Pictured: Richard Webster, left, with Laura Caldwell, one of SLC’s Kingston campus ISAs, at the 2019 Multicultural Showcase.
SLC recently welcomed Richard Webster as the College’s first International Education Manager, Community Development. Richard previously worked at SLC as Internationalization Lead where he led a robust consultation strategy, the creation of the Internationalization Advisory Group and was architect in developing the first Global Engagement Strategy for the College.
In his own words, Richard answers some questions about his new role and what it will mean for international students.
Q. What exactly does community development mean in context of your new role at SLC?
A. The launch of the Global Engagement Community Development (GECD) Program is in direct response to our Global Engagement Strategy, with community development being a central part of the plan. This is an exceptional opportunity for SLC to break new ground in ensuring that our international students are welcomed and supported both on and off-campus throughout their student journey and connected to careers in SLC communities as alumni.
In other words, this work will deepen our ability to connect international students to key community organizations, closing the gap in community services and connect international students to our communities in a strategic and focused way. This approach will also allow SLC to demonstrate important leadership in community-led coalitions focused on immigration strategies, identifying barriers and designing initiatives to overcome them.
Q. Why is your primary focus on Cornwall?
A. This role has tri-campus responsibilities, however the first community of focus for the GECD program is Cornwall. This program will assist in the Cornwall community, leveraging a two-year Regional Immigration Pilot project aimed at those seeking to become permanent residents of Canada. As well, similar to all SLC communities, Cornwall has an active group of community leaders that embrace our international students and see the value they bring to the community and its growth.
While the GECD program is being launched in Cornwall, the program is expected to move as a model to Brockville and Kingston as well.
Q. Why is a role like yours needed?
A. SLC understands that it has an important role to play in ensuring international students are integrated into the economic, social and cultural fabric of our communities and to support our communities in this way. There are particular nuances of the international student experience and associated vulnerabilities that we must be mindful of in ensuring their successful integration in our communities. At the same time, we need to ensure that they receive the same quality experience as our domestic students, both on campus and in our communities – in line with our “one college, one student” philosophy.
As part of this transition and focus on community development, I’m also thrilled that SLC’s four skilled International Student Advisors (ISAs) are now reporting to this role. Each of our ISAs are Regulated International Student Immigration Advisors (RISIA) and provide essential immigration-specific advice to all international students – an essential component of community development.
Q. What will success look like at the completion of the two-year term?
A. I’m a few weeks into this role and currently focused on connecting with folks in the Cornwall community and across the College, developing the program and the metrics for which we will evaluate our progress against. As a sneak peek though, in my view, success at the completion of the two-year term will include the creation of an inclusive, impactful and sustainable GECD program that is evidence-based and rooted in our College’s values.
Ultimately, success will look like a markedly greater sense of belonging and connectedness for our international students to SLC and our communities with evidence of greater retention of our international alumni in our communities. I’m confident that we’re going to achieve fantastic and meaningful things with this new program for our students and communities. I can feel the support and momentum brimming across SLC and our communities already.
Q. How can people in the community help/support/advance themes of community development and its goals?
A. In the context of our efforts to develop and implement the Global Engagement Community Development Program (GECD), community members can support and advance these efforts in many ways. A few examples include:
- Consider opening your home to international students by renting a room or by participating as a host through such formalized programs as Canada Homestay and Canada HomeShare (Kingston only at this time);
- As employers and community organizations, explore ways of becoming a more inclusive employer and/or service provider;
- Explore the multitude of benefits of hiring international students/alumni and consider filling present employment gaps with these skilled folks;
- Reach out to share success stories as well as gaps and barriers for international students and alumni in our communities, etc.
I would also encourage anyone interested in learning more about this program and how to support and advance international student integration and retention in our communities, to email me directly at email@example.com.
Q. What are ways people can participate in what you are trying to do?
A. Great question! I believe that these efforts will only be truly successful, at least in a sustainable way, if the community is deeply involved in its development. Some examples include:
- Share success stories of international students in our communities or innovative ideas you think we should consider during the GECD program’s development;
- Attend information sessions/”lunch and learns” concerning the GECD and upcoming “Meet your ISA” information sessions (timing to be determined);
- Participate in community development-related events;
- While it may sound overly simplistic, another important action for all of us includes welcoming international students to our communities and getting to know them - saying hello makes a world of difference!
Contact me directly if you have questions, would like to learn more and/or be involved. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. We have an opportunity here to be at the forefront of something that hasn’t, at least to my knowledge, been done to this degree at other institutions similar to SLC – another reason why I’m #proudtobeslc!