President Nilson Reflects on VIU's 10th Year as a University

VIU President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Ralph Nilson speaking at the announcement of Malaspina University-College's accreditation to a full university.

October 16, 2018 - 7:45pm

Ten years ago this April, feelings of excitement and anticipation filled VIU President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Ralph Nilson as he stood next to former Premier Gordon Campbell under the white-hot spotlights in the Malaspina Theatre. Campbell was there to announce Malaspina University-College’s accreditation to a full university.   

“A cannon was literally fired when he made the announcement, and a bunch of gold stars landed on his podium while he laid out the priorities for the new university,” Nilson remembers. “There was great anticipation because no one knew what the name was going to be. There had been lots of discussion in our community, lots of ideas given, but no one knew. This is when our institution became known as Vancouver Island University.” 

Nilson remembers that day as the day the hard work to evolve the institution into a university began. “We had a lot to learn and many important process and policy changes to make. We went from one primary decision- making body, the Board of Governors, to having two equally weighted decision-making bodies. This meant the creation of Senate and this enhanced the authority of the faculty for decision-making on the academic programs of the University.”    

Nilson reflects that the last decade has been packed with learning, adjustments and major gains in the student experience, which has always been at the heart of the institution regardless of its name or status. 

“Our foundation was so strong and rooted in our values, and this hasn’t changed since we became a university, providing a solid foundation for future growth,” he says. “Most universities get a major bump in funding when their status changes. This did not happen for VIU, and it is magical what people have been able to do here in spite of the fiscal pressures.” Looking forward to the next 10 years, Nilson sees VIU and the high-quality learning environment it provides for students playing an increasingly important role in the region, as education is the key determinant of social change and economic sustainability.  

“Our regional economy has to continue to evolve through building human capacity that can thrive in both the growing digital economy and the natural resource sector. If our children are going to build prosperous lives here, they need the best-quality education to acquire the skills and expertise that prepares them for a wide variety of careers. Through creating access to post-secondary educational opportunities, VIU will also continue its focus on nation-building between Indigenous peoples, all other Canadians and the International students who come through VIU as their portal into Canada.”

*This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 edition of VIU Magazine. Check out more stories on the VIU Magazine webpage.

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