Getting To Know Our Campus Across the Fraser

Open house shows the unique cultural challenges and offerings of Richmond campus

Renée McMillen / The Runner

Every university offers a unique experience for the typical post-secondary student, and our school is no exception. But Kwantlen Polytechnic is unlike most other universities in Metro Vancouver in that we define ourselves as a multi-campus community. Though SFU has a secondary branch in Surrey Centre and multiple campuses in downtown Vancouver, and UBC splits off into UBC-O in Kelowna, KPU identifies fully across four separate campuses, each cultivating its own unique cultural atmosphere.

Surrey, traditionally seen as our main campus, only hosts about 38 per cent of total KPU enrollments. The rest are split between online and off-site students, as well as our three other campuses—Langley, our agriculture and music campus, Cloverdale, dubbed “KPU Tech,” and Richmond.

Richmond campus, which sees 28 per cent of Kwantlen students attend its classes, sits so far from the other campuses that it has become its own entity. The classes are significantly smaller and the students are in specific programs that are designated to the area, such as fashion, marketing, and design.

While Richmond is home to a large share of the KPU student body, it faces distinct challenges in fermenting student life. Because of offers niche disciplines, the students in Richmond don’t often get the opportunity to mingle with students outside their program, or to attend classes at the other campuses besides of the electives they choose.

The programs are often years long, so the students find the other people in their classes and become a family of friends to them. While this may give a student a niche of sorts, it may not offer what would be considered the typical college experience. Interior design student, Stefanie Thompson says, “It’s nothing like in the movies where everyone gets together. People come for their classes but then they leave. There’s really not much I would consider for culture.”

In part to address these difficulties, the Richmond campus hosted an open house on Nov. 5 to welcome prospective students and encourage them to explore what Richmond KPU has to offer. The open house had booths and tables set up to advertise about the programs, and there were designated areas to see what had been created by the students from Richmond’s multitude of programs.

Even though Surrey campus has many of the fine arts studios, Richmond arts students proudly displayed their work for attendees of the open house. “It’s great to have a say and to make our mark on the halls and showcase that we are designers,” says Teanna Donya, Richmond design student. The open house featured displays, paintings, prints and pieces and on every floor, even the walls themselves had been marked by the students.

Apart from the smaller classes at the Richmond campus, it’s also a much tighter campus than Surrey or Langley. “You always see the same people,” says Chanel Kwong, the Kwantlen Student Association’s Richmond representative. “It helps to get to know them better and build that connection with others.”

When you speak with the students representing their programs, you begin to see how close they are with the other students in their class. “There’s a sense of belonging,” says Kwong.

The belonging is evident, but in terms of student life some believe there’s still much to be desired for students looking to explore what else is going on outside their programs.

“Everyone is focused on classes and friends that there’s not much to branch out to,” says Mark Santiago, a graphic design student.

This may be a case of distance, as the majority of events occur across the river in Surrey, but perhaps that’s what helps allow Richmond to achieve its individual sense of self. While campus culture could certainly increase there, Richmond is still an impressive hub of talented students. Get to know a few of them before you graduate, and you’ll be glad that you did.

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