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For Canada to thrive, it’s not enough just to attract (and retain) great people – we need to connect them.

In our “flat” world, we are linked by instantaneous 24/7 communication. International networks and partnerships have become the life-blood of the new global economy. Few industries are as truly global as the petrochemical sector, and not surprisingly, Calgary has worldwide connections.

And strategic advancement of internationally competitive universities will ensure that Calgarians and all Canadians, benefit more fully from the opportunities created by this new arena.

Research universities that nurture young minds have at their heart people developing connections, formal and informal. They create international networks of talent. These give leveraged access to new ideas, innovations, and investments, and they showcase a country’s elite strengths on the world stage.

International students, particularly graduate students, forge crucial connections that can position Canada and its cities as leading players in the new global marketplace. Each person who comes here brings a whole web of connections – to people, to companies, to research networks and to governments. Even those who leave, benefit us. Every time an international student moves away from Canada, she or he creates a new node in a global network.

We used to say, “It’s not just what you know, but who you know.” Today, it’s not just who you know in New York or Paris, but also who you know in Beijing, Bengaluru, Bordeaux and Brisbane, to name just some of the Bs.

At McGill, some 200,000 living alumni across 180 countries help us open doors to new academic, governmental and business partnerships, yes for McGill, but also for Montreal and Calgary and Canada as a whole.

Some of these connections are ad hoc – an offshoot of an international and globally engaged faculty and alumni. But let’s start thinking through how we can better mobilize for broad benefit, the relationships at the core of a great research university.

In an era where it takes a global village to solve problems such as climate change or mapping the human brain, Canada and its universities must ensure that they are nimble enough to seize the opportunities emerging from new research networks.