President Michael Stevenson joined SFU in December 2000 from York University where he was vice-president academic and provost. SFU recently reappointed him to a second term. He has spent the past five years revitalizing the university at every level, from a bold undergraduate curriculum revision to the takeover of TechBC and the formation of SFU Surrey, to major capital projects at the Burnaby campus, the new Segal Graduate School of Business downtown, the founding of a new health sciences faculty, and an ambitious $125 million capital campaign.
More than any of the past presidents, Stevenson is in a position to know what SFU can expect to achieve in the future.
He knows, for instance, that B.C.’s future includes 25,000 more post-secondary education spaces and fewer 18-year-old students, which will lessen restrictions on enrolment and eliminate the need for excessive grade point averages. He sees this as an opportunity to increase the number of out-of-province and international students.
“I think SFU will become a major international presence in the university world,” says Stevenson. “Forty years from now the university will be part of a number of international networks, whether that involves joint degree programs or international partnerships.
Nationally, he says, SFU will be better known as a uniquely exciting student experience, in part because of increased international opportunities.
The past five years have also seen a huge influx of new faculty, with more new hiring to come as the university retirement bulge continues. With new faculty and a rapidly changing society, he foresees significant changes in the university’s programming, while maintaining its focus on the liberal arts and sciences. “SFU will become known for excelling in fields that we don’t now occupy.” he says, “For example, in the health sciences we will become internationally known for our role in population health and global health management.”
Locally, he says, “40 years from now the entire campus environment will be changed by UniverCity.” The commuter campus will have disappeared and “[UniverCity] will be an enormously attractive place to live,” he says. “The interaction of the community and the university will add a whole new dimension of life and liveliness and extracurricular activity to SFU.”
While Stevenson doesn’t profess to be a futurist, he does know that universities like SFU have a culture of imagination and innovation that will always address, with gusto, emerging problems and future possibilities.