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Six questions for Kathy O'Brien

Six questions for Kathy O'Brien

Queen’s University recently completed its first-ever Comprehensive International Plan, aimed at guiding the university’s internationalization efforts from 2015 to 2019. Craig Leroux recently spoke with Kathy O’Brien, Associate Vice-Principal (International), who led the process of developing the plan

[Kathy O'Brien, Associate Vice-Principal (International) at the map and air photo collection of Stauffer Library.]
Photo by Bernard Clark

Kathy O'Brien, Associate Vice-Principal (International) at the map and air photo collection of Stauffer Library.


1) Why is internationalization important to Queen’s?

As Principal Woolf has said, Queen’s is now engaged in translating our exemplary national reputation into an equally strong international reputation.

As global competition among universities for the best students, faculty members and staff will only increase in the future, the value of a Queen’s degree will be increasingly tied to our international reputation.

Internationalization is vital to Queen’s academic and research mission. Leading-edge research often occurs through knowledge exchange and partnerships that cross borders. International learning experiences are essential in order for our students to gain globally relevant skills that help them succeed once they leave the university.

2) One of the goals of the plan is to attract more international students to Queen’s. Why is that important?

Queen’s is committed to attracting top international students because they enrich the educational experience for everyone. Interacting with students from other countries, through friendships and teamwork, encourages the exchange of knowledge and helps build cultural sensitivity. It also creates international connections that will be invaluable as students become alumni and look to careers that may take them outside of Canada.

3) What is the focus of the Comprehensive International Plan?

Among the plan’s goals are: advance Queen’s ­international ­research engagement; increase ­international mobility for students; attract top ­international students, both graduate and undergraduate; maximize the potential of our study-abroad campus, the Bader ­International Study ­Centre (BISC); and highlight “international at home” – ­international learning ­experiences available to everyone on campus. The plan is aligned with the university’s Strategic Framework, approved by the Board of Trustees in 2014.

4) Are there ways for alumni to get involved in Queen’s internationalization efforts?

Queen’s places great importance on alumni engagement and our alumni are already engaged through branch activities, advisory roles and ­support of student recruitment activities. Alumni Relations is currently looking at opportunities to leverage the expertise and insights of our graduates, both in Canada and abroad, to help the ­university advance its international goals.

5) Will the plan help move Queen’s up in international rankings?

This plan is all about building on Queen’s strengths in delivering a transformative student learning experience and exceptional research. Many international rankings rely heavily on ­research output. So while Queen’s medium size and focus on student learning is part of the university’s identity, it doesn’t necessarily help us in international rankings.

5) Where do you hope Queen’s will be with respect to internationalization by 2019, the end of the plan’s term?

Queen’s is already deeply engaged internationally. By 2019, I hope internationalization will be even more embedded in the university’s activities, that more Queen’s students will have learning experiences abroad, and that the international students who come to Queen’s will continue to see the ­university and Kingston as welcoming, vibrant places to study and live.

[cover of Queen's Alumni Review 2015 Issue 3]