VIU offers a new way of learning

Vancouver Island University students Emily Maywood and Mitchell Kenyon enjoy the autumn air on the new campus’ rooftop garden, one of many environmentally friendly features at the new school. The community is invited to check out the facility tomorrow. - Krista Siefken
Vancouver Island University students Emily Maywood and Mitchell Kenyon enjoy the autumn air on the new campus’ rooftop garden, one of many environmentally friendly features at the new school. The community is invited to check out the facility tomorrow.
— image credit: Krista Siefken

It’s hardly the image that typically comes to mind when one thinks of a school: students sitting in the sunshine among the plants of a roof-top garden.

But it’s a reality at Vancouver Island University’s new Cowichan campus.

“It’s beautiful,” says Emily Maywood, a first-year VIU student, as she glances around.

“I had some friends over the summer tell me they’d gone and eaten strawberries off the roof at VIU, and then I came up here for myself. It’s just gorgeous.”

Maywood actually moved to Duncan from the United States to attend the university here.

“My grandparents have lived in Duncan all my life, and they told me the new campus was being built,” she explained. “I looked into it, and it seemed like a really good school — plus the fact I’d be one of the first to go to the new campus seemed pretty cool.”

What students like best about the new, $29-million campus depends on which one you ask, but there are a few highlights that seem universally praised. Environmentally friendly features, for example, appeal to an eco-aware generation.

“I love that it’s so environmentally sound, that it’s very green,” said Maywood. “They’re using geothermal energy to heat and cool the place, and everything is so environmentally friendly. That’s something that, to me, means a lot.”

Scattered around the campus are receptacles for composting and recycling.  The building utilizes its many windows to boast 90 per cent natural daylighting, and has electric refueling stations on site for those with electric vehicles.

There’s also the building’s architectural impressiveness — a massive atrium plays host to students on couches and computers, and wood accents lend a definite West Coast vibe to the campus.

“I remember when I applied I saw all the 3-D renditions of what the campus would look like, and I thought it was such a far-off dream,” said Lake Cowichan student Mitchell Kenyon, who’s working toward his master’s in criminology.

“It’s a pretty cool feeling to be the first students in this building.”

“I judge the reaction by the amount of time students are actually spending on campus,” added campus principal Maria Lauridsen.

“When we designed this building, it was really from the perspective of livability — we wanted students and faculty to stay on campus longer, because the more students stay on campus, the more they have opportunity to interact with each other and build study groups and support networks.”

And those support networks, Lauridsen said, improve student success rates.

“I just love the teachers, and the atmosphere the school provides for us,” added Maywood, an aspiring teacher who’s studying prerequisites for the school’s bachelor of education program.

“I did a year of college down in the States, and there were seven different buildings — everybody was so scattered about, and there wasn’t a whole lot of personality to it. We were just going to school.

“Here, everything is in one place, everyone gets to know one another. This is just a really good place to be part of a community.”


Your ticket

What: Official opening of VIU Cowichan Campus

When: Thursday, Sept. 22, 11 a.m., cake cutting and community barbecue at noon, and campus tours between 1:30 and 3 p.m.

Where: VIU Cowichan. Everyone welcome


Other campus features

VIU’s new Cowichan campus is the largest capital project undertaken by VIU to date, and is one of the most sustainable facilities on Vancouver Island.

It features state-of-the-art health and science labs, computer labs, a 110-seat lecture theatre, cafeteria and more.

Its Coast Salish welcome figures and thunderbird totem were refurbished by master carver Harold Joe, who originally carved the pieces for the old campus in 1987.

VIU is currently applying for LEED certification, with features such as solar panels, a green roof — with walking paths, study areas and natural vegetation — and blue roof, which is a rainwater collection system that irrigates the grounds.

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