December 20th, 2013
It’s all winding down, which is just fine with me. For a change, I am not getting on a plane or looking for luggage. This year was definitely my most traveled one, with visits to Europe, Asia, and the USA, and many to mainland Canada. Everyone asks me if I am traveling ‘for work.’ What else would I be doing in the middle of a semester?
Having taken on a new set of international files, I am constantly learning about international education and the potential Memorial has to participate in global initiatives, partnerships, and possibilities. Travel goes with those duties, because none of the manuals in the world can beat the sheer effectiveness of person-to-person contact. You need to shake the hand of a Turk, a Brazilian, a Mexican, a Korean, a Chinese educator or student not only to understand what they are about and where they live but also what we have in common, how we can make things work for our mutual benefit. Unlike other universities, to date Memorial has not put a cap on the number of international students we are taking into our programs. About 25% of our grad population comes from somewhere outside Canada and there is every reason to expect that percentage will keep getting larger. I still get asked every now and then why we are recruiting from away and I have lots of good answers, not the least of which is the enrichment of our own culture. Interestingly, in China this year, a sizable number of potential PhD students said they were not interested in applying for the prestigious Chinese Scholarship Council fellowship support because it firmly binds them to return to and stay in China. Failing to do so means they might not ever be allowed back into the country, and, moreover, they would have to pay back the scholarship. The students who said they had no intention of applying are clearly looking for a life somewhere else, possibly right here in blustery but welcoming St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Last week in San Diego at the wonderful annual CGS meetings, almost all the grad deans were talking about internationalization (best practices), budget cuts (from panic to complacency), interdisciplinarity (how to manage it), and providing professional skills/competencies (we’re all trying). These remain the top four themes, recurring and vexing, in my view. I do believe our own shop is well ahead of the laments curve, with enrolment growth, a robust professional skills program called EDGE, a growing, diverse population, and a booming PhD Interdisciplinary program. This is not to say we have no obstacles or challenges, but on balance, and as the year races to its end, I am confident that we have been moving in the right direction.
None of any of this would be possible without a superb School of Graduate Studies staff. The couple of dozen or so who manage the shop, from admissions to final examinations and convocation, from receiving newcomers at the front desk to problem-solving and funding, marketing and analyzing, each and every one of them contributes to a highly efficient, friendly, and informed service system. I am so lucky to be surrounded –and supported– by such competent people. Not every dean can say that!
Christmas really brings it all forward. The office is full of light and anticipation. We are all inching towards some much deserved time off from the files and the routine, but there is a real sense of satisfaction here, as we start to look back on our very best year ever.
Thank you thank you thank you, SGS staff. It’s all happening because of you—really.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all. I’ll be back blogging in January.