CORNER BROOK — Ivan Emke believes having the ability to interact competently with other cultures is a skill that students are going to need.
Otherwise, they won’t be able to proceed further in their careers, he said.
As the facilitator for internationalization at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland it’s Emke’s job to see that ability fostered at the school.
Emke said internationalization is something Grenfell started to think more about a couple years ago. Based on a report completed a year ago, he said the university decided to put someone in place to look at the bigger picture.
Part of Emke’s job involves internationalizing the campus or the curriculum.
“Ninety-five per cent of our students are not going to have an international experience as part of their education,” said Emke. “But how do we make them interculturally competent and sensitive? And how do we introduce more into the curriculum that involves sort of an understanding of correctiveness of the world?”
Although it’s not seen as much here in Newfoundland, Emke said 250,000 people come into Canada every year. He said students in this area are ill-equipped to deal with that because there’s not a lot of diversity in the region.
“It’s part of our job as a university to make them feel comfortable,” he said. “Instead of being concerned and nervous when they meet people from another culture, the hope is that people are curious.”
He said internationalization can come from having good, up-to-date maps on walls and having access to international films and news services.
Having international students on campus also helps as they become friends with local students, helping to foster a connection and understanding of cultures.
Emke said the university can also do more to foster internationalization through its curriculum, in determining what other courses students could take.
“If they, for example, are in business and they want to have an advantage over other people in business, one of the things they need to know is how international business works,” said Emke.
Emke is also working on memorandums of understanding with other universities to foster exchanges among students and faculty.
He said the provincial government is looking at immigration as the way to increase the province’s population.
“In order to do that, we need to become better at welcoming people into our region.”
Emke said this leads to opportunities for partnerships. As an example, he said the university could work with Western Health in offering English as a second language programs to new doctors and their families.
He also noted the university is playing a role in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities program that has partnered the City of Corner Brook with the City of Padilla in Bolivia. Emke will be part of the next delegation from the city to travel to Padilla.
With all that emphasis being placed on internationalization, it only makes sense for the university to participate in the Canadian International Development Agency’s International Development Week. Ongoing until Feb. 9, Emke said the week is a way to raise the profile of his office.
The week kicks off with an international potluck on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in room 2026 of the arts and science extension. A panel discussion featuring local health professionals who volunteer internationally, scheduled for Tuesday evening, has been moved to Feb. 12 due to the weather.