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CICan 2022: virtual mobility ‘likely here to stay’

Stakeholders across the international education sector met at the Halifax Convention Centre in Nova Scotia this week for the annual Colleges and Institutes Canada Connection Conference. The theme for this year’s three-day event was “Navigating Anew.”

Speakers emphasised the importance of reflection and 'deliberate conversations' to build global development across an organisation

Through nautically inspired conference strands, CICan indicated the hybrid event this year was intended to help chart a post-pandemic course by fostering connections between institutions of higher education, both across Canada and worldwide.

The PIE was in attendance at CICan and heard from myriad attendees about the impact of those collegial connections and conversations.

In keeping with the conference theme, Diego Sanchez, director of International Affairs at Languages Canada, likened language education as “being the port of entry for international students aiming to enter college and institute programs”.

Languages Canada’s Trade Missions to Brazil and Mexico, and future plans with Japan and Colombia, are strategically diversifying markets, he said.

Indeed, future planning was a prevalent theme at CICan, with the conference committee asserting that this year, “connections will focus on navigating anew in this fast forward future”.

In a panel discussion about what the future of international education may hold, Stephany Codd, manager of Communications & Donor Relations at Light Up the World, Filipe Ferreira, Norquest College’s Internationals Projects officer, and Bow Valley College’s manager of Global Engagement, Tahira Ebrahim, discussed the idea that virtual mobility is likely here to stay.

“There is still some hesitancy to go abroad”

“There is still some hesitancy to go abroad,” suggested Codd. “So, we need to provide options post-Covid.”

Underscoring the impact of international education on the environment, Ferreira suggested, “integrating digital mobility is being mindful of the carbon footprint”.

Ebrahim highlighted the increase in virtual exchange options as a method of democratising international opportunities for students. “The added level of agility is reflective of where we are headed,” she argued, indicating the need for youth to be well equipped with both digital and face-to-face collaborative skills.

The panellists were also asked how organisations might improve the translation of knowledge from international experiences to applied global citizenship.

“By constantly reflecting on what we provide,” answered Codd. “So that it’s not a one-off trip. So that the work is sustainable, and that the ideals of global citizenship remain within the students.”

Ebrahim also emphasised the importance of reflection as well as having deliberate conversations with multiple stakeholders on how to build global development across an organisation. She advised focus groups to consider two questions, “What does global citizenship look like and how do we measure it?”

“We need to have integrated institutional discussions if we want [the ideals] to be part of the campus culture,” she added.

With over 1,500 attendees, and more than 50 learning and development sessions, the CICan Conference was ripe with conversations around the topic of navigating the future of international education. From strands such as Governing the Vessel, Charting Teaching and Learning, Steering Innovation, and Mapping Sustainability, many participants, presenters, and exhibitors alike engaged in conversations over the three days, about navigating the rough waters of the pandemic and the hopes of smooth sailing ahead.

“This was one of the first in person conferences in Canada since 2019,” Christine Wach, director of Client Partnerships, North America IDP Connect told The PIE. “It was amazing to meet colleagues and leaders from across the country and around the world again in beautiful Halifax.”

Likewise, Erez Van Ham, chief growth officer at M Square Media proffered, “After so many virtual events it was great to see so many friends in Halifax at the CICan conference. I sense a real positive sentiment towards growth through innovation.”

  • See photos from the conference here.

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