International Seminar: An Annual Tradition Since 1948
WUSC’s annual International Seminar is a Canadian tradition that has taken place every year since 1948. More than 2000 Canadian students and faculty, together with significant numbers of their counterparts from other countries, have taken part in the Seminar. The first seminar was held in Germany with the aim of fostering reconciliation following the Second World War. Gradually, the focus of the seminar shifted to the developing world, and to providing young
Canadians with their first direct exposure to the problems and challenges of the developing world, Each year approximately 30 students are selected from universities across Canada to take part in the Seminar which takes place for six weeks during the summer. The Seminar is held in a different country each year (in 2012 it will be in Mali). Students live with local families, engage with their university peers in the host country, attend lectures, and study the efforts of local nongovernmental organizations working on solutions to pressing problems on everything from access to clean water and sanitation to poverty reduction, access to education and health care, and so on. Each seminar participant is required to design and carry out their own research project that addresses a development-related problem specific to that country, and to compile a
published report of their research findings. UBC rewards the achievements of its students who are selected to participate in the seminar with the World University Service Summer Seminar Bursary. In 1948 the university under President Norman Mackenzie recognized that being selected and participating in the WUSC International Seminar was a significant academic achievement, and created the World University Service Summer Seminar Bursary. Execution of the award was subsequently placed in the hands of Dean and later President Walter Gage until the latter’s retirement in the mid-1970s.
Alumni of the W USC International Seminar include some of the most well-known and influential figures in Canadian public life over the past half century. They include the late Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau (Ghana 1957); the late former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Eugene Forsey and current Chief Justice the Honourable Beverly McLachlin; former Secretary-General of the OECD Donald Johnston, former Director of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Government Warren Allmand, former federal cabinet member Marc Lalonde, and many others. UBC alumni from the International Seminar include former MLA and MP and federal cabinet minister David Anderson and Derek Fraser, former Canadian Ambassador to Hungary, Ukraine and Greece. Recent UBC alumni are those young Canadians who are now out making their way in the world and establishing careers that will one day see them added to this list of distinguished alumni.
Many UBC alumni of the Student Refugee Program and the International Seminar, some of whom participated in the very first seminars held in the late 1940s and 1950s. remain engaged with both UBC and WUSC. Recognizing the continuing importance of the International Seminar and the Student Refugee Program for the university and its students, in recent years UBC has held several reunions to bring together alumni from these two distinguished programs. In 1997 then Vice-President Academic and Students Services Dr. Maria Klawe hosted a reunion dinner for UBC International Seminar alumni in honour of the Seminar’s fiftieth anniversary. The dinner was attended by several dozen UBC alumni including several participants from the first seminar (Germany 1948), as well as students who had returned from the most recent seminar (Peru 1996). Congratulatory telegrams were received from around the world, including one from former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau (Ghana 1957). In 2003 Vice President, Students Brian Sullivan hosted a day-long reunion of alumni of the Student Refuge Program, which drew attendees from across the Lower Mainland and beyond, and in 2007 President Toope hosted a reunion of alumni from the International Seminar and the Student Refugee Program which was attended by more than 100 persons. We look forward to more such reunions in the years to come.
Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to request a small increase in the modest allocation that is made to the WUSC committee every year by the office of the Vice-President, Students. For many years, this allocation remained at $550.00. It was increased to $750.00 when your predecessor Brian Sullivan assumed the position of VP students twelve years ago, and has remained at that amount since then. The funds are used to support the attendance of UBC student delegates to the W USC Annual Assembly and to cover incidental expenses incurred by our sponsored student refugees that are not covered by our existing agreements with the university or AMS. In order to cope with rising costs and to be able to do more, we would like to ask you to consider increasing the annual allocation from $750 to $ 1000 or even $ 1200 per year. The amount is not large, but it is enough to make a difference.