Musings on Ontario Universities: Wilfred Laurier, Waterloo, Queen’s & OCAD


Late October in Ontario: crisp, sunny days, frost at night, and the leaves still turning.

Wilfred Laurier, Waterloo, Queen’s & OCAD: four very different universities in three days.

In University Counselling we are constantly updating our knowledge base on postsecondary options through professional journals, university publications, and the university visits to SMUS, but nothing beats the campus visit for a first-hand experience.

University of Waterloo – Fall Counsellor Day; I get the “who came the farthest” award. A relatively young university, Waterloo is known for its extensive coop program and applied learning. Our tour guide, a Chemical Engineering major, earns $17k a year in her coop, enough to pay for most of her university expenses. I met with SMUS alumnus, Brendan Chwyl, who came to Waterloo for Mechatronics, a highly specialized field.

Waterloo is on the cutting edge of everything, it seems: a new program in Global Business and Digital Arts; a special residence for student entrepreneurs (who, as a group, are given $25k to invest and manage); their new Environment 3 Building, which they hope will be the first LEED Platinum certified building on a university campus; the interdisciplinary Knowledge Integration program; and, of course, RIM headquarters is located there.

Wilfrid Laurier University  – Unlike Waterloo’s, Laurier’s campus is smaller and older (founded in 1911), and with about half the number of students (12,000), it has a very cosy feeling. Laurier has the largest business coop in Canada, as well as top notch music and archaeology programs (over half of all the archaeology students in Canada are here).

Laurier features the “Option” – 8-10 courses in one discipline – that, unlike a minor, is noted on your transcript. Law and Environmental Studies and Business and Music are just two of the possibilities. Laurier also has a Teacher’s College (not direct entry).

With the largest Student Union in Canada, Laurier provides a lot of activities and ways to involve students. With a strong sense of community and a great place for budding leaders to spread their wings, Laurier is truly a “hidden gem.” Students can also take courses at Waterloo.

A bonus for future Waterloo and Laurier students: Westjet flies into the Kitchener –Waterloo airport.

Queen’s – A beautiful train ride out to Kingston along Lake Ontario on a sunny Friday. The campus is hopping: music is blaring and a group of students are having a rope skipping marathon to raise money for a worthy cause. The energy of the place is palpable; Queen’s students are not a shy bunch. I have a personal tour with Martha, the Head Tour Guide (a transplanted Aussie), and we are joined by SMUS alumni Maddy Petersen, Kathryn and Mark Wizinsky, enthusiastic Queen’s fans. I also meet with Cindy Price, the Academic Advisor in the Commerce Program. She tells me about a new third year abroad option, an exchange with full credit. Commerce, History, Kinesiology and Physical Education are a just a few of Queen’s standouts.

Internships, rather than coops, predominate here, and with a horde of dedicated alumni, students have a lot of offerings. The Rec Centre is impressive and popular with this energetic and athletic student body. Queen’s has a football team as well as crew, sailing, squash, rugby and intramural waterpolo, among the offerings.

Students can fly into Kingston’s small airport on Air Canada and the university runs shuttles to Toronto’s Pearson during holiday periods.

OCAD  – formerly “Ontario College of Art & Design University,” OCAD is located in the heart of downtown Toronto. They have a new undergraduate, interdisciplinary program linking digital technology with Design and Art studio practice. OCAD also offers a Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences and 
a School of Interdisciplinary Studies, as well as Interdisciplinary Minors in Aboriginal Visual Culture, Digital Media, On-Screen Media, & Wearable Technology. A very exciting, cutting edge school!

OCAD also has an off-campus program in Florence. For students thinking about arts school, OCAD offers summer intensive programs in portfolio preparation as well as one in digital media.

Although they have no residence or housing facilities, OCAD staff will help students find local accommodation.


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