Sept. 20, 2016

Chinese law professors experience Canadian legal system first-hand

Scholars benefit from unique collaboration between Werklund School, Faculty of Law
Werklund Law

September 20, 2016 - On a morning in early September, a class comes together for the very first time. There are messages of welcome, and discussion about coursework and students’ expectations. The students are excited.

They’re also very familiar with the “first day of class” because these students are university professors too. But they also know they are about to navigate unfamiliar academic territory.

The students, 27 university law professors, have come from universities across China to the University of Calgary to begin a professional development program.

They’re here to deepen their understanding of teaching methodologies and pedagogy, improve their English (through the Werklund School of Education’s International Foundations Program), learn how Canadian students are educated in the practice of law, and how to support and educate their students in China when teaching them about the law.

In a collaboration between the Werklund School of Education and the Faculty of Law and funded by the China Scholarship Council (CSC), the professors — from 20 different universities — will observe teaching practices, engage with professors and students, and also share their knowledge with Canadian colleagues.

This shared project, as described by Colleen Kawalilak, professor and associate dean (internationalization) in the Werklund School of Education, is a model of seamless integration between faculties and disciplines.

“It’s a privilege to collaborate with our colleagues from Law to co-create this interdisciplinary program,” says Kawalilak. “Everyone benefits significantly from this collaboration, from the visiting professors, to UCalgary professors, and even current students in both faculties.”

Although this exchange is the second in a five-year agreement between UCalgary and the CSC, this collaboration between the Werklund School of Education and the Faculty of Law is the first of its kind in Canada to welcome Chinese professors of law. The Chinese government partners with universities in English-speaking countries, including the United States, Australia and Canada, to support professional development for its post-secondary educators. UCalgary is the only Canadian university offering this program with a law school.

Lisa Silver, an instructor in the law school and co-ordinator of the CSC program for the faculty, points out the unique opportunity for the law school to share perspectives with its international colleagues.

“In many ways, we ‘speak’ the same languagethe language of lawwhich transcends the differences we may have in our legal system and approach, says Silver.

“Having this ability to sit down with our international colleagues is crucial to the future of law, where global issues and concerns are of interest to us all. Through the sharing of perspectives, we also realize that we share the same concerns in legal education, legal practice and the future of our shared profession. This program not only enriches our understanding of what other legal communities do but also what we can do together.”

“We are thrilled to be partners in this program,” says Ian Holloway, dean of the law school. “In his recent visit to China, Prime Minister Trudeau announced an agreement between our two countries to deepen the connections between our two legal academies, and we are proud to be at the leading edge of that.”

Werklund Dean Dennis Sumara agrees and says, “Beyond this significant partnership with our colleagues in Law, this program really highlights and promotes two-way cultural exchange.

“As much as the Chinese professors will learn while they are here, our professors and students will have many opportunities over the coming weeks to learn from our visitors.”

In the meantime, the students are settling in, excited about deepening their teaching practice, strengthening their English skills, and enjoying all that Calgary — and Canada — have to offer.