November Feature Story
The newly-opened Sherman Jen Building houses the Centre for Environmental Science and International Partnership at Royal Roads University [RRU]. The Centre is pushing the boundaries of what a modern 21st century-equipped facility can offer students who want to develop rewarding careers in environmental science. State-of-the-art laboratories equipped to meet the needs of environmental scientists and digitally-integrated teaching spaces—including one outdoor classroom—will facilitate research and learning that will impact communities not only in BC, but throughout Canada.
Heritage stables at Royal Roads building were re-purposed and expanded for on-campus undergraduate programs such as environmental science, tourism, business and international student programs. The environmental science programs are practical, applied programs, very focused on students not only learning things, but doing things that could actually make a difference for important environmental issues impacting our planet.
The new student commons space is designed to foster international and intercultural opportunities as students from differing backgrounds congregate and make lifelong connections.
Sherman Jen is the grateful philanthropist who donated $7M to the renovation budget. He came from a very small village in China; in fact, he was the first person from his village to get a university education. He lived in Vancouver for a number of years when his children were small and was really impressed with BC’s K-12 education system and its focus on creativity and innovation. He wanted to bring that aspect into the education system in China, where the learning style tends to be rote. He started with one school and today he has thousands of students. His donation is his way to give back to an education system that helped him become successful. He’s very focused on making sure that students who aren’t as well off have an opportunity to succeed, too. So, he puts a lot of his money into helping other people.
There is a building across the way from the Sherman Jen building which used to house a swimming pool for military personnel. RRU has a plan and a funding proposal into government to convert that building into a learning and teaching auditorium that would accommodate about five hundred people at a time. When completed, it will be the largest auditorium of its type in the West Shore, one that could be used for lecture and speaking tours, large and small booked events, trade shows, conferences and so forth. It would be an asset not only for Royal Roads, but of benefit to the whole West Shore community, in general.
A Valuable Community Resource
Royal Roads University and the surrounding property are an incredibly valuable resource for the West Shore community. So, it’s important to Alan Cahoon, President and Vice-chancellor of Royal Roads University that they continue “to find ways in which we can become a more active part of this community, be an education catalyst, and an economic contributor.”
Because the West Shore is a dynamic, growing region, the university strives to do things differently so they can better serve the needs of our local community. Their intention, says Cahoon, is to “add value [to educational opportunities]—not compete with programming already available in our district.”
Something that Cahoon would like to see is an urban campus in downtown Langford. Rather than setting up an entire infrastructure for that satellite campus, students could make use of resources already available at Royal Roads as they required them, such any of the three new state-of-the art science labs.
“We would be willing to take the lead and collaborate with Camosun or UVic or other institutions to make it happen” says Cahoon. “Today, universities need to take a leadership role in creating an environment that people can work best in, and then work to establish that for everyone around us so they can do their best work, too.”