New UBCO vice-chancellor wants to open the campus to the community

Deborah Buszard knows the role wheat played in society's development; now she chews over the role UBCO plays in the Okanagan's development

  • Jul. 4, 2012 12:00 p.m.
Deborah Buszard is the new vice-chancellor and principal at UBCO; she comes to the university with a background in food security and sustainability.

Deborah Buszard is the new vice-chancellor and principal at UBCO; she comes to the university with a background in food security and sustainability.

Seven years to the day after UBCO’s administrators received the keys to the campus, the latest person to lead the institution, vice-chancellor and principal Deborah Buszard, opened her door to meet the surrounding community.

The last vice-chancellor and principal, Doug Owram, officially retired last week and Buszard, whose appointment was announced in February, took over the position Tuesday.

Coming from a posting as a professor of environmental science at Dalhousie University, Buszard’s life’s work is in food, with a focus on creating sustainable food systems and an interdisciplinary approach to education that saw her more recent classes involve co-teaching with an architect and an economist in classes that epitomized what that word sustainability truly means.

“One of the things I would like to see is ways that we will be bringing the community onto the campus now that we have these beautiful buildings,” she said, as she settled into her new office in the administration building.

“We’ll be looking for ways to ensure everyone has an ability to come on campus, participate in university-related activities, some of which are going on downtown and others on the campus.”

By this, she means more than the Distinguished Speakers Series the university has developed to bring academics, largely from outside the area, out into the public purview. And she means more than the annual campus open house held each fall to showcase the university’s own academic achievement—its research and opportunities.

Buszard seems to have a very clear understanding of the need to develop a university culture, a campus culture, and of the impact the university will have on the region moving forward.

When asked about the rural/urban divide already a part of this cultural reality, Buszard noted McGill was originally built on farmland before acknowledging UBC does find itself in and unprecedented position with this new campus.

“What we have is a truly unique development, a new campus of one of the world’s top 25 universities, growing in a community in the Interior of British Columbia. This is something that hasn’t happened anywhere else before,” she said.

And while she wasn’t entirely prepared to speak on the reputation the school has developed as a bit of a party school just yet, or the makeup of a student body she’s barely had a chance to meet, she was definitely enthused by the response she’s received getting out to meet some of the community leaders and their reaction to the institution.

“Going forward what I see is that this campus and the Okanagan region will grow together and what I’m interested in is the impact that this institution is going to have this year, 50 years from now, 100 years from now,” she said.

Beyond the 1300 jobs currently on campus, beyond the economic buoy build-out of the new campus offered, Buszard says she believes UBCO will very soon be the kind of economic hub where industry wants to locate and academics feel free to propagate the ideas that just might put the Okanagan on the world map.

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