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View From TRU: Capital ideas are percolating at TRU

The work demonstrates our commitment to providing the best experience for our students, as well as our faculty and staff
Colukn head Brett Fairbairn TRU

September is always an exciting time at universities — and TRU is no exception.

While the pandemic has proved especially disruptive for the past couple of years, we are starting to re-engage in person, even for social events like our September welcome-back barbecue for our students.

Once again, the start of the academic year feels like a real event.

Our grounds are alive with people. Students are back on campus in good numbers, bringing vibrance and energy. University education is essential for their future; you can feel their hope and optimism. A sense of purpose permeates our buildings.

It’s my pleasure to welcome back everyone to TRU this fall, especially our new students. We have many new students this year, including more international students. I hope they find TRU as compelling and beautiful a place at which to live and learn as I do.

TRU continues to grow and change and every time students return, it is a slightly different place. This is even true of the physical campus grounds and buildings.

TRU has always worked hard to provide the infrastructure that serves people well. We’ve continually upgraded and expanded our facilities over the years — and 2022 was no exception.

Most capital work happens in the summer when fewer people are on campus.

Here’s a quick rundown of what has happened at TRU this past summer and how it will improve the service and experience for staff, students and faculty now that classes have started again.

• Early Childhood Education Centre: Construction on the centre was completed this past summer and is the first of its kind in Canada. Located at 1274 McGill Rd., it consolidates three areas — the existing Cariboo Child Care Society, TRU’s early childhood education program and the childhood research program. A grand opening will be held later this fall.

Cariboo Child Care has been operating at TRU since 1973 and is considered one of the best daycare facilities in the city. There has been a growing demand for more childcare spaces in Kamloops and this facility allows us to increase the number of children in the program.

Including the existing early childhood education program and the childhood research program in the facility makes sense. It will provide many opportunities for creative learning and research and support students as they prepare to become early childhood educators.

• New connector road: A new route to TRU from McGill Road was completed in mid-July, connecting the campus to the new Early Childhood Education Centre building. The new route travels from McGill Road beside the Early Childhood Education Centre to University Drive adjacent to the intersection with the Tournament Capital Centre.

The added route will provide more convenient access for staff and students who have children at the Early Childhood Education Centre and will alleviate traffic pressure on TRU’s other entrance gates during peak times.

• More student housing: Work got underway this past summer on additional student housing near TRU’s east village along Summit Drive. The complex will add more beds for students, alleviating pressure on strained rental markets.

Issues regarding affordable housing availability— including student housing — are dominating discussion in many parts of Canada. This has proved to be a significant challenge for both universities and communities.

Thankfully, TRU students (including our international community) are faring well this fall regarding housing. We have not seen significant housing shortages for students as we did last year when wildfires across B.C. concentrated evacuees in communities like Kamloops and put extra pressure on the availability of short-term and rental housing.

Our efforts to provide more housing will continue to ensure our students have safe, affordable places to live while they study here.

• Other campus capital improvements and upgrades: Several other capital projects also began this past summer, including the addition of a new modular building for research, modernization of the Ken Lepin Science Building, renovations to TRU’s gymnasium, exterior courts and change rooms, upgrades to the lighting, flooring paint and ceiling tiles in the Arts and Education Building and renovation of the Tim Hortons outlet in the Brown Family House of Learning.

Altogether, capital improvements in 2022 cost more than $11 million. TRU funded these projects in cash accumulated from past years’ operating funds and, in some cases, augmented by special-purpose government grants.

The work demonstrates our commitment to providing the best experience for our students, as well as our faculty and staff.

Education requires more than good programs and exceptional faculty (both of which TRU can boast). Good infrastructure enables and empowers learning. We will continue to look for ways to improve in all areas in the years to come.

Brett Fairbairn is the president and vice-chancellor of Thompson Rivers University. He can be reached by e-mail at president@tru.ca.