Thursday, January 21, 2010

Internationalization - let's start the conversation

Rosilyn Coulson has contributed a post to get the conversation going on the strategic theme of Internationalization. Thank you, Rosilyn.

Click "Read more" to see the entire post, then please add your comments to the discussion. New to blogging? See How to post a comment.

Over to you, Rosilyn. --Scott

Internationalization - from Rosilyn Coulson, Economics Instructor

What is the meaning of internationalization in a college environment? To what extent, and in what manner, should Douglas College pursue internationalization?

“We believe that intellectual growth and exploration inspire well rounded, responsible and contributing citizens. We invite everyone into the excitement and curiosity of learning.”

In reviewing the Douglas College values, it is easy to see how internationalization fits into our curricula. When inviting our students into the excitement and curiosity of learning are we not inviting them to consider the perspectives and experiences of our global neighbours? For me, education is inherently international.

So let me put my cards on the table: my maternal grandfather came from the Middle East to North America to pursue a post-secondary education and my British father decided to pursue his graduate studies in the United States after participating in a student exchange. My childhood memories include students from various parts of the world sharing our holiday celebrations. While working at Douglas College I have been involved in the joint-venture projects in China since 1998. I have taught overseas and been responsible for the administration of the projects. I have heard about the international scholarly pursuits of my colleagues as a member of the Common Professional Development Fund committee.

Internationalization, in my opinion, is the intentional exploration of the perspectives and experiences of others from around the world. It is an openness and vulnerability. International experience may create a profound realization of national assumptions, biases and norms. The ability to incorporate personal experiences and ongoing research into the courses is ideal, for it carries a great deal of weight with any audience. However, first-hand international experience is only one method of internationalization of the curricula. The key here is to create the “a-ha” moment for our students.

Is internationalization a key component of Douglas College? My perception is no, it is not a key component. I have not seriously explored the areas outside of my own faculty. I suspect there is a great deal of internationalization that is simply part of the learning environment. I am the grateful recipient of the collective wisdom of those who have participated in international experiences over the years. There is a wealth of experience at Douglas College. But the danger here is giving brownie points for something that is expected as a fundamental part of any learning environment; education is inherently international.

Strategically, Douglas College must remain committed to an ongoing international component in the learning environment. In my opinion our offering are not particularly unique. A quick scan of the competitive environment indicates that many institutions offer international experiences. I am thrilled to see our menu of offerings expand. I have a great deal of respect for every individual at the College who has created these opportunities for they are a labour of love. A menu of international opportunities that ranges from guests with international experience visiting the classrooms to extended overseas study programs needs to be maintained. Institutional support needs to be maintained to allow individuals the resources to continue their efforts.


Now what do you think? Let's hear your comments on the theme of Internationalization.


  1. When I first read the title of this particular area of exploration, I must admit I was perplexed. I had not heard this term before, and did not know what it meant. Now that I have read this blog post, I have a clearer idea - it seems to mean broadening the experience of our Canadian-born students to include a stint overseas or at the very least a visit from someone else who has spent some time overseas.

    If this is the definition of "internationalization", it seems to me to be a very narrow one, and one that overlooks the wealth of international resources we have right on campus. Not only do we have a large number of international students and immigrants in our student body, we also have many Canadian-born students whose parents were immigrants, and who thus may have had quite a bit of international experience both growing up in their own ethnic communities and visiting their parents' home countries from time to time throughout their lives.

    For me, then, "internationalization" should mean opening our eyes, ears, and minds to the international student body we already have and thus broadening the definition of the term. If we are talking about making internationalization into the classroom, then maybe the starting point should be asking our own students to draw on the wealth of international experience they already have, in various ways, as I'm sure many faculty members are already doing.

    This is not to say that we should not be offering overseas learning opportunities to students, as of course we should. It is only to say that we should not make the assumption that they have not already had quite a bit - and that their classmates who were born outside of Canada and those whose parents were can certainly be a starting point for a horizon-broadening experience in the classroom.

