A meeting of minds on internationalization

Over 200 participants from more than 35 universities and private sector organizations  from across Canada met at the Internationalizing Canada’s Universities Symposium, held March 2 and 3 on York’s Keele Campus.

Right: Symposium participants discuss internationalizationing Canadian universities

Rather than focus on the traditional “show-and-tell” approach, a unique mix of participants – including academics, administrators, staff, policy-makers, private-sector representatives and students – undertook a critical examination of internationalization efforts. Presenters spoke about pedagogical approaches to integrating international concerns, content and perspectives into curriculum.

This critical approach was furthered by a “Greek chorus” panel of international experts, who gathered at the close of both days for discussion. This panel helped synthesize concepts put forth by speakers and added their unique perspectives on university internationalization in their own countries and contexts. Their critical insights, along with those of the numerous other presenters, functioned as an important point from which future discussion on internationalization can grow.

In welcoming participants to the symposium, York’s Vice-President Academic, Sheila Embleton, spoke about the pluses of internationalizing Canadian universities. “The benefits of various forms of international experience are clear and persuasive,” said Embleton. “Exposure to languages and cultures other than their own offers students opportunities to interact directly with those cultures and to gain new global perspectives.”

Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Chris Bentley, presented the introductory address to symposium participants. Bentley emphasized the provincial government’s commitment to expanding trade and educational opportunities, best demonstrated by Premier Dalton McGuinty’s November 2005 trade mission to China, which included a significant educational contingent.

Right: Chris Bentley

The symposium’s keynote speech was presented by Madeleine Green, vice-president and director, Center For Institutional Initiatives, American Council of Education. Green focused on how institutions can close the gap between rhetoric and the reality of internationalization. She issued a plea for conference participants to pay close attention, during the symposium, as to how the terminology surrounding internationalization was used and the ramifications of words such as global, intercultural, international and internationalization.

York students played an important role in the symposium proceedings. International and domestic students who had taken part in international programs shared their experiences and perspectives during one of the symposium’s sessions.

A publication, including many of the papers presented at the symposium, is currently in planning. In the meantime, many conference papers and presentations can be found on the York International Web site.

The Internationalizing Canada’s Universities Symposium was the fourth annual York International Conference. Past conferences have been held on such topics as experiential education and internationalization, and science and internationalization.

This year’s symposium was sponsored by the Office of the Associate Vice-President Academic, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, the Faculty of Education, and the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies.