Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
– Nelson Mandela
When I was in high school the inevitable question of what was “next” was always on the mind of my peers, or more specifically, our parents. What are your plans after graduation? Which schools will you be applying to? What will you study? For many, life after high school involves the pursuit of higher education and while University is no longer the sure path to a good paying job, it still provides an environment in which thought and learning is cultivated.
Looking back on it now I feel that I was perhaps a bit narrow-minded in my decision in where to study. While the city that I graduated high school from did not have a University (and thus a move was required), I really only considered pursuing my post-secondary education in a city that was within close-proximity to where I grew-up. Despite the fact that I wasn’t going to be living at home, geography was essentially my only consideration and other important factors, such as program quality and reputation of school, were an afterthought.
Having graduated from University and been through the experience first-hand, I would advise others to carefully research where they want to study. Ask yourself, what does this University have to offer? What is the national and international reputation of the school? What does the city have to offer in terms of activities and employment? This last question is actually quite important as a big part of the whole experience is life beyond books.
For those that wish to pursue post-secondary education in the Okanagan there are two main institutions: the University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus (UBCO) and Okanagan College. While each offer vastly different programs, both are well-respected post-secondary institutions and it is UBCO that is the subject of this post.
For a growing number of students both nationally and internationally, UBCO has been a place in which the pursuit of education has become the school of choice. UBC is consistently recognized as one of the Top 40 Universities in the world and was recently ranked 3rd overall by MacLean’s Magazine for Medical-Doctoral Universities in Canada. With a population of students from over 90 different countries, UBCO is recognized internationally for the quality of education and superb learning environment that it provides.
UBCO is a relatively young University but like the Kelowna region itself the campus has seen rapid growth in recent years. Formerly known as Okanagan University College, in 2005 it became an official campus of UBC and has since seen in excess of $400 million in new construction. Today the resulting economic impact from campus activities in the region totals $1.5 billion annually.
At present, over 8,200 students currently study at UBCO (2015-2016 enrolment numbers) and there are more than 580 research projects underway. The University employs over 550 faculty, 460 staff and an additional 1,200 students. While the majority of programs are at the undergraduate level, UBCO does offer a number of post-graduate programs; the enrolment of which accounts for over 8% of the total student population.
One of the biggest benefits of studying at UBCO is the ability to earn a degree from a world-class institution while studying at a campus that affords a more reasonable cost of living. For those students looking for smaller class sizes and a more intimate and personable campus experience, UBCO leaps to the top of the list.
I have met a number of current students and staff on campus and have inquired as to what makes UBCO an attractive choice to study or work. Over the years a few common themes have developed:
- Reputation: UBC is internationally recognized as one of the top universities in the world and the Okanagan campus offers the unique opportunity to earn a degree from one of North America’s largest public research institutions.
- Lifestyle: With the Okanagan’s four-season playground, many students are attracted to UBCO for the appeal of the lifestyle beyond books. From beaches in the summer to slopes in the winter, UBCO offers the opportunity to combine a world-class education with first-rate life experiences.
- Smaller Campus: many students prefer the smaller, more intimate feeling of the Okanagan campus. Smaller class sizes can be easier to meet friends and the ability to interact with faculty on a first-name basis can lead to opportunities beyond school.
- Cost of Living: Compared to other well-recognized universities in Canada, the Okanagan can be a much more affordable place to live while studying. Additionally, with the campus located just off the main artery in the region, the commute from either within Kelowna or from Lake Country is quite manageable.
Are there any downsides to UBCO? Yes, like any university UBCO does have its faults. The obvious one is the number of programs offered. While the major foundational programs, particularly in the arts and sciences, are available for study (and while UBCO impressively does have Faculty of Medicine), other programs such as commerce and law are not available at the Okanagan Campus.
Another flaw of UBCO is the lack of bike infrastructure available to access campus. A heavily criticized deficiency, and quite baffling given the bike infrastructure present in Kelowna, this has been a contentious issue over the years. This issue appears to be on the radar of the City of Kelowna as it was recently announced that a new project which will dramatically improve bike access is forthcoming. However, until this infrastructure is in place, with ties to the new rail corridor, commuting by car or bus will remain as the main modes of transportation to campus.
It is important to keep in mind that this campus, as part of the University of British Columbia, is only just over a decade old. While there has been rapid growth and expansion in that time, 10 years is infancy in terms of an academic institution. UBC itself was founded over 100 years ago and over that time the Vancouver campus has become what it is today. Given the infrastructure requirements, research facilities, and recruitment initiatives that are necessary functions of a post-secondary institution, the growth at UBC’s Okanagan Campus has been remarkable to say the least.
The pursuit of knowledge is a life-long objective for many and I feel that some of humanities best discoveries, particularly in the fields of healthcare and sustainable energy, still lie ahead. From future leaders to environmental stewards, these institutions play a critical role in the cultivation of many minds. For those that are looking to pursue their studies at either the undergraduate or graduate levels, the University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus offers an excellent environment in which to educate the mind while providing a world-class setting in which to grow the spirit of adventure.