Conestoga news

March 1, 2024 11:45 AM

Two professors awarded grants for trips to develop international collaborations

Two Conestoga faculty members will travel to Latin America to teach, learn and collaborate thanks to a government-funded program.

Sara Connelly.JPG
Sara Connelly is one of two Conestoga professors who will travel to schools to develop international collaboration through the Faculty Mobility for Partnership Building Program.

Nursing professor Sara Connelly will be going to Universidad Católica de Manizales in Colombia and Homeira Ekhtari will be travelling to both Universidad Autonoma De Ciudad Juarez in Mexico and Universidad Siglo21 in Argentina.

The opportunity is through the Faculty Mobility for Partnership Building Program, which offers grants to full-time Canadian faculty for short-term teaching and/or research in Latin America and the Caribbean. It’s part of Global Affairs Canada’s International Scholarships Program, created in 2017 to support the efforts of Canadian post-secondary institutions to expand and diversify their international collaborations with schools eligible under the Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program.

Connelly will stay in Colombia for three weeks in May, finally meeting in person another professor she started working with in the fall to develop a project that the students from both institutions can work on together. The initiative was a pilot for COIL - Collaborative Online International Learning - at Conestoga.

“I hope to build that partnership, that relationship so we can establish COIL as something perhaps a little bit more permanent within our program and collaborating with that university as well,” Connelly said. The partnership is a great fit. Connelly teaches in Conestoga’s Enhanced Practice for Internationally Trained Nurses program geared to experienced internationally educated nurses who want to work in Canada, while the professor in Colombia teaches English for nursing.

Connelly and her students met with the Colombian faculty and students online to design the project around Indigenous heath outcomes. Then she heard about the available funds for international collaboration and now, amazingly, Connelly has the chance to travel there and work together in person.

“I’m really excited for that opportunity,” Connelly said.

For the students from each institution, it’s an excellent chance to work alongside people from a different culture and educational system and find ways to communicate and bridge those differences - invaluable experience for when they get into the working world with diverse colleagues and patients.

“They have an opportunity to practise in a supportive environment with faculty providing some guidance before they go out and have to do it when it’s really important, when there’s lives on the line.”

Ekhtari will be teaching an intensive course on business models for sustainability and entrepreneurship. “My primary goal is to foster a dynamic learning environment that empowers students to become catalysts for sustainable innovation and business growth,” Ekhtari said.

The teaching visits to Mexico (also with one of Conestoga’s COIL partners) and Argentina will allow students to gain a deeper understanding of global perspectives on sustainability and entrepreneurship, as well as be exposed to diverse perspectives and approaches to sustainable business models.

These collaborative initiatives between Conestoga and partner universities can lead to joint research projects, publications, and entrepreneurial ventures, Ekhtari said. For the students, the curriculum planned includes hands-on activities, group projects and field trips to local sustainable businesses to bridge theory and practice.

“As a visiting professor, I hope to inspire students to embrace their role as agents of change in promoting sustainability within their organizations and communities. By sharing my passion for sustainability and entrepreneurship, I aim to empower students to pursue innovative solutions that create positive social, environmental, and economic impact.”

COIL virtual exchange programs and global mobility opportunities for faculty are overseen by the Office of Global Initiatives at Conestoga International.

“COIL virtual exchange is the perfect a stepping stone for our students and faculty to begin exploring the world. I am thrilled to see the variety of activities that have been happening after just one year of COIL virtual exchange at Conestoga,” said Mariam Raza, manager of Global Initiatives and Partnership Development.

“Programs like the Faculty Mobility for Partnership Building Program present us with the opportunity to work with our global partners face to face and look at education and our own teaching disciplines through a global lens. I am very excited for Homeira and Sara!”