Michael Ou had just started in his job as Vice President International for the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) in January when the federal government announced a new strategy to significantly increase the number of international students studying in Canada.
That announcement served to put a spotlight on the role Ou has taken on for this term as well as for those who will follow in his footsteps as the GSA works to support an ever-growing number of international graduate students at Brock.
Currently, international students comprise one-third of the approximately 1,684 graduate students at Brock.
Ou, a student in the master’s of education program, brings to the job his experience of attending the University of Monash in Melbourne, Australia in 2008 to complete a teaching degree.
“My year spent studying in Australia led me to become an advocate for international experiences,” Ou says. “I loved the experience of being an international student in a different country and of going through the motions so as to become integrated in the culture of a society very different from my home.
“When I decided to study in Australia, I wanted to enroll in a university that did not necessarily receive a high volume of students from North America. I really wanted to immerse myself in the Australian culture and to do that I needed to meet and spend time with domestic students. It’s one of those decisions in my life that I will always be happy that I made and will always look back fondly on the experience.”
One of Ou’s top priorities is to create more opportunities that bring together international and domestic students.
That is a goal that he shares with Arthur Chen, Manager, International Student Services at Brock.
They are working together to plan events that will establish those linkages that are important to strengthening a global community at Brock.
“I took a graduate course as part of the Faculty of Education’s ISP program at Brock University this past summer, which brought together domestic and international students,” says Ou. “I was really inspired by the interactions of the students. The classes gave students an opportunity to collaborate and share thoughts and ideas from different cultural perspectives. This experience really resonated with me and I want to enable graduate students to benefit from that kind of cultural exchange.”
The GSA created the international executive position last year.
GSA president Jory Korobanik says the organization felt it was important to dedicate responsibilities toward enriching the cultural and social connections for international graduate students at Brock.
“Michael has a strong vision as to how he would like to see the graduate studies experience for international students develop at Brock,” says Korobanik. “We want to work toward creating that sense of one global community in which international students benefit from being integrated into life at Brock and in Niagara and beyond. At the same time, we want domestic students to benefit from getting to know students from around the world and learn about their culture, society, history and politics. It will make us a better University.”