President Peter Englert presented Quest University’s working vision statement during January’s Community Update.
Standing before a crowd of students, faculty and members of the executive, Englert outlined the statement’s five main tenets, which were developed in a series of meetings and workshops over the course of the fall semester. These values, Englert said, “lead back, one way or another, to the original plan of Quest University,” giving a nod to founding President David Strangway, whose vision Englert has stated an intention to uphold.
The statements, in order, outlined the importance of the locality of the university, autonomy and creativity, Quest’s infrastructure and learning environment, academic risk-taking, and international connection.
Englert acknowledged the historical role of the land Quest occupies as “a place of inspiration and contemplation for Squamish Nation youth,” adding that “[we are] very privileged” to be here.
Englert, referencing his experience as as Dean of Science, Architecture and Design at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, also shared his ambitions for the development of the university’s campus in coming years.
“Many of you think this [campus] is it,” he said, “but if you look at what the original designers of this campus had in mind, we are utterly incomplete.”
Included in the university’s vision are a total of ten dormitories forming a ring around upper campus, as well as a second academic building, that will eventually build the capacity of the university to 1,200 students.
Englert said that the first planned building is a new dormitory next to Ossa and Red Tusk, adding that the school plans to have ready for 2018’s incoming class. If it is to be ready by then, construction would need to start this April. Englert cautioned that hitting this deadline is contingent on the success of ongoing attempts to secure the funds necessary for construction. “When you see the first crane go up here, you’ll know we’ve been successful,” he said.
A student raised a question about the specific use of the phrase “safe space” in the fourth statement. To Englert, this phrase means “space for you to learn and to fail” and to feel continuously supported by the university in doing so. Executive Vice-President I-Chant Chiang added that the particular phrasing is also a deliberate nod to the LGBTQ community.
In the question period following the presentation, some students asked about the university’s financial situation, pointing to Quest’s financial hardship as a potential hindrance to realizing its ambitious goals.
“Since I discovered in October 2014 what the actual financial status of the university was, I have been working relentlessly to bring Quest into a position that is sustainable,” Englert said. He added that much of this process has involved reconnecting with donors and philanthropists from Quest’s early years who had since fallen out of contact with with the university. “By March or April, we will know,” he added.
Despite the need to, in Englert’s words, “pull rabbits out of hats” to make ends meet over the past two years, he stressed that Quest will remain independent and not acquiesce to the demands of potential donors.
“A philanthropist could tell us what [they] would like to see … but it needs to be commensurate with the idea of Quest, our vision, our values, and our [upcoming] mission statement,” Englert said. “No compromise.”
The full language of Quest’s proposed vision statement is available at https://questu.ca/about/quest-at-a-glance/vision/.