International Service Learning Program back for good as a part of the ORICE

When it was announced in the summer of 2015 that the International Service Learning program would be cancelled, there was an outcry from students and faculty. In the following January, two placements were quietly placed on offer again. However, questions remained since it was unclear how long the placements would continue to run and whether more would run out of other faculties. It now seems that the ISL program will remain a permanent fixture on campus as a part of the Office of Regional and International Community Engagement (ORICE).

The International Service Learning (ISL) programs allow students to engage with community partners around the world as a part of their course work. Throughout the program, students have been able to do things such as collaborate with a micro-finance organization in Uganda, and help bridge the gap between an organization that aims to sell sugar ethically and the community it gets its resources from in the south of Mexico.

While previously having existed as its own entity on campus, the ISL is now a part of ORICE.

“ISL is just one program within the office. That means that we’re thinking about different ways to engage students and communities, both provincially and internationally, beyond just the student internship model that goes through ISL,” said Tamara Baldwin, the associate director for ORICE. This expansion includes the creation of the Inter-Council Network of Provincial and Regional Councils for International Cooperation (ICN), for example, which is a course on public engagement offered through ORICE. 

As for why ISL was revived, Baldwin explained that it had a lot to do with the fact that “the faculty of arts made a decision pretty early on that this was an important approach to student learning and it was something they didn’t want to see lost.”

ISL is now a part of the faculty of arts, but students from other faculties are welcome and able to enroll.

“It’s such a big deal not only for the students that go on the trips, but for the community partners too,” said Mary Bunka, a fourth-year arts student who has participated in the ISL program.

“UBC really emphasizes globalism and being a global citizen, and [ISL] is an amazing way to actually do that as an institution,” said Fiona Jones, another fourth-year arts student and member of the ISL Student Leadership team.

ISL alumni also have a lot to say about the program’s value.

“What I like about this program is that there’s the classroom aspect — but then there’s also the aspect where you get to actually take the classroom and put it on the field, and see what works and what doesn’t,” said fourth-year arts student Kaidie Williams.

The brief cancellation of ISL placements last year has had an impact.

“With the transition of winding down and then winding back up, we couldn’t go at the same pace that we had been previously, so it meant that we had a smaller number of students and a smaller number of placements last summer,” said Baldwin. “There have been a lot of conversations re-establishing relations with the community partners to determine if they’re still interested and explaining where we’re at.”

“The cancellation cut back on a lot of resources and time. We were quite rushed in that way. Typically the pre-departure course starts in like January and that’s what they’re about to do in this coming term, but we started in May,” said ISL participant and third-year arts student Varun Srivatsan.

However, this shouldn't be a problem in the future — preparation for students leaving in the new year will begin right on schedule.  

“ISL is back and it’s back to stay. It’s part of the faculty of arts now, so I don’t think there are any worries of it getting cut again.”