Job exchange plan takes flight

Sep 04, 2003, vol. 28, no. 1
By Julie Ovenell-Carter

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SFU international director Randall Martin has a message for university staffers: “We want to send you to the airport on your way to work.”

Sept. 20 is the fall deadline (the spring deadline is Jan. 20) for applications to the university's new staff mobility initiative (SMI), a program to support staff exchanges or attachments to partner universities around the world.

Martin says SMI “is another plank in SFU's internationalization efforts. We've long recognized the benefits of sending our students and faculty abroad. We think it's just as important that our staff members have international exposure so they can bring back best practices that will allow them to better service our campus community.”

Martin says the short-term SMI placements (four-to six-week placements funded to a maximum of $5,000 each) will be of particular interest to mid-level managers and those involved in programming and services for students, but permanent staff at all levels will be considered.

“This is a great imaging exercise for people,” says Martin. “Ask yourself: what do I want to learn to do my job better or differently, and where do I want to learn it?” Although the application process requires staff members to prepare a budget and to explain how their intended trip will impact SFU, Martin says he and his SFU international colleague Laurel Patterson are “delighted to work with people to help them develop relevant projects.”

Patterson says applicants don't necessarily have to know their destination institution in advance. “We have longstanding relationships with our partner institutions and are familiar with their strengths. And while many people might think they need to go to an Ivy League institution to learn something, there is often a huge advantage in visiting lesser-known colleges and universities because their particular challenges have caused them to innovate in exceptional ways.'

Martin cautions that SMI placements are “not a free ride. This is professional development and we want to see the benefits for the university community. This is not a vacation, but that's not to say that you couldn't spend some time sight-seeing.”

He also suggests that applicants get the go-ahead from their supervisors in advance: “It's important that supervisors understand they will lose their employee for this period, and there is no money available to pay for release time or to cover a replacement salary.” On return, SMI participants will be required to submit a written report to their supervisors and to prepare a presentation to colleagues.

There will be two or three SMI placements made in 2003/04, and Martin hopes that number will soon grow to 10 a year. “This can only strengthen SFU,” says Martin. “What we do here is not being done in isolation. We are part of a global network of universities, and we have as much to learn from our international colleagues as we have to teach.”

For more information about the program, or to receive an application form, contact SFU international at 604-291-4232 or visit staff mobility initiative.

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