June 15, 2001
Plans underway for international residence
Student residents would live and learn in unique setting
The University of Alberta is looking to develop a more comprehensive, multicultural experience for students from Canada and abroad, through the creation of a new international centre for living and learning.
Former chancellor Lou Hyndman is chairing an 18-member task force with representation from both campus and the community, charged with recommending the shape such a centre would take. Hyndman says the ideal centre would be more than just housing for students - it would offer residents a chance to learn about other cultures though everyday activities in a truly international setting.
"We can only truly equip students to become tomorrow's leaders if we make the University of Alberta experience an international one," says President Rod Fraser. "This is an exciting concept and one that has worked very well in top international universities."
The task force has been studying other international centres and has discovered a variety of experiences can be offered to enrich a student's university education. At one centre in London, Hyndman said, different cultures take turns providing information about themselves and their traditions.
"On Monday night, you might have a group of Mexican students showing off Mexican art, and on Wednesday it might be someone from the Pacific Rim displaying an element of their culture - Vietnamese cooking for example," he said.
The London centre, he added, recently held a seminar, opened to the public and media, on the issue of slavery.
"There were people from a number of disciplines making presentations, from sociologists and doctors to historians, talking about working conditions some people experience today and the history of slavery," Hyndman said.
So students living in such a centre need to commit themselves to receiving an extra-curricular education in multicultural living.
"The people there are people who reach out, people who are potential leaders in their own countries or in Canada or both, and people who are prepared and willing and keen to experience different international cultures. It is quite an interesting approach."
Hyndman's task force is expected to provide its findings and recommendations in August.
"We have looked at about 15 (international centres) so far," said Hyndman.
"We are now picking the brains of these international entities around the world and finding what is single most important reason for their success, and how would they do it differently if they had the chance."
Hyndman said the task force is also consulting with different groups in the city, to listen to some ideas they might have for an international centre. "We are seeking the input of about 125 ethno-cultural groups, asking them about their thoughts. We've even got down to asking if they would consider arranging scholarships or bursaries for students from their own countries. We're trying to consult with everyone who will be interested or involved in any way."
Anyone interested in offering suggestions to the task force can contact David Wu at 492-2692 or via e-mail at email@example.com