Feedback sought for private university 

Concept sees at least 1,000 students taking courses

By Alison Taylor

More details of a proposed private Whistler university are coming to light as proponents plan to take their concept to the community.

Educational consultant Doug Player, who is working on the project, said they are now looking for extensive feedback to their plan to ensure it jives with the community’s long-term vision.

“Help us out,” said Player this week. “What is it you think could make this place really attractive and what is it you would want here?”

A concept has already been developed and vetted to a handful of local business people. It calls for a private university for 1,000 to 1,500 students taking a range of programs, from tourism related studies to leadership and innovation diplomas.

“There’s no question that Whistler has both the potential and, I think, the ability to become a world leader in being a place of learning,” said Player.

Increasing learning opportunities, he added, falls in line with the community’s long-term vision in the Whistler2020 sustainability plan.

And as stagnant skier numbers continue to challenge the ski industry, Player sees a perfect opportunity for the resort to develop a second industry that’s clean, that will help the local economy and serve the community.

The largest student market would come directly from Asian recruitment. Player estimates that market could make up 35 per cent of the student population. Ten per cent is expected to come directly from European and South American recruitment. The remainder could be drawn from the domestic market, First Nations students, and an executive training program, among other key segments.

The proponents have a non-exclusive agreement with the University of Canada West, one of two private universities in B.C.

Player sees a range of programs offered such as hotel management, sports administration, resort management, leadership and innovation and sustainability studies.

Whistler is the perfect setting for those programs, he said. Students could apprentice with local companies, and they, in return, have potential access to a workforce.

Other possible programs are construction management and energy exploration and management. Those programs were discussed as Player canvassed First Nations communities about the university.

Though they had hoped to have the university built in time to hand over as accommodation to the Olympic organizing committee, Player admits the timing may not work out. He recognizes that the municipality may not be able to process the application prior to 2010.

That being the case, a new university could be just what the resort needs in the aftermath of the Games.

“This would be a really neat thing to take up what I perceive could be kind of a doldrums after the Olympics,” he said.

The proposed university would be located on the privately owned Alpha Creek lands, north of Function Junction.

There is a wetlands complex in that area. The developers are proposing to build on roughly 25 per cent of the land that is not beside the wetlands. The areas of high environmental sensitivity would be preserved.

“That land would be better protected than it is now,” said Player.

The land is currently zoned for four single-family homes.

The developers have not submitted a formal rezoning application at municipal hall and are simply gauging community interest for the time being.

To comment on the university proposal contact Terry Hale at: tnbr@yahoo.com

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