Alberni’s new university opens

Alberni's Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences held its grand opening on Tuesday.

Tseshaht councillor Willard Gallic

With the low-pitch howl of a Tseshaht chant echoing in the main hall of Pacific Coast University an eight-foot tall carved cedar  figure was unveiled by artists Gord Dick and Ray Sim marking the institution’s official opening.

More than 100 civic, provincial, federal and international officials attended the opening at the Cherry Creek Road campus in Port Alberni on Tuesday afternoon.

Tseshaht councillor Willard Gallic explained that the red cedar figure depicts a shaman conducting a ceremony with a prayer rattle and piece of crystal. The frog at the base of the figure represents a medicine helper in healing.

“The design is a symbol of healing and picking up the pieces of your life after a major injury,” said Wolfgang Zimmermann, the driving force behind the institution.

The $5 million 12,000 square foot building broke ground nearly two years ago to the day this week and was completed in April. The glass and wood structure contains classrooms, offices, a library and a 103-seat lecture hall.

Building the campus wasn’t without challenges.

The university’s application for $250,000 from the Island Coastal Economic Trust fell through early on forcing the group to borrow against its endowment.

But at Tuesday’s opening, Labour Minister Stephanie Cadieux – who has been living with the aftermath of a major spinal cord injury suffered 20 years ago – presented $250,000 to the university. “Without you (Zimmermann) and your perseverance, this would not have come to fruition,” Cadieux said.

The university will offer workplace health education programs in a format similar to Victoria’s Royal Roads University, where instruction takes place online with on-site teaching intermittently throughout the year.

More than 1,200 students per year take courses through the National Institute of Disability Management and Research, whose offices were re-located from Victoria to the Port Alberni campus.

A synergy of events made the project possible, Zimmermann said.

The university parlayed its first agreement with the province in 2005. The city donated the1.4 hectares of land that the university sits on, which was the lynchpin in securing $1.65 million through federal knowledge-infrastructure funding.

“These were essential building blocks,” Zimmermann said. “Failure at any one them would have resulted in the initiative not coming together.”

With the campus built, the university will now focus its attention on fleshing out its academic offering and fund raising.

The university is assembling its first BA program, the first intake into which should be in 2013, Zimmermann said. Its first executive summer class is slated to go next year.

And a local fund raising campaign is being quarterbacked by Port Alberni’s Ron Doetzel.

Zimmermann suffered his spinal cord injury in an industrial accident in 1977.

“I initially hoped that I would get better but I realized later that this was a major spinal cord injury and a lot of things were going to change,” he said.

“I never suffered a major depression though, and just because I had a major spinal cord injury didn’t mean I couldn’t work.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Just Posted

John Horgan promises action after fatal mid-Island bus crash

Premier cites students, local Indigneous community as reason to repair the road

BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs rally for the win with five goals in third period

Port Alberni team has won two games in a row at home

Forestry watchdog warned B.C. government about Bamfield Road in 2008

Ombudsman’s specific concerns re-surface in wake of fatal bus crash

Swedish visitors celebrate steam donkey at McLean Mill—without the steam

Volunteers celebrate 90th birthday of mill’s vintage steam donkey

Bus crash survivor petitions Justin Trudeau to fix road where classmates died

UVic student’s petition well over halfway to 5k signature goal

VIDEO: Trudeau asks Canada to look to current, not past, actions on race

Liberal leader says he never spoke about the racist photo because he was embarrassed

Horvat paces Canucks to 6-1 pre-season win over Oilers

Vancouver improves to 3-1 in NHL exhibition action

Legislature gifts, clothing, travel need better control, B.C. auditor says

Audit follows suspensions of managers by Speaker Darryl Plecas

‘Really disturbing:’ Trudeau’s racist photos worry B.C. First Nation chief

Wet’suwet’en Chief concerned the photos will sow fear in Indigenous communities

‘Unacceptable’: What politicians have to say about Trudeau in blackface

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi: ‘When I saw that picture last night, certainly it was a sucker-punch’

‘He’s trying to kill me’: Victoria police commandeer boats to reach screaming woman

No charges laid and civilians to be awarded honours after incident on Gorge Waterway

Island contestant competes on Great Canadian Baking Show

Andrea Nauta auditioned for the show before but was lucky second time around

VIDEO: B.C. man accused of assaulting sex worker loses temper in interrogation

Defence lawyer says statements made by accused Curtis Sagmoen should be deemed inadmissible

Teens charged in stabbing death of B.C. man in strip mall parking lot

Two youths, aged 15 and 16, charged in Aug. 16 killing of South Surrey’s Paul Prestbakmo

Most Read