– Dominica McPherson, fourth-year international development
Thunder Bay and Orillia
Pro: Accessible 70-per-cent minimum entering grade
Con: Scored poorly on NSSE for enriching academic experience
Located near gargantuan Lake Superior and surrounded by boreal forest, Lakehead is a fitting setting for its well-regarded resource management program, in which students learn about tourism, conservation and sustainability. Environmentalism is central to the university’s ethos, especially at the Orillia campus which is the first LEED certified campus in Canada. Lakehead attracts a higher percentage of aboriginal students than other universities.
Hotshot prof: Tony Gillies led a team of students to victory in the American Society of Civil Engineers and American Institute of Steel Construction National Student Steel Bridge Competition in 2011, beating 47 other universities.
Notable alumnus: Michael Rapino is the CEO and president of Live Nation Entertainment Inc., the company that owns Ticketmaster.
Serving the north
Pro: Many classes offered in both English and French
Con: Performed poorly on NSSE
Laurentian exists to serve the Northern Ontario region, and its best programs reflect that mission. The Bharti School of Engineering excels in mining-related fields. Its medical school, which it shares with Lakehead University, provides training and hands-on experience to prepare students to work in rural and remote communities. Sudbury (population: 160,000) is in dire need of revitalization, but it is home to Zig’s, the only gay bar in Northern Ontario.
Hotshot prof: John Gunn is the Canada Research Chair in Stressed Aquatic Systems and leads a team studying Boreal Shield ecosystems.
Notable alumnus: Minnijean Brown-Trickey was one of the “Little Rock Nine,” a group of African-American students who were credited with desegregating their Arkansas high school in 1957 after attracting the support of then-president Dwight Eisenhower.
Pro: Waterfalls 10 minutes by bus from campus
Con: Study space and transit shortages due to crowded campus
McMaster is best known for its medical school, but it deserves equal recognition for developing innovative inquiry-based approaches to teaching typified by its Arts and Sciences program. In the unique Integrated Sciences program, a maximum of 60 students study science and mathematics in an interdisciplinary and project-based environment. McMaster’s cyclist and pedestrian-only campus with ivy-covered Gothic buildings is pleasant, but it often becomes a ghost town on weekends as students vacate for their 905-belt homes.
Hotshot prof: Marshall Beier, professor of global politics, won the Canadian Political Science Association Teaching Excellence Prize in 2010 for his engaging classes, which often involve student research.
Notable alumnus: Roberta Bondar was Canada’s first female astronaut and the first neurologist in space.
Students say: “Our cohort of students was about 60, allowing us to form quick relationships, many of which have lasted my entire time at university.”
– David Campbell, fourth-year arts and sciences
Pro: High quality teachers’education
Con: Lousy transit
Nipissing is heaven for the outdoorsy, with cross country skiing trails right outside residence (Snowshoe rentals are free!) Aboriginal students are attracted for its ties to the First Nations community. While North Bay (population: 54,000) lacks big city excitement, Nipissing’s campus pub the Wall is one of the best campus drinking holes in the country.
Hotshot prof: A rising mathematics star, Logan Hoehn, assistant professor of mathematics, won a $100,000 Discovery Grant from NSERC to apply math to research on tree products.
Notable alumnus: Jamie Lim, a former mayor of Timmins Ont., is the head of the Ontario Forest Industries Association.
Ontario College of Art and Design University
University of the imagination
Pro: Downtown location next to Art Gallery of Ontario
Con: No residences and expensive rent
Aspiring artists of all types come to Canada’s largest arts and design school to study with professors at the top of their professions. Students can choose from a large variety of majors and minors ranging from illustration to the innovative interdisciplinary Digital Futures program. The bizarre campus building, a black-and-white box balancing on six-storeytall pencils, is a Toronto icon, even if it lacks functionality. The hyper-competitive atmosphere and well-dressed student body can be intimidating.