Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

An international learning experience

[Ajay Agarwal]
Ajay Agarwal (School of Urban and Regional Planning), centre, and a group of his students visit Auroville during the SURP 827 International Planning Project course trip to India. (Supplied Photo)

When students from the School of Urban and Regional Planning return to India this year, they will once again be gaining hands-on experience while working on a real planning project.

Queen's In the World

The students of the SURP 827 International Planning Project course will also be gaining valuable international experience, learning the intricacies of working in a new environment, in a cultural setting different from their own.

This experience is what has made the course so successful, explains Associate Professor Ajay Agarwal, who created and continues to deliver the course as it enters a fifth year.

For this work, Dr. Agarwal received the International Education Innovation Award, which recognizes excellence in the internationalization of curriculum in programs or courses. It is one of the six Principal’s Teaching and Learning Awards.

The opportunity to travel to India and work on a project with community members has been an important draw for the course and SURP, which was recently integrated into the Department of Geography and Planning, Dr. Agarwal says. Increasingly, planning firms are working on a global scale. While a head office may be located in a city like Toronto, the firm can be working on projects anywhere around the world.

“I personally think that for students who want to practice planning, the course widens their view of the world, because many of our students have always lived and worked in Canada,” he says. “Really, in a global setting, where firms from Canada do projects all over the world including planning projects, it is very important for these students to get outside their comfort zone and face the challenges of working in a foreign environment, which includes language, culture, customs, habits, everything. That gives them the confidence of being able to work on a project that has any magnitude of challenge.”

Through the course students learn to be adaptable and creative in finding solutions and to manage any adversity they may face.

Receiving the award has helped raise the profile of the course and SURP within the university and, on a personal level, has provided some “external validation” for the work he has done over the years, Dr. Agarwal adds.

Through the nomination process, Dr. Agarwal has received valuable feedback about the course from past students, many of whom are now working in international planning. All of those who responded said it was a positive experience and many added that the course has helped them within the job market. This positive reputation has resulted in a growing interest in the course.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say it has become one of the most popular courses we offer at SURP,” Dr. Agarwal says.  “Quite a few students now say that they chose Queen’s over other universities for this graduate program in planning because of that international experience that we offer.”

The Principal’s Teaching and Learning Awards, created in 2015, recognize individuals and teams who have shown exceptional innovation and leadership in teaching and learning on campus. The awards are administered by the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL).

The International Education Innovation Award honours the outstanding efforts of an individual or any combination of faculty, staff, and/or student team who contributes to the creation or revitalization of a course or program of international learning at Queen’s, in alignment with the Queen’s University Comprehensive International Plan (QUCIP).

Nominations for the 2017 award are currently being accepted. All nominations should be sent electronically in PDF form to inforef@queensu.ca no later than Tuesday, Aug. 1, by 4 pm. For more information about the award and the nomination form and process, visit the CTL website.