Visiting Scholar position for academic refugee

Monday, January 22, 2018

This story originally appeared in the Daily Bulletin. 

Thousands of academics are among the millions of refugees who in recent years have had to flee their home countries due to war or persecution. A collaboration between the Centre for Teaching Excellence at the University of Waterloo and English Language Studies at Renison has resulted in the creation of a visiting scholar position to assist one such academic. (For this story, the visiting scholar asked to be identified as B.A. due to continuing safety concerns.)

In his home country, B.A.—who has a PhD in Computer-Assisted Language Learning—was the Academic Coordinator at two universities. In 2016, however, he and his family had to abruptly leave their country for their own safety, losing all of their savings and possessions in the process.

After arriving in Canada, B.A. applied for academic postings but was told he “lacked Canadian experience.” After a chance meeting with B.A. in June 2017, Mark Morton – a CTE staff member – wondered whether CTE might be able to create a visiting scholar opportunity for B.A. to help him acquire the “Canadian experience” that would make him a more competitive job candidate. Donna Ellis, CTE’s Director, supported this idea and suggested a collaboration with Renison’s English Language Studies, which the Director of that program, Julia Williams, enthusiastically accepted. The paperwork was approved by Associate Vice President, Academic Mario Coniglio by the end of August, with B.A. being affiliated in the Fall term with CTE and now, in the Winter term, with English Language Studies.

The visiting scholar position is unpaid, but it does provide B.A. with office space, access to a Waterloo’s library system so that he can continue his research, opportunities to take campus workshops, and a university affiliation to use as he submits articles for publication. B.A. has also commented on deeply appreciating the opportunity to forge connections with Waterloo academics working in his area.

CTE’s Mark Morton notes that “there is a tremendous need for visiting scholar positions for academics such as B.A.” Scholars at Risk, a global organization that places at-risk academics as visiting scholars with universities in safe locations, currently has more than 700 such individuals seeking placements, a number that has increased 400 percent over the previous five-year period. “Canadian universities,” says Morton, “have an opportunity to help these at-risk scholars, while at the same time benefiting from the great expertise that they bring with them – it’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

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