It’s been listed among the world’s most beautiful campuses, boasts a famous astronaut among its alumni and considers itself an engine of lifelong learning and a network of global citizens.
Q&A with Royal Roads University
Royal Roads University (RRU) is situated on the territory of the Coast Salish people (Xwsepsum and Lekwungen nations), within the national historic site of Hatley Park in Colwood, B.C.
RRU was established as a public, applied research university in 1995 of 565 acres in Colwood, BC. Previously, the campus was the home of Royal Roads Military College, which graduated its final class in 1995; served as a military training facility since 1940 and was previously the estate of BC Lieutenant-Governor James Dunsmuir.
RRU offers applied and professional programs at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels, with an ever-increasing focus on graduate level career development, through online, on-campus and blended programs.
The university has become renowned for its flexible, individualized approach that challenges students to tackle complex, real-life problems by learning to connect ideas from diverse perspectives.
Oh, and the famous alumnus we mentioned? Royal Roads Military College ex-cadet Cmdr. Chris Hadfield.
To find out more about how RRU fits within the region’s economy and helps to nurture the business community, we spoke with Pedro Márquez, Vice-President Research and International.
Why did you join South Island Prosperity Partnership?
It’s all about collaboration. It’s a key commitment of ours at Royal Roads to be an agent for positive change and that outlook kick-started our involvement. Together with UVic, Camosun College and other regional leaders, we sought out others to create an economic development agency that would advance our South Island competitiveness.
Building on our collective strengths allows us to put our energies into bettering our local community, which pays off for all of us. It’s truly a win-win.
What do you see as key to growing a resilient, robust economic future for our region?
Naturally, I’m biased towards the role of education. Education is key to the resiliency of the region. At Royal Roads, we’re building capacity to develop the competencies that respond to current and coming needs of the labour market. Upskilling and reskilling, this is the kind of responsive, lifelong learning we offer here along with leading edge infrastructure and research.
Our region needs well trained people to fill the gaps where and when they happen. Royal Roads has always provided applied and professional education training and with it, we continue to build a knowledge economy. And it’s so much more than technology, our region needs qualified people who are passionate about socio-economic interests, about reconciliation, about the climate, all of these position us well for the future.
What is our region’s secret sauce when it comes to competing internationally to attract quality talent, businesses with household sustaining jobs, and investment?
Top quality post-secondary institutions that complement each other working in close collaboration — we are truly a triple threat and have a fantastic collaboration record. You can hear this from all three post-secondary leaders.
Together, we aim to grow our innovative and entrepreneurial culture and with every success, every investment, that reputation will build community and attract talent.
Some big things are underway here already that you just won’t see elsewhere in the world and it’s exciting to be a part of this unique partnership.
What are you most excited about in terms of your own organization’s plans and potential?
Westshore!! Westshore!! I hope that’s clear enough. We truly want to advance participation rates in higher education in our own backyard. The Westshore rates are about 5 to 10 points lower than in Victoria and yet expansion of affordable housing continues to outpace any area.
To balance off that disparity, we need to model solutions that respond to these realities. This is how we invest in keeping living expenses down for people and create incentives for them to train and upskill close to home and family, cut down on traffic and congestion, and introduce new training options that seed positive regional growth.
What’s one thing about your organization you really want people to know that they probably don’t know?
We’re really unique in how nimble we are, creating programs that are designed to respond and transform the world. Our global management graduate program took seven months from design to launch. We now have a masters in climate action leadership.
Royal Roads enjoys a reputation for innovative and transdisciplinary programming, but the commitment to responding to today’s critical issues means we invest in pushing boundaries. In this way, we’re inviting our students, faculty and staff to work together in real-time to create and champion change.
Just look at our recent launch of the Cascade Institute that focuses on addressing society’s wicked problems like climate change, pandemics, political and social upheaval and economic disruption. Or look at the Resiliency by Design Lab, this innovative space brings youth and adults together to drive local leadership on climate action.
What challenges are you most invested in helping our community overcome and why?
This last year has been an awakening in many ways. Pandemic aside, we experienced some of the most dramatic weather events the world had seen with the heat dome here in British Columbia. And the nation woke up to the horrors of residential schools, a truth that came to society’s awareness by the revealing of unmarked graves of Indigenous children.
We are profoundly impacted by the world around us. As a university, it’s our commitment to help our community build a better path forward. We’re driven to building our community in a positive, strength-based approach.
Advancing reconciliation and addressing climate change – you’ll see through our leadership in the coming months and years how committed we are to action. Courage is truly at our core.
What lessons have most profoundly impacted you since the pandemic sent shockwaves through our community and economy?
We always knew that being innovative and entrepreneurial would help us be ahead of the curve. The pandemic brought all kinds of trouble to every organization in the region, including enormous challenges to the education sector.
Fortunately, with its 25 years of experience in blended learning and a flexible teaching, learning and research model, RRU was ready to adjust and support the students’ needs for state-of-the-art online learning. While other post-secondary institutions struggled, we were already prepared with the appropriate learning model, technology and expertise.
And with that, we also saw very positive domestic enrolment growth at around eight per cent. We were able to seed where the ground was fertile. Being comfortable with being different put us in a good position.
When you envision the South Island region in 2040, what will have changed? What does our future look like?
We set a strong new vision in 2020 as we celebrated our 25th anniversary. We asked the question to the community of what the future looks like and we learned some great lessons. We are “Inspiring people with the courage to transform the world.”
That’s why we’re building the university for the future. Offering innovative and leading edge means we don’t rest on our laurels or pretend that we know what the future has in store. It means that we need to stay alert and invest in research, knowledge and ideas. Never stop.
We will continue to be innovative and entrepreneurial in a caring, creative and courageous way. And we’re proud of that attitude.