to gain intercultural competence skills, and fostering cultures of commitment to internationalization at large.

“At UCalgary, we are championing discovery, creativity and innovation so that our community can tackle global challenges,” adds Dr. Dru Marshall, provost and vice-president (academic). “In order to solve global problems, graduates and researchers need to understand global contexts.”

The CBIE is Canada’s only national organization dedicated exclusively to the promotion of international education. CBIE is a non-profit, membership organization engaged in international education policy, practice, development and advocacy.