McMullin: More to international than the story says

I was delighted to see the coverage of Western International in Western News (“Western taking on the world,” March 15). However, the article contains a number of statements that are not completely accurate and may lead readers to misunderstand Western’s goals and intentions related to internationalization.

International activities have been a long-standing priority at Western. What has recently changed, with the arrival of President Amit Chakma and Provost Janice Deakin, is a heightened emphasis and investment in these important activities. The staff at Western International is a committed, hard-working group who are happy to provide support to all members of Western’s community with assistance or advice in any matter related to international undergraduate recruitment, international learning, student support or international relations.

A primary objective of Western International is to help to support an environment and community at Western that promotes the education of global-ready graduates. This is a term international education specialist, Darla Deardorff, uses to capture the idea there are intercultural competencies needed to live and work in a world where borders are more easily and necessarily traversed.

Universities and countries all over the world are also trying to prepare their graduates and citizens to live and work in what has certainly become a smaller world.

Western is not taking on the world, nor are we infiltrating the global south as the headlines and graphics in last week’s article might unintentionally convey. We are building reciprocal partnerships around the globe and working with our partners in support of our common goals. And, Western’s targets for international undergraduate student recruitment and international learning opportunities do not define what internationalization means to Western. Rather, they help us move forward toward achieving our primary objective as described above.

On the topic of bringing international graduate and undergraduate students to our campus, it would be completely irresponsible to bring international students to our campus without providing the supports and services necessary for them to succeed.  Thus, it is important to point out that Western International’s International and Exchange Student Centre provides all sorts of supports and services for students and has been doing so for many years.

We are ramping up these services as numbers of international students and newcomer students increase. And of course, services for all students, domestic and international, are offered across campus, in residences, the Student Success Centre, the Teaching Support Centre, through the Registrar’s office, the School of Graduate and Post-Doctoral Studies, and in the faculties.

I have no doubt opening Western’s doors more widely for international collaborations and international students will enrich Western’s community. But, we must always remember our partnerships and collaborations need to be mutually beneficial, respectful, and responsible.

Julie McMullin
Special Advisor to the Provost, International