The Presidents’ Report – Part One - The Orca
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The Presidents’ Report – Part One

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The first in a three-part series of interviews with the heads of B.C.’s Interior universities.

A lack of knowledge creates fear. Seeking knowledge creates courage” – George Bernard Shaw.

It wasn’t all that long ago that young British Columbians who lived in the Interior were forced to make a costly move to Metro Vancouver or Victoria to obtain a university education.

Thankfully, those days are long gone.

Top quality universities have become a fixture in Prince George, Kelowna and Kamloops. The University of Northern British Columbia, UBC Okanagan and Thompson Rivers University all offer a wide array of education options and special characteristics.

In an effort to create a higher awareness of higher learning outside of B.C.’s two largest metropolitan areas Over the next three weeks, I will introduce you to the top administrators of those schools.

This week, UNBC president Dr. Daniel Weeks on why his school has become known for a “unique personal experience.”

UNBC president Dr. Daniel Weeks

Bob Price: As the key ambassador of UNBC for the past five years, what makes you most proud?

Dr. Weeks: I think it’s the sense of community that we have. Every person here, students, staff, and citizens have become very aware of our investment in our students and the real effort that we make to create a personal experience for our students.

Bob Price: Is that what makes UNBC unique?

Dr. Weeks: I would say that we stand out in particular when it comes to creating a personal experience. At the same time, we are proud to be one of the leading research universities in Canada.

Bob Price: With a student body of only around 4,000 students, you are certainly one of Canada’s smallest post-secondary institutions. Do you have a growth plan?

Dr. Weeks: You know, in terms of student numbers which Canada seems to have a real fetish for, yes. We are on the smaller side. But in the recent world rankings of universities, places like Caltech are among the leaders. We are about three to four times the size of Caltech, and we aren’t much smaller than Princeton or Notre Dame.

Our aim is to have exactly the right size of institution for the north, and we want to have exactly the right sized institution that allows us to keep doing what we do well: to deliver a personal student-centered education while at the same time being a high successful research institution.

Yes, we certainly do have room to grow – but we aren’t on a path to double or triple our size.

Bob Price: So research would be one of UNBC’s main strengths?

Dr. Weeks: Absolutely! That’s a hallmark of UNBC. So many of our undergraduates enjoy the opportunity to work with world class people from the very moment they arrive here.

Bob Price: Challenges?

Dr. Weeks: We face pretty much the same challenges that universities are facing throughout North America. Not only when it comes to enrollment but also particularly in the area we are in, we face the boom and bust that goes with a resource-based economy.

When things are really booming in the north, young people have a great opportunity to go directly into the workforce. When things aren’t so good, our enrollment goes up.

Bob Price: Given your extensive experience in post-secondary education in both B.C. and Alberta, how do you feel about the overall state of higher education in Canada?

Dr. Weeks: Without question, our educational system stacks up well with the rest of the world. But of course, we also face the ongoing challenge to secure the kinds of public investment that we need to keep our institutions strong. And when you look at our institutions in B.C., we all stack up well against the very top across the county. We are all pretty strong.

Bob Price: So where do we need to improve?

Dr. Weeks: To emphasize the value-added nature of a post-secondary education. Folks with any kind of a degree do better in their earnings than people without one. Overall, the value of a post-secondary education is one of the best investments that a young person can make.

Next week, a conversation with Professor Deborah Buszard, Deputy Vice Chancellor & Principal of UBC Okanagan.

As always, I welcome your comments and criticism on Twitter @kammornanchor and email bob@theorca.ca.

Bob Price is a veteran B.C. broadcaster who anchored the morning news on CHNL radio in Kamloops for the past 30 years. Bob is also a past Webster Award winner whose previous stops included Vancouver and Calgary. 

SWIM ON:

  • This isn’t Bob’s first three-part interview series with prominent Interior British Columbians. He sat down with the mayors of Kelowna, Kamloops, and Prince George.
  • Speaking of campus trends, Ada Slivinski took a look – but not a snooze – at campus nap pods.
  • Daniel Fontaine argues vociferously in favour of expanding SkyTrain service to UBC.
SWIM ON