First Impressions, Global Engagement

A  blog post series for the Canadian Bureau for International Education’s 49th Annual Conference

First published on CBIE’s website, Niagara Falls, 23 November 2015

Today marks my first foray into the CBIE world of conferences, and I must admit, I am into it.

This year’s CBIE conference is themed “Global Engagement (GE): Crossing Borders/Connecting Generations” and it was quite fitting that CBIE President Karen McBride kick started the first plenary with a discussion on the definition of global engagement. The quick consensus was, global engagement is definitely more than mobility but…

What do we really mean when we say global engagement?

In the Conference Briefing Note, Dr. Sheila Embleton, Distinguished Research Professor of Linguistics at York University, defined global engagement as “a committed or meaningful interaction with the world as a whole”. At the first plenary session, Dr. Martha Navarro, who’s heading the Proyecta 100,000 and Proyecta 10,000 of the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation, offered that global engagement is about societies knowing each other, meeting each other, understanding each other’s cultures more than just mobility numbers. The latter definition made use of action words – knowing, meeting and understanding – and I couldn’t agree more. Global engagement is indeed an active venture and in the field of education – an active venture that requires multiple players and champions. 

Why engage globally?

Ben Yang, Director, Global Engagement, Wilfried Laurier University, in his presentation at the Canada-Southeast Asia Partners’ Forum offered three main incentives for “internationalization”: (1) global consciousness motivation – world peace, social justice, environmental issues; (2) global competitiveness motivation – compete in the global market place; (3) quality of life for oneself. When University of Manitoba conducted an Internationalization Baseline Survey in 2013 (as part of the International Strategy), the same reasons stood out as motivators for faculties’ international partnerships. I can bet that university and government leaders would agree to this short list. They may prioritize differently when it gets translated into programs and policies, but they won’t protest to the list for sure.

Perhaps, mobility, can be a start, can plant the seeds of global engagement but let’s not just stay there. Why not global classrooms at home? Why not co-teaching with a counterpart abroad through the aid of online technology? Why not international teams to respond to local community needs? Why not international seminars for researchers and students through social media platforms?

There’d be two more conference days and global engagement would be further dissected and broken down but what I propose is global engagement is a universe with enough space for our big collaborative ideas!

Helen Balderama is International Partnership Officer at the University of Manitoba. She was formerly Program Manager to the Education sections of the Asia-Europe Foundation and UNESCO National Commission (Manila).

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