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Squamish university on track

Andrew Mitchell checks in with David Strangway, president of Quest University, Canada's first private, non-profit and secular university.

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In September 2007, Quest University in Squamish will open its doors to its first freshman class of students.

Quest is unique as Canada’s first private secular and non-profit university, receiving no public financing. It was made possible through private donations, the sale of real estate, as well as some supportive zoning from the District of Squamish and the Sea to Sky University Act passed by the provincial government.

In addition to being a unique model for post-secondary education, Quest also offers a unique program that will be taught with a different kind of methodology — instead of the traditional semester system Quest is introducing an intensive block system where entire courses are taught in a matter of weeks. Students will also receive a balanced education in their first two years, taking many different subjects, before specializing in years three and four.

Other features of Quest include smaller class sizes, and a recreation department that offers athletic scholarships and encourages both team and individual sports.

Quest is the personal vision of Dr. David Strangway, a former professor who served as the president of UBC for 12 years.

Pique recently spoke to Dr. Strangway to find out how Quest is progressing.

Pique: I’ve been by the site and it seems like everything is on track to open in September of 2007. Is everything going to plan?

Dr. David Strangway: I’m happy to say everything is going according to plan. We still have lots of things left to do. Construction is underway on most of the facilities, and the construction on the residence block is expected to start soon. It should all be finished by mid-2007, although maybe some resident buildings will be open for occupancy before that.

On the staffing side we’ve hired a number of really keen officers that are responsible for helping things move ahead, and on the faculty side we’ve just recruited our first seven faculty members which we’re very excited about.

Pique: So you’re reaching all of the milestones you’ve set?

DS: In some cases we’re further along that we would have hoped for, in other cases we’re seeing slowdowns and so on.

On the construction side, the cost of materials is rising pretty fast, and that’s something we have to keep monitoring and managing. On the faculty side, we advertised the positions and received 600 applications from around the world. We picked the first seven that jumped out and made offers that were accepted, which is much better than we could have hoped for. Overall I’d say we’re happy.

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