This is a bimonthly newsletter featuring community updates from Capilano University President and Vice-Chancellor Paul Dangerfield.

President's Letter banner with portrait of Paul Dangerfield, president and vice chancellor of Capilano University

Your thoughts and feedback are welcome: president@capilanou.ca

January 2022

The power of taking the long view

First fires, then floods, and a pandemic that won’t subside: I think it’s safe to say that here in B.C., it would be easy to remember 2021 for all the wrong reasons. We’ve certainly faced layered and numerous transitions here at Capilano University over the last year.

Reflecting on challenges we’ve overcome on a recent rainy bike ride to campus, I was reminded again of the power of taking the long view. Because the real strength and story of any institution is best measured in years and decades rather than mere months.

Having begun my second five-year presidential term, I am profoundly optimistic about CapU’s bright future—building on our laudable past. When I arrived in 2016, CapU (formerly Capilano College) had begun to find its footing as a University. We were preparing to celebrate 50 years as an integral part of the North Shore, Sunshine Coast and Sea-to-Sky region and we did it with a party for the ages! Through 50th anniversary initiatives, we strengthened our connections with the community and set the tone for Envisioning 2030—the ambitious 10-year plan that centers everything we do.

Reflecting on my first five years as president

During my first five years, CapU significantly grew and improved its academic programming. We created the Centre for Teaching Excellence and Office of Indigenous Education and Affairs; launched a new Academic Initiatives and Planning unit; and enhanced support for research. And where there were once just three degrees on offer at CapU, there are now 15— all of them relevant, creative and deeply community-integrated.

We also strengthened support for students, broadening the student success portfolio with a wide range of services that strive to promote health and well-being as a core component of the student experience. Indeed, well-being is central to everything we do at CapU, especially in the wake of a global pandemic. Today, we are seeing a need for a new strategy for how we look after all members of the CapU community—employees, as well as students—to deliver life-enhancing experiences for everyone connected to our University. In the next five years, I want to see well-being anchored as a cornerstone of our culture, providing appropriate resources to address critical aspects of truth and reconciliation, sustainability, and equity, diversity and inclusion.

The future is now

I also want to see CapU continue its progression toward the digital future. Over the past two years, we’ve made great strides in connecting our learning communities virtually. Imagine the benefits of an intuitive and proactive technological system that could support students in their real-time journey as learners and people, connecting them with appropriate counselling resources when they are stressed, for example, or assisting with their time management challenges around work, study and play.

I am also looking forward to building out CapU’s physical infrastructure, with new Centres of Excellence such as the Centre for Childhood Studies, improved campus housing, refreshed laboratory facilities and revitalized spaces for the visual and performing arts all of which enhance our presence as a post-secondary environment serving the regional needs of the entire Sea-to-Sky corridor and beyond.

That’s a lot—or, as my executive team keeps reminding me: “Paul, that’s enough.” I’m confident about the road ahead, because one of the things I’ve come to understand and deeply appreciate over my first term is that CapU brims with leadership at all levels—innovative, energetic and motivated students and employees willing to contribute, collaborate and persevere to realize a shared vision.

Turning to our Elders

And let’s not forget the friends and partners who have generously offered their wisdom to CapU. In particular, my ongoing conversations with members of the President’s Advisory Circle and local Indigenous Elders over the last five years have made me increasingly comfortable with humility. I have come to acknowledge the truth of centuries, but recognize I still have so much to learn about the process of reconciliation. What must we do at CapU to move forward in a meaningful way with decolonization and Indigenization? We will begin by asking the Elders.

And so, as I sign off with best wishes for the new year, I want to leave you with some thoughts from Elder Latash-Maurice Nahanee of the Squamish Nation. A CapU alumnus, educator and community advisor, Latash believes strongly in the power of ceremony to advance reconciliation. Reflecting upon our own seasonal ceremonies and rituals, I wish you and yours health and happiness for the year ahead.



Elder Latash-Maurice Nahanee

Portrait of Elder Latash Nahanee

One day I hope there may be a Potlatch at CapU.” 

“I believe that reconciliation is about speaking the truth without making people feel guilty. Acknowledging that this happened and here are things we can do about it. Ceremony is one thing we can do. In Coast Salish culture, Potlatch is a way to honour, show gratitude, to lift up others, listen to witnesses and be fully present with each other. One day, I hope there may be a Potlatch at CapU—to honour students for their success and for them to thank their instructors. And I believe that reconciliation at CapU includes more Indigenous faculty in every faculty, not only Indigenous studies but across all programs." 



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