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Meghna Ramaswamy, University of Saskatchewan, Canada

This week, we spent five minutes with Meghna Ramaswamy, the director of the international office at the University of Saskatchewan.


Meghna runs the international office at the University of Saskatchewan. Photo: The PIE News

[At a large conference], you get to know people you work with as human beings

What do you like most about your job?

I really love the breadth, the scope of it because it not just covers working with institutions, working with different sectors and NGOs and even government on the alignment and complementarity of institutional policies with their policies. But of course there is also research. Universities are the driving force of research.

The amount of knowledge that has been generated by the institution is quite mind-boggling – and it’s interesting to see how the research can actually drive societal benefits and the impact it can have on an individual or a community.

What keeps you awake at night?

The constant and shifting and evolving geopolitical landscape, and the impact it can have on the greater good that we in our institutions are capable of achieving, and how those landscapes trickle down into institutional level.

It’s also about how it could possibly have a damaging impact on relationships – for example, if partnerships fail with a particular country and you’re limited by research security or the cessation of visas.

What’s your proudest career moment?

I developed a project during my time in the UK, which brought 19 partners from different countries to create a research infrastructure to help develop vaccines for HIV and AIDs. It really caused people to benefit from this wealth of knowledge from those partners. It had an impact with training students, and postdocs, working with the EU and all these different institutions from different cultures. Navigating all of that was a great learning curve for me.

What’s been your best work trip? 

Going to a large conference like EAIE it’s really quite helpful because you get to meet the people you work with – someone who you’ve only met virtually – you begin to realise what their personality’s like, how they operate, and get to know them as a human being. The kind of outcomes that can happen from conversations at conferences like that, some of them are random, but before you know it, stemming from that you can become partners.

Who’s a champion or cheerleader in the sector everyone should follow?

Not strictly international education, but I would say one of the key drivers of change is the UN Secretary General who came up with the idea of the SDGs Ban Ki Moon.

The fact that the UN was able to come up with something like that, a universal framework for institutions, was desperately needed, and focused on societal change. To me it was a game changer in the education profession. There is so much happening with institutions working on the SDGs, there are pros and cons, but it was created with the right intention.

What was your first job in the international education sector?

I was a research analyst, so I was always very globally minded with my research. When I emigrated from London, they were looking for a position where they could grow the international research portfolio, and because I had experience working with the European Commission and on large grants, they brought in my expertise – and the role has just developed from there.

What’s been your worst food or beverage experience at a conference?

I won’t lie, it was EAIE 2022 – because they ran out of lunch. There were 150 people, queuing up, and you just think, ‘you know what? I’m not gonna be able to get lunch – I’ll just fill up on coffee instead’. Over the years I’ve learned to skip most places and eat a good breakfast!

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