May 28, 2018 - 9:15am
Institution one of 17 finalists from six countries
Vancouver Island University (VIU) is receiving international recognition for its high standard of teaching and learning.
VIU has been named a finalist for the Higher Education Academy’s 2018 Global Teaching Excellence Award. Introduced last year in association with Times Higher Education, the award recognizes and celebrates an institution-wide commitment to the pursuit of teaching excellence. VIU is one of 17 finalists shortlisted from applications from more than 40 countries, and one of just two universities in Canada to make the list.
The story of Criminology student Mandii Hopkins helps to highlight one of the reasons VIU may have been chosen as a finalist for this prestigious award.
The 26-year-old single mother of two wanted to go back to school for years, but raising her two boys had taken all of her resources. She tears up when she talks about how VIU found a way for her to get the education she so desperately wants, not only to build a better life for her and her children, but also to raise up others in her community.
“For me, being here is the light at the end of the tunnel,” says Hopkins, who hopes to go to law school after she finishes her degree so that she can become an advocate for people in her community. “I just want to show myself and those who believe in me that I can do this, and show my sons that they can do it too. Without this program, there’s no way I would be in school right now, I’d be scrambling to find work to get my family through the next month.”
Last fall, she was offered a scholarship through a unique learning partnership VIU joined that aims to remove barriers for Indigenous youth accessing post-secondary, and provide the wrap-around supports they need to succeed once they are here. The initiative is funded by the Mastercard Foundation and Rideau Hall Foundation, and VIU is partnering with the First Nations communities it serves to co-create the program and determine what supports are needed.
This unique partnership is one of the many access-focused initiatives VIU has pioneered that is earning national and international recognition for the institution. This work likely contributed to the University being nominated for this prestigious award.
“Our students and employees have long recognized that the way learning takes place here is special; this accolade lets the rest of the world in on the secret,” says Dr. David Witty, VIU Provost and Vice-President Academic. “VIU’s Academic Plan – Promoting and Celebrating Access to Excellence – provides a solid foundation for everything we do here, from responding to regional needs, to access initiatives that support those struggling to attend post-secondary for financial or other reasons, to offering innovative, experiential learning opportunities for students.”
Besides the learning partnership, which will double the number of Indigenous students pursuing an education at VIU, the University was the first in BC to launch a Tuition Waiver Program for those who have spent time in the foster care system, and actively promotes education savings initiatives like the federal government’s Canada Learning Bond program.
Access initiatives also extend into VIU’s international population, including raising money to bring student refugees from around the world to campus, as well as offering scholarships to international students from disadvantaged backgrounds – key pieces in fostering a global outlook, says Dr. Graham Pike, Dean of International Education.
VIU’s student body includes more than 2,000 international students from 90 different countries studying at VIU, as well as many opportunities for local students to go on overseas exchanges, field schools, summer intensive programs, co-ops, internships and research with international partners. For example, the University’s participation in the Queen Elizabeth Scholars program and in international development projects has given VIU students the opportunity to travel all over the world, and brought many international scholars to VIU.
“Part of preparing our students for a changing world is providing these types of international engagement opportunities,” says Pike. “Promoting a two-way exchange of students and faculty is vital to fostering intercultural skills and global connections.”
What makes teaching and learning at VIU stand out is the passion of faculty and instructors to support students both in and out of the classroom, says Dr. Liesel Knaack, Director of the University’s Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning.
“It is about more than just teaching excellence here at VIU,” says Knaack. “It is about how we challenge and stretch students beyond the classroom to become independent thinkers. Being shortlisted for this award is a recognition of the diverse supports and rich opportunities available for VIU students across all our programs.”
The winner of the Global Teaching Excellence Award will be revealed at a gala event in Edinburgh, Scotland, on July 18.
Jenn McGarrigle, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University