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View From TRU: Fall forum takes pulse of university

More than 200 people gathered at our fall forum in person and online to hear the update and ask questions
Colukn head Brett Fairbairn TRU

An exciting and rewarding part of my job is providing annual updates on how Thompson Rivers University is doing, including what’s new and challenging. I recently did this with the university’s senior executive team for our faculty and staff.

More than 200 people gathered at our fall forum in person and online to hear the update and ask questions. (I am also happy to provide a university update for community audiences on request.)

Here are some highlights of this year’s forum for KTW readers:

• Enrolment: Including our online Open Learning courses, TRU has nearly 28,000 students annually. This fall, TRU has 9,184 in-person students — 8,989 on our Kamloops campus and 195 on our Williams Lake campus. This represents a three per cent increase in in-person student numbers from last year. More specifically, domestic students (those from B.C. and Canada) are down four per cent, while international student numbers are up by 15 per cent. Efforts are underway to understand the reasons for the drop in domestic students.

• Budget: TRU projects an operating surplus for the 2022-2023 year; however, the final numbers won’t be known until the end of the fiscal year. By policy, surpluses must be used for capital projects.

• Capital projects: This past year was a busy one on the TRU campus regarding renovations and upgrades. We opened a new Early Childhood Education Centre, which houses TRU’s daycare, early childhood education and childhood research programs. We renovated the Arts and Education Building, the Lepin Science Building, our gymnasium and change rooms and many walkways and smaller spaces. TRU also got to work on a new student housing project, the East Village Student Housing complex, across Summit Drive from the main campus. This complex, made possible with nearly $11 million in funding from the provincial government and almost $8 million from TRU, will add 148 affordable beds to the on-campus inventory. TRU has space and demand to continue building student housing, but we are limited mainly by financing from grants and surpluses.

• COVID-19: It is clear the pandemic is not over; however, its impact has been lessened by widespread community vaccination. Most activities at TRU have returned this year, including many large in-person events. Mask use at TRU is a personal choice and we are a mask-friendly environment. TRU will continue to follow directions from B.C.’s provincial health office.

• New initiatives: TRU is moving forward in many ways, including Hiring an executive director for equity, diversity and inclusion and anti-racism. The university is also continuing to foster strong partnerships with TRU’s First Nations hosts, specifically Tk’emlúps and T’exelc (Williams Lake), and with other Indigenous neighbours. Across all faculties, programs and services, we have significant initiatives to honour truth, reconciliation and rights.In addition, there are new faculty-led international field schools and study tours. There is a new agreement of co-operation this year with the Chengdu University of Information in China to deliver a bachelor of engineering in data science and big data technology/ There is development of a new institute to link research and training related to wildfires and emergency services. Finally, TRU hired a new provost/vice-president academic. Dr. Gillian Balfour started at TRU in July.

• A look ahead/integrated strategic planning: Two years ago, TRU created new vision and mission statements and identified four 10-year strategic change goals. This year, we are creating priorities and project teams to implement our vision and goals systematically. Integrated strategic planning represents the apex of TRU’s planning through the past 10 years and is the culmination of many past efforts. Integrated strategic planning will ensure that TRU’s resources are allocated in a way that allows teams from across the institution to work together in pursuit of our strategic objectives.

I’m sure you will agree a lot is going on. TRU is a rapidly developing university and that’s one of the things I find most exciting about working here.

Dr. Brett Fairbairn is president and vice-chancellor at Thompson Rivers University. He can be reached by email at