University of Calgary

University Calgary International: Forging connections

UToday HomeMarch 25, 2013

Fiona RumohrIn her third year in International Relations, Fiona Rumohr has just completed an academic internship in Washington, D.C., with the American Council of Young Political Leaders.The sign on the door does not say "Canadian Embassy," but it might as well.

Behind it is University Calgary International (UCI), a team of people who have unique knowledge in international relations. Day to day, they advise faculty and staff on how to engage and strengthen relationships with people in other countries. Their work calls for a broad understanding of politics, academia and culture.

As universities around the world pursue greater "internationalization," UCI has never been more in demand. It is responsible for weaving our university’s web of connections and collaborations that will bring more people and knowledge to our campus, and will send more of our people and knowledge abroad.

"UCI is going through a period of refreshment," says Glynn Hunter, UCI’s executive director (acting). "For a long time we were more reactive, but Eyes High got the ball rolling and we now have Janaka Ruwanpura as the new vice-provost (international), which is very exciting."

The university's new International Strategy is a blueprint for how to manifest and maximize links with partner institutions around the world. While the vice-provost international oversees internationalization efforts at the faculty level, UCI is the ground-level resource for anyone needing advice on practical issues related to their global relationships.

"What we do is driven by the academic mission of the University of Calgary," Hunter says. "But we're not involved in establishing the academic program. Instead, we assist the academic areas to achieve what they need to do internationally."

Whether advising faculties on drafting international agreements and shared programs with other universities, or planning visits here by foreign dignitaries, UCI's work directly impacts the international exposure enjoyed by our faculty and students.

But Hunter knows that the high-level work of UCI must always be measured by how it impacts individuals. "Some of the agreements we assist on may take a long time to result in exchanges of people or knowledge," he says. "And while it's satisfying to have contributed to those agreements, what I really like seeing is how this impacts someone personally."

Fiona Rumohr is someone benefitting from the kind of global connections created by faculty and the UCI. In her third year of a BA in International Relations, Rumohr has just completed an academic internship in Washington, D.C., with the American Council of Young Political Leaders, an organization that creates citizen-to-citizen diplomacy programs.

"I believe that international experience is incredibly important for everyone," Rumohr says. "Encountering new perspectives will challenge assumptions you don't even realize you have. It expands your world view in so many positive ways and gives you even more tools to decide how you want to shape that world."

The university's goal is to ensure that 50 per cent of students have a meaningful international experience before graduating.

"We have a dozen high-level delegations coming through in the next six weeks," Hunter says. "After a period where economies weren't doing well and little travel going on, institutions are re-establishing those connections. The number of requests coming from faculty on campus to be involved in what they are initiating is way up."

Looking ahead, Hunter sees an exciting transformation and evolution of the university.

"The next year is going to be very exhausting for everyone at UCI, as we ramp up to meet the objectives coming out of the new International Strategy," says Hunter.

Faculty, and students like Fiona Rumohr, are grateful.

 

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