This is the first in a bimonthly series featuring community updates from Capilano University President and Vice-Chancellor Paul Dangerfield.

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

September 2020


COVID-19 swept into our lives with all the force of a tsunami defying us to stand our ground.

At both the personal and professional level, we faced a staggering challenge. Called to step up while stepping apart, our community at Capilano University made its collective choice to pull together, hold strong and brace for the unknown. Now, half a year later, thanks to the sustained commitment of our students, staff, faculty and alumni, CapU is looking ahead with confidence and resolve.

So, what does it take to stare down a year like 2020?

I've asked myself that question more than a few times on my bike rides to our beautiful—and now unusually quiet—main campus. At a regional university renowned for its exceptionally intimate teaching and learning experiences, how will we foster connection and real-world engagement in the virtual realm? How will we put sidelined strategic opportunities back into harness? And how will we deliver on that most precious university commodity: good old-fashioned fun? Hint: get involved via our Student Life Hub's new online options!

I can assure you that everyone here at CapU is striving for solutions to these complex questions and many others. Shout out to our Centre for Teaching Excellence and IT Services teams who showed the true depth of their skills by shifting our predominantly in-person programming online in mere months! And I am committed to sharing news of our pivots and progress via these bimonthly letters.

I hope you'll add your voice too.

Because that's what I'm missing most these days: the in-person encounters with community members that spur new ideas and opportunities for CapU and the many B.C. communities we serve. I invite you to write to me at president@capilanou.ca, if you'd like to arrange to mask-up and meet!

Lessons in resilience

On that note, I was delighted to come face-to-face recently with a new alum, a young man who graduated last year from our highly regarded IDEA School of Design. He wanted me to know how grateful he was to his alma mater: "I really appreciate everything CapU has done for me," he said. "It was the best experience I've ever had."

He is just one of the real people who exemplify the creative thinking and optimistic spirit that will sustain CapU in the uncertain months to come. Let me introduce a few others who can offer a timely lesson in resilience: Devin Williams, a student in the University One program; Jenny Penberthy, our newest faculty emerita; and Yuri Fulmer, our new chancellor.

Devin Williams: Take a chance on yourself

University One

In the not-too-distant future, Devin Williams plans to teach elementary school in his home community of Alert Bay, a small island off northern Vancouver Island that is home to the 'Namgis First Nation. He says, "When I was little, there were never any male teachers in the band school!" For now, he's one of 14 students enrolled in the second cohort of CapU's University One program—a nine-month bridging program that aims to support and inspire Aboriginal learners to find the right fit for their unique post-secondary journey.

"It is a good and comfortable environment that makes you feel good about yourself, who you are and where you come from," says Devin, who this year is studying remotely. "I am sure this is going to be a great program for me. I really enjoy the cultural teachings. I'm comfortable asking for help, and I am inspired by the pathway option: after two years at CapU, I can transfer to UBC or SFU to become a teacher.  It's good to have a clearer sense of direction. I think it goes a long way to help young people develop their confidence—to put yourself out there and take a chance on yourself."

Jenny Penberthy: Make a difference

Jenny Penberthy

This spring, Jenny Penberthy joined the esteemed ranks of Capilano University's professors emeriti—professors who demonstrate outstanding service to the University and their discipline and who continue to make an impact after retirement. During her 24 years at CapU, Jenny made immense contributions via her research and book publications to the field of modern American poetry, to the English department and to the University as a whole. Appreciated by both students and colleagues, she worked tirelessly to bring literature to life on campus and in the broader community through initiatives such as the Leon and Thea Koerner Lecture Series, the 5-Minute Play Festival and The Capilano Review.

Jenny's high standard of scholarly excellence and community engagement is much valued at CapU; her scholarship continues to make a difference in her field and in our community, where her work with The Capilano Review contributes to decolonizing literature and making space for diverse voices. Indeed, she is just one of the many outstanding faculty members here at CapU who, on a daily basis, model resourcefulness and flexibility as we move 97 per cent of our academic programming from in-person to online delivery in response to COVID-19.

Yuri Fulmer, OBC: Grab an opportunity and work hard

Yuri Fulmer

Yuri was installed as CapU's fourth chancellor last spring during the first-ever all-virtual Convocation in the University's 51-year history. "It wasn't such a bad thing," he says. "Sure, there were only six of us in the room, but I got the blessing of having so many friends supporting me who otherwise wouldn't have been able to attend. Isn't there a win in that?" The self-made principal of Fulmer & Company and a member of the Order of British Columbia, Yuri brings a deep commitment to purposeful learning and community service to his new role.

While he applauds CapU for practical educational pathways that "appeal to many different kinds of learners," he also believes that lessons learned outside of school can be every bit as instructive as those taught in a formal academic setting. Even in the current pandemic climate, there are career opportunities to be found, he says: "Your career doesn't have to begin exactly where you think it should. Mine started over a deep fryer at an A&W. The ultimate trajectory is up to you. Don't wait for the ideal job—grab an opportunity and work hard and deliver results and others will see that and create opportunities for you to grow."

Stay safe and stay connected,


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