Considering the international university

17th annual Dalhousie Conference on Learning and Teaching

- April 26, 2013

Three of Dal's current international students: Ding Fan (China), Santiago Leon Pinzon (Ecuador), Syed Abrar Husain (Kuwait). (Danny Abriel and Nick Pearce photos)
Three of Dal's current international students: Ding Fan (China), Santiago Leon Pinzon (Ecuador), Syed Abrar Husain (Kuwait). (Danny Abriel and Nick Pearce photos)

In 2008, Dalhousie was home to nearly 1,200 international students – 7.7 per cent of the student population. Today, that number has doubled to more than 2,400 students, or 13.4 per cent of the student body.

Within roughly the amount of time undergrad students spends on their degree, the face of Dalhousie has changed immensely. What does that mean for programs? For services? For supports on campus? And, perhaps most importantly, what does it suggest for Dalhousie’s academic experience as the university approaches its 200th anniversary?

These questions touch every student, faculty and staff member at Dalhousie. Just as an example: how does the Writing Centre cope with students whose language issues stand in the way of learning to write university documents? (In 2006 English Second Language learners – mostly international students – used 15% of appointments; they now use 43% of the nearly 12,000 thirty-minute appointments.)

That’s why the organizers of next week’s Dalhousie Conference on Teaching and Learning hope to bring the campus community together in an engaging dialogue on these sorts of questions.

This year’s edition of the annual event, co-hosted by the Centre for Learning and Teaching, the Dalhousie Writing Centre and the International Centre, is centred on the theme “Internationalizing Teaching and Learning in a Global Context.”

Register now: 17th Annual Conference on Teaching and Learning (deadline is Friday, April 26)

“We want to get the discussion going around the internationalization of the Canadian campus,” explains Margaret Clow Bohan, manager of the Writing Centre. “Is it just bringing in students from outside Canada and then forgetting about them? We have to do better. So, what do they need to succeed? What do we expect of them, and what do they want from us? How do we engage Canadian students so they benefit from having these students here – or get more of our students to take part in studies abroad?”

When international students come to Canada they are faced with many new, exciting and yet sometimes overwhelming experiences. There’s little doubt that international students bring the richness of their varied cultural backgrounds to Dalhousie, but it takes the right environment to realize the potential of a truly “global” campus. And with the speed at which Dalhousie’s student population is becoming more international, now is a crucial time to consider what Dal could — and should — be doing to support its changing community.

Big ideas, important discussions

York University’s Roopa Desai Trilokekar, co-author of 2009’s Canada’s Universities Go Global, is the conference’s keynote speaker, highlighting the student experience of internationalization.

She writes, “[Universities] have set ourselves a laudable goal by embarking on a two-pronged strategy: recruiting international students to our campuses and sending Canadian students to study abroad. We host a growing number of international students, provide a broader range of international educational experiences for all students and welcome first-, second- and third-generation Canadians… So, can we say our campuses are now internationalized?”

In her address, Dr. Trilokekar will consider the ramifications of that question, and propose seven principles of good practice in internationalizing higher education.

The two days of the conference are filled with presentations from Dalhousie staff and faculty from across different disciplines, as well as guest speakers from other universities. There are more than 40 presentations across the conference’s ten sessions spread over the two days.

Some of the topics include:

  • Teaching and learning in an international context
  • Leveraging technology to support global teaching and learning
  • Challenges in increasing participation in study abroad programs
  • Social identity in international students
  • Whether teaching support units need to change to reflect a changing student body
  • Academic integrity
  • Transition and advising models to improve international students’ satisfaction and retention

You can see the full schedule and browse the abstracts for all presentations on the conference’s website. Registration closes this Friday, April 26 – sign up today!


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