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In this solemn season of gratitude and remembrance, I recently sat alone in Capilano University's Lonsdale campus — our beautiful new space in the Shipyards District — to gather my thoughts for this newsletter. The now-silent classrooms had barely been used before a global pandemic sent us all home and temporarily shuttered this promising community hub. And in that empty gathering place, contemplating an unknown future, I felt a surge of hope and pride. Because if ever there was an example of what Capilano University does best, I was sitting at the very heart of it.
True community partnership is central to our identity and our Lonsdale campus is the dynamic proof of what can be accomplished when we work together with local partners to share ideas and amplify solutions. Two years ago, we accepted the invitation to physically integrate into North Vancouver's urban centre and engage the community in new ways.
CityStudio is one of the resulting collaborations: an exciting term-based program that pairs CapU students from across disciplines with municipal partners to find innovative solutions to real-world challenges. Through CityStudio, our students developed culture, heritage and arts proposals to engage the community with the new Shipyards neighbourhood. This term, there are 11 projects — check out the HUBBUB 2020 Digital Project Showcase to see them all — and interest is growing from potential partners across our region.
It's critically important that CapU students have these opportunities to apply all their learning and knowledge to challenges that don't appear in any textbook. New problems require nimble thinking. And you don't get those opportunities if you aren't connected to your community in an authentic way — whether inside the University or beyond.
Even during a pandemic, there are so many ways to find this connection and outreach at CapU. I applaud the diligence and professionalism of the Capilano Students' Union, a powerful student advocacy group whose leadership team worked alongside the University executive all summer to solve multiple challenges in the pivot to predominantly online learning, and protect our most vulnerable students. I believe this strong and mutually respectful partnership models the way in the post-secondary landscape, and will only strengthen our next generation of community leaders.
Our campuses and communities continue working together to grow caring, collaborative leaders with deep respect for their regional roots. In September of 2021, we'll welcome the first students to our new Bachelor of Kinesiology program, which will feature two-way engagement on so many levels — between University departments, within neighbourhoods and across First Nations. With its unique blend of place, programming, and experiential learning, I have no doubt the CapU BKin will prepare students to navigate the future with confidence.
I admit: in these pandemic times, the notion of an uncertain future doesn't always sit comfortably. And that's when I lean into the stories shared by the people around me who convince me by their daily example that not only will we get through this strange time, but that we'll come out better for it.
One of those people has been Elder Ernie George — Slá'hólt — Hereditary Chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, who made his way to the Creator on November 11, 2020.
Elder Ernie lived all his life on the Tsleil-Waututh inlet. At the age of 69, he became one of Capilano University's first Elders-in-Residence and for the past 11 years, we have been so privileged to have Elder Ernie's wisdom, humour and kindness reflected in the spirit of the CapU community and the "warm feeling", as he called it, of the Kéxwusm-áyakn Centre — the gathering place he helped develop on our main campus. In the weeks to come, we will reflect on how best to honour this great and humble man at Capilano University.
Lessons in leadership and community-building
And who are some emerging leaders helping to fuel my optimism these days? Let me introduce you to a few of them here.
"No one is going to hire you to solve a problem they already know how to solve."
- Connor Johst
A student in CapU's Engineering Transition program, Connor embraced a CityStudio challenge to find a better way to track how many people are using library services in North Vancouver. "Occupancy rates are so important for making sure public resources are shared fairly and staffed appropriately," he says, "especially during COVID-19." Beginning in late September 2020, he worked with fellow students Taylor Hillier and Duncan Ford — and a budget of just $200 — to create a fist-sized scanner that uses a sonar rather than laser signal to count passersby.
"Our device bounces sound off the wall. The speed of sound is constant, so a leg passing our sensor would indicate traffic and that data is transmitted wirelessly to a central server. It's a much cheaper solution than laser technology. We can replicate these for around seven dollars each, so it's scalable to any building. You could throw it on the walls everywhere!"
A long-time resident of the North Shore, Connor is grateful for the opportunity to have a real-world impact on a place he loves: "I can't think of a more community-oriented area than a public library. To make that experience safer and more comfortable is invaluable."
"My time here has shown me the kind of leader I want to be."
- Emily Bridge
As the directly elected President of the Capilano Students' Union, Interdisciplinary Studies student Emily Bridge works closely with University leadership to advocate on behalf of CapU's 8,000+ student body. "I didn't set out to be a leader on this scale," she says, "but I saw an opportunity to help and to work towards my goal of making post-secondary education more accessible to everybody. I certainly didn't sign up to be a leader in a public health emergency, but it has taught me so much about what's important to me and how to support the people I work with, and for. Especially now, we need to foreground compassion and make sure we are fostering safe spaces for people to be fulfilled and whole humans. You can't lead right now without taking that into consideration. The CSU strives for open, honest and personal communication, and our concerns are always heard and considered by the University."
"We are educating students to anticipate the future."
- Lara Duke
As Dean of Global and Community Studies, Lara Duke is looking forward to welcoming the first students to the new Bachelor of Kinesiology program in September 2020. A trained biomechanist, she has deep knowledge of this competitive and rapidly evolving profession, and is confident CapU's interdisciplinary program "will equip our students with the empathy and critical-thinking skills necessary for all possible career paths. Because of our location and the strong connections we've developed with North Shore communities and Indigenous partners, we have a really wonderful opportunity to make a significant impact on the health, well-being and sustainability of our own backyard."
Stay safe and stay connected,
This is a bimonthly newsletter featuring community updates from Capilano University President and Vice-Chancellor Paul Dangerfield.