Kelly McManus is a recipient of the annual Staff International Experience Fund (SIEF). The award allows staff members to travel and engage in collaborative work with international partners and institutions.

Kelly is the senior director of Community Relations & Events. As part of her professional goals and Waterloo’s strategic plan, Kelly wants to expand Waterloo’s community relations from a regional level to an international level. Her interest in partnership engagement frameworks, metrics, and community relations programs allowed her to meet with alumni and advancement organizations in Australia.

In 2016, she visited universities in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney to work toward achieving these goals. While she was there, she met with new colleagues – and Waterloo alumni – to learn about best practices in community engagement at a global level.

What was the purpose of your trip and why did you choose Australia?

One of the things I thought about a lot when I applied for the award was Waterloo’s upcoming 60th anniversary. While we’re reflecting on our history, it’s also important to have a fresh perspective not just on how Waterloo has changed, but how we can continue to change for the better. I wanted to visit new places with new ideas and practices that are different from our own. I wanted to go somewhere that had clear parallels to the University of Waterloo. I knew Australia would be welcoming and easy to immerse myself in, which was important to me.

How did the SIEF award provide professional development related to your role at Waterloo?

I had the opportunity to visit several universities in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney and chose those that were both young universities like Waterloo and more established institutions. I blended learnings from each of these universities – there’s no one size fits all approach. But no matter how different some of our ideas and histories are, we all shared something in common – everyone is so proud of each of their universities. It was really nice to see how that influences the way people do their jobs and engage with their partners, colleagues, and communities. Every university has something particular to show off.

The award helped me not only learn from the schools I met with, but it allowed me to share Waterloo’s innovations, successes, and practices. A lot of the people I met were curious to know more about Waterloo. Despite being a young university, Waterloo has already established a strong reputation across the world. Those Australian universities who were familiar with Waterloo were very excited that I was there.

What surprised you most about your experience in Australia, both professionally and personally?

Australia is a lot like Canada in terms of how people treat each other. Everyone I met was so friendly and welcoming. I felt very comfortable in my surroundings and had the opportunity to do a lot of unique things, like taking a ferry to one of the campuses. Professionally, I was surprised to learn certain elements of Australian universities’ funding models – a lot of them talked about having to be more creative to work with their partners and corporations.

What was the greatest lesson you learned in Australia?

Spending a week in each of the three cities I visited was great. I did my best to experience everything that each city offered and did the typical tourist things, like holding a koala bear and seeing the Great Barrier Reef. In Melbourne and Sydney, I got to see alumni who moved to Australia from Canada after graduating. We went out for dinner and I got to see more of the local areas. It was nice to meet people who believe in the University, even from so far away.

What do you want other people to know about the SIEF award?

It’s incredible that the University is willing to invest in staff this way. It’s a chance to think about how you want to grow in your job and in how to be open to new perspectives. The experience did involve a lot of organization beforehand. It’s not just, “I’m going to another country.” You have to consider carefully why you’ve picked that country, what schools you’re going to visit when you’re there, and why. If you embrace the opportunity, you’ll have more than just a positive impact on yourself. You’ll also come back inspired and ready to share things with your colleagues, which is an asset to the entire University.

View all staff spotlights

Learn more about international opportunities for staff