The most recent edition in CBIE’s international collaboration mission series, a visit to Colombia, recently wrapped up and represented a milestone event in CBIE’s busy year. As leader of the delegation, comprised of representatives from Carleton University, Thompson Rivers University, Royal Roads University, MacEwan University and Algonquin College, I had the distinct pleasure of connecting with CBIE members and exploring partnership potential across Colombia. The mission was also the result of very close collaboration and partnership between CBIE and the Inter-American Organization for Higher Education (IOHE) – while CBIE was responsible for pulling together and responding to the needs of the participating Canadian institutions, IOHE leveraged its strong network in Colombia and looked after the on-the-ground agenda, ensuring that our Canadian mission delegates connected with the right partners across the government and higher education sectors.
The 10-day visit kicked off with participation at the Conference of the Americas on International Education (CAIE) in Bogota, that provided an opportunity for the delegation to network with the 900+ conference participants. Dedicated networking sessions for the mission delegates were also organized that allowed them to learn from and connect with a range of relevant government stakeholders (including the Ministry of Education, Colciencias, ICETEX, and SENA) and a range of representatives from Colombian higher education institutions. We were also pleased to having been able to extend invitations to other CBIE member institutions present at CAIE to take part in these exclusive networking events.
Following CAIE, the delegation embarked on a busy schedule of institutional visits and networking opportunities in breathtaking Cartagena and innovative Medellin. These cities were certainly not the ones that had flashed across our news screens in the 1980s and 1990s as hotbeds of violence and drug cartels. We were received with tremendous hospitality by our Colombian hosts and visited their impressive campuses which showcased state-of-the-art infrastructure and programming. Our Colombian hosts were keen to expand their connections with Canada and proved themselves as potentially very interesting partners for Canadian institutions. Faculty mobility, student mobility, dual degrees, joint programming and research, co-tutelles, contract and language training… we explored it all! According to one mission delegate, the mission “saved [him] 5 years of work!”
Our visit also unfolded against the backdrop of the Government of Canada’s recently released International Education Strategy which identified Colombia as a priority market over the next five years. This increased attention to the Colombian educational market mirrored the growing prominence of Colombia within the diversification and internationalization strategies of Canadian post-secondary institutions. Simply put, the mission could not have been timed at a better moment.
But our mission was not just about the institutional visits and networking opportunities. Over the course of the 10 days, our delegates became like family – enjoying meals and laughs together, visiting historic sites together, waiting in airports and sharing stories and experiences from our respective professional and personal lives. We learned about one another’s challenges on the internationalization front of Canadian campuses and shared strategies and good practices. This peer-to-peer networking is certainly one of the most significant, and yet perhaps under-rated, benefits of such types of collaboration missions.
So, now as we have all returned to our offices and campuses, I would like to thank: our participating member institutions, for joining CBIE on this exploration of partnerships in Colombia; our Colombian hosts, for your gracious hospitality; and IOHE, for your collaboration in turning this mission idea into a reality. We couldn’t have done it without all of you! ¡Hasta la proxima!