Higher Learning In The Okanagan

THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA’S OKANAGAN CAMPUS, KNOWN AS UBC OKANAGAN, HAS MADE ITS WAY TO THE TOP OF THE LIST FOR STUDENTS AND PARENTS ALIKE WHEN IT COMES TO CHOOSING A UNIVERSITY TO ATTEND. A SMALL CAMPUS, INVOLVEMENT WITH COMMUNITY, AND AN EXCELLENT CURRICULUM MAKE UBC OKANAGAN A FAVOURITE FOR STUDENTS AROUND THE WORLD. 

SIZE MATTERS 

Bud Mortenson, Director of University Relations for UBC Okanagan knows having a smaller campus is a draw for some students. “Our campus is small enough that you might find yourself waiting in line for your coffee with one of your professors,” says Mortenson. “There are 14 graduate programs at UBC Okanagan and 53 undergraduate programs. With a total enrolment of about 8,400 students, you have more contact with your professors, fellow students, community partners and the wider community. We’ve noticed more families are moving to Kelowna with their children so they can attend UBC Okanagan.” 

UBC Okanagan is a research-intensive university and the number of students from outside the Okanagan is impressive. “Most of the students are from somewhere other than the Okanagan,” says Mortenson. “The parents are very pleased with what they see here. We are a destination for students who want a UBC degree. We are looking at preliminary enrolment numbers for the year and we’ve gone past 1,000 international students from 92 countries.” 

One of the great things about UBC Okanagan is that the campus is very walkable. “Most of our students are about a five-minute walk from their next class. Some of the residences are further out, but even from there, it’s not much more than a five-minute walk.” 

The campus is set on 500 acres, of which half is used for the main campus. The rest is either farm land or pure nature: forests, grassland and a trail network that is walked/biked in every season. 

CONNECTING WITH COMMUNITY 

Students, parents and those looking into attending UBC Okanagan are impressed when they see the level of community engagement with the campus. “We have a number of partnerships in the region that work with our students,” says Mortenson. “In our management and engineering programs there is a co-op where they work with businesses in the region. For example, the nurses do practica here, as do our education students. There are lots of opportunities for third year undergrads to participate in research and apply for a grant and take on a research project under the guidance of a faculty member.” 

The community is also responsible for much of what is taught here. “Our School of Engineering came to be because the engineering firms in the region were keen to see it here. The Faculty of Applied Science established a school here and it has grown in extraordinary ways. It was accredited within five years and it offers civil, electrical and mechanical engineering programs,” says Mortenson. “The Southern Medical Program is part of the Faculty of Medicine’s distributed program around BC. We have campuses at UBC Okanagan and at Kelowna General Hospital. This past May, the first class of 30 medical students trained here in the BC Interior graduated with their MDs. They are now in residency training in places across Canada.”

LIVING OFF AND ON CAMPUS 

Approximately 1,700,, comprised mostly of first year students, live on campus. “We have quad suites (four students per unit) and single rooms in dormitory style,” explains Mortenson. “The buildings here are almost all less than 10 years old. They are single rooms, not shared. Kitchen and washrooms are shared on each floor. The quad units are similar to a four-bedroom condo, with shared living and washroom space.” 

Students looking for other housing options within a 5-minute walk to class are considering renting or owning in the University District. While technically off campus, the University District is almost closer to class than on campus residences. The newest community, U-Two, offers parents of university students a chance to be their own landlord. Further, many people looking for a healthy investment opportunity near this growing UBC Okanagan campus are also considering purchasing a condo at U-Two. “The neighbourhoods around the campus are burgeoning,” says Mortenson. “There’s an exciting future for this part of the city. We’ve been here for 10 years and things are just getting started.” 

For students who live outside the area, there is bus service throughout Kelowna, as well as buses that run to and from Vernon and West Kelowna. 

ON CAMPUS LIFESTYLE 

The campus hosts about 200 public events either on campus or in the community each year. With cultural events and community dialogues ongoing, there’s usually something to do after class. “There is a very robust athletic component on campus too,” says Mortenson with pride. “Our volleyball, basketball and soccer teams play in the very competitive Canada West Division. There are activities at the Hangar Fitness and Wellness Centre as well and we have a Minds And Music series and a Distinguished Speaker series.” 

The campus trail network is very popular with students and faculty. There are a dozen trails on campus and hundreds more in the region. In the winter many students head up to the region’s ski hills. There are also golf courses and wineries nearby for students and their visiting families. 

WHAT’S NEW AT UBC OKANAGAN 

The campus master plan is now being refreshed for the next 10 - 20 years. They are working to make the campus even more pedestrian friendly by having vehicle traffic only around the edges of the campus. Further, the plan proposes to more than double the current academic space on campus. 

They currently have leased space at the airport commercial park for their Survive and Thrive Applied Research (STAR) facility that focuses on working with the industry on research development of new ideas that could be taken to the market. 

“In time we hope to have a seamless boundary between the university and industry around us,” says Mortenson. “One of the hallmarks of UBC Okanagan is the experiential learning opportunities that students have by working with community projects. When industry is attracted to the area, it is good for the economy, researchers and students.