Nov. 22, 2017

Globally engaged citizenship in a changing world

Faculty of Arts launches its Arts Internationalization Strategy
Florentine Strzelczyk
Florentine Strzelczyk

To be sure, internationalization and a global, cross-cultural focus has always been a defining characteristic of the Faculty of Arts. “It’s at our essence. It really is in our life blood,” says Florentine Strzelczyk, the faculty’s vice dean.

The briefest glance at our curriculum proves her statement to be true, from our Latin American Research Centre and programs in International Relations, Development Studies and International Indigenous Studies to the vast amount of cross-cultural content in all of our departments ranging from History to Classics and Religion to the School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures and Cultures.

At a university which has prioritized internationalization – with “becoming a global intellectual hub” a key pillar of UCalgary’s Eyes High strategy – it was inevitable that the Faculty of Arts would define its own internationalization strategy. That strategy, spearheaded by Strzelczyk and three years in the making – entitled Globally Engaged Citizenship in a Changing World – will be formally launched today (Nov. 23), at an event in the Hotel Alma’s Senate Room.

“Our faculty strategy is, of course, defined from the perspective of the humanities, social sciences and fine arts, but it’s very much aligned with the university’s overarching strategy for internationalization,” says Richard Sigurdson, dean of the Faculty of Arts. “I think it speaks to what a great university should be doing – providing international opportunities for students and faculty, reaching out internationally, building partnerships with scholars in other countries, and, leveraging all of that for innovation and discovery here and abroad.”

He adds: “We are up to our ears, or, up to our brains, you might say, in international activity and always have been. With this strategy, we mean to define our growth and further focus the many activities and initiatives that are ongoing.”

Promoted this year to the role of associate dean of internationalization and globalization for the faculty, it will be Gavin Cameron’s mission to carry forth the priorities set in the strategy. The associate professor of political science and international relations has succinct plans in mind for doing so.

The coordinating of research ranks high on his list. “I think we need to figure out how to better facilitate the international work that is already being done,” says Cameron. “This is a huge faculty and academics are not always aware of what others are doing outside of their respective departments. It may be that we have people doing work that is related. Therefore, there is great potential for cooperation across the faculty. We believe there are a lot of untapped opportunities here for interdisciplinary work.”

Promoting “cross-cultural competence” will also be a focus says Cameron. This involves exposing students and faculty to international experiences, including study abroad programs and field schools but also cross-cultural experiences here in Calgary. “We live in a really diverse city and there are opportunities for engaging other cultural communities right here at home,” Cameron points out.

Other long-term goals will include “increasing our ties, both in quality and quantity, with other academic institutions around the world,” he says.

There are also plans underway to develop more joint degrees, or, “two-plus-two” programs, wherein students will have the opportunity to complete their degree programs in both the University of Calgary and partner academic institutions around the world.

Strzelczyk – herself a poster child of internationalization as a native of Germany who came to UCalgary in the 1990s to teach German cultural studies – believes it’s now more important than ever for universities to emphasize internationalization.

“When we poll employers one of the most coveted skills they want from our graduates is the ability to be cross culturally competent,” she says. “We live in the age of multinational businesses and being able to work with people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds is crucial.”

Sigurdson agrees: “The Alberta economy is diversifying and it needs globally aware employees like never before. The Faculty of Arts Internationalization Strategy will produce graduates able to work anywhere in the world. Whether it’s working for governments or NGOs or in any industry, you’ll benefit if you have a global understanding.”