The University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) is certainly unlike other higher education institutions. Its unique mandate — “in and for the north” — reflects the university’s founding as a grassroots institution born of the needs and interests of the northern B.C. community. We’re a school committed to serving the hardworking, resilient and adventurous people of this beautiful region, and we punch above our weight in delivering this mandate in the face of limited resources, distance and geography, as well as other challenging realities associated with being a northern institution.
Universities are fundamentally community institutions. They exist to advance knowledge and encourage social connection through the pursuit of truth and the improvement of social circumstance.
This is especially true for a school such as UNBC, and even more so for our regional campuses such as the one we have here in Quesnel. The North Cariboo Community Campus, apart from being a remarkable architectural specimen, is a distinctive community marker that we’re lucky to have as the result of grassroots partnerships and the collective work of a community advocating for itself in creating its own future. Students in Quesnel can pursue everything from a technical trade certification with the College of New Caledonia to a four-year nursing baccalaureate degree to a certificate in Indigenous language or courses in history, English and First Nations studies, all without ever having to go away from home.
My background is in student affairs and student development, so I have a keen interest in enhancing the post-secondary student experience in Quesnel and making sure that each of our learners is able to work towards whatever their definition of academic success is. And that definition will surely differ for each student — what one student identifies as a marker of their own personal academic accomplishment is wholly different than the student in the next seat to them, and that’s OK, so long as students are able to meet their needs in Quesnel and our institution is able to provide the educational experience they’re looking for. For us at UNBC in Quesnel, that means giving students the chance to pursue four-year, degree-level programming in professionally-oriented programs such as social work and nursing, as well as industry-responsive programs through our school of continuing studies.
That isn’t, however, the entirety of our potential. Our campus retains the same community-oriented mandate as our main campus in Prince George, and there are endless possibilities to get our students engaged and involved in the community, making UNBC South-Central the leadership incubator the community needs. The UNBC motto — “En cha huna” — is interpreted from Dakelh/Carrier as “respecting all forms of life,” something we certainly strive to do here in Quesnel and in the Cariboo more broadly. We celebrate our diversity and enjoy sharing differences with our neighbours, while exploring the commonalities that unite us as Canadians of a particular northern breed.
I’ve been in Quesnel less than three months, but the first impression the city has imprinted on me is nothing short of superb. The community has welcomed me with open arms, and the character and spirit of the North is extraordinary. It’s a community that I am excited to work for and one that I can get behind. I look forward to seeing how we can advance higher education in the city and region for everyone’s benefit. And I know that some of the best students in Canada study right here in our backyard.
I’d love to hear from you. Shoot me an email or give me a call, or let’s go for coffee and see what we can come up with.
— Submitted by Eric Schwenger, Campus Development Liaison and Operations Manager at the University of Northern British Columbia in Quesnel. He can be contacted by phone at 250-991-7508 (office) or 647-377-7357 (cell) or by email at Eric.Schwenger@unbc.ca.