Orange Shirt Day at VIU's Cowichan Campus.

November 27, 2018 - 4:15am

Contributed by Warren Weir, Cowichan Campus Academic Administrator

The magic of the Cowichan Campus is in the community we cultivate and feed. Whether it is creating a welcoming space for Syrian refugees or providing the support our vulnerable community members require to become thriving, contributing parents, or developing the educators of the future, we try to keep focus  on three major areas: growth, the student experience and partnerships. We have found that these three areas are tightly tied together – strong attention to the student experience and building important partnerships leads to significant growth in our programs.

Since moving into the new campus in 2011, we have had continuous growth every year across all programs and educational service activities. From 2013/14 to 2017/18, our student population grew from 1,019 to 1,295 students (an increase of 27 per cent). And the trend continues. Our Fall 2018 numbers show an increase of eight per cent in our adult basic education program and nine per cent for university programs over this time last year.

The significant growth in enrolment at the Cowichan Campus is directly related to our longstanding and continued strong partnerships with our Cowichan Valley community stakeholders - most importantly School District 79, and the seven local Indigenous communities. Our program design, in many cases, is deeply influenced by what these partners tell us they need to build thriving communities.

The Cowichan Campus has been offering courses in Duncan and the surrounding area for almost 50 years, starting in 1969, which has led to development of enduring relationships.These community connections stimulate ideas and strategies for providing accessible education and enhancing the student experience. We rely heavily on our Indigenous partners to ensure a culturally relevant experience for students who identify as Indigenous. This Fall, our Bachelor of Education program ran another land-based (link coming), experiential, cross-cultural course taught by Nadine Cruickshanks in conjunction with Elders and leaders from Cowichan Tribes, and the Indigenous and Western Science course, co-taught by a Biology professor and a traditional knowledge keeper continues to be a popular choice for students.  

Over the past two months, since starting this new term, we have connected with community in a number of unique and important ways. We have a lot to celebrate! Including:

  • a fabulous ROCK VIU: Cowichan New Student Orientation, August 29
  • a feast to welcome new and returning Indigenous Students, September 14, and
  • a well-attended annual Orange Shirt Day (please see photo).

On October 10, we co-hosted the inaugural School District 79 barbeque for approximately 500 Grade 12 students. During the day, the school district invited all Grade 12 students who are graduating to come and explore future post-secondary options at VIU. Door prizes and lunch were provided. A big thank you to the Chemainus Rotary Club and the Duncan luncheon Rotary Club for helping to serve hot-dogs and pulled pork sandwiches to this big crowd! More than 100 of those students signed up for courses next fall, 50 of whom were planning to start at the Nanaimo Campus.

We hear much discourse about the importance of ensuring we teach the heart and good citizenship while we equip our people the knowledge they need to build interesting, exciting careers. The infusion of this in our classroom and through our partnerships is a major part of the reason the Cowichan Campus is thriving.

Vancouver Island University’s warm and welcoming Cowichan Campus is located on the traditional and unceded territory of the Cowichan Coast Salish peoples, on whose lands we work, share and learn together in the Spirit of Reconciliation.

On behalf of the Cowichan Campus staff and faculty…

Huy ch q’u – Thank You


Tags: Teaching and Learning


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