Simon Fraser University

More than 500 pupils enrolled at Surrey

Sep 05, 2002 , vol. 25, no. 1

By Terry Lavender
Six months of preparation culminates in the Sept. 9 official opening ceremony of the Surrey campus of SFU. The merger of the former TechBC with SFU was not without its challenges, as the registrar's office discovered.

When President Michael Stevenson (below) officially opens the SFU Surrey campus on Monday, Sept. 9, it will be the culmination of six months of preparation that began with Advanced Education minister Shirley Bond's February decision to close the Technical University of British Columbia (TechBC).

When Bond announced that SFU would be asked to assume responsibility for TechBC's students, programs and assets, no-one knew just how complex the task would be.

Besides merging the two student registrar systems, there was the TechBC library (called The Portal), human resources, facilities, equipment, financial systems, websites, email systems, signage and stationery to consider. And not least of all, there was the need to recruit and enroll upwards of 200 new students and support existing students.

“It was an amazing accomplishment involving dozens of people at the SFU Surrey and Burnaby campuses,” says Surrey campus interim director Joanne Curry, the head of SFU's transition team. “We were fortunate to retain many key staff and faculty of the former TechBC and to work with very tight timeframes to accomplish the transition while maintaining service to students.”

Monday's opening ceremony will be attended by Bond, Lieutenant-Governor Iona Campagnolo, Surrey mayor Doug McCallum and other local officials, among others. Following the ceremony, there will be an open house from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

SFU Surrey students will already have been in classes for a week when the opening ceremony takes place. More than 230 new first-year students started classes on Sept. 3, joining 282 returning upper-year students and 53 graduate students. They are studying toward undergraduate and graduate degrees in information technology and interactive arts.

The courses at SFU Surrey differ from those at the main campus in several ways. Classes are taught through a mixture of online and classroom instruction and in five-week modules, with the first four modules used for instruction and the final module for evaluation.

All students take a common first year that includes courses in communication and teamwork as well as more traditional mathematics, science and arts courses.

Students don't lug around piles of textbooks and handouts - most course materials are online. And if a student misses a class or is having problems with an assignment, she can get help from her classmates on the SFU Surrey electronic chatboards, which tend to be busiest at around 1 a.m.

SFU has hired many of the former TechBC faculty to teach at the new satellite campus, including Kay Weise, a leading researcher in three-dimensional visualization of molecules, Thecla Schiphorst, an interactive arts professor who is developing wearable computing fabrics, and Steve DiPaolo, an acclaimed facial animation expert.

Other faculty members have expertise in areas as diverse as dance, web design, music, mathematics, and computer circuitry.

Also located at SFU Surrey is eLINC, the eLearning Innovation Centre. eLinc has been responsible for developing, maintaining and revising the online course content for SFU Surrey's courses (which range from 25 to 100 per cent online) and is now planning to apply its expertise to programs at Burnaby and Harbour Centre and for external clients.

Over the short term, SFU will continue to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in two of the three TechBC programs - interactive arts and information technology.

The smaller management and technology program will no longer be offered, but its students have been given the opportunity to transfer into programs at the main campus. A senate planning committee is looking into the long-term future of the SFU Surrey programs and the operation of the campus.
Surrey facts

• Located at 2400 Central City Shopping Centre, Surrey in a converted Zellers department store
• Opened Sept. 5, 2000 (as TechBC) with 104 first-year and 96 second-year students
• Currently 500 undergraduate and 53 graduate students are enrolled
• They are taught by 36 faculty members, with the assistance of 25 administrative staff
• SFU Surrey offers degrees in information technology and interactive arts
• All courses have some online content - some are completely online
• Houses four research labs and five research clusters (groups of researchers sharing research interests and engaged in collaborative or closely related research)
• Research is under way in such areas as information networking and multimedia, technology-mediated learning, computer games, e-business and knowledge management
• SFU has strong Fraser Valley connections: more than 1,800 of SFU's current students and 130 faculty and staff make their homes in Surrey. SFU's economic impact on Surrey amounts to nearly $16 million annually.