U.S. Consul General praises international exchanges
Jim Dickmeyer, the Consul General of the United States responsible for Ontario, recently visited Kingston. Mr. Dickmeyer has served in six countries during his 29 years of diplomatic service. He most recently taught national defense studies as a faculty member at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.
During his two days in the Limestone City, he met with Principal Daniel Woolf, toured Innovation Park and visited the Royal Military College of Canada. Following the tour of three companies at Innovation Park, he discussed his visit and the importance of academic exchanges between Canada and the U.S. with Senior Communications Officer Mark Kerr.
MK: What is the purpose of your visit to Queen’s and Innovation Park?
JD: I have been in my position for two years, and I hadn’t visited Kingston yet. I wanted to come to here and visit Queen’s and the Royal Military College.
When we were planning the trip, we saw some material on Innovation Park and thought, ‘we definitely have to go there.’ There is so much going on between the United States and Canada in this area of scientific inquiry and then movement into commercialization. This is just a wonderful visit for us.
MK: What has stood out during your visit to Queen’s?
JD: At Innovation Park, I was struck by the research going on in laboratories. I am fascinated by the amazing pace of innovation and how quickly they (the researchers) expect to have commercial products that are going to change our lives. I have been to other innovation parks in Ontario and the U.S. and this kind of work fascinates me. Watching scientists at work in a creative environment that allows them access to other tools they need to eventually commercialize these products is always interesting.
I have a number of friends who have attended Queen’s. Through them, I have developed an admiration for the university and the fact that it’s a little bit smaller (than other Ontario universities) and maintains a community feel. They have also told me about how many opportunities there are for leadership experiences outside the classroom at Queen’s. Queen’s is also attractive being situated in this just very beautiful city.
One of the things I talked about with Principal Woolf was trying to increase the number of students who are interested in coming up to Queen’s from the U.S. I think it would be a great opportunity for people from my country to come to such a great university.
MK: Why are academic exchanges important?
JD: When we talk about academic exchanges, I often think at the faculty level, which is hugely important and goes on a lot. The even more important exchanges that I want to work on and increase are at the student level. When you study in another country for a semester or a year, you get a different view of life. Your vision is expanded. We think of ourselves – between the U.S. and Canada – with so many similarities, but we are distinct cultures with distinct histories and traditions. A U.S. student coming up to Canada can learn so much about how to understand a different culture, how to listen and absorb more. The Fulbright Program is very vibrant, but given the numbers we would really like to see, it can’t address all of that. So we have to figure out different ways to do that.
I think it would be a great opportunity for people from my country to come to such a great university.
U.S. Consul General Jim Dickmeyer
MK: President Barack Obama has pledged his commitment to innovation. Are there things America can learn from Ontario?
JD: Ontario is very far advanced in its own focus on innovation. Clearly, you see that in the innovation that goes on in the education system in Ontario from primary schools up to the university system. I suspect there’s much we can learn from Ontario. And I think a lot of it’s going on in terms of exchanges of experience.
One of the areas that I think Ontario is particularly strong and where we might be able to find some models that would be useful for us at the state level is how much the province invests in these processes. Our states do to some degree, but a lot of time we leave that more to the federal side and that often misses certain needs of specific states.
The interview was condensed and edited for clarity.