Mackenzie Clugston is the former Ambassador of Canada to Japan and Rector of Kwansei Gakuin University’s Cross-Cultural College, which Mount Allison is a participating partner along with Queen's University and the University of Toronto. He will give a talk on campus entitled “Life in the Canadian Foreign Service” on Nov. 1 at 11:30 a.m. (Crabtree Auditorium).
1. You recently retired from your role as the Ambassador of Canada to Japan. What’s next?
I remained in Japan and am currently the Rector of Kwansei Gakuin University's Cross-Cultural College. The CCC has a formal relationship with Mt. Allison, Queen's and the University of Toronto, offering Canadian and Japanese students corporate internships as well as cross-cultural learning opportunities. I am also teaching part of a course on the United Nations and Diplomacy, which is geared to encourage more Japanese students to enter international institutions and the Japanese diplomatic service. Finally, I sit on several Japanese corporate boards. I plan to pursue this package for several more years.
2. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in your career as a Canadian diplomat since the 1980s?
Tough question. There have been several and they have been enormous. First, the end of the Cold War and the rise of China. These historic developments have profoundly altered the geopolitical situation globally, and brought greater prosperity to many millions. Second, the IT revolution. The Internet did not exist when I joined the foreign service. Imagine a world without computers, the Internet, and all that goes with that. Domestically, Canada has become a truly diverse, multicultural society, which has enriched our lives and frankly made the country a great deal more interesting. All these points have of courses impacted squarely on the priorities, values and the working style of the foreign service.
3. How did you become involved with the Cross-Cultural College educational program?
Kwansei Gakuin University and I had discussed my joining the university for a few years. I have been very supportive of the CCC initiative as Ambassador, recognizing it for its unique and valuable characteristics. I am also a big fan of KGU, for it houses Japan’s most important Canadian Studies Centre and has a connection with Canada that goes back to its founding. Thus, when I retired from the foreign service, my assuming the Rectorship of the CCC just made sense to me and to the university.
4. Why do you think this kind of program is important for today’s students?
This program is unique in that it teams up Canadian and Japanese students for one to two weeks in Canada and/or Japan where they live and work together to solve a challenge, usually posed by one of our participating companies. Linguistic and cultural differences confront the students from day one, and they learn how to overcome and adapt in a world that is very different from their own. We believe this provides participants with an outstanding early opportunity to develop life-long intercultural skills which will enable them to function more effectively in a globalized world.
5. What’s one piece of advice you would give to students who would like to pursue a career in the foreign service?
The foreign service is a terrific career, and it is also very good as a stepping stone to other pursuits if one doesn't want to make it one's life work. You might think that Global Affairs Canada is looking primarily for people with extensive overseas experience as well as the very best academic credentials. Those qualities would be ideal of course, but it greatly prizes common sense, judgment and balance. So, students should not be deterred from writing the exam even if they have limited to no experience abroad or are not post-graduates. That said, the competition at the entry point is stiff, so you should at least possess a keen interest in international relations, development and/or international business if you hope to succeed.