(This story is sponsored by Langara College.)
It could be said that Ajay Patel is the epitome of Langara College. But like any good success story, it got off to a rocky start.
After failing his first semester at the school, Patel worked for a couple of years before realizing that he was ready to return to education in 1990. He found an interest in human performance and took the two-year diploma in human kinetics. From there, and with the guidance of his Langara instructor, he transferred to UBC to complete his undergraduate degree. He went on to do a master’s at UBC before graduating and getting his first job in the non-profit sport sector.
Unbeknownst to Patel, many of the faculty members who had inspired him while he was at school at Langara had followed his career. So in 2002, when a job opened up to teach a physical education class, Patel was first on the list.
“I get a phone call out of the blue in late August,” he says. “They were looking for someone to teach a class. ‘This is an emergency hire but we thought you’d be really good at this.’”
In a move emblematic of his career journey, Patel relished the opportunity. And he proved his supporters right. It wasn’t long before he was offered the job to become the department chair of human kinetics—to some of the faculty members who had once been his instructors.
“I’m not sure if I stepped forward or if they stepped back,” he says with a laugh.
Patel has spent the last 10 years working his way through the ranks and now he’s the vice president of external development at Langara. As a member of the senior leadership team, his portfolio includes international education, continuing studies, the College Foundation, institutional research, and communications and marketing.
But he still credits Langara for helping him reach his full potential and achieve his goals, which he believes, is an area in which the school excels.
“It’s our job to help students who maybe can’t get directly into university, who maybe don’t have the marks or the experience, or maybe just need to explore different courses,” he says. “And sometimes, like me, they have to be somewhat unsuccessful before they can be successful. That’s what we do as an institution and why we serve the community in the way that we do.”
Today, Langara is one of B.C.'s leading undergraduate institutions providing university studies, career studies, and continuing studies programs and courses to more than 21,000 students annually. It is also known as “house of teachings”, a name given to Langara by the Musqueam First Nation, on whose unceded traditional territory the school is located.
While most people in Vancouver have heard of Langara, the school’s history since it opened its doors in 1970 has remained relatively under wraps. Until now.
On Wednesday (October 10), Langara launched the Beyond 49 campaign, an 18-month celebration to mark the school’s 49th anniversary at the 49th Avenue location in 2019.
“We want to use the Beyond 49 campaign to honour our past, celebrate what we’ve accomplished, but also look forward to what the next 50 years at Langara College looks like and how we serve the community,” says Patel.
Langara is hosting a number of events and initiatives in the coming months with the hope of encouraging the community to celebrate, connect, and contribute to the Beyond 49 campaign. To find out how you can take part, see the full schedule on the website.
But as Patel points out, the campaign’s purpose is also to engage with Langara’s students.
“Many students complete their degree at a university. But they got their start, like me, at Langara,” says Patel. “So we want them to be considered Langarans, as our alumni. We want to reconnect with all of those people and know what they’re doing now that we have a rich heritage of 49 years of existence.”
It is for this reason that nominations are now open are for next year’s 49 Langarans, which will celebrate 49 inspirational Langarans who have had the greatest impact on the institution, their field, or the broader community.
Part of Patel’s remit is also looking after the College Foundation, which develops educational opportunities for students by supporting scholarship and bursaries, expanding delivery of student services and campus facilities, and funding beyond the classroom experiences. And a big part of the Beyond 49 campaign is fundraising to build a stronger future for Langara.
“Coming out of the Beyond 49 campaign, not only will we have told our story, but we will have set ourselves up for the next generation of Langarans who will come through here, both as students and employees,” he says.
For Patel, it’s personal. In addition to his own 20-year history with the school, there’s a family connection, too. His wife is a Langara graduate and his children have already attended preschool there. There is no doubting his passion and belief in Langara as an institution. And that’s something he wants to share with everyone.
For this reason, he is particularly looking forward to Beyond 49 Community Day on June 15, 2019, presented by presented by RBC Royal Bank.
“This is an open invitation for anybody who’s out there to come on to campus and be part of it,” adds Patel. “I’ve been really proud of how we’ve served the community for the 49 years that we’ve been here and look forward to how we’ll serve the next 50 years as well.”
There are lots of opportunities to join Langara College in celebrating this special anniversary. Visit the Beyond 49 website for the full schedule of events and find out how you can be a part of this historic milestone.