A Q&A with Linda A. Davis, Dean, International Programs & Partnerships at Wheelock College, who will be taking on a new post as Provost at The University of The Bahamas, effective 1 October.
Under her skilled, creative and energetic leadership, student participation in international experiences has expanded, new partnerships in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean have flourished, and continuing collaborations in Singapore have deepened. Wheelock will miss her passion and commitment, but her mark remains across our programs, both local and global.
You have been closely involved in Wheelock College’s internationalization efforts for many years. Why is it important for a college to have a global vision?
Institutions of higher learning that do not to have a global vision in today’s world are quickly outdated. The mobility of students, academic staff and administrators is now commonplace as ideas move across national boundaries, and universities must innovate and conceive of ways, policies and programs that respond to this fact.
If students are to engage in tomorrow’s world, they must be exposed to global realities, interrogate complexities, and be prepared to face challenges and interact with peoples across borders, countries and regions. This engagement requires greater understanding and appreciation of differences. Social and cultural competencies must be honed, diverse cultures respected. Preparation for tomorrow’s world means a readiness to work in a ‘global knowledge economy’, the essence of internationalization.
What are some of the ways the college has brought Wheelock and its mission to the world?
I entered Wheelock just over six years ago at a time when it had an established international presence built on its long-standing public mission to improve the lives of children and families. During my tenure, we have deliberately pushed this mission to encompass its ‘global’ reach.
Building upon its reputation for delivering internationally-validated early childhood and elementary degree programs, under my leadership the Center for International Programs & Partnerships was charged to nurture and deepen global partnerships allowing for intercultural student and faculty experiences. These experiences took the form of service learning, travel-learn and internships embedded in academic courses, taking students, alumni, faculty and staff alike to such locations as Northern Ireland, West Africa, Barbados, Haiti, West Africa, South Africa, Belize, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Cuba.
Also, our collaborations in Singapore have come full circle as we witness a dawn of a new era of partnerships and Wheelock’s involvement takes on new shapes and forms. In turn, we evidence Wheelock’s reach expanding, through its reputation established in Singapore, to Asia more broadly, and into South Africa and a return to the Caribbean as it builds upon its characteristically strong focus on academic excellence and capacity-building while working in and with communities to establish benchmark programming in early childhood education, development and services.
I believe that such internationalization initiatives as these are critical to the future of the institution. These must build upon existing programmatic efforts, connecting the many complementary components into a seamless fabric. In turn, this will enhance outcomes and sustainability – weaving international initiatives into the fabric of the entire Wheelock College institution, infusing the education of all its students with a global perspective, whether they are traditional on-campus students or are thousands of miles away from the Boston campus.
What are some of the ways the college has brought the world to Wheelock?
Just as the institution has facilitated opportunities to take Wheelock, through its students, alumni, faculty and staff, to the world, we also worked intentionally to bring the world to Wheelock. The institution has achieved this through hosting Presidential International Visiting Scholars, growing our international student population and hosting groups from all around the world, as well as our students enrolled in our international sites, at the home campus in Boston. Also, our faculty who teach at our international locations return to the Boston campus having been exposed to diverse perspectives which they take into their classrooms here, thus adding to the thrust to internationalize our curriculum.
Undeniably, the skills of the future embedded in the curriculum that is truly internationalized are lessons learnt from and through global partnerships that work, that evidence alliances between countries and regions that are strategically aligned, that facilitate seamless access to post-secondary and higher education systems permitting the development of human resources and capacity building across borders.
You’ve been to Singapore many times. What do you like about the little red dot?
There is so much I could say! As an Islander myself I am drawn to another island nation and admire the pride that the Singaporeans express, the warmth and hospitality that they so willingly share, unreservedly. The commitment to the investment in its people as a priority is extraordinary and has undoubtedly paid dividends. I have learnt much from and through our collaborations and made lifetime friends and colleagues during my time at Wheelock.
I will treasure the memories, always. I look forward to returning someday soon and/or returning the warmth of the Singaporean embrace in my part of the world!
Will your experience and expertise in international higher education play a role in your next post?
As I assume my new post as Provost of the University of The Bahamas, I am certain to draw on lessons learnt from across the various international portfolios with which I have had responsibility. Situated in the university and innovation hub of the US, my Wheelock-Boston experience has been incredibly diverse. A smaller school that is a member of a consortium of institutions, the Colleges of the Fenway, has introduced me to that network of colleagues working in collaboration with chief academic officers as well and international officers.As Wheelock College’s New England Association of Schools and Colleges, (NEASC) Institutional Officer and Chair of Wheelock College’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), in addition to my deanship of international programs and partnerships, I have expanded my personal and professional horizons in ways I may not even recognize fully.
Still, I believe it is because of my good fortune to reach beyond the borders of the US, to Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America and the Caribbean, where I have worked within and across cultural contexts to facilitate higher education institutional partnerships, which will be of most merit as I forge new paths. I take lessons learnt with me to inform the development of academic opportunities and experiences for students, faculty and staff at the University of The Bahamas as I do my part in establishing an institution of international repute.
Click here or see below for a world map of Wheelock College Global Partnerships and Programs