Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Letter: Ideas for Squamish's Quest University

'One concept for Quest’s future is to offer a curriculum to better serve the Sea to Sky Corridor inclusive of communities within a reasonable commute to Squamish.'
What is your perspective on what is happening at Quest? Let us know with a letter to the editor: FILE PHOTO/DAVID BUZZARD

A recent letter to the editor in The Squamish Chief, “In Response to ‘An Ode to Quest University’ [Published March 9], raised concerns about the absence of post-secondary education in Squamish given the withdrawal of Capilano University from its Squamish location and the suspension of academics at Quest University.  

Quest, as a liberal arts and sciences institution with a non-traditional instructional arrangement, was not initially intended to cater to the needs of Squamish youth but sought to serve a broader constituency.  

In some ways, an analogy might be drawn to prestigious small colleges and universities south of the border, institutions that, unlike Quest, have a large alumni following, substantial endowments, and academic reputations contributing to their ability to attract distinguished faculty and students.

One concept for Quest’s future is to offer a curriculum to better serve the Sea to Sky Corridor inclusive of communities within a reasonable commute to Squamish.  There are several directions that such a curriculum might take, including, but not limited to, two-year associate degree programs as a stepping stone to four-year universities offering Bachelor Degrees; professional programs in computer science, engineering, and business; evening or weekend programs that enable fully employed to participate; co-op programs that intersperse work and school terms; and post-graduate programs such as education to serve an increasingly young local demographic.  

The availability of residential structures to house a limited number of out-of-region students could continue adding a further, but no longer exclusive, complement to a larger student body.

My academic career spanned private and public universities where I taught in graduate and undergraduate programs, including several years at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Commerce (now Sauder School).  

Other postings include non-urban located Dartmouth and Duke Universities with programs inclusive of curricula similar to those of Quest in life sciences, physical sciences, and social sciences, as well as state-supported University of Minnesota and UCLA, each with Colleges of Arts and Sciences.

All are larger institutions with long histories and substantial endowments.

My sense is that present offerings by Quest might further a similar academic identity and pose prospects for graduate studies but are severely limited as programs in serving the needs of corridor residents.  

The Vancouver universities offer alternatives, but ones that, for many, necessitate living away from home, thereby raising affordability issues.

The notion of universities providing professional training at the undergraduate level for employment upon graduation may be at odds with the original concept for Quest.  

I imagine many academically inclined corridor residents would view liberal arts and sciences as the quintessential ideal for undergraduate study with professional training to come after in graduate programs.  Yet, the financial reality facing many aspiring area students and their families is likely to discourage the postponement of career training in this fashion.

I think there is scope for combining objectives.  

One example is Duke, that in the embryonic stage of its graduate business school, offered an undergraduate program leading to careers in public accounting without impinging in a major way on access to a broad undergraduate experience.  

Closer in orientation to Quest are Duke’s present undergraduate and graduate programs in environmental sciences.

In Quest, we have facilities, administrators, core faculty, a unique instructional format, and possibly a contingent of continuing residential students as a starting point.  The potential to parlay these attributes into a financially viable institution that can draw applicants from the Corridor and elsewhere,  draw in adjunct faculty to help staff professional courses, and make greater use of physical facilities appears to be present.  

Such moves will likely require expansion of and departure from the vision that guided its initial formation as a predominantly residential arts and sciences school along the lines of, say, Oregon’s Reed College.  

The above thoughts of what changes to meet new objectives might be undertaken may or may not hold up to further scrutiny.  

However,  the underlying idea of aligning the post-secondary educational needs of corridor youth with the aims of Quest strikes me as an attractive direction to consider.

John Hughes