Thinking of SFU's 50th anniversary

October 05, 2006, volume 37, no. 3
By Michael Stevenson

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Now that the hard work and great success of SFU's 40th Anniversary celebrations are behind us, my mind turns to the 50th. I will be long departed from this office by then, but I think we would do well to think of what SFU should look like in 2015.

My vision of the university 10 years from now looks something like this:

SFU will have grown modestly from our current 25,000 students to about 30,000. Most of the growth will be in new programs at Surrey, in the faculty of health sciences, in new interdisciplinary programs on Burnaby Mountain and in professional and quasi-professional programs in Vancouver. Despite modest overall growth, graduate enrolment will have grown from the current 15 per cent to 30 per cent of total enrolment by 2015, reflecting a continuation of the exponential increase in research activity that has characterized the last decade. There will also be continued increases in international enrolment and Canada-wide attraction of SFU to undergraduate and graduate students.

The increase in research activity will be the consequence of a greater diversity of programs and of a proportionately larger faculty complement made possible by increased funding of research and graduate students in the sciences and social sciences, as well as in the health sciences and other areas of cutting-edge interdisciplinary research. The effect of increased faculty and graduate student complements will be to decrease the student-faculty ratio, and to increase the quality of undergraduate education.

Innovation and diversification of academic programming at SFU over the next decade should include:

  • greater coherence and concentration of programs related to environmental issues, with expanded activity relating to fisheries conservation and management; pest management; urban growth management; climate change and environmental economics.
  • expanded programs in the health sciences, including clinical programs in optometry, Asian medicine, occupational health and other areas that complement existing medical training in Canada and which mesh well with existing programs in public and population health, global health, mental health and chronic and infectious disease control.
  • greater consolidation and expansion of programs in communications, new media, interactive art and design and the contemporary fine arts;
  • a major Canadian presence in international and development studies;
  • an expanded presence in cognitive science and neuroscience, including medical imaging;
  • further diversification in applied sciences, including higher profile programs in mechatronics, biomedical engineering, sports medicine and rehabilitation;
  • an expanded presence in genomics and bioinformatics, drug design and discovery, and nanomedicine.
  • expanded activity in the humanties, with concentrations in areas like comparative literature, comparative religion, professional and environmental ethics, the history and philosophy of science, and other areas linked to the increasing internationalization and program diversification of the university

Because of the unique character of the new programs which shape the university's growth, the legacy of excellence and innovation in teaching and research established in already existing programs will be enhanced. As a result of the growth in research activity, the diversity of academic programs, and the greater proportion of graduates and out of province enrolment, SFU will rank among the leading research universities in North America.

At the same time, SFU will enhance its tradition as Canada's most distinctive campus and most vibrant academic community. This will result partly from the build out of residential housing on Burnaby Mountain, increasing the resident population in commercial housing, student residences and a graduate residential college from about 3,000 at present to something like 15,000.

The services and activity sustained by that size community will alone transform the feel of the mountain campus. Similarly positive energies will flow from the Surrey and Vancouver campuses each serving approximately 5,000 students. Each campus will be a destination address for the wider community interested in cultural events and festivals, theatre, film, dance, music and contemporary art installations. Recreational activity and support programs offered by SFU will fully realize the unique potential of our geographic location and SFU's athletic programs and competitions will draw regional and national attention in addition to much expanded support from the university community.

Is this dreaming? Perhaps. But if our collective vision acquires something like this focus, I have no doubt that 10 years from now SFU will continue to be the most exciting university in Canada.

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