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Laurier staff member fosters education dialogues as citizen diplomat to United States
Wilfrid Laurier University’s Aboriginal Student Recruitment and Retention Officer, Kandice Baptiste, was one of five Canadians in the postsecondary education sector chosen to tour educational institutions in the United States through the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). The program is organized by the US Embassy in Ottawa and sponsored by the US Department of State.
The five Canadian “emerging leaders” in education visited the US from Jan. 20 to Feb. 7 to discuss many topics relevant to educators in both the US and Canada, including distance learning and virtual education, continuing education, partnerships with the private sector, programs to meet the needs of students with disabilities, the role of the university in the community, campus life and alumni relations, and the role of research.
“It was an extremely busy three weeks, but it was worth it to learn what the education landscape is in the Unites States and see how it compares to the work we do in Canada,” said Baptiste. “In general, the trip made me more aware of how education works and how much policy and advocacy is involved. I met amazing people doing exciting work, and talked about their successes and failures in higher education.”
Some of the trip’s highlights for Baptiste included:
- Meeting with the American Indian Studies program at University of California, Los Angeles and United American Indian Involvement Inc. in Los Angeles to discuss community work.
- Meeting with the Office of Community Engagement at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta to learn how they are creating a campus culture based on community involvement.
- Visiting Clark Atlanta University and learning about the history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
- Visiting the Education is Freedom non-profit organization in Dallas, which runs outreach programs to under-served populations in urban high schools.
“It was also really interesting to see the inclusion of Indigenous students across the states, and how those programs and student visibility and awareness differed from state to state,” said Baptiste.
At Kennesaw State University, for example, there is a Launchpad entrepreneurship program specifically for underserved groups such as Latin Americans and African Americans. “I would like to see something similar in Brantford,” she said.
In addition to networking with educators and their partners, the group had time to explore and learn about American culture through sightseeing and special events, such as touring the Smithsonian museums in Washington, attending a Washington Capitals hockey game and a Western Michigan University basketball game, touring a Civil War museum in Atlanta and spending a day at Universal Studios in Los Angeles.
“It was an incredible opportunity and I am grateful to have been selected,” said Baptiste. “I grew both personally and professionally, and I am excited to bring back what I learned and apply it here with my work and our students.”
You can learn more about Baptiste’s experiences by reading her blog at http://kandicebaptiste.tumblr.com.
The IVLP is the US Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. Through short-term visits to the United States, current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience the country firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts. Founded in 1940, the IVLP has given hundreds of thousands of emerging leaders – including hundreds of Canadians – the opportunity to observe and interact with American culture and society.