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Quest University embarks on its third year

President Helfand confident inaugural class will graduate in 2011

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Since that time David Helfand, who is also an astrophysics professor at Columbia University in New York, has served as the university's president.

"It is hard to start a university, and that is why it doesn't happen all the time," said Helfand.

"We like to tell both faculty and students that the people we like are not risk-averse... We have a bunch of hurdles to overcome, but I think we are moving very nicely towards overcoming them."

Helfand said Quest already has its budget approved for next year and he is confident the university will see its first graduating class on schedule in 2011.

About 58 of the first 74 students in the Quest's inaugural class are still at the university.

Helfand added that this year Quest welcomed 105 first-year students onto its campus, up 30 per cent from last year. About 55 per cent of the new students are from Canada and 27 per cent are from the United States. Switzerland, Mexico, China, and Hong Kong are also represented within the class mix.

The president said he is happy with Quest's intensive three-week block class structure as well as the strong student and faculty interactions.

To date, there are about 14 full-time faculty members and the university also hosts a number of visiting professors. Last year, they had professors visit from Harvard and Columbia. This year they plan to have professors from Princeton, Carleton and the University of British Columbia teach.

"That is another advantage of the block system which never occurred to me," said Helfand. "To get someone to come and teach a course for four weeks is a lot easier than to get someone to come and teach a whole semester, but you still get a whole semester's worth of material."

The block system has also allowed the university to take advantage of the Olympics next year.

Although Helfand couldn't release many details, he said the university will be closed between Christmas and March. During this period, students have several off-campus education options to choose from.

For example, Helfand said about 30 students will go to Argentina to study Spanish, 18 will travel to Borneo to work with the World Wildlife Foundation and seven students will travel with him to New York to study art.

Helfand said he would like to strengthen the tie between Quest and Squamish over the next year.

"We want to find more effective ways of getting that out to the community," said Helfand. "We have a lot of events that are open to the public. A few people do come, but not many."