    Laura Blumenthal
    English as a Second Language

  2. Internationalization, is a topic that has always excited me, having lived the experience myself and for the many years of experience working with international students. As some of our colleagues have already pointed out, at Douglas College we already have a great wealth of international experience, but we still need to do more for our Canadian born students who may not have the opportunities at home. At the Centre for International Education, we have started to work with other departments and faculties to create this type of opportunities. With programs such as field schools, mobility exchange programs and internatinalcontracts with foreign universities. However, more needs to be done, we need to make these opportunities part of Douglas College academic plan, and not just sporadic projects. We need to create accesible registration systems, academic policies that will allow our students to transfer credits earned in foreign institutions. We need effective marketing strategics that will entice our students to participate in these programs, and we need to make every faculty and staff aware of the existance of these programs, procedures and contacts that will help the students access these opportunities.

  3. I completely agree with what my colleagues have said. To me “internationalization” is not only a beneficial part of education, but it is a necessary one. The globalization of education and the workforce is a reality and we need to provide our students, faculty and staff the opportunity to learn and work in an environment that encourages international experiences. As someone who has administered and participated in a study abroad program I have witnessed and experienced first-hand the benefits of these ventures. We are fortunate that we have diverse cultures in our own back yard, and we are able to welcome international students and faculty, however in my opinion the greatest benefit is to remove one’s self from a familiar setting and learn or work elsewhere. Being immersed in a different place with different practices, language, customs, etcetera is the best way to truly broaden your understanding of others and become more aware of your own practices, language, customs, etcetera. This not only applies to faculty and students, but also to staff. At present there are not many opportunities for staff to participate in international programs, but there are significant advantages for the College in creating more of these opportunities. Different institutions around the world have different ways of doing business and much can be learned through international professional development. Staff can provide better services and support for the College if they can learn the best practices of other institutions elsewhere. We can also better understand the challenges and obstacles faced by the students, faculty and staff we welcome to our country in institution if we put ourselves in the same position elsewhere, and through understanding we can provide better service. These are just a couple of examples of the benefits on creating international opportunities for staff, but I think it’s enough to prove that a case can be made for including staff in internationalization projects.


  4. This topic created a question in my mind: how internationalization I am?

    Here are my cards: born in Hong Kong, grown up under the British administration, worked for an international advertising agency, with opportunities to work at 6 major cities – Bangkok, Guangzhou, Tokyo, Seoul for several weeks each, couple of months in Taipei, and years in Hong Kong. Well, my job is mostly carrying suitcase and laptops for my boss…. I like travel, probably visited 20+ cities so far.

    If you ask me how is life in Tokyo, I probably have nothing to offer. The image is so remote. If I visit Tokyo again, I might not able to find the Akasaka Twin Tower – a great office tower where I stay for weeks.

    I came to Vancouver in 1995, earned a Computer Information Systems Diploma from Langara in 1997, passed the citizenship test in 1999, and earned a Library Technician Diploma in 2008. I worked at the IT department of a publicly listed Canadian company (7000 people) for 6 years, and now work at Douglas College Library. I always ask myself, how much I know about Canadian culture?

    My thirteen years old daughter is a typical Canadian-born student. We speak Cantonese at home; watch Chinese TV channels (Fairchild TV) every night, taking Mandarin class at Chinese Culture Center every Saturday. We visit Hong Kong almost every Chinese New Year. Then, how much she knows about the Chinese culture?

    I agree with my colleagues, at Douglas College we have a wealth of international experience. Working at the library I serve a diverse population and witness internationalization every day. We have international students and immigrants, we have faculty and staff member from around the world, we offer summer field schools in China, Belize, Wales, etc. Is this enough? I would say, no.

    Five weeks field school in China, invite President Hu Jintao or Premier Wen Jiabao to deliver a speech is fantastic, but just a small bit of the process. To prepare our student for Internationalization, we need a cultural revolution. With emerging opportunities in China and Asia, internationalization is a necessity, and is a great opportunity for Douglas College, but how to pull resources together to achieve our goals is a challenge. This is something we need to work on.

    Allow me to ask a few more questions:

    1. How much non-English collection we have at the Library?
    2. Can student search non-English keywords on OPAC or articles database?
    3. Is major Asian Language IME installed on our student computers?
    4 ……

    My two cents thought….

    Albert Ng
    Library Technician – Public Services

  5. I am a strong believer in Internationalization at Douglas College. I have experienced first hand the impact on this in my teaching and in my learning. Three times i have had Chinese faculty members from SAI, attend my classes for a full semester and on occassion lecture my students. These lectures have proven to be high points in the courses. The different perspective presented allowe for a wider discussion and debate in my classes.
    As well, I have been able to attend several conferences in China where Douglas College was viewed as a respected partner by a range of international faculty. I was able to present research, discuss global issues and learn from peers from around the world.
    My experiences with Internationalization at Douglas College have made me a better educator, have offered new learning perpectives to my students and have given me opportunities to practice scholarly activity from an international perspective.
    It is one of the key breasons why I enjoy my work at Douglas College.

