The journey of a dental surgeon into international education.

Author:Samuels, Lavern

When I was a student of dentistry, a caption on a T-shirt during the annual dental students' orientation programme captured my attention. It read 'Dental Students--BUILDING BRIDGES IN SOCIETY'. It had graphic visuals that illustrated this caption. As a student, I became increasingly involved in the broader role that health professionals play in society and the influence that they have in being able to positively change the lives of members of society. Later, as part of my studies I was awarded a student exchange scholarship at the University of Melbourne in Australia and the Royal Dental Hospital which was attached to the university's faculty of dentistry. This was an eye opening experience that not only exposed me to differences within societies but also the common threads that run through humanity. Although I was involved in a field of study that was very much focused on health and medicine, and my subsequent working life was as a clinical dentist in both private practice and the public sector and thereafter as an academic in various sub-disciplines within dentistry, my sojourn into the international dimension had begun much earlier without me being fully cognizant of the strong influence it would have on my future career and my present activities.

During my tenure as a full-time academic and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, I was asked by the Vice Chancellor if I would initiate the building of an international culture at Durban University of Technology. That was the beginning of a journey that would lead to a significant shift in my career options and an adventure that I had never even imagined. My initial engagement with international education was purely from the perspective of an academic. I was able to use this lens to learn about a new area of knowledge. Initially I thought this would be a major disadvantage as I was not steeped in the administrative procedures that are a crucial part of academic mobility in internationalization. However, increasingly, I have come to appreciate both the tools and the lens that my academic background afforded me when engaging with internationalization of higher education. It has allowed me to appreciate internationalization as something that is greater than a series of international activities, projects and partnerships, but also as something that profoundly influences both the core activities at a university as well as the attributes of the graduates that emerge from our universities.


To continue reading