The changing face of TWU global
by Jack Taylor
Who could imagine that a Langley dairy farm in 1960 could transform into the 157 acre site of a premier learning center for students from all over the world? The 30,000 learners who have completed studies in liberal arts education at Trinity Western University have since deployed to almost 80 different countries. Currently, the almost 4,000 students in attendance come from 45 countries and commit to one of 43 undergraduate or 17 graduate degree programs.
Nestled away from the sprawling rural campus in Langley lies the urban hub of TWU Richmond’s campus where 95 percent of the international students come from China to access the MA Leadership and MBA degrees. The majority of students come because of the unique degree path offered. Begun in 2012, in the Carol Tong Centre on Minoru Boulevard, TWU Richmond reaches out to students currently aged from 17 to 60. The sharing of Christian truth, values and principles are clearly integrated into the curriculum.
Director of Operations, Katherine Sayson, states that “each staff person was selected for their Christian character and a heart that is concerned for the highest welfare of the students, regardless of ethnicity, age, culture and background. Our goal is to provide a safe and beautiful place for students to seek and find Truth.” She notes that “learning university-level courses full time in a second language requires focus, stamina and hard work.” Christian businesses are able to provide mentors and practical work experiences for students.
Academic Advisor, Linda Vandersys, says that many students are “industrious and entrepreneurial in their studies while others face the challenges of life away from home with its shopping, video games, housing, cultural differences, home sickness and fear of failure. “I hear often that they choose Richmond campus because of the strong Chinese support and options such as grocery stores, restaurants, and Chinese language spoken in most places.”
Service Specialist, Tina Gu, says that “all the staff in Richmond Campus have the heart of serving students and providing support for their growth” and “all the students value the input of all the instructors and staff.” She says that “our students will be the future leaders in different industries.” TWU’s focus on the MBA within a community setting is a key reason why she can declare this. Gu sees the prayers of believers as a crucial support for the impact of believing staff on international students.
The International Student Programs, offering ongoing support during transition and building bridges between local and international students, “heightens awareness of cultural diversity by advocating for equity where differences and tensions may arise.” International Fellowship groups in Mandarin, Korean, English and Japanese offer Bible study and fellowship for those interested in something more on top of Chapel.
TWU’s new Vice President, Richard Taylor, states that one of his key priorities as the head of student life is to see TWU “increase its investment into the spiritual, emotional and social development of the International students.” One of his first acts was to implement a Global Engagement Department.
Sayson states that “the growth dilemma has become our reality – with over 400 students, it is very difficult to know each student personally…. We have a brief 16-month window to sow into each student’s life in a meaningful way. Therefore, we have learned to engage student leaders in planning and delivering student life events. We employ student workers to help with daily tasks and community events.”
Community Relations Director, Rebecca Swaim, adds that the school seeks “to create opportunities for students to experience Canadian culture, whether that be going curling or watching a BC Lions game” or celebrating “events that honour their cultural festivals.” She says that “our core team works to be strategic to provide a unique experience for our students here and to contextualize the ethos of the main campus to our urban setting and largely international audience.”
Technology Services Director, Chris Nash, wants to ensure that everyone is “comfortable and confident with their technology.” After more than a decade at the self-contained main campus in Langley he sees the challenges in trying to build community in a place where students come and go just for classes. He wants “everyone to know that TWU Richmond is a local campus with a global outreach and we offer the love of Christ to everybody who walks through our doors.”
Associate Director, Kim Chen, notes that “in addition to operational demands constantly increasing, there has also been an intentional effort to reach out and be relevant with external partners, such as municipal/government offices, private businesses and organizations as well as local area churches that share our vision for making a difference in the community and student’s lives.” Chen muses that “our first 3 years of building student and community life at TWU Richmond have been full of lessons and blessings.”
Sayson notes the need for faith-based homestays for students under 21. “Providing a loving, Christian home environment is an effective way for churched families to minister to our younger students.” She concludes, “Students come to TWU Richmond seeking something of great value – for their future, their families and their personal faith journey…. Students may invite us into their journey, but we must earn their trust. If we are listening to the Father’s heart, we may hear Him inviting us to participate in His mission of reconciliation. This is a strategic time for us – to be invited into the lives of potential world leaders at such a formidable time in their lives. Prayers from our brethren in BC, Alberta, Ontario and beyond are crucial and do effect change.”