It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to blog, and this will be a relatively short one.
I have just come from lunch at the Queen’s International Centre, tucked away on the 2nd floor of the JDUC, where the staff do a great job of making our international students feel welcome during their time at Queen’s. I spoke with several students from countries as far apart as Scotland and Saudi Arabia, Austria and China. Some were exchange students here for a short time (but hopefully considering Queen’s for future grad school plans should they continue their education post baccalaureate); a number were degree students, both undergrad and graduate.
In such situations I often ask students why they picked Queen’s. One of them, from the Middle East, surprised me with his answer today. “Because of the diversity of the Queen’s community”. I was very pleased to hear this because while we have a good deal of work still to do in increasing the diversity of our student, staff and faculty, as well as of our curriculum, we have made great progress in the past few years. These efforts are beginning to take hold and to spread beyond our campus, such that the student today could actually say that diversity was a feature of the university that drew them here.
We cannot be complacent of course. We have a number of bodies or offices on campus working on issues of both equity and diversity (for instance the Senate Committee on Educational Equity, chaired by Prof Leila Notash; and the Director of Educational Equity and Diversity Projects in the Provost’s office, Prof Adnan Husain). Our students are equally committed to these issues through the AMS, SGPS and several Faculty organizations and many clubs. Our Office of Equity and Human Rights continues to provide sound advice, for instance on selection committees, with respect to our recruitment of individuals from such sectors as the aboriginal and new immigrant community, persons with disabilities, and persons of different sexual orientations.
International students will certainly increase the diversity and the breadth of our community. But as international initiatives continue to flourish, we must also be mindful of the fact that diversity begins right here at home.