Alberta-based organizations share their experiences from the 2022 CICan Conference in Halifax
Colleges and Institutes Canada’s (CICan) hybrid annual conference is the largest event of its kind in Canada, fostering connections between post-secondary institutions from across the country and around the world. Held in Halifax on 25-27 April 2022, representatives from post-secondary institutions focused on “Navigating Anew” in this fast forward future, as new realities are forcing institutions to completely rethink the delivery of programs and the recruitment of students.
Through the partnership of ACGC, representatives of three Alberta-based organizations - Felipe Civita Ferreira formerly of NorQuest College, Tahira Ebrahim of Bow Valley College, and Stephany Codd of Light Up The World, came together to present a hybrid-panel session on their shared experience in Alberta in leveraging global development partnerships to enhance global citizenship on our campuses and communities.
“Achieving the objectives of SDG 4, to ensure all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, is effectively achieved through student programs,” stated one of the attendees. Such opportunities enrich internationalization at home, as well as abroad, opening up future employment opportunities, and ensuring that students are prepared to thrive in a diverse, interconnected, and interdependent world.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted these opportunities, and has required many colleges and their community partners to pause and reimagine how to continue to provide valuable international learning experiences in the current context.
ACGC caught up with Tahira and Stephany in the fall to ask about their experience, and if there were any learnings from the conference that have resonated with their work.
The 2022 CICan Conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia from April 25-27 promised to “get participants thinking about how we can ’Navigate Anew’ in these shifting global tides.” Did it succeed in doing this?
- Stephany: Yes, very much so! LUTW has had some amazing long-term academic partnerships and we see these partnerships as important opportunities for leveraging global engagement. As we look forward with the hopes of continuing supporting post-secondary institutions with global program opportunities, it was insightful for our organization to understand their needs. We can now better navigate how to create better connections between our beneficiary communities and the global solar programs we offer to post-secondary institutions.
- Tahira: Our presentation really spoke to adopting new measures for international opportunities to offer flexibility, accessibility, and equity in ensuring that Canadian youth are not limited in the reach of their experiences. It’s clear from this conference that institutions are re-calibrating for a new reality in post-secondary and is driving real change and innovation.
There were more than 50 live and pre-recorded presentations during the conference. Was there a speaker who stood out as being particularly inspiring, or presentation or discussion that resonated most with you?
- Tahira: I really appreciated the work of Jamie Bergin and Anna Mathis on visual storytelling (Forging Adaptable, Visual Storytelling in 3D Digital Design) – the effectiveness by which we convey information is underlined by creativity, and is reflective of the ever-evolving ways in which we absorb information.
- Stephany: One of the earlier sessions I attended discussed shifting trends amongst institutions in the context of student retention. It was mentioned that students care about their institution’s net zero and sustainability practices. As a non-profit organization, we don’t often get an inside look at the way post-secondary institutions shift their programs and values. The topic of students' enrollment decisions becoming a driving force for campuses to shift their sustainability practices and global engagement opportunities, was not only insightful but very encouraging. Canadian students care about the global community, the environment and how their academic paths will foster these values. As they graduate they will carry these experiences they’ve been provided on campus, into their careers and future employment decisions. Lesley Brown from the Yukon University was also a very inspiring speaker! She spoke to how we make sure all campuses shift their indigenous learning mandates in order for change to happen.
Now that more than six months have passed since the conference, have you or your organization instituted any changes in your workplace based on learnings from the conference?
- Stephany: The importance of engaging Canadian students in the work Light Up The World does was reignited! It’s not always easy to find funding and time for students to come down to Peru as International solar volunteers, however this conference reminded myself and our projects team of the impact we can make. Providing impactful and life-changing opportunities for students has taken a bigger precedent as we work to increase partnerships. Our international opportunities provide students with the capacity to see things from a global development lens and gain a raw understanding of what energy can look like to remote communities In Peru.
- Tahira – We have just received our interns from their overseas placements, through the International Youth Internship Program, funded by Global Affair’s Canada. It affirms that this work is so important and truly life changing for our interns, and that the work of post-secondary institutions to facilitate this work is vital to producing global citizens ready to make an impact on our workforce and the international community.
Have any new partnerships or synergies been created with institutions or groups that were met at the conference?
- Stephany: Yes! I can personally thank ACGC for providing myself and LUTW the opportunity to not only attend the conference but sit on a panel with other attendees doing impactful work in the sector. LUTW has also gained two new academic institution partnerships through the conference and we are very excited to work with them in 2023. We will be working together to provide their students international volunteer opportunities abroad, in the renewable energy space. Thank you!
Two of you who attended the conference work in a post secondary institution here in Alberta. At a practical level, each academic institution across the country has had some responsibility for its own response to the pandemic. Was there any particularly innovative approach to learning implemented by another institution during Covid that attracted your attention?
- Tahira: We have always appreciated the collaborative approach that international departments across Canadian post-secondaries apply, and that was especially applied during COVID. We worked closely with post-secondaries in Alberta to ensure international students and their unique needs were considered in policy and process to travel and quarantine safely in Canada, while facilitating their continued learning. We really appreciated the leadership role that CICan took during this time.
After attending the conference, are there any recommendations on lessons or best practices you would make to ACGC on how we can better support the international cooperation sector in Alberta?
- Tahira: Being able to financially support members from smaller organizations to attend and network always adds value and accessibility for knowledge sharing and capacity building. Great to see this facilitated by ACGC!
- Stephany: Light Up The World has gained immensely from the opportunities that ACGC has provided us this past year. We have attended multiple conferences that have opened our eyes and ears to how we can better equip our projects to shift with the international development sector. Great opportunities come from connection and networking and ACGC has supplied those opportunities for us.
Learn more about CiCan, their conferences as well as international development and cooperation work at www.collegesinstitutes.ca.