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A man is silhouetted by the sun as he rides his bicycle along the seawall in Stanley Park in downtown Vancouver. (JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A man is silhouetted by the sun as he rides his bicycle along the seawall in Stanley Park in downtown Vancouver. (JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canadian University Report 2014: Profiles-BC

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Notable alumnus: Evangeline Lilly, actress on ABC’s Lost, has won multiple Saturn Awards and a Golden Globe nomination.

Students say: “The professors at UFV changed my life. I was not a strong academic student until one professor believed in me. That wouldn’t have happened at a school with larger classes.”

- Shane Ryan Potter, fourth-year English

***

Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Flexible and practical

Surrey

Students: 17,500

Cost: $4,600

Awards: $1.7-million

Pro: Lowest minimum entrance marks in British Columbia

Con: Few research opportunities

Kwantlen’s unique status as a polytechnic university enables it to focus on flexible programs that allow students to choose between certificate, diploma and degree options. As Kwantlen has no residences, many students save money by commuting from home to one of the university’s four convenient locations and more than 80 per cent come from the Lower Mainland. Research opportunities are thin since Kwantlen is still transitioning into a full-fledged university, but new projects such as the recently created Institute for Sustainable Food Systems are being developed.

Hotshot prof: Chad Skelton, journalism instructor, is a five-time winner of the prestigious Jack Webster Award that recognizes excellence in B.C. journalism

Notable alumnus: Baltej Singh Dhillon was the first RCMP officer allowed to wear a turban.

***

University of Northern British Columbia

Sustainability specialists

Prince George

Students: 4,200

Cost: $5,500

Awards: $2.5-million

Pro: Great access to professors

Con: Lousy transit service

UNBC calls itself Canada’s green university, and it appears to be following through on its proclamation. It’s been recognized for its sustainable practices by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and Mediacorp Canada. UNBC aims to serve the region with programs such as its health major that trains students to work in rural communities. Despite success in creating an engaging educational environment with a 10-to-1 student-faculty ratio, UNBC struggles to fill its seats, which has led to recent budget cuts. Campus is perched on a hill overlooking Prince George, which students complain isolates them from the community.

Hotshot prof: Kathy Lewis was a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for her pioneering work in forestry.

Notable alumnus: James Moore, former federal Minister of Canadian Heritage, recently became Minister of Industry.

***

Quest University

Liberal arts in the mountains

Squamish

Students: 540

Cost: $29,000

Awards: $7-million

Pro: Unique, individualized education

Con: Lack of course options

At Quest, you get what you pay for. The tiny six-year-old school, an outlier for its high tuition, is attracting well-deserved attention for netting top rankings in the NSSE. Under its “block system,” students take one intense class a month. Seminars trump lectures, the average class size is 16, and the absence of majors necessitates personalized education. A generous scholarship program eases the tuition pain. Campus overlooks a breathtaking panorama, but students, who are required to live on campus ($10,000 with full meal plan), complain about its isolation.

Hotshot prof: Annie Prud’homme-Généreux won theNorth America-wide National Association of Biology Teachers Award in 2012.

Notable alumnus: Only three classes have graduated so far, but alumni landed in graduate school at Stanford, McGill and the London School of Economics.

Students say: “I prefer densely populated metropolises to pristine forests but chronic cabin fever can be abated with the occasional hitchhike to Vancouver.”

– Sophia Leonard, second-year arts and sciences

***

Simon Fraser University

Interdisciplinary education leader

Burnaby

Students: 30,000

Cost: $5,600

Awards: $11-million

Pro: Large, comprehensive co-op program.

Con: Soulless commuter campus

SFU was founded in the 1960s by idealists who believed departments “created mistaken intellectual boundaries in the student’s mind,” as the school’s architect Arthur Erickson once wrote. While the university is no longer a bastion of radical leftists, the legacy of this utopian education model remains in high-quality interdisciplinary programs such as environmental science, First Nations, international studies, and the innovative undergraduate semester in dialogue. Students complain that its mountaintop concrete campus is dreary, but branch campuses in downtown Vancouver and Surrey are more lively.

Hotshot prof: Mark Jaccard, environment economics prof, served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Notable alumnus: Terry Fox studied kinesiology and played on the junior varsity basketball team.

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