by Anna Walcott-Hardy

“Welcome home,” Campus Principal Clement Sankat opened his address with a cordiality that underscored the historic bilateral commitment to education between Canada and Trinidad and Tobago. The welcome was for the Governor General of Canada, his excellency, the Right honorable David Johnston and his delegation, at a ceremony held at the Daaga Auditorium, St. Augustine, Trinidad on the 2nd of May.

For decades UWI has had strong ties with Canada and its higher education institutions. In the past five years the regional University welcomed over 130 Canadian exchange students, while 160 students and staff of The UWI benefitted from exchange scholarships.

Additionally, UWI has over 30 agreements with Canadian Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). In fact, the Campus is in the process of refurbishing the dormitory, Canada Hall, which was built in 1960 - a gift from the Canadian Government. The Principal, a graduate of UWI who also received a Canadian International Development Agency scholarship (CIDA) for PhD studies at the University of Guelph, Canada, recalled his days living at Canada Hall as a UWI student and the opportunities this brought to meet and live with students from across the Caribbean.

Before introducing the feature speaker, whose State Visit was welcomed nation-wide, Professor Sankat went on to name several current partnerships including a joint research initiative with McGill University and UWI, funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) focused on “Improving the Nutrition and Health of CARICOM populations”.

Having served at the highest level at several leading institutions including Queen’s University, the University of Toronto, University of Western Ontario, McGill University and the University of Waterloo, the Governor General of Canada shared interesting facts in a conversational, informative, yet highly entertaining style.

The speech entitled “Educating and Innovating in a Connected World”, highlighted key issues, seamlessly working real world examples into the presentation: from the impact of social media (Canadian Helen Campbell’s use of Twitter to encourage others to become organ donors) to the importance of shared opportunities (speaking of the more than 700 students from this country who chose to study in Canada in 2010 and the 100 scholarships that have been distributed since 2009).

“Education is the primary means by which we can increase our choices and thrive as human beings…Education and human development are inexorably linked. In the 21st Century, the well-being of whole societies will be determined by their ability to learn and innovate, as well as to share the knowledge they have gathered.”

Overall, his outlook was positive for the country, stating that Trinidad and Tobago is in an “enviable position to become a central player in the global economy because of its size, location and commitment to fostering learning and innovation.”

Ultimately, the address reflected his background as an educator, administrator and principal, as well as his respect for “the diplomacy of knowledge”.

Following the feature presentation, a panel discussion chaired by UWI Pro Vice Chancellor (Research), Professor Wayne hunte, featured Mrs nobina Robinson, Chief Executive Officer at Polytechnics, Canada; Mrs Karen Mcbride, President and Chief Executive Officer at the Canadian Bureau for International Education; Mr James Knight, President of the Association of Canadian Community Colleges; Dr. Gary hepburn, Director, Academic Programming & Delivery Division, The UWI, Open Campus; and Dr Anna-May edwards-henry, Director of the Instructional Development Unit at UWI.

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