Exchange noted for bridging Pacific

A unique exchange program that brings Japanese and Canadian students together in residence and classes at UBC has gained recognition for internationalizing the campus and involving international students in campus life.

UBC has been awarded a Scotiabank/Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada Award of Excellence for Internationalization for the UBC-Ritsumeikan Academic Exchange Program.

Program executive director Joe Greenholtz says the seven-year-old program is designed to provide an inclusive and integrated learning experience for both the Japanese and Canadian students involved.

"The UBC-Ritsumeikan program was created in keeping with the vision that Ritsumeikan University and UBC had for building international ties and providing opportunities for students to gain insight and experience in dealing with other languages and cultures," Greenholtz says.

The program annually brings 100 Japanese students to live and study with an equal number of Canadian peers at UBC in an integrated academic and residential environment -- Ritsumeikan-UBC House. In addition, faculty from Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, reside at UBC for the year to co-teach core courses. An administrative officer assists university staff with the program's operation.

Japanese students are further immersed in Canadian and campus culture through one-on-one exchanges with Canadian language partners and "buddies" as well as a variety of volunteer activities.

"I don't know of another program of this scale that is so integrated," says Greenholtz, who works closely with deans and administrative staff at both universities.

In the late 1980s, UBC and Ritsumeikan University began exploring ways of collaborating to internationalize their curricula and the educational experience of students.

Since then, the jointly financed Ritsumeikan-UBC House has been created for Canadian and Japanese students, and agreements have been signed for graduate student and faculty research exchanges and athletic partnerships.

UBC has exchange agreements with more than 80 universities in 25 countries. The UBC-Ritsumeikan exchange is unique, however, in that the number of Japanese students is large enough to have a noticeable impact on campus.

There have been additional benefits from the program -- UBC has agreed to be involved with the Ritsumeikan Asia-Pacific International University due to open in 2000 in Beppu, Japan.

UBC was also a co-recipient of a second award for Resources for Internationalization Efforts in recognition of UBC's participation in the Canadian University Study Abroad Program.

Launched last year, the awards recognize universities' achievements in bringing a global perspective to their campuses.