Strategic what?

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UW has an international reputation and attracts a plethora of international students and faculty, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is fully internationalized — at least in the eyes of the strategic plan.


The internationalization theme of the strategic plan aims to increase the number of UW students with international experiences in their education. Currently, approximately one to two per cent of students have any international exchange experience while at UW, which is fairly low according to Nello Angerilli, associate vice-president.


“For such a high quality university, to not be providing greater promotion and assistance and support for international experience by students, I think, is a deficiency in the institution,” Angerilli said. “It’s not because the university hasn’t tried.”


Currently, the main reasons students do not engage in international experiences are money, co-op, and application procedures, which the university found through an email survey last fall.


“Our target is we’d like to see at least 30 per cent of our students, when they’re walking across the stage at graduation, have had at least one overseas experience as part of their degree,” Angerilli said.


Angerilli used environmental issues in developing nations as an example. He said students studying environmental toxicology in developing nations cannot truly learn about the issues or begin solving them without seeing the damage first hand.


“Ensuring that the world is going to persist requires greater understanding of how really difficult some of the problems are outside of a country like Canada,” Angerilli said.


As part of the strategic plan, the university is currently developing a travel bursary so that finances do not discourage potential exchange students.


Another way UW is attempting to increase its internationalization is through communication. Angerilli said students are often unaware of the exchange opportunities available, and if they are, they don’t know how to apply, where they can go, or what they will experience, and that uncertainty is very discouraging.


Angerilli said UW is trying to make exchanges more popular amongst students in three ways: money, better awareness of the possibilities, and making it easier to do. As it stands, the application process is completely paper-based, which Angerilli said slows the process significantly.


Another common issue students cite for not going abroad is co-op. UW’s co-op program attracts a lot of students, but its sometimes rigid structure can also prevent international exchange. The solution is building short-term experiences. Angerilli said two to three-week programs will soon be available for students who don’t want to take a full term off or rearrange their co-op schedule.


For a university that strives for innovation, our international exchange program falls short of that goal. However, the strategic plan recognizes the issue and aims to ensure that future students will have more opportunities.


<em>In this seven-part series, Imprint sits down with the leaders of each theme of UW&rsquo;s strategic plan to learn what the university is working on and why students should pay attention.&nbsp;</em>