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Garret Western

UA director visits Western University - May 2019

Western University, in Ontario, Canada, has been, and continues to be, a great partner and supporter of the Global Undergraduate Awards. In May 2019, as Executive Director of the Global Undergraduate Awards, I got the opportunity to visit Western.

The main campus is in London, Ontario, set on over 1,100 acres. Although there weren't too many students around as the semester had just ended, there was still a sense of a very impressive centre of learning, and currently has just under 25,000 undergraduate students and a further 5,000+ graduate and PhD students enrolled.

Since becoming a partner of the awards in 2014, I think it is fair to say that we have both reaped the rewards from this very special collaboration. So far, more than one hundred students and staff from Western have visited Dublin to experience the Global Undergraduate Summit in November each year. It is fair to say that each and every one of them left Ireland with a great sense of achievement, presenting their work to a global audience of peers. Whilst also getting to know so many students and academics from all across the globe, and also familiarising themselves with some of the world renowned restaurants and bars of Dublin.

One of the key people driving our partnership is Dr Julie McMullin, Vice-Provost International at Western, unfortunately, Julie was away during my trip so we did not have the opportunity to meet. I know that Julie is leaving Western soon, and takes up a new role as Vice-President Academic and Provost with Mount Saint Vincent University in August 2019, the Global Undergraduate Awards team wishes her every success in the new role, and I know she will be very much missed at Western.

During my visit, thankfully, her wonderful colleagues Lise Laporte, Kris Dundas and Melissa Franco, all from the International office, met with me, and we had a great discussion about the Awards and Summit, and how Western promote the programme to their undergrad students. I also got some invaluable feedback from them on Summit 2018, and I spoke of our plans for Summit 2019 which are slowly coming together.

A number of academic staff from Western also act as volunteer judges, and since we’ve made a few changes for 2019, I was keen to speak with some of them. Greg Kopp and Cody Barteet took some time out to meet me, and I found it hugely beneficial to hear from them about the judging process. Both were in Dublin for Summit 2018, and they recalled fondly their time spent in Ireland and hope they can both visit again in 2019.

To complete the day, I met with Norm Huner, the ‘founding father’ and head of the Biotron Experimental Climate Change Research Centre, for a fascinating insight into the research being done at Western on climate change. It is a state of the art facility, with specialist labs and equipment to understand how ecosystems respond to a changing environment. It was a great day, and I’d love to go back another time, and meet some students, more academic staff, and see more of the great research facilities at Western.

Special thanks to Melissa Franco, who was incredibly helpful in arranging the visit, I was lucky enough to also meet her dog, Maggie, a gorgeous cocker spaniel, not unlike our own old family dog, Chloe.