This week, UBC Okanagan welcomes 3,330 new students to campus, with plenty of orientation programs and new facilities to help them feel at home.
This is the largest-ever incoming cohort of domestic and international students at UBCO.
What’s remarkable about that number, says UBC Okanagan Principal Dr. Lesley Cormack, is when the campus first opened its doors 17 years ago, the entire student population—about 3,500—was roughly equal to this year’s incoming cohort.
“Year after year, students are attracted by UBC Okanagan’s great programs and outstanding professors,” she says. “UBCO is a truly unique place in Canadian post-secondary education—we combine the offer of a globally recognized UBC degree with the opportunity to learn and explore ideas at a campus and in a community that is smaller in scale and ripe with potential for the future.”
While the enrolment numbers are still preliminary—the student population has grown to more than 12,000—the campus footprint and its research facilities have also grown significantly. At the same time, Dr. Cormack notes that by hiring high-calibre faculty, more than 55 in the past two years, UBCO has managed to keep its student-to-faculty ratio at about 23 to 1. Small class sizes, hands-on learning opportunities and a 158 per cent increase in research funding in the past five years alone, are giving students the opportunity to learn and conduct research in their undergraduate years.
When UBCO opened in 2005, the campus consisted of 12 buildings. Today there are more than 50, with plans for construction to begin this fall on the Interdisciplinary Collaboration and Innovation building, UBCO’s first major new academic building in recent years.
This 146,000 square foot project will bring social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, creative fields and professional disciplines together to facilitate collaboration and enable breakthroughs to solve challenges facing the BC interior region and beyond. Along with research labs and classrooms, the building will also include two lecture theatres.
Last year, buildings at the campus Innovation Precinct, a 60-acre parcel of university land on Innovation Drive, opened to provide additional integrated and interdisciplinary research space. In addition, two new residence buildings are now home to more than 400 students on campus as well as a new 450-seat dining hall in the Nechako residence.
“The transformation at UBC Okanagan has been extraordinary, driven by remarkable growth in both student enrolment and research activity,” Dr. Cormack adds. “Our campus now brings nearly $50 million in annual research funding to the Okanagan, an incredible success story, but one which calls on us to continually evaluate our needs for additional laboratory and classroom space.”
Also, this fall UBCO’s Visualization and Emerging Media Studio (VEMS) will be open for students and faculty to engage with Canada’s highest resolution 40-screen, 180-degree, 3D and virtual reality-capable video wall. VEMS is a space that enables new projects like shared immersive experiences, ultra-high-resolution scientific simulation and data visualization, all supported by a high-powered graphics workstation for computationally intensive processes. This new tool will allow researchers to explore extended realities, 3D models and holograms along with other new visual fields.
“It’s incredible to see how our campus has changed during the past 17 years. After the last two years, I am delighted to once again see a vibrant campus with halls filled with outstanding professors and students with creative and innovative ideas,” Dr. Cormack adds. “I’m curious to see where the coming years will take us, but with major new facilities getting underway, the future is here now.”