Board approves Strategic Plan for Internationalization

University of Western Ontario incoming president Amit Chakma has strongly voiced his desire to internationalize the university and now Western has a strategic plan for putting his goal into action.

 

In a document presented at the June 23 Board of Governors meeting, the outlined Strategic Plan for Internationalization for 2009-12 is said to be “less of an option than an imperative, given the increasing importance of collaborative effort in the research process, and given the context of globalized cultures and economic and political structures.”

 

Part of the internationalization strategic plan includes research and advanced training, in collaboration with colleagues in other countries, to discover new knowledge and improve the social and economic well-being of citizens in less affluent countries. The plan reinforces the importance of teaching across disciplines within a global context and encourages an increase in international students adding to the learning experience; as well as provides opportunities to travel, study and conduct research abroad.

 

The board approved the strategic plan, which is an update of new objectives from the 2003 version.

 

“I believe we have made good progress in implementing many of the recommendations from the original version,” says Ted Hewitt, Vice-President (Research and International Relations). “This will work as a template for the initial international activity, whether that is in research and development-assisted activities, teaching and learning, or the student experience.

 

“We want to ensure we are still attracting the best students. We do feel currently we are below where we could be or should be with international student recruitment.”

 

The recommendations outlined in the 2003 Strategic Plan for Internationalization were demonstrably implemented across campus over a five-year period. In the document presented to the board, Hewitt highlighted many achievements in this area, including:

 

The International Research Fund, which since 2003 has supported 66 projects in the arts, humanities and social sciences; The Visiting University Scholars program, which has attracted more than 30 visiting professors to Western during the past two years; The International Curriculum Fund, which has funded 28 projects involving internationalization of course content and financed course-related study-abroad travel from 122 students since 2006;  Establishing the Educational Partnerships Advisory Council to provide guidance for new international ventures at Western;  Dramatically increasing the number of students studying abroad each year, from less than 400 in 2004-2005 to more than 800 in 2007-2008; Growth in Western’s international development activities, such as Western Heads East, Rebuilding Health in Rwanda and Ecosystem Health Research programs.

In addition to its recommendations for teaching, research and international exchanges, the strategic plan advocates for the university to keep internationalization at the forefront of its institutional planning and to remove barriers to international participation for faculty, staff and students. Keeping its eye on internationalization also means Western must increase its profile at home and abroad.

 

In addition to the new strategic plan in place for expanding Western’s classroom boarders, the university is taking a more concentrated look at the structural design of space inside. The board approved the Guidelines for Design of Future Classrooms at the meeting, which is part of the Report of the Provost’s Ad Hoc Committee on Classroom and Communal Space.

 

Looking ahead, new classroom construction will have the physical capabilities for interactive learning and the rooms will be accessible and sustainable.

 

Committee chair Duncan Hunter says of the 120 general use classrooms on campus, about half fit the recommended standards. Approximately 50 classrooms have been flagged for renovations.

 

Other board highlights include:

Western maintains an ‘AA’ rating for long-term issuer credit and senior unsecured debt ratings by Standard & Poor’s Rating Services. The rating was based on the solid student demand and the university’s grounding in research, along with a strong management team and steady government support, and it indicates Western’s outlook is stable; The board approved the creation of the Ken Chu Faculty Fellowship in Public Administration in the Local Government Program of the Department of Political Science in the Faculty of Social Science at Western; The Department of Otolaryngology in the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry will be named the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery effective July 1, following board approval; Many new awards and scholarships, upon the recommendation of Senate, were approved by the board.