December 14, 2006      
Centre for the Americas

As Bishop’s moves through a strategic planning process, we are exploring possible themes and projects that will help to differentiate Bishop’s from a world of competitors. Claims of “being small” and “providing a sound and liberal education” no longer make our university distinct – although these important characteristics remain central to the Bishop’s experience. An idea being discussed on campus is establishing Bishop’s as a Centre for the Americas.

This idea originated last spring as a result of a speech by former Prime Minister Joe Clark, one of Canada’s most trusted statesmen. “Canada is too small in the world to make a difference,” he said, “but Canada is big enough to bridge differences.” Because of its history, culture, and commitment to human rights, Canada can bridge differences in the world. The same can be said for Bishop’s University.

Most of the world is focused on Asian countries, specifically China and India. However the 35 countries that make up the Americas are home to 14% of the world’s population and all are relatively easy for Canadians to travel to with minimal time zone changes. Many of the Central and South American countries are moving politically and socially towards the left side of the socio-political spectrum. They will need assistance to face the many challenges that lie ahead. Canadian investments in Central and South America are three times the total Canadian investments in all of Asia. Many of these organizations are keen to demonstrate good corporate citizenship through philanthropic investment in projects such as education, health and human services, and environmental issues.

Examining the current activities or interests Bishop’s has in the Americas might surprise some on campus; close to half of the academic departments at Bishop’s have a course, exchange program, or a faculty member with background or interest in Central or South America.

There is an opportunity for Bishop’s to become an education leader with respect to the Americas. Why not take advantage of our culture, our identity, our history, our interests, and our location to build on our existing strengths to enhance our contribution to the world, specifically to all our southern neighbours?

A number of faculty discussion groups and Divisional meetings have touched on the Centre for the Americas topic over the last few months, but much more needs to occur as we investigate opportunities of a Centre for the Americas; for example, new academic programs, expanded exchange opportunities for students and faculty, new student recruitment markets, research symposiums, seminars, academic and/or socio-political conferences, new infrastructure on campus…the possibilities are numerous. Bishop’s faculty and staff will play an instrumental role in determining and creating this Centre.

Discussions will continue – both formally and informally – over the coming months. As part of Professor Hogg’s conference “The Gray Lecture 60 Years Later” a round table discussion will take place on January 21st to discuss Canada’s role in the Americas, as well as a possible role for Bishop’s as a Centre for the Americas. The Canadian Ambassador to the Organization of American States will be participating, along with a number of specialists and academics in the area of the Americas. I invite the entire campus community to take part in this important dialogue.

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