5 BC Universities

Last week I visited 5 universities on 6 different campuses in British Columbia (as a college counselor, this is part of my job). Here’s a quick look at some of the things you might find at each one.

University of British Columbia, Vancouver

This is a truly stunning campus, green and wooded and lush. While it is technically in Vancouver, it feels ages away from the city. There’s a lot to see here — this is easily the largest campus in BC, both in population and in acreage.

The Museum of Anthropology


Filled with canoes and carvings, potlatch dishes and totem poles, button blankets and bentwood boxes, and thousands of artifacts from all around the world, this is such an impressive venue that I’ll write about it in a separate post.

The Niobe Memorial Garden


This traditional Japanese “stroll garden” includes a tea house, a koi pond, and cherry blossoms!


Stunning Forests


Filled with firs and cedars, these woodlands are crisscrossed by paths for the students, and buildings are tucked up against their branches.


A Formal Rose Garden


Flagpole Plaza


Small Whimsical Things That Made Me Smile


University of British Columbia, Okanagan

Seated on a hillside just outside of the small inland city of Kelowna, in a region known as The Okanagan, UBCO is the youngest of the BC public universities. It attracts hikers and snowboarders, budding tech kids and winemakers, and students who want a smaller university option. The campus feels open and dry (the southern part of the Okanagan is home to Canada’s only desert) — and because the university was formed out of what used to be an old community college, the spaces don’t all yet feel unified. But our assemblage of college counselors was impressed by what we saw there.

Therapy Dogs!


The B.A.R.K. program at UBCO brings together students and dogs in an effort to reduce homesickness, stress and anxiety, especially in first-years (B.A.R.K. stands for “Building Academic Retention through K9s”).


“Pair of Deer” Statues in the Courtyard


The Innovation Centre


Located about twenty minutes away from campus in the charming city of Kelowna, this tech hub brings together start-ups, established companies, and students.

Knox Mountain


This public park isn’t technically part of UBCO, but it’s close enough for students to go for a walk and have this view out over the local paper mill, the city of Kelowna, Okanagan Lake, and beyond.


Simon Fraser University

Simon Fraser technically has three campuses, one in downtown Vancouver, one in the nearby town of Surrey, and one about twenty-five minutes from Vancouver on the top of Burnaby Mountain. Our tour took us to the Burnaby campus, which offered an incredible look at how brutalist architecture fits (or doesn’t fit) into an otherwise green landscape.



The main campus building was designed in 1963 by Arthur Erickson, a Canadian architect who wanted to terrace the buildings and keep them low so that they would blend into the mountainside (side note: he also designed the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC). The overall effect is massive and very, very gray.




Museum of Archaeology & Ethnography


This is a small teaching museum where students can learn about artifacts like this section of a Gitksan totem pole built in the mid-1800s…


… and this Talio mortuary figure (which represents a supernatural grizzly bear):


We were given a backstage tour of the museum, where we were able to see many of the items (some First Nations, some not) that the museum keeps in storage.

Harbour Centre


We didn’t tour the downtown campus, but its hub (primarily arts, communications, and graduate programs) seems to be the tall building with the circular top above.

Emily Carr University of Art + Design

This is BC’s largest and best-known art school. Housed in one enormous structure built in 2017, it offers programs in everything from general fine arts to sustainable design to interactive media.


Art Show


When I arrived, Emily Carr was hosting its end-of-year art show. So I got to see pieces like the one above (“Double Puddluv” by Dorothy Leung) and this one (“intertwined” by Shawna-lee Kiesman):


First Nations Acknowledgment


All of the universities we visited began their presentations by reminding us that we were “on the ancestral and unceded lands” of First Nations people. I really liked that — and this was the first time I saw it up in writing.

University of Victoria

UVic’s campus, about fifteen minutes south of downtown Victoria, feels expansive and cozy all at the same time. The oldest university in British Columbia, it boasts a real sense of community and a beautiful landscape.

The Tallest of All University Climbing Walls in Canada


First Peoples House


The First Peoples House provides a social and cultural space for UVic students, both indigenous and otherwise. It’s also home to a range of contemporary First Nations art, including the Squamish doors above (featuring salmon and Thunderbird) and these Tsartlip house poles (with frogs emerging from the Great Flood):IMG_5530

Pole Carving


You can see how First Nations poles are carved here — presumably, this is a teaching space for students. It’s fascinating to see the various stages of a pole’s creation, all the way from outlining …


… to painting:




It’s spring, and the rhododendron flowers are out in all of their amazing glory …

… everywhere you look on the UVic campus.


Quest University

Quest is Canada’s only private university. Opened in 2007, it was founded as a center for the study of the liberal arts. It is also the only truly small university in the country, with an enrollment of just over 600. All of the classes are taught in seminar style, and students design the direction of their own learning — each junior comes up with a “Question” that they endeavor to answer over the course of their last two years.


Quest’s compact location in the Coast Mountains of Squamish is nothing short of spectacular.


There are mountains in every direction.

This is a haven for skiers and snowboarders — Whistler is just forty minutes away, and more intrepid outdoors-people can climb up the mountain behind the school and ski right down.

We all left wishing we could study at a place with views like these!


And getting to Quest isn’t half bad, either; to reach the campus from Vancouver (about an hour from door to door), you take the spectacular Sea to Sky Highway.


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