Faculty and staff at the University of Toronto will soon be able to compete for grants to fund initiatives that will improve the experience of international students and foster greater interaction between them and domestic students.
Joseph Wong, associate vice-president and vice-provost, international student experience, says he hopes the initiative will spark both academic and non-academic ideas.
“We want to incentivize staff and faculty to come up with great initiatives to put our international students in the best position to succeed,” Wong said. “We’re also realizing that there’s a fantastic opportunity here to really transform the whole university by getting different groups of students integrating with one another to achieve a global university.”
The university earmarked $1 million in this year’s budget for the initiatives. The three-year International Student Experience Fund will allow people to apply for either a seed grant, which will be $5,000 to $10,000 a year and intended to fund small-scale pilots, or impact funding, which could be anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000 a year and designed to scale up promising initiatives.
Applications for the smaller seed funds will be accepted on a rolling basis, but for impact grants, the application deadline is Oct. 15.
Along with enhancing the international student experience, the effort is meant to promote intercultural opportunities for both domestic and international students, so that people from one part of the world learn about others from another part of the globe in settings both inside and outside the classroom.
Ideas could range from creating initiatives to support early engagement for international students when they first arrive at U of T to courses that incorporate videoconferencing and other enhancements to provide joint courses with other international universities.
“The entire face of the university is changing,” Wong said. “We have young people coming from around the world to campus. It’s changing how we are thinking about available services and opportunities so that all students benefit.
“Demographic diversity is not enough. We need to look at how to get different groups of students to integrate with one another. Global fluency is a critical 21st-century skill, and we want to empower and equip students with the skills and experiences to communicate across cultures.”