King’s uses ‘common language’ in ties with Brazil

Paul Mayne // Western News

King’s University College Principal David Sylvester, left, chats with Brazilian students Katherine Papadopoulos, of São Paulo, middle, and Gabriel Torres, of Rio de Janeiro. Both students attended King’s as part of a partnership with Brazil’s Catholic universities.

While King’s University College lacks the powdery white-sand beaches, music-filled metropolises and enchanting colonial towns of Brazil, it has become a second home for a handful of students and faculty from the South American country.

King’s official internationalization initiative has been ongoing for more than 20 years now, with strong partnerships in China. But it has been only a few years since the college partnered with six Catholic universities in Brazil.

“We are broadening not just our geographic connections, but our disciplinary ones,” said King’s Principal David Sylvester. “We have a particular opportunity with Catholic universities because, internationally, especially in developing countries, some of the best universities are the Catholic ones.

“We have a common language as a starting point – the philosophy of education around the whole person. You are not just teaching math or history; you are teaching people. There really is an advantage.”

King’s recently become the first non-Brazilian member of ANEC, the largest Catholic education organization of its kind in the world, representing 2,000 schools, approximately 100,000 teachers and more than 2 million students.

“We are the first in North America to sign an agreement with them (ANEC). There are so many possibilities that may come out of this for professional development and exchanges,” Sylvester said.

Canada and Brazil have been strengthening connections for the last decade.

Canada has been the top destination for Brazilians wanting to study English as a second language and is second only to France for the study of French, with more than 20,000 students choosing Canada every year.

The Canada-Brazil agreement on academic mobility supports some 100 Canadian and Brazilian PhD students in joint research projects. Close to 200 agreements are in place between Canadian and Brazilian educational institutions.

During his official visit to Brazil in April 2012, David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, announced that by 2015, Canada will welcome 12,000 Brazilian students at the undergraduate, doctoral and post-doctoral levels under the Government of Brazil’s Science Without Borders scholarship program.

Whether studying business, philosophy or law, Brazilian students are great members of the Western community and completely engaged in what it means to be a King’s student, Sylvester continued. The school welcomes about 20 Brazilian students, and two or three faculty members, every year.

“They are not traditional international students looking to get a degree here. Rather, they are part of a program to get experience abroad,” he said, adding partnerships such as this, and others at King’s, are not about simply bumping up their international numbers.

“King’s internationalized decades ago, and for all the right reasons. If we were really going to provide students with the diversity of education we’re talking about, from a global perspective, we needed to do something.”

Students and faculty representing more than 40 countries make the Western affiliate “a much more interesting place from an academic and intellectual perspective.”

Sylvester continued, “The whole idea of a liberal arts education – and even a Catholic education – is you’re not teaching silo disciplines. You’re looking at issues and problems from different perspectives. Well, now you bring in international students, with varied experiences and even exposure to different types of pedagogies, with different worldviews, and you bring them together and mix it up. The whole conversation is that much richer.”