Global Teaching Excellence Award Excellence: Celebrating at the Awards Gala

November 27, 2018 - 4:00am

By Aly Winks

Vancouver Island University was honoured as a finalist for Advance HE's 2018 Global Teaching Excellence Award this year – one of just 17 finalists out of submissions from more than 400 post-secondary institutions worldwide.

All finalists were invited to the award announcement in July in Edinburgh, Scotland. Dr. Graham Pike, Dean of International Education, Heather Pastro, Vice-Chair of VIU Senate, and Heather’s daughter and current VIU student Stephanie Pastro attended on behalf of VIU. While VIU did not win the overall award or any of the six spotlight categories, making it to finalist upon first submission was a major accolade. Heather and Graham both felt the opportunity to attend breakout sessions was invaluable learning to bring back to VIU and share through the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning. 

Below, Heather and Graham share some of their reflections about the gala event.


Heather was struck by the passion of her colleagues from other institutions, which she says was matched by the passion of the VIU delegation?.

“We had the wonderful opportunity to network with all of the universities and institutions represented. The networking session focused on specific questions such as: What makes you unique? What is meant by excellence in teaching? What is meant by excellence in student support?

“These questions focused the dialogue and allowed each of us to reflect on our university’s best practices to address these relevant topics. We found we had many commonalties when discussing these questions.

“Robust conversations occurred as we talked about many important issues: student access to learning, social justice initiatives, working with diverse populations and needs, student employability, the research and/or teaching focus of our universities, professional development and scholarly activities, academic and trades programs, recognition and celebration of successes, health and wellness of students and faculty, assessment and evaluation of learning, etc., just to name a few of the many topics!

“We also learned from each other as we shared our unique practices and knowledge, recognizing our individual differences. We learned so much from this rich dialogue, and other institutions learned a lot from us. It was amazing how much ground we covered, given the amount of time we had together. However, given the reason that we were nominated for a Global Teaching Excellence Award, and the fact that we were so proud to represent our respective institutions, it was no wonder everyone was passionate about their institutions and keen to brag about accomplishments, while also learning from each other.

“This opportunity to share experiences and knowledge was also rewarding for another reason, as it was evident that Vancouver Island University clearly stands side-by-side with all the other finalists at this summit of global teaching excellence. We have a lot to be proud of in terms of our unique programs and initiatives, which truly impressed our colleagues in the global community.

“VIU’s submission was comprehensive and articulated so much about the institution. It was an impressive nomination and when parts of it were read aloud at the gala evening ceremony, we were all feeling proud to be representing VIU. I was also reminded of how much hard work faculties and departments have done over the years, as Malaspina College has become Vancouver Island University. We stand on the shoulders of so many that have come before us and have worked hard to bring VIU onto this world stage. This recognition is to be shared with everyone who works at VIU.”


Graham was excited about the elite company VIU entered by being nominated as a finalist. Of those 17 institutions, three are ranked as Times Higher Education Top 100 Universities in the world and one of those claims Albert Einstein as an alumnus – ETH Zurich, which remains one of the leading science and technology institutions in the world.

Graham was also struck by the comprehensive nature of the finalist list – schools ranged from tiny (Royal Northern College in the United Kingdom, has only 850 students) to enormous (the University of New South Wales in Australia has more than 50,000 students). Despite the evident differences, Graham said, all finalists were told, and made to feel, they deserved to be at the ceremony thanks of the quality of teaching and learning at the institutions.

While we know we deliver excellence to our students every day, to receive this kind of external accolade is a major confirmation their educational experience is exceptional. 

Tags: Teaching and Learning