Attending the 16th general conference of the International Association of Universities (IAU) in Dublin this October, I was pleased to accept on behalf of Queen’s a “Learning Badge” that confirmed the progress our university is making in its planning and strategy for internationalization. “Global engagement” is the term we prefer to use for this aspect of our work because it suggests a higher degree of intentionality and purposiveness – not mere acquiescence in a process driven by circumstance. Universities typically understand that aspects of their mission – research in particular – are conducted in an international context, but they do not always construe that mission in terms of their global responsibility. Queen’s Strategic Framework, approved by the Trustees in May of 2021, does so pointedly: “The Queen’s community – our people – will solve the world’s most significant and urgent challenges with their intellectual curiosity, passion to achieve, and commitment to collaborate.”
This issue of the Alumni Review highlights some of the ways in which our people are indeed changing the world, and we know there are countless others in the Queen’s family who are working to do so on a daily basis. That is exactly what global engagement is all about. It is not merely a question of student or faculty mobility – important and vital though that is for the social and intellectual life of any academic institution that wants to call itself a university – and it is not just about having an internationalized curriculum. The essence of global engagement is the university’s orientation to the greater good.
A recent report from the International Commission on the Futures of Education notes that “Education must aim to unite us around collective endeavours and provide the knowledge, science, and innovation needed to shape sustainable futures for all anchored in social, economic and environmental justice. It must redress past injustices while preparing us for environmental, technological, and social changes on the horizon.” Against the values of “individual success, national competition and economic development” the report posits the need for “solidarity, understanding our interdependencies, and caring for each other and the planet.”
I was proud to have Queen’s global engagement efforts recognized by the IAU precisely because they are animated by those last three principles, and by an acknowledgement that when we engage with the globe, we are engaging with ourselves and our immediate communities no less than with cultures, peoples, and problems geographically remote.