Following the release of York University’s new Internationalization and Global Engagement Strategy, the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) and Dean J.J. McMurtry consider the future of its global engagement priorities – students, alumni networks and intellectual and research competencies.
LA&PS is currently home to York’s largest population of international students. The Faculty’s student success team is dedicated to ensuring they find a smooth landing at York, working closely with York International. There is a pre-arrival orientation online, an international retreat that invites these students to arrive on campus a few days early to acclimate and meet peers; and a strong peer mentorship program.
“We want to get our international students started with the right steps,” said Lily Cho, associate dean, global & community engagement. “We recognize they’ve taken a huge risk coming to a new country to pursue their studies.”
“When we talk about international students, it’s not just about recruiting, it’s about offering a high-quality education,” McMurtry said. “This is an opportunity for them to engage in a whole new set of experiences.
“Ideally, we talk to parents and students in person and engage with them before they apply so we can gauge their dreams and ambitions and connect that to the curriculum, pedagogy and teaching in relevant ways. We can offer a wide variety of courses and opportunities with intention.”
But more can be done too. “I want to do more to support international students,” McMurtry said. “We’re in the process of establishing specific supports for both global and Indigenous students in our colleges to provide more welcoming and supportive spaces for them, and we’d like the topics students study in LA&PS to continue to improve on bringing a diversity of voices and local, regional and international experiences to our curriculum. We recognize that York is a global university, so we need to act accordingly.”
The Faculty also has a robust study abroad program through international exchanges and courses taught overseas by LA&PS instructors. “We’re proud of our offerings and know that our students are eager to be out in the world, especially after the pandemic,” Cho said.
McMurtry believes internationalization also offers opportunities for further exposing research being done by LA&PS faculty in the future. Both students and research are topics addressed in the LA&PS Academic Plan, which highlights the need to “connect students and faculty scholars to global opportunities.”
“We don’t promote our research and faculty enough,” he said. “We need to learn from other universities and understand their approach to these challenges.
“We also need to take advantage of opportunities to build relationships with other institutions and encourage intellectual exchange in a meaningful way: not only relations between institutions but faculty-to-faculty and student-to-student relationships.”
Connecting with alumni networks will also be important, as McMurtry believes that LA&PS “can do more to connect with alumni as they move into the working world and to connect with them throughout the various stages of their lives.”
With 130,000 LA&PS alumni worldwide, he wants to see more opportunities for alumni everywhere to connect with the University and to foster relationships that will make mentorships possible for current students.
“We want our students to recognize that a global mindset is a distinct advantage these days and we need to provide the supports they need to understand how international opportunities can be accessed and engaged with,” he said. “Alumni can be a key to open that door.”
Overarching all of McMurtry’s plans and ideas is the concept of strategic engagement.
“There are some places where we need to be strategically engaged and do more to create dialogue and exchange, such as India and West Africa,” he said. “Africa, in particular, is a place where the world will continue to expand engagement, so we need to strengthen relationships with countries like Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya.
“We also need to look closer to home, too,” he said. “There are many opportunities to engage with other regions and cultures within Canada and with communities in the United States.”
No matter how and where LA&PS expands its reach, McMurtry emphasizes that it behooves the Faculty to do so strategically and with an emphasis on the value proposition it offers our students, faculty, alums and the global community.