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Interculturally competent

Sharing expertise in intercultural and international competence

Campus and Community

By Jennifer Batten

Memorial has become more culturally diverse than ever before, with students, faculty and staff from all over the world choosing to study and work here.

Students from more than 110 countries live on campus and in neighborhoods around the St. John’s area, and they contribute significantly to the cultural and social fabric of this province.

Cultural diversity is critically important to Memorial’s teaching and learning community and its presence is felt in different ways – from children in a preschool group at Memorial’s Childcare Centre singing a welcome song each day in a variety of languages, to the increasing number of highly successful multicultural craft, art and food events happening around campus – it’s clear the university recognizes and celebrates cultural diversity.

Sonja Knutson recently led representatives from 15 Philippine universities in a session on internationalization
Photo: CBIE

With increased diversity across Memorial’s campuses, there has been a recognized need to develop intercultural competence – an increasingly important area of focus of the Internationalization Office (IO). The IO is internationally sought after for its expertise in developing training and programs to enhance international and intercultural competence.

The Strategic Internationalization Plan established the IO as the “go-to” office for training programs, events, programs and other activities that engage dialogue about cultural difference. The IO is mandated to raise the profile of Memorial locally and globally by providing intercultural leadership to engage the local community in the development of cross-cultural skills through workshops, sessions and events, and to partner with provincial government authorities to support the broader community to engage with internationalization.

Lead role

This winter, Memorial played a lead role in a training program on internationalization in Canada for 15 Philippine universities. Over seven months, in-person and online Strategic Training Program on Internationalization in Canada sessions, were jointly supported by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE). Participants learned about Memorial’s strategic internationalization planning stages as outlined in the White Paper on Internationalization.

“It was clear the Philippines chose Canada because of our unique approach to internationalization which encompasses multiculturalism as a two-way street.” — Sonja Knutson

Memorial’s plan, presented by Sonja Knutson, director of the Internationalization Office, resonated with the Philippine universities, given the focus on regional contexts and a multi-pronged approach to both attract international students and to ensure domestic students are adequately prepared for globalized careers.

“I was honoured to be selected as co-trainer with Hans de Wit, one of the top global thought leaders on internationalization, and to present a Canadian/Newfoundland and Labrador approach to the Philippine government and university leadership,” said Ms. Knutson. “It was clear the Philippines chose Canada because of our unique approach to internationalization which encompasses multiculturalism as a two-way street, and devises plans for internationalization as not solely a revenue generation exercise.”

Jeremy Morales of St. Paul University in Tuguegarao, Cagayan, Philippines participated in the program.

“The Strategic Training Program presented a view of internationalization that is key for our post-secondary sector,” said Mr. Morales. “Internationalization of higher education entails both passion and commitment: passion for the development of institutional and national goals and frameworks with some amount of willpower to keep it afloat until it docks into the institutional systems and in each stakeholder’s consciousness; and commitment to take all necessary steps to attain its fruition.”

Memorial also recently led training sessions to provincial staff across Newfoundland and Labrador who work closely with ethnically diverse populations.

To learn more about the IO’s interactive presentations on intercultural competency, or to book a presentation for a group on campus, contact international@mun.ca.

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