Angela James knows first-hand and through years of watching students come and go on international exchanges that “growth happens on the fringes, when you’re pushing yourself and being challenged.”
Ms. James, Director of the Centre for International Management in Smith School of Business, felt it herself when she backpacked through Europe, and throughout her career in international education, which began at the University of Waterloo working in recruitment and as an academic adviser, a job that saw her welcoming and sending out exchange students.
“I was really shocked to see the transformation of students, both those who had gone on exchange overseas or who came to Canada to study. I thought, ‘this is something we can’t teach in the classroom,’” she says.
Now at Smith, Ms. James provides support, along with a team of eight others, to about 1,200 incoming and outgoing students every year (the largest international mobility program for exchange at Queen’s).
Within the Centre for International Management, there are two units, one providing support to the Commerce program and another supporting the school’s graduate and professional master’s programs, including the Master of International Business (MIB), the MBA, the Master of Finance-Beijing, and the Saudi Industrial Development Fund program.
Since Ms. James began as director 12 years ago, and through focused goals set by Dean David Saunders, the centre has gradually increased the number of students participating in exchange and the number of schools Smith partners with around the world.
“When I started, it was just me and one other person. We were solely doing Commerce exchange and we were exchanging just over 200 students, with about 30 partners. Now, we have close to 120 partners in 35 countries, supporting about 1,200 students,” explains Ms. James, who worked at the Bader International Study Centre in the U.K. in admissions before joining Smith.
The benefit of such a well-developed international program is the diversity of people and perspectives in the classroom, with upper-year classes almost 50 per cent exchange students and a big push within the school to keep bringing in a more diverse faculty complement.
“Professors and students both love the dynamic this creates and they are insisting on making it more diverse,” says Ms. James.
For international students, she explains, Smith and Queen’s are very attractive options. Many of them come from top business schools found in large city centres around the world, and they love the small size of Kingston, the community spirit at Queen’s, and small class sizes at Smith. There is also great opportunity to interact and make friends with Canadian students through group work and through a student-led Exchange and Transfer Committee, which organizes events with the goal of integrating exchange students into life at Queen’s.
For domestic students, going out on exchange is an opportunity to launch themselves away from the safety net of Queen’s (and the busy social life) and gain new perspectives on the world, politics, and global affairs. Every student who comes to Smith is guaranteed a spot on exchange if they want it, and because international education is an integral part of the MIB program, it is integrated into each student’s experience, either through exchange or one of 11 double degree programs.
“Change happens tenfold on exchange. Often, they are living in a big city centre and experiencing culture shock and missing home. They are able to better define who they are as a person,” says Ms. James. “They come back with a new sense of self-confidence and independence. And we help them verbalize the change they’ve gone through and translate their experience so they can include that on their resume. The international experience remains vivid for a long time – it lingers longer, with students reflecting on it for years to come.”
The Centre for International Management recently ran a photography contest for students on exchange. View their impressive photos on the Smith Facebook page.
Internationalization is one of the four pillars of the Queen’s University Strategic Framework 2014–2019. The Comprehensive International Plan was launched in August 2015 to help the university build on its international strengths and direct future internationalization efforts. The plan’s goals include strengthening Queen’s international research engagement and creating more opportunities for student mobility through academic exchange and study-abroad programs. The plan also aims to attract high-quality international students to Queen’s and to increase international educational opportunities on Queen’s campus. Learn more on the International website.