Brock University reaching out to the Caribbean
August 9, 2018
Captivated by Nova Scotia’s breathtaking scenery while vacationing in 2004, Stella-Marie Chong Sing was elated when she won a scholarship four years later to return to Canada to attend Brock University.
It was presented to mark the 40th anniversary of the twinning of St. Catharines, where Brock is located, and Port-of-Spain which is the capital of Trinidad & Tobago (T & T).
As Brock extends its reach to the Caribbean, Chong Sing reflected on her fulfilling university experience and encouraged students in the region to consider the Niagara area higher education institution as an option.
“From your very first day on campus, you will experience the feeling of belonging to a close-knit community,” she said. “I honestly think the real connection between St. Catharines and Port-of-Spain doesn’t only lie in the fact they are twin cities, but in the warmth and friendliness. Brock, for me, was home away from home and I felt as if I was immersed in a Caribbean atmosphere while I was there.”
Chong Sing graduated in 2012 with honours in English Language and Literature and is teaching in T & T.
With internationalization being a priority as Brock seeks to expand the student experience and recruit outstanding students from around the world, the university’s president & vice-chancellor Dr. Gervan Fearon recently visited four Caribbean islands.
In Antigua which was the first stop, Fearon and governor general Sir Rodney Williams – who extended the invitation – discussed opportunities related to education, environmental sustainability and tourism and commerce which would support the mobility of Antiguan & Barbudan students to attend Brock as well as study abroad opportunities for Brock students.
He also met Brock alumna Dr. Joanna Sheppard who is an associate professor at the University of Fraser Valley (UFV) in British Columbia. She was in Antigua leading her 13th cohort of 30 UFV students taking part in the ‘Champions for Health Promoting Schools’ program that she helped to start as a graduate student at Brock.
In Jamaica, Fearon and University of Technology president Stephen Vasciannie signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to support the exploration of opportunities related to student and faculty exchange, joint degrees and research collaborations. He also met University of the West Indies (UWI) vice-chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles who was awarded an honourary degree by Brock four years ago.
Brock has a general MOU with UWI and a specific one with its labour studies department and the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Education Institute.
While in T & T, Fearon unveiled the Caribbean International Scholarship that will be awarded annually to two regional students who choose to pursue post-secondary studies at Brock. The $4,000 student entrance award will be given out annually, starting in 2019, based on academic merit and financial need.
“We didn’t just want to communicate to Caribbean students and universities that we are only in the business of signing agreements and building partnerships with overseas institutions of higher learning,” said Fearon. “We want to signal that there’s a significant opportunity to be able to study at Brock. We also know that for students, financial consideration may inhibit them even though they are outstanding students. We want to provide opportunities for them to be able to access Brock as an option and reduce the financial barrier.”
T & T and Canada have enjoyed a close and healthy relationship for many decades.
Canada appointed a full-time trade commissioner to Port-of-Spain in 1938 and diplomatic ties between the countries were established shortly after T & T achieved independence in 1962.
While on an official visit to Canada five years ago, former T & T Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar signed bilateral agreements that included increasing opportunities for students and academics at Brock University and the University of Trinidad & Tobago (UTT).
Fearon discussed a renewal of Brock’s MOU with UTT during a meeting with university officials and toured UTT’s business incubator where he met with students who started their own companies in the areas of renewable and clean energy sources and digital media.
On the last stop in Grenada, Fearon joined Brock’s faculty of education dean Michael Owen and associate vice-provost for student information Camille Rutherford who were meeting with Ministry of Education officials and teachers around supporting teacher education on the island. In discussions with Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, Fearon reinforced Brock’s commitment to support local teacher education and the foundation for an MOU between Brock and Grenada was established to support local teacher education and study abroad opportunities in Grenada for Brock students.
James Mandigo, the vice-provost for enrolment management & international who joined Fearon later on the trip, said the Caribbean is a strategic region for Brock founded in 1964.
Last February, it became the first Canadian university to implement a scholarship agreement with Curacao that will enable students from the Caribbean island to use their country’s national educational plan to pay for an international education at Brock. The students will have full access to the university’s scholarship programs.
“The Caribbean is an emerging market in terms of recruitment of students,” said Mandigo. “We will explore more opportunities to partner with colleges in the Caribbean so that students can perhaps do their college diploma and then transfer some of those credits to a university degree at Brock.”
Caribbean students can also access Brock’s new plan that will cover international doctoral students.
“Part of our strategic vision around growth, particularly at the doctoral level, is to ensure that we are recruiting the best and brightest students from around the world, particularly around Ph.D., programs where research is a high priority” Mandigo added. “We want to make sure that students around the world have access to that type of research.”
Of the 19,000 students enrolled at Brock, about 10 per cent are international students.
“The provincial intake for international students is around 17 per cent, so we have some scope to expand,” Fearon, a former Tropicana Community Services president, noted. “That’s why we are looking at the Caribbean as one area to do that. We are in the top five when it comes to student experience in Canada and we are in the top echelon in terms of experiential and co-op education. Students get outstanding value when they come to Brock which was originally created to serve the local region. It has done an outstanding job doing that while building excellence. But I think we are now at a point where we are achieving national excellence and we want to make sure that we are standing not only on the national stage, but on the international platform.”
Being surrounded by agriculture in a city that has a population similar to most Eastern Caribbean islands makes Brock ideal for Caribbean students.
Brock is also one of a very few Canadian universities located in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. One of 16 reserves in Canada, the Niagara Escarpment is part of a network of 580 reserves in 114 countries.