Experts to share vision for sustainable, inclusive internationalization

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York International is hosting a conference to reimagine approaches to higher education in an age of uncertainty. The conference will take place Jan. 20 to 22 and is free to attend

Engaging, informed international education experts to kickstart each day – that’s what attendees to the upcoming Sustainable & Inclusive Internationalization Virtual Conference can expect from Jan. 20 to 22.

The conference is an effort to “reimagine approaches in higher education in an era of uncertainty.” It is a joint endeavour between York International (YI) and the York UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education Towards Sustainability in collaboration with International Association of Universities (IAU), the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCUNESCO) and Okayama University, Japan and funded by the Academic Innovation Fund at York University. It is free of charge for attendees.

“This conference aims to look at internationalization and in particular, student mobility in a world where we are also focused on ensuring that programs are inclusive and sustainable,” Vinitha Gengatharan, YI’s executive director and co-chair of the conference, told YFile last month.

“We will be exploring whether this marks the end of post-secondary internationalization and the related mobility programs or if it marks the beginning of a new era based on new models of interaction and exchange.”

Three sets of experts will be leading these explorations at the conference’s daily plenary sessions. The opening plenary session on Wednesday, Jan. 20, focuses on Mobility in Higher Education: A New Vision, Pressures and Opportunities for Enhanced Programs. It will feature Professor Emeritus Hans De Wit, distinguished fellow, Lynch School of Education and Human Development at Boston College; Lorna Jean Edmonds, former vice-provost of Global Affairs, Ohio University; and Francisco Marmalejo, education advisor, Qatar Foundation and former global lead of tertiary education, World Bank.

De Wit was the director of the Lynch School, a leading global research center on higher education in the global environment, from 2015-20. While at the school, he developed the MA program in International Higher Education, as well as a dual degree version of this master’s program with the Universidad de Guadalajara in Mexico.

Edmonds is an active and engaged executive, educator and scholar invested in the globalization of higher education and their role in leadership development for sustainability. She is a co-creator of the Global Strategic Framework (GSF) for the internationalization of higher education.

During his eight years at the World Bank, Marmalejo served as the global higher education lead, based in Washington, D.C., and more recently as lead higher education specialist for India and South Asia, based in Delhi. From 1995 to 2012, he served as founding executive director of the Consortium for North American Higher Education Collaboration, a network of more than 160 universities.

The second day of the virtual conference on Thursday, Jan. 21 will open with a plenary session exploring Student and International Mobility in 2030 and Beyond. The session’s chair is Liette Vasseur, president, Canadian Commission for UNESCO and UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability: From Local to Global at Brock University, while the featured speakers are Sjur Bergan, head of the Education Department, Council of Europe, and Ethel Valenzuela, director, Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) Secretariat and Fabio Nascimbeni, senior expert, Mediterranean Universities Union (UNIMED).

Bergan leads the current Council of Europe projects on Competences for Democratic Culture and the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees. He has represented the Council of Europe in the Bologna Follow-Up Group and Board since 2000. Bergan is also series editor of the Council of Europe Higher Education Series and the author of Qualifications: Introduction to a Concept and Not by Bread Alone as well as of numerous book chapters and articles on education and higher education policy.

Valenzuela is the first female director since SEAMEO was organized in 1965. She previously served as the first female deputy director for Programme and Development of SEAMEO Secretariat and led the Educational Research and Innovation Office of SEAMEO INNOTECH. Prior to joining SEAMEO, she was director IV of the Office of Student Services and director III at the International Affairs Services in the Commission on Higher Education Philippines (1995-2006) and was responsible for foreign and local scholarship programs, academic mobility and transnational education.

Nascimbeni’s main research interests are e-learning innovation, open education and digital literacy. In addition to his work at UNIMED, he is a senior fellow of the European Distance and E-Learning Network; a Fellow with the NEXA Center for Internet and Society; an expert evaluator of proposals for the European Commission; and co-chair of ELINET’s working group on digital literacy.

Friday, Jan. 22, day three of the conference, starts off with a plenary session addressing The Futures of Education, chaired by Hilligje Van’t Land, secretary-general, International Association of Universities. The featured speakers are Dzulkifli bin Abdul Razak, rector and past president of the International Association of Universities, International Islamic University Malaysia; Larissa Bezo, president and chief executive officer, Canadian Bureau for International Education CBIE; and Noah Sobe, senior project officer, UNESCO.

Abdul Razak previously served as the ‎vice-chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) from 2000-11. He is the immediate past president of the International Association of Universities (IAU), a UNESCO-affiliated organization, based in Paris. He was the convenor of the Regional Centre for Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development based in USM beginning 2005. 

Bezo has served in senior leadership positions in both the public and not-for-profit sectors, including as deputy clerk and deputy cabinet secretary in the government of Saskatchewan, senior advisor to a Federal Royal Commission, and most recently, as interim president and chief executive officer for the Canadian Bureau for International Education.

At UNESCO, Sobe helps to lead the Futures of Education: Learning to Become initiative. Past president of the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES), he is on leave from a faculty position as professor of Cultural and Educational Policy Studies at Loyola University Chicago.

“The conference will offer us a window into the future and give us ideas about how to pursue a sustainable internationalization agenda,” said Helen Balderama, associate director, International Partnerships & Programs, YI. “Together with our strategic partners, we have assembled a program with participants who have many years of experience in international education and a global view of the field that can only serve to inform and inspire us in our thinking as we move forward.”

To take part in this exciting virtual look at the future free of charge, register at:

By Elaine Smith, special contributing writer, York International