York’s leadership on internationalization wins awards

York has won two awards from the Canadian Bureau of International Education for its global outlook on education and its programs aimed at preparing students for living and working with other cultures. The CBIE recognized York Vice-President Academic Sheila Embleton for leadership in internationalization and the York International Internship Program for outstanding international programming.

The awards will be presented at the CBIE conference in Victoria, BC, on Nov. 14.

“I’m pleased that internationalization at York is being recognized,” Embleton said, “Our goal is to show that York is a leader in this increasingly important field and we’re getting there. When other people want to do something international, they turn to us.”

Zainab Kizilbash in Guandon, ChinaRight: York intern Zainab Kizilbash (centre, with arms around little girl) joins local students in Guangdong, China, in 2004

To win two national awards in the same year “is quite phenomenal,” said Rodney Webb, associate vice-president academic. When it comes to international education, he said, “York is again at the leading edge.”

Embleton is one of three people named to receive an Internationalization Leadership Award, which recognizes exceptional, sustained leadership in internationalizing Canadian education or advancing the international education profession. Fabienne Desroches, of Cégep de Sorel-Tracy, and Gérard Verna, of Université Laval were also recognized by the CBIE. Judges look for initiatives that have an impact beyond the home institution and demonstrate creative use of resources.

York International interns at work

Right: York intern Danielle Allen (in red) meets with local government officials on the island of Boracay in the Philippines in 2004

Embleton spearheaded several initiatives at York to promote internationalization, which included creating an annual grant competition for internationalization projects, creating the position of associate vice-president international at York, supporting the dynamic new York International Internship Program and lobbying to extend international students’ rights to work off campus. Adrian Shubert, professor of history in York’s Faculty of Arts, is the first person to serve as associate vice-president international and returns this week from a trip to China, one of two planned visits to that country this fall.

“Internationalization is pervading almost every faculty now,” said Embleton. “This is the future. People now move around the world in their careers much more than ever, but even if they stay in Canada, they are dealing with people from abroad more often and need to know about other cultures and ways of doing things.”

The York International Internship Program (YIIP) received this year’s Outstanding Program in International Education Award, which it will share with the International Relations Students Association at the University of British Columbia. The award recognizes high quality and highly creative programming in long-term international education that engages students, staff, faculty, community and/or administration. York also won this award in 2002 for the Emerging Global Leaders Retreat (see story in the Nov. 15, 2002 issue of YFile).

Labelled by CBIE as “a bold, innovative and distinctive initiative that forms an integral part of York University’s internationalization strategy,” the York International Internship Program offers students a chance to work overseas for a three-month placement during the summer. York’s program is unique in that the University organizes and administer the internships and also funds them – in the form of $3,000 stipends to interns – which takes pressure off NGOs in developing countries.

Spotlight on Sheila Embleton

Sheila EmbletonIn the citation that will be read at the conference, guests will hear about Embleton’s deep commitment to and engagement in international aspects of university life, at the scholarly level, in the classroom, the wider university community and at provincial and national levels. Here are some highlights from the citation, written by Webb:

  • In 1999, the renowned linguist was named Knight First Class of the Order of the White Rose by the government of Finland, in recognition of her contributions to Finland and Canadian/Finnish relations.

  • Since becoming VP Academic in 2000, Embleton has funded 50 internationalization projects at York through an annual grant competition launched with the VP Research & Innovation.

  • She created the position of associate vice-president international, through which she has funded several initiatives that have tripled the number of York students having a significant international experience over the last three years. Initiatives include supporting the York International Internship Program and creating the York International Mobility Award, with an annual budget of $300,000 to make exchange, study abroad, and international internships more accessible by funding students’ travel and living costs.

  • At a time when the teaching of languages is not high on the agenda of many universities, she has provided funds to start language courses in Arabic, Hindi, Korean and Swahili.

“Few people in Canadian university life have a deeper commitment to internationalization than Sheila Embleton,” said Webb in his citation. “Through both her own activities and her constant support for those charged with internationalization at York University, she has proven herself a leader, an innovator and a champion of internationalization.”

For more information on internationalization at York, visit the York International Web site. For more information on international education in Canada visit the CBIE Web site.