From idea to impact

November 13, 2018 | Society
At MacEwan, students, faculty and staff are not only encouraged to contribute to the university community, but to think about how their ideas and actions impact the world around them.

“We want to inspire students to be engaged as global citizens,” explains Kimberley Howard, executive director of MacEwan International. “It’s our goal to be intentional about integrating intercultural and global perspectives into every aspect of post-secondary education.”

That’s why the university became a member of the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), an initiative that encourages post-secondaries to contribute to the goals of the UN. As a partner, MacEwan is tasked with planning and hosting one project per year that supports one or more of the UNAI’s 10 principles, ranging from addressing poverty to global citizenship.

This year, anyone from the MacEwan community may submit their idea to help promote these principles by filling out the project application form by November 23.

But what, exactly, could a UNAI project look like? Last year, MacEwan’s first initiative was spearheaded by School of Business faculty member Launa Linaker, who planned an intercultural mindfulness workshop.

Heather Molzan, an advisor in the School of Business, says she left the workshop with an understanding of the importance of taking the time to pause, listen and observe when interacting with students from diverse backgrounds.

“I realized I have no way of fully understanding another culture without having lived it,” says Heather. “I also learned that intercultural practices are not unique to international students, but also appropriate for new students – those away from home for the first time, those with rural backgrounds, new Canadians, mature students – culture shock takes many forms.”

Ena Chaisson, an international admissions consultant in the Office of the University Registrar, regularly interacts with applicants from over 80 countries. She also left the workshop with new inspiration.

“Intercultural skills are much like muscles – to develop them, they must be consciously practiced until they reach the point of being strong, reliable and internalized,” says Ena. “Experiencing awkwardness and ineptness was a key part of my learning in the workshop. It provided a good reminder that crawling happens before walking and well before running.”

These practical takeaways are just a taste of how MacEwan’s partnership in UNAI helps create a more equitable, inclusive and positive experience for all students. Now, Kimberley encourages any member of the university community to submit their idea to further global awareness at MacEwan.

“We’re looking for grassroots projects that people really want to commit to,” explains Kimberley. “One thing I love about this generation of students is that they have a real commitment to making the world a more equitable place, and they’re willing to tackle very complex problems.”

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