President's Corner is a regular column from President Deep Saini.
Dear Dal community,
As I signed Dal’s latest international agreement on Tuesday morning, the words of Hispano-Roman philosopher and writer Lucius Annaeus Seneca kept swirling in my head: “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.”
The agreement with Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (RVSKVV), one of India’s leading agricultural universities, is both inspiring and instructive in how our global objectives can be maintained despite the suspension of international travel. It was also timely, given this week is International Education Week, which showcases the impact international education has on students and which supports Canada’s global engagement efforts.
Having led the development of numerous international partnerships, I know first-hand how many overseas visits it takes to reach such agreements. However, this one is unique in that it was struck without anyone from Dal actually setting foot on the campus of the partner institution. It is quite a feat, even by the high standards of international work that our Truro campus is well known for. The agreement creates a 3+2 degree in Agricultural Plant Science between RVSKVV and Dalhousie. The first batch of students, funded by the Indian government, plan to arrive at our Truro campus in the fall of 2021. Our past experience suggests that this will inevitably lead to research collaborations. And I would be remiss if I didn’t also take the opportunity to mention that, this week, we announced the appointment of our first acting associate vice-president, global relations, Dr. Balakrishnan Prithiviraj, who is coincidentally from our Faculty of Agriculture. Go Aggies!
Aside from advancing the university’s academic mission, I find, as I’m sure many of you also do, a great deal of personal satisfaction in surmounting the formidable barriers created by the pandemic. My own international engagement has remained essentially unchanged. For example, this Thursday night I will join the Canadian High Commissioner to the Philippines over Zoom to speak at an international education forum organized by Universities Canada. Then, two weeks later, Acting Vice-President Government & Global Relations Matt Hebb and I will speak at an international conference chaired by India’s Minister of Education. My colleagues from around the globe and I continue to work unhindered on the Board of Trustees of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the governing Council of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, to name just a couple of examples. Further, as much as we all appreciate the benefits of occasionally meeting in person, imagine the long flights, being away from home, the carbon emissions, and the expense we are all avoiding!
So, in the spirit of celebrating our international work, I have reserved this week’s shout-out for everyone at Dal who has been supporting our international students through their immense effort and care. We were recently approved as a Designated Learning Institute authorized to receive international students who wish to choose to come to study in Canada. We expect them to start returning for the winter term and continue through spring and beyond. This has all been made possible by the extraordinary hard work and diligent planning of our colleagues in the International Centre, Student Affairs and Ancillary Services. And let me not forget the international students themselves, who have shown their steadfast commitment to Dalhousie and made huge adaptations to their living and learning environments in order to continue their studies. Thank you!