Forty years ago, Cariboo College (as TRU was known then) embarked on a new plan.
Based in House 8, Charles Mossop took the first steps to coordinate and centralize the school’s efforts to bring international students to campus.
Today, thanks to his vision and the dedicated effort of countless others in the decades that followed, TRU World is recognized internationally as a leader in international education. This year, we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of TRU World. It’s a chance for us to look back at its rich history to appreciate the value it brings to TRU and our community and province.
There are several important milestones to recognize.
In 1983, the International Department was created to coordinate international activities for the institution. This centralization of international activities signalled the growing importance of the institution’s connection to the world, as noted by then vice-president academic and soon-to-be president Jim Wright.
The first English as a second language (ESL) programs with international students were held in the mid-1980s. Six students came from Mexico and Hong Kong, with stays varying in length. Some continued to other academic programs, while others returned to their home countries.
These programs marked TRU’s initial commitment to flexible, accessible, impactful educational programs focused on global language and intercultural competencies.
By the end of the 1980s, the International Department was developing its signature holistic approach to internationalization. It was based on providing students and partners with programs that fit their needs, no matter where they were in their academic journey.
Students from Mexico primarily came for our ESL programs. In contrast, students from Hong Kong entered our academic programs for university transfers after our ESL programs. The students from Libya came as contract students in college prep leading to pre-engineering and engineering. Some of these Libyan students entered diploma programs elsewhere. One went on to attend UBC in engineering and others returned to Libya in government positions.
TRU World expanded significantly in the 1990s regarding the numbers of students and the diversity of the countries from which they came.
In 1992, one of our oldest institutional partnerships with Kyoto Bunkyo Junior College, later Kyoto Bunkyo University, was signed. In the broader sister-city relationship, Cariboo College’s International Office joined the City of Kamloops in signing a partnership with Kyoto Bunkyo Junior College. Each year, their students attended TRU for a language and culture immersion program.
Our first International Days celebration — now called IDays at TRU — was held in 1993. The popular event has continued to grow and today features more than 150 showcase participants in 40 performances and 20 events over three days. IDays, which wrapped up on campus last week, has always been an exciting opportunity to showcase our international student community to domestic students and the wider community.
By the early 2000s, TRU had 700 international students from 24 countries, including Nepal, Nigeria, Tanzania, Turkey, Argentina, Finland, Ghana, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Yemen, Ecuador, Iran, Jamaica, Russia and Sri Lanka. In 2004, the Study Abroad Centre was created. Our first students from Egypt, Iceland, Myanmar and Vietnam joined us on campus.
In 2002, TRU launched its first offshore dual degree (BBA) in collaboration with Tianjin University of Technology in China.
In 2005, TRU World moved into a purpose-built home in a new building which was funded entirely through international revenue.
Based on feng shui principles, the International Building highlighted the strong impact of international students on campus and became an anchor for all the International Office’s student services and training.
The international department officially became TRU World in the same year.
In 2010, TRU’s global competency credential was approved. It formally recognizes the significance of having intercultural skills and international experience for students. In 2019, Charles Mossop — TRU World’s founding coordinator — received an honorary doctorate from TRU for his visionary contribution to the international education field.
This year, TRU World welcomed our largest cohort of international students on campus ever — approximately 4,200 students from more than 100 countries, including our first students from Laos People’s Democratic Republic, Luxembourg and Malawi. Our efforts to grow the diversity of our international cohort continue. The international diversity present at TRU is one of our institution’s greatest strengths.
Internationalization is driven by our academic mission. Having a diverse mix of students present on campus is essential to our academic goals. We aim for all our students to be competent with respect to intercultural understanding and Indigenous knowledge.
All of this is linked to international elements in the curriculum, study visits abroad for Canadian students, the work of our student ambassadors and so much more.
Mixing ethnicity and ideas in a university environment contributes more to global understanding and cultural awareness than almost any other educational measure imaginable.
Students who live and learn together take away a different understanding of the world. It’s one of the fundamental ways post-secondary institutions impact the world.
Bringing together people from different cultures for a common purpose builds relationships and partnerships for generations. We are incredibly proud of how TRU World has contributed to this vision.
To learn more about TRU World and its 40 years, go online to www.tru.ca/truworld.html.
We look forward to the next 40 years.
Brett Fairbairn is president and vice-chancellor at Thompson Rivers University. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. View From TRU columns appear monthly in KTW and online at kamloopsthisweek.com.