  6. International Education - as a faculty member, I would like to see international education include some of the First Nations communities here in BC. They are nations and have rich cultures and ways that could enhance student learning. Some of these communities are remote and live in conditions similar to people in other nations. I would like to see some supported practicum opportunities for our students to learn with and from some of our Northern nations here in BC.

  7. Through Douglas College international education, I have been able to take part in the development and writing of 2 books which were both published in China. The focus was on NGO's and the the use of volenteerism in both China and Canada. What a wonderful opportunity to share in international scholarship with Chinese scholars and what a positive result in being published.
    Douglas has a rich legacy of international scholarship and my hope is that that legacy both expands and continues.

  8. I am somewhat confused by the comments related to First Nations internationalization. By its very definition, International Education exists outside of Canada. It really does not apply to the provinces and territories nor to communities inside of BC. There are certainly good reasons to support students working in First Nations practicums but not as International Education.

  9. If we are discussing internationalization of the College it is far too limiting to just think in terms of providing overseas experiences for students, faculty, and administrators. For the 650 International Students currently registered in classes, most are in those academic ones, International education is existing very much inside Canada. For every exchange student or prospective student inquiring as to what Douglas can offer them in the way of becoming better global citizens, programs such as Artemis has suggested, although perhaps not a task my office (CIE) wants to administer, would be loudly applauded as it would add richly to the experiences of all students. Indeed, I know of international students who have told me they have participated with and learned from "programs" with First Nations Peoples in the Thompson River area through church-based opportunities, but I am not at liberty to promote church based opportunities, nor would I want to. Programs such as what Artemis is suggesting are well worth considering, and yes, in my mind it is part of internationalization.

  10. What is an appropriate foundation to build a vision of internationalization on?
    The question that interests me most is the choice of foundation on which we build our vision of internationalization on. I’d argue that we should begin by focusing on a broad range of student learning outcomes facilitated by engagement in diverse classrooms. In this short post, I’ll propose that while the focus of internationalization is most often on the content of curriculum, it is more important to focus on internationalization as a contributor to the quality of student learning . I am supported in this opinion by the powerful body of research conducted by scholars such as Sylvia Hurtado, Director of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. Sylvia and others with an interest in diversity and intergroup relations have been documenting the superior outcomes for student learning in classes with a range of diversity in membership in several large American Universities for years. Addressing the broad question of how students benefit from learning in diverse classrooms, Hurtado (2005) reports measurably better student achievement in areas such as the development of cognitive, social and democratic outcomes (increases in civic engagement). There is a broader implication for our mission here. It is significant to me that Hurtado’s research was part of expert testimony that led to a 2003 US Supreme Court decision that affirmative action programs are legimate part of an educational institution’s mission since there is a strong positive link between diversity and student learning and career preparation. This link should be the foundation of our commitment to internationalization
    Hurtado’s work has been particularly important to me as I have thought through issues about how I engage students with diverse background in my classes. Sylvia’s work points the way to improving learning outcomes related to critical thinking and perspective taking skills, problem solving skills, cultural awareness and other outcomes (most of which are embedded in our academic signature). It is this level of engagement, the pedagogical, with it’s links to earlier thinking around issues related to diversity and accommodation and the pedagogical implications of multi-culturalism where I have looked to implement in my own classes a Douglas College view of internationalization. This stance has implications for pedagogy of course (and content too). It should move us to quickly understand that seating diverse students beside each other and then not engaging them in meaningful ways is a mark of marketing success, but not educational success. I will have something more to say about pedagogies of engagement and their role in internationalization in another post.
    For more detail, find Hurtado (2005) at
    Tom Whalley

  11. I can see how people would be confused about considering our First Nations communities as international if you perceive them to be encompassed within the governance stucture of Canada. These are Nations. These nations negotiate government to government with Canada. They are in various stages of legal proceedings to have Canada recognize their sovereignty. In addition, I would ask what they could not offer a student, that travelling over water could offer them?

    Artemis Fire