The UWC movement is worldwide and impactful. Uncovering the whole picture of the movement could be described as solving a 5000-piece puzzle. There are 17 UWC schools across the globe, with all their students, faculty and staff. There are over 60.000 UWC alumni around the world, living the UWC mission of peace and intercultural understanding in their daily lives. And there is the UWC International Office (UWC IO) as the governing body of the global UWC movement.
The UWC IO’s mandate is to coordinate between the different UWC stakeholders, to set the global direction and strategy for the UWC movement, to review and approve new UWC schools, colleges, national committees and educational programs, to help coordinate UWC-related global fundraising and communication projects and to ensure that all stakeholders understand and support jointly agreed-upon policies.
The UWC IO also facilitates and nurtures collaboration and information and best practice sharing at all levels across the movement and between all 17 schools in many forms:
College Heads, and often their respective Board Chairs, regularly come together and virtually meet with their UWC International Office counterparts to share their expertise, learn from each other and help shape the direction of the UWC on issues, policies and programming.
Across all levels, UWCers are also creating and enhancing their workday connections to learn from each other, share best practices and success stories and, occasionally, commiserate about good ideas that didn’t quite work out.
For example, Admissions staff at all UWC schools and colleges work closely, not only with the students, parents and National Committees, but also across the movement with each other and the IO on different aspects of admissions within the movement with the common goal of improving the admissions process and overcoming admissions related challenges such as student visa procedure.
Also, all UWC schools and colleges have, in some form or another, Communications support to help tell their respective stories to prospective students, parents, alumni and the wider world.
This past summer, for the first time ever, many of these communicators working on behalf of UWC schools got together for three days of workshops and team-building at UWC Atlantic.
One important outcome of that busy conference was the establishment of informal cross-UWC communications groups that can work together to backstop both the international office and those schools that might not have the communications and related resources that others have. This collaborative approach helps stretch resources and shares general and specific expertise both in a collegial and a mentorship way.
One example is the establishment of an Issues Management Core Group that draws on the experience and skills of UWC International Director of Communications and Engagement and Company Secretary Hannah Tümpel, UWC Southeast Asia Director of Communications and College Affairs Sinéad Collins, UWC Thailand Senior Communications & Philanthropy Manager Samantha Gayfer and Pearson’s Director of Communications Brian Geary.
Issues Management simply means anticipating, understanding and dealing with events or situations that have the potential to impact the reputation or the operations of a UWC school and/or the UWC movement. For example, a natural disaster that curtails a school’s operations is an operational and communications issue that needs to be managed to minimize disruption to students, parents, staff and the school itself with the goal of getting back to “normal” as soon as possible.
The globally-scattered group meets virtually on a regular and as-needed basis to discuss situations that are affecting, or have the capacity to affect, UWC schools and operations. The group, which collectively has decades of experience, also acts as “bench strength” to provide advice and consultation. The International Office, working with the group, is also developing a growing library of resource material and documents to act as an online resource for all UWC communicators, no matter where they are located.
The communications teams also support each other in areas of expertise such as graphic design tools and software, videography, email marketing applications, sharing students and alumni success stories and images from all the schools.
“Communications is part of the Advancement and External Relations team here at the College UWC,” says Nikola Mende, Communications and Marketing Officer at Pearson. “We have a strong and supportive team that works well together, but it is amazing to have this even bigger group of communications staff at the IO and from all over the world that come together on a regular basis to share their knowledge and learn from each other.”
Supporting mental health and wellness for students from around the world – in many cases, away from their home and family for the first time – is an ongoing commitment on all UWC campuses. As the movement collectively enhances robust and supportive policies and procedures, such as the establishment of safeguarding standards common to and adaptable for all schools And, while there is also a frequent and ad hoc exchange of ideas and information by those on various campuses with responsibility for these areas, there are opportunities to also learn together in-person, such as in 2016 when Pearson hosted a multi-day educational conference focused on residential health and wellbeing for staff and faculty in student care leadership at worldwide UWC schools.
The working-level connections between UWC staff, faculty and volunteers are many and varied and we can only touch upon a few in this story. But, we also wanted to make sure to acknowledge and thank the latter group, our tireless volunteers, who are committed to the movement through their work with either UWC national committees, which, in Canada, includes provincial/territorial committees, Host Families, who offer students a home away from home on academic breaks or guests who volunteer to share their expertise and knowledge and carry out a variety of tasks, from helping maintain the various campuses they visit, to supporting staff with events such as alumni reunions, just to name a few.
Thanks to all of those wonderful partnerships.