By: Tyler Costello
The sun had barely risen but enthusiasm was high as students were greeted with coffee and doughnuts as they entered Algonquin College’s new waterfront campus in Pembroke on Oct. 29.
The waterfront college, which sits on a park previously owned by the city, had its first day of classes on a cold, cloudy day.
Karen Davies, dean of the campus, described the new $36 million school as “a beautiful location in downtown Pembroke.”
To the west of the college sits a forested area and to the east a marina. Fifty feet behind the campus is the Ottawa River.
Between the school and the river sits an arrangement of wooden benches facing the water, denoted ‘The Chapel’ as indicated on a nearby rock.
Coordinator of the forestry technician program, Frank Knaapen, says he organized the construction of ‘The Chapel’ back in July of 2000 with his class as part of a volunteer effort to build up the city’s waterfront.
At the time he wasn’t aware that he would be teaching at the same location 12 years later.
Knaapen, who sent his morning class out into the surrounding forest to practice disease identification, graduated from the program he now heads back in the 1970s. He says his new classroom is twice the size of his previous one.
With the new campus comes “new horizons.”
He explained that the environmental technician program, in its first year, wouldn’t have been possible without the increased space the new campus provides.
Increased enrollment was another reason a new campus was needed.
The college now has 850 full-time students compared to 450 a decade ago.
Jamie Bramburger, manager of community and student affairs, says that about 43 per cent of the students attending the college come from out of town to take specialized programs like forestry technician, environmental technician, nursing and outdoor adventure.
In his first year of the outdoor adventure program, Gabriel Rivett-Carnac is the oldest and one of only two students in the program who is from the Ottawa Valley.
“Its pretty exciting,” he said, “…kind of like getting a fresh start halfway through the semester.”
Rivett-Carnac did an undergrad in philosophy at a university in Rome but came back to Pembroke to enroll in the Outdoor Adventure program.
As part of the program’s curriculum students learn to kayak, canoe, rock climb and white water raft.
Over the summer he hopes to head to Lander, Wyoming to complete his required 40 day work placement at their National Outdoor Leadership school.
After graduating the plan is to take advantage of the college’s bridging program, which allows outdoor adventure students at the college to enter the third year of a similar program at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC.
Not everyone was overly enthusiastic about the new campus.
When asked whether he likes his new campus Darrel O’Drane, in his first year of police foundations, said simply, “we’ll see.”
Several construction workers were still on site tweaking doors, moving furniture and discussing plans with the dean. Several doors on the first floor had their room numbers shown on printed-paper.
The hometown country radio station, Star 96 FM, broadcast their morning show in front of the unfinished bookstore. The fitness centre, to which the Student’s Association donated $4.3 million to have included on the campus, is also not ready.
Bramburger says they would both likely be ready to go by the end of that week.