Launching a joint international MA in Canadian-American Studies
by Munroe Eagles
Thousands of international students annually come to the United States to study, but few American students participate in international study programs. Recently the Institute of International Education (IIE) announced a program to dramatically increase that number. The New York–based institute, which provides a variety of services to promote international education, has committed some $2 million toward achieving that goal.
The IIE recognizes that educational programs should prepare students for an engaged life in an increasingly globalized world, and sees the incorporation of significant international experience in programs of study as a key factor in the United States becoming more globally competitive. It is encouraging colleges and universities to look for ways to help students pay for international study. The institute’s latest report decried the fact that students who now have any international educational experience – fewer than 10 per cent of all U.S. students – largely come from private colleges and universities; these opportunities are rarely available to low-income students.
At first thought, it would seem that institutions located near the Canada-U.S. border would enjoy certain advantages in this respect, since for them the “international” is at least locally accessible. In this favoured environment, cross-border programs are affordable and relatively easily planned. Logically, these universities should find it relatively easy to develop and implement international experiences for their students.
Yet in practice, those determined to build official programs straddling the two countries face formidable obstacles as the institutions deal with an international border and the different jurisdictions that delineate it. These range from the problems of developing a joint curriculum to navigating the different requirements imposed by university educational boards to assuring that students have the correct visa to allow them to cross the border easily.
An international joint MA degree in Canadian-American Studies was launched in the fall of 2013. It is delivered in equal proportions in Canada by Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, and in the United States by the University at Buffalo (UB), part of the 65-campus State University of New York system. As one of the founders of this initiative, I experienced the challenges and the rewards of developing such a program. This was indeed was a pioneering experiment in program design, as it is the first Canada-U.S. international joint degree that has been offered by any SUNY campus or by Brock.