Wanted: Ambassadors for a more global Queen's
Competition among universities seeking global partnerships is keen, and highly mobile alumni can play key roles in making the world aware of what a more international Queen’s has to offer.
In 2000 – being a Year of the Dragon and considered an auspicious time for major undertakings – then-Principal Bill Leggett travelled to China and initiated Queen’s valuable strategic partnership with Fudan University in Shanghai, from which many other key relationships have subsequently developed.
In February, I had the privilege of leading a another Queen’s Year-of-the-Dragon delegation to China, including Vice-Principal (Research) Steven Liss, Vice-Provost (International) John Dixon, Bader International Study Centre Executive Director Bruce Stanley, China Liaison Officer Zhiyao Zhang, and new alumnus Jonathan Kong, Artsci’11.
Our eight-day, two-city trip was successful on many levels. We connected with alumni, current and prospective students and their families, as well as colleagues at our partner (and potential partner) institutions, and representatives from government and industry.
I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the Queen’s graduates we met at receptions in Shanghai and Beijing. Some of these people were engaging with the University as alumni for the first time. They spoke with great affection of their time in Kingston and at the Bader Interantional Study Centre. One young woman who had come to Queen’s on exchange from Tsinghua University in Beijing, one of China’s top educational institutions, told Dr. Liss that her term in our Commerce program had been the highlight of her undergraduate studies.
I had dinner with Fred Kao, a Canadian of Chinese descent who is working in Shanghai; two of his children are studying at Queen’s. Fred has joined the Queen’s community through his kids, who he says are having a great experience.
There were also wonderful opportunities to showcase our University, including programs offered at the Bader International Study Centre, to prospective students and their parents, as well as to University officials. Telling the story of Herstmonceux, our castle in England, never fails to get attention – as it did more recently for me in the U.K. – and Chinese university officials were particularly taken with this aspect of Queen’s.
We are indebted to the generosity and vision of benefactors Dr. Alfred Bader, Sc’45, Arts’46, MSc’47, LLD’86, and his wife Isabel, LLD’07, who generously donated this property to Queen’s in 1993, with the stipulation that it become a centre of international education, and who helped with its development.
Next time you travel, find some way of letting the people with whom you engage know that you were educated at Queen’s.
All of our visits in China were productive, some exploring possible new high-level relationships with Chinese institutions, others advancing existing ones, such as Fudan’s. But there are lots of competitors and potential “dance partners” for the best Chinese universities, and similarly many possible destinations for the millions of Chinese young people seeking a university education. We are going to have to increase our number of contacts and our recruitment efforts – not only to bring more Chinese students here to enrich diversity and global outlook on campus, but to make more places available over there for our students wanting to expand their knowledge of Asian business, politics, economics, languages, and more.
At Queen’s, as at most other Canadian universities, teaching, learning, and research take place in a far more international context than existed when many of us were students. Increasingly our students and professors are benefiting from working in and studying other countries and cultures – and our international alumni bring their acquired skills and knowledge home with them, furthering the University’s global impact. Some choose to remain in Canada, or even in Kingston, and add to our own complement of highly qualified personnel.
Queen’s recognized the importance of nurturing these international ties, and specifically ties to China, in 2007 when we became the first Canadian university to open an office there, in Shanghai. As described in the Review (Issue #4-2009), Queen’s China office is staffed by Political Studies part-time PhD candidate Dr. Zhiyao Zhang, who helps students seeking admission to Queen’s, visits with other Chinese universities on our behalf, and keeps Queen’s “on the radar” there.
During a prior visit to San Francisco on the outward leg of our trip, I had the pleasure of meeting with two members of our Queen’s alumni network there, who spoke with enthusiasm of the importance of China to their own businesses (both are in the high-tech sector). Having had those Pacific Rim discussions, and now the visit, it is clear that wherever else Queen’s aims to expand internationally – and we must do so selectively – China is likely to feature prominently in those plans.
In this increasingly global economy, it’s no longer good enough to be well known in Canada. As alumni, you can help us enhance the global reputation of Queen’s and the value of your own degree. Next time you travel, find some way of letting the people with whom you engage know that you were educated at Queen’s. Once they hear your enthusiasm, I guarantee they will pay attention. In short, by acting as an ambassador for your alma mater, you can help put Queen’s on the global map.