Eccott gift helps create UBC Okanagan Learning Exchange

Kelowna residents James and Shirley-Anne Eccott have committed $250,000 to help establish a new Learning Exchange program through UBC Okanagan. Their gift, initially earmarked for consultation and planning, will create an ongoing legacy for students and the Okanagan as the Learning Exchange grows.

"We are providing the seed money to formulate a plan – to set a direction for a Learning Exchange here," says James Eccott, a member of the UBC Board of Governors, former CEO and President of Dia Met Minerals Ltd., and currently Chairman and Director of Northern Air Support Ltd. in Kelowna. "Others can provide support not only in the way of gifts, but by helping to create the programs, helping to raise money and being involved."

A visit to the UBC Learning Exchange in Vancouver led to the Eccotts' decision to fund the start of an Okanagan Learning Exchange.

"It was absolutely wonderful," Eccott recalls. "There was a great sense that the university was doing something universities don't normally do. It offers a great opportunity for students to give something back to the community, and a wonderful training and learning opportunity for students. The Downtown Eastside Learning Exchange also offers lots of learning opportunities for community members."

The Downtown Eastside Learning Exchange was initiated in 1999. It brings volunteers from the UBC  community -- students, staff, faculty, and alumni -- to schools and non-profit organizations where they contribute to programs while learning about community issues.

As much as possible, the volunteer work of students is integrated into academic course work, an approach called Community Service-Learning. The Learning Exchange storefront provides free educational courses and programs for local residents.

"We are very proud of the program developed at UBC in Vancouver," says UBC President Dr. Martha Piper. "It has become a powerful example of how the UBC community is fostering global citizenship through local action, and it is very exciting to see the creation of an Okanagan-grown Learning Exchange, supported by such a generous and visionary contribution from the Eccotts."

The first phase in the development of the UBC Okanagan Learning Exchange, starting this summer, will consist of a consultation with the local community. That will determine how best to develop collaborative relationships that will enable the university's resources to be applied to important regional issues. Once the consultation is complete, programs could begin as early as spring 2007.

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