When most people see Westbank’s shimmering, twisty tower under construction on the north end of the Granville Bridge, they immediately think about condos. But for Brock Dykeman, president of University Canada West, the Bjarke Ingels–designed Vancouver House complex will become an educational beacon. That’s because in July, University Canada West will occupy more than 90,000 square feet of podium space in what’s being called the Beach District, offering an inviting new campus for prospective students.
“That’s going to be a very, very special place,” Dykeman told the Straight by phone. “It will be a great experience for the students.”
He explained that with more than 2,000 students, University Canada West needed a second Vancouver location to complement its existing campus, which occupies five storeys in the historic London Building (626 West Pender Street).
“We’re developing some more graduate programs—a master’s in innovation and entrepreneurship, a master’s in marketing, and a master’s in emerging technology,” Dykeman said.
University Canada West is the largest private university in Vancouver, and last summer it celebrated its 15th anniversary. Founded by former University of Victoria president and vice-chancellor David Strong, it offers several career-focused programs. According to Dykeman, there’s a strong emphasis on learning that can be applied to future careers.
“Our biggest program is our master’s of business administration,” he said. “We have specializations in leadership, marketing, and finance.”
Dykeman added that there are plans for an innovation lab in the new campus at Vancouver House, which will be useful for students who specialize in the future of emerging technology.
The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs has accredited the MBA program, which has also been approved by B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education. One of University Canada West’s objectives is to prepare students for leadership on the global stage. Courses are offered on a quarterly basis.
“All the programs are offered online and in class, which makes them flexible for local students,” Dykeman said. “Part-time students could choose to take a course online or they could take it face to face in a given semester.”
In addition to the MBA program, University Canada West also offers three undergraduate programs: a bachelor of commerce, a bachelor of arts in business communication, and an associate of arts.
Those who graduate with a BCom gain a broad and comprehensive understanding of contemporary business practices. Dykeman said there’s an opportunity for them to pursue a specialized BCom degree in accounting.
The bachelor of arts in business communication is an interdisciplinary program, offering students deep insights into media, cultural studies, and business. According to University Canada West, this program is relevant to anyone working as a professional writer or in journalism, public relations, communications, and advertising.
The associate of arts degree is a 20-course program designed to prepare students for additional postsecondary education or to join the workforce. There’s an emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving, written and oral communication, research skills, and mathematical and scientific reasoning.
“We’re not aspiring to be a research university like UBC,” Dykeman emphasized. “But we are aspiring to prepare people for their careers.”
He is particularly proud of the university’s faculty, which includes a lot of young academics from diverse backgrounds. As an example, he cited Naïma Cherchem, who obtained her PhD in business administration in France and then pursued a postdoc at HEC Montreal. Cherchem’s research focuses on strategic entrepreneurship in family and nonfamily firms, as well as entrepreneurship in emerging countries.
“She’s working in lots of collaborative projects across the university,” Dykeman said.
Another faculty member, Elsie Chan, once won the University of Victoria’s highest teaching honour. Diep Nguyen, an expert in finance, accounting, and risk management, obtained her PhD from the University of Western Ontario. Other faculty members—such as Marc Edge and Eli Sopow—had successful careers in the media before obtaining their PhDs and becoming scholars. Yet another, Karen Tankard, was a CBC News reporter for 22 years.
The undergraduate-program chair at University Canada West, Charles Carroll, has a PhD in comparative literature from City University of New York, as well as an MBA in marketing from Boston University, an MFA in poetry from Emerson College, and a BA in philosophy from Vassar College.
“We’re a business institution that also teaches the humanities,” Carroll said in a video on the university’s website. “So one of the goals of the undergraduate program has been to integrate the humanities and the social sciences into the teaching of business.”