Two Western staff members have been selected to share their expertise with the world by representing the university in the 2014-15 Leave for Change program.
Douglas Keddy, Research Western communications manager, and Frank Miller, Hospitality Services director, have been named to Western’s inaugural class of the initiative, which engages university staff in international opportunities, offered through Western’s Staff Working Group on International Engagement.
“The university’s mission is to become more internationalized and this was an opportunity to involve staff, and look at (internationalization) from a different perspective,” said Ingrid Johnston, associate director of operations for The Book Store at Western.
The program’s primary goal is helping to build capacity, with volunteers training locals in their fields of expertise, Johnston explained. Volunteers won’t work as employees but instead as advisors to local staff, supporting lasting change.
As part of the program, announced this year under the Western International umbrella, the two Western staff members will use their vacation time in one of 11 developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, volunteering while contributing skills and advice partner organizations in their host country.
While country preferences of volunteers was taken into consideration, Uniterra, a Canadian voluntary cooperation and international development program partnering with Western, interviewed candidates and assigned them to countries where their skills are most needed.
“For us, it supports Western’s mission of international engagement; we’re giving our staff an opportunity to experience international engagement and bring those experiences back and share them with everybody,” Johnston said.
While developing nations gain training they need, Western employees gain and learn about the world through the experience. A positive Western presence in the world also translates to the university being well known internationally, she added.
“Western, through its strategic plan, has talked a lot about increasing the internationalization agenda on campus and I’m happy to see that being extended to staff, beyond the traditional faculty and students. We’re ambassadors for the university, too,” said Keddy, who will spend four weeks just outside of Hanoi, Vietnam, in September working in marketing and branding at a technical college to build its capacity.
“In my specific role, it’s certainly going to be an advantage to me – to learn how to communicate in new manners, with new audiences, especially international audiences. I think it’s just a great opportunity to learn about ourselves and about other cultures,” he continued.
“This is something I believe in strongly. We have a responsibility, working at an institution of higher learning, to give back to the world where we can. Also keep in mind, we’re going to learn a lot form these experiences, too. The more people who are exposed to other cultures, other communities, other ways of living, the better our world would be,” added Keddy, who said he’s grown having had previous international opportunities such as this.
Miller, who will be spending 3-4 weeks in the southern region of Vietnam in November, echoed Keddy’s sentiments, noting he is also looking forward to not only contributing his skills abroad, but learning along the way.
“For all intents and purposes, I just want to give back to hospitality, to help another country,” Miller said. He will be sharing his expertise in hospitality and food services in hotels and conference centres with a new Vietnamese training program.
“This would be a good way of learning from a different country, to learn from a different culture and to give back,” he added, noting hospitality is growing as an industry in Vietnam as the country attracts more and more tourists.
“The more I think about it, the more excited I get because I think I’m going to learn a lot, too. It’s overwhelming,” Miller continued. “Our dining and residences (at Western) are focusing on international foods, street foods and those kinds of things, so this fits where Western is going.”