Written by: Dr. Mike Allcott
To hundreds of students (and graduates) around the world, I’m known as Dr. Mike. While that may sound odd to some English speakers, it’s a sign of a cultural compromise. As an international educator teaching and leading in American and Canadian colleges and universities, it was always my habit to encourage equity and ease of engagement by asking students to call me by the name my friends use: Mike. But for many students who are accustomed to hierarchies of respect, that casual single syllable never felt comfortable for addressing their grey-haired prof with a PhD. When students at Trent University started calling me Dr. Mike, I happily met them in the middle of our cultural sensibilities.
Building friendships, understanding, and learning opportunities across cultures has been the cornerstone of my career as an international educator. As a higher education leader, I’ve developed programming, curriculum, as well as service and administrative structures that develop the intercultural intelligence of each member of the learning community. Learning communities that not only account for difference, but truly value difference as an asset to the educational experience, are healthy, productive—and continuously innovative.
Developing that values-driven aspect of my professional identity was something that immigrating to Canada encouraged. I was inspired by the inclusiveness of my new country and the intimacy of parliamentary democracy. During my first year in Canada, I met my local MP while walking the dog in my neighbourhood, shook hands with the Governor General in Rideau Hall, bumped into former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien crossing the street in Montréal, and stood an arms-length from then-Prime Minister Paul Martin—without ever having to pass through security or a metal detector. Moreover, engaging organizations like World University Services Canada and the Student Refugee Program—a shining star of Canadian international education—inspired me to lead for the values of global citizenship.
My Journey with ApplyBoard
When Meti and Massi Basiri, the Co-Founders of ApplyBoard, introduced ApplyBoard to the institution I was then working at, I saw the company as a tech innovator, providing much-needed visionary rethinking of the international student enrollment funnel. Likewise, I believed that a platform that had the potential to put students in the driver’s seat of their educational journey was exactly the kind of disruption the industry needed. I found the story of the Basiri brothers to be just as inspiring as any of the luminaries I’ve met since coming to Canada. To someone who’s dedicated their professional career to the belief that Canada becomes the ideal of the true north strong and free when we include and embrace the knowledge, talents, perspectives, and experiences of students from all parts of Canada and all around the world, they represent the fruition of that belief. ApplyBoard’s success demonstrates the value of that educational inclusivity for the economy and our shared future.
When Meti gave me the opportunity to become a part of ApplyBoard and to represent ApplyProof, I was thrilled. While many saw my shift from public institutions to the private sector as a dramatic change, I saw it as an opportunity to join an organization whose work was authentically in line with its values—and mine. When we say that ApplyBoard believes that education is a right, not a privilege and that we’re on a mission to provide access to education for students around the world, it may be a visionary goal, but it is a genuine commitment.
When I found that I was joining not only a values-driven enterprise but a team that brought together some of the best people I’d known in Canadian international education, I felt humbled. While I know the decades of experience, the inside understanding of the educational institutions we serve—as well as the grey hair—I bring to the ApplyBoard table is much appreciated by my teammates, it’s actually the learning opportunities I have every day that keep me inspired to succeed. When I learn from the likes of Uri Carnat, Hannah Dang, and Teeba Alsafar in Partner Relations, Alicia Bedard, Khaled El Hannawy, and Saif Iqbal in Marketing, or Dan Weber, Jonah Finkelberg, and Bobby Green on Business Development, not to mention Esra Akgol, Haitham Amar, Daniel Morais, Iman Hassani… well, you get the idea. It’s a remarkably diverse team, not just in terms of culture, but also in the knowledge and tools for solving problems, and I’m privileged to learn with them every day.
The Opportunity Within Public-Private Partnerships in International Education
While many of the institutions I’ve worked for in the past have reservations about private enterprises, from my perspective, it’s the potential of public-private partnerships that are crucial to the pivot this economic and historical moment demands. The speed at which my ApplyBoard teammates are able to identify challenges and opportunities and put in place solutions still deeply impresses me. That kind of agility, and an environment where smart people are valued for their intelligence, drive, and willingness to take risks on new ideas, seemed rare in the administration of educational institutions. Our agility and our commitment to real-world solutions for students is an asset we bring to our partners in the international education industry. It takes an ecosystem to educate the world!
The ApplyProof team is hiring! Apply today at applyboard.com/careers