Katherine Papadopoulos left the comfortable climate of her home in Brazil to endure a Canadian winter to study at King’s University College in London, Ont. Photo courtesy of King’s Uiversity College

King’s University College finds richness through diversity

  • October 24, 2015

King’s University College is bringing some international flavour to its southwestern Ontario campus.

Seeking to open its students to the benefits of cultural diversity, King’s is bringing in Catholic Brazilians to learn and teach at the London, Ont., school.

“The reason we are doing this is because ... we are committed to internationalization,” said David Sylvester, principal of King’s. “London is not the metropolitan centre of North America so the diversity of educational ideas and people is kind of important.”

Sylvester said efforts to internationalize the King’s community are more than two decades old, but conversations about creating a two-way exchange program with Brazil’s Catholic universities, in particular, began formally only in 2012. Since then the partnership has grown to include six Catholic universities, five of which are Pontifical institutions. Through these partnerships students and faculty from both countries participate in an exchange program for a term or two.

These conversations resulted in King’s — the Catholic liberal arts college affiliated with Western University — becoming the only non-Brazilian member of ANEC, the largest Catholic education organization of its kind in the world. Other ANEC members range from small faith-based early learning institutions to high profile post-secondary Catholic schools. More than two million students and 100,000 teachers are represented by ANEC’s various members.

Although the number of students who go south to Brazil remains low — only one or two a year — the number of Brazilians trekking north is significant. The school now sees about 20 Brazilian students enrol annually, as well as two to three professors who come to teach.

“They are just a tremendous addition to our community,” said Sylvester.

Sylvester said it is easier for the Brazilians to make the transition to Canada than it is for Canadians to acclimatize to Brazil.

“In Brazil they really embrace languages so it is easier for their faculty (and students) to come to Canada than it is for our faculty (and students) to go there,” said Sylvester.

While diversity and internationalization is the end goal, what makes these partnerships so prosperous is the sense of commonality rooted in a shared Catholic faith.

“When you work with Catholic universities you have a common language, you have the same purposes of existing and the philosophy of Catholic education underscores what you are trying to do in developing the whole person,” he said. “(We’re) educating for the Church and society for the common good. So you have a tremendous starting point.”

And from that starting point comes an instant sense of camaraderie, despite being from different ends of the Earth.

“They build friends. That’s a big part about what this is about,” said Sylvester.

“We’re trying to connect students and faculty around the world around common interests. Those relationships open up doors to all kinds of possibilities with regard to sharing educational resources and ideas and solving problems together.”

Unlike many post-secondary institutions that target international students for the high tuition that comes with them, at King’s it isn’t a matter of money.

“It is not a financial consideration,” he said. “Having international students in our classrooms makes our institution a richer place.”

That richness comes by way of diversity.

“You bring different perspectives to different issues,” said Sylvester. “You are looking at issues and problems of society and the human person from different perspectives. It breaks down and adds dimensions to how you look at problems.”

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