Capilano University, a.k.a. CapU, is about to embark on one of its most exciting initiatives in its 51-year history.
This fall term, it will open its new campus, CapU Lonsdale, in the Shipyards development near Lonsdale Quay.
It’s in a bustling neighbourhood with plenty of restaurants and cultural offerings—and easy access to transit, including the SeaBus from downtown Vancouver.
The new campus will enable CapU to deliver academic programming—including continuing studies and executive education—currently offered at its main campus on Purcell Way or dispersed across the North Shore and Vancouver.
“We have a term that we’re beginning to use: it’s called ‘unclassing the classroom’,” CapU president Paul Dangerfield told the Straight by phone. “It’s this ability for us to be in communities and create real-world experiences for our students.”
When it opens this September, CapU Lonsdale will have 11,500 square feet and be able to accommodate up to 400 students.
Dangerfield said that one objective is to attract more mature students to a wide range of offerings, including public-administration programs for municipal governments, as well as legal and paralegal studies.
“It will be for students who are looking for upgrading their education and retraining,” he added.
In addition, CapU plans to expand its programming for the Indigenous community at the Shipyards because the North Shore is traditional territory of the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.
The university also hopes to provide some arts and science programming and language education at CapU Lonsdale.
Dangerfield noted that the new campus’s “flexible, dynamic spaces” and open classrooms offer a chance to show off the university’s artistic programming and host on-site performances. The building features a 20-metre balcony with outstanding views across the water to Vancouver.
“I joke that two years from now, I may be looking for more space,” Dangerfield said.
He credited two former CapU presidents, Greg Lee and Kris Bulcroft, for helping to lay the groundwork for this project, which was many years in the making.
“If you go back as far as 2006-07, when I was the dean of business here, I even talked to the new mayor at the time, Darrell Mussatto, about looking at the option to get a presence down there,” Dangerfield said.
He recalled recently bumping into Mussatto, now the former mayor of the City of North Vancouver, and they were trying to remember who planted the seed first. Mussatto’s successor, Linda Buchanan, has also been a huge supporter of the new campus near Lonsdale Quay.
In the spring, Dangerfield signed a memorandum of understanding with Buchanan for CapU and the local government to embark on a CityStudio pilot project.
CityStudio exists in various cities, including at SFU Vancouver, to bring students, faculty, and the community together to devise innovative solutions to improve communities.
“That [MOU] gives us an opportunity to run those kinds of initiatives here,” Dangerfield said.
CapU has come a long way in the past 51 years, but that has not generated a sense of complacency. In fact, the university is in the midst of a long-term planning exercise called Envisioning 2030, which has involved seeking community feedback on its future direction.
Dangerfield said that people want CapU to be a convenor of education and knowledge and play a role in bringing groups together. And the Shipyards campus offers a hub to host conversations with community and thought leaders to discuss everything from Indigenization of communities to transportation, trade, and environmental issues.
He noted that all three North Shore mayors, the chambers of commerce, and the school boards are onboard with the university playing this role.
The opening of a Lower Lonsdale campus will also free up space at the main campus to offer more bachelor’s degrees in the future.
“We have plans to expand quite a few of our programming areas in the next three to four years—everything from animation to our science programs, arts programs, health programs, and human kinetics,” Dangerfield said. “We have a whole suite of programs that we’re converting from diplomas to degrees. All of those will go from two-year to four-year programs.”