Now that’s a big fish in a small pond.


Catching a sturgeon

Vancouver Island University is full of surprises! Located in Nanaimo, it has a quite a large campus and a total student population (full and part-time) of approximately 19,000 thanks to the plethora of programmes. I imagine that there is no other university that can offer students living/studying  on campus a wood brick oven bakery, a fine dining restaurant, automotive repair, environmental research labs, hair dresser, 9 foot long sturgeon (no, you can’t go fishing for them and yes, they are truly ugly), bionic basil growth, and a theatre. Let me explain…

  • The Culinary Arts program is the only one of its type on Vancouver Island and it offers students the opportunity to train to become a professional chef or baker with hands-on experience in the workforce and in the kitchen classrooms.
  • The Trades and Applied Technology programmes offer numerous opportunities to get your hands on everything from scissors to rigs to engines. There are some highly specialized, short term courses, but they also do the apprenticeship based programmes such as welding, electrical, and carpentry.
  • The Applied Environment Research Laboratories are an offshoot of the Department of Chemistry. While VIU is unable to offer a major in chemistry (science majors include biology, pscychology, and computing science), this lab could make up for that. Students I spoke to hear chose to stay at VIU because they were able to take part in active, real-world scientific research, present papers, and have jobs in the lab (they usually hire 15 students per year to work in the lab) that relate directly to their studies without the structure of co-op. Many students are successfully going on to do Master’s degrees in chemistry with that kind of experience.
  • The International Centre for Sturgeon Studies has a brand new building purpose-built to house the rather large (and small) sturgeon that are an on-going part of the Fisheries & Aquaculture programme, an applied technology degree program, in conjunction with a major in biology. If you are interested in fish, this is the spot for you. As an aside, they boast a closed loop system that produces that bionic basil by recycling the water from the fresh water fish tanks (sturgeon, tilapia), and watering the hydroponically grown basil, peppers, tomatoes and lettuce that they then sell to the Culinary Arts program. The water is then filtered and returned to the tank. Cool.
  • In the world of fine arts, you can do a Bachelor of Interior DesignBachelor of Music in Jazz, a Technical Theatre Diploma that transfers to other universities to complete the a major, or a BA with a major in Graphic Design

In addition, you can also take majors and minors in a variety of areas within the Faculty of Arts. The maximum class size on campus is 60, but most classes tend to have no more than 26 students; this is a place where you can forge close connections with your profs and your peers.

If you are considering staying on the west coast for university, you might want to take a drive to Nanaimo and check out the campus and the programmes (there are also 3 satellite campuses and field stations).  I would highly recommend a tour of the fish and aquaculture buildings no matter what area you are interested in, and a stop by the cafeteria to fill up on pizza and cookies.

One thing to note if you are hoping to live in residence: apply early for housing. They have a limited number of spaces and selection is made according to the date of your housing application. It is a separate application and you can complete it as of September 2012, even if you have not yet submitted your university application.


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