Strangway stepping down from CFI to focus on development of private university in BC
August 27, 2003
Dr David Strangway may be leaving the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), but he is not leaving the academic arena. The CFI’s president/CEO and the former president of the Univ of British Columbia is also the president and founder of Sea To Sky University (SSU), a $120-million project that will become Canada’s first secular, not-for-profit private university.
Slated to open in 2005 on a 97-hectare site in Squamish BC, SSU has been a side project of Strangway’s for several years. Upon his retirement from the CFI next March, it will become his central focus.
“For me to decide to step down, it was a tough tough decision. The CFI’s funding runs until 2010 and if I stayed that long I’d be in the second half of my seventies,” says Strangway. “So when is the best time? I chose the fiscal year end because there’s a competition underway now which I’m deeply engaged in. It’s an interesting transition period for the CFI so it seemed like the logical time.”
When fully operational, SSU will offer liberal arts and science undergraduate programs to 1,200 students, half of whom will come from foreign countries. Strangway says SSU will be largely residential and focus on undergraduate studies and teaching as opposed to research. As such, it is modelled on similar institutions in the US which he says produce a disproportionate number of graduates who go on to do research.
“This model of university responds to what I call the mediocritization of Canadian undergraduate education. It’s been hollowed out by inadequate provincial transfer payments,” he says. “I spent several years in the US and saw the significant role these kinds of institutions played.”
Although private and self-sustaining, SSU is also registered as a charitable institution. It was given a charter allowing degree-operating authority with the passage by the provincial legislature last May of the Sea To Sky University Act, a private members bill.
The project was also aided by a $2-million grant from the JW McConnell Family Foundation, allowing for the land purchase. A portion of the land will be sold off in the form of 940 market-housing units, with the proceeds plowed back into campus construction.
The Squamish location was chosen when it was determined that nearby Whistler had insufficient land available for the university and housing. Preliminary construction begins this fall with the first students expected in 2006.