Fleming’s sustainable agriculture program sees big increase in international students

By Roderick Benns

Roderick Benns recently interviewed Brett Goodwin, the dean at Fleming College’s Frost Campus in Lindsay, about the huge rise in popularity of its sustainable agriculture program. 

Benns: The rise in the number of international students at Fleming is considerable. In the sustainable agriculture program, for instance, I believe 75-80 out of 87 students were international last year. We’ve heard some concerns that the infrastructure at the college is not keeping up with what is needed in the program (such as the calibre of the greenhouse facilities or specially customized classroom spaces). Are you challenged by this influx and what has (or what can) the college do to help with this?

Goodwin: There was a significant rise in the number of international students. A number of things happened, such as extremely high student visa approval rates and extremely high acceptance rates, to produce a higher number of international students than we expected. We saw this primarily in the Sustainable Agriculture and Advanced Water Systems Operations and Management programs. At Frost, we have responded by adjusting some curriculum to run with larger class sizes and by increasing supports for international students, including the appointment of a full-time international student officer. 

Benns: Why aren’t more local people applying for this program?

Goodwin: The Sustainable Agriculture program was first created primarily for individuals who were looking for training to allow them to start their own small farm. The founding idea was based on the fact that Peterborough County, Kawartha Lakes and surrounding areas had a relatively large number of smaller farms or parcels of land that could be farmed but were currently sitting fallow. With the move toward organic, small-scale farming along with interest in farm to table restaurants and groceries, there would be an interest in developing such farms. Enrollment for this program is on par as it is a niche program early in its program development stages.

Benns: What other programs at Frost, other than sustainable agriculture, are seeing a rapid rise in international numbers?

Goodwin: Advanced Water Systems Operations and Management have had a high influx of international students. Applied Environmental Planning is attracting a large number of international students, as well as a new program, Sustainable Waste Management, is looking like it will have a pretty high international student ratio in the fall. Beyond that, we have a smattering of international students in our other programs. 

Benns: Why is Fleming looking so attractive to so many more foreign students?

Goodwin: For the programs at Frost, we are hearing back that once international students have been successful then they pass word back to friends and family. Also, programs with a co-op seem to be attractive to international students. 

Benns: What is the success rate in terms of job placement for international students graduating from Frost Campus, and why do you think that’s the case?

Goodwin: At this point, I don’t have hard numbers on international students finding jobs after their programs. Some of the students return to their home country while others stay on using the work permit that comes as part of completing an education in Canada. I know that many of the students in Sustainable Agriculture carry on with their co-op employer, so certainly some of them are working in the field they trained in.

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