Located in Squamish between Vancouver and Whistler in beautiful British Columbia, Quest sits on Howe Sound on the Sea to Sky Highway. Nothing prepares you for the beauty and majesty as the mountains seemingly rise straight from the water’s edge. Located above town on a hillside, Quest occupies a prime piece of real estate conducive to thoughtful discourse, educational engagement and of course outdoor activities. Known as The Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada, there is not much you can’t do in Squamish and its surrounding area.
With only 650 students with plans for another 100, Quest is proud of its intimate and well thought out education. Even down to the one (yes, one) academic building, everything is thoroughly thought through. The idea of a campus with one academic building takes you aback; but it is good to remember sometimes good things come in small packages.
Founders Drs. David Strangway and David Helfand harken from the realms of Higher Education (MIT and Columbia) and set out to establish a new educational model to educate today’s young adults. Faced with new information and technology every day, adaptability, critical thinking and analytical skills are the skills needed to navigate and ever changing world. Students acquire many transferable skills that support them in all their future endeavors, including:
To quote their brochure (as they say it best!),
“Quest University Canada was founded to prepare students for the 21st century. Our unique academic program is designed to foster a lifetime of learning for our graduates by developing fully their intellectual capacities, encouraging social and civic engagement, and readying them both for work and further study. Quest students learn to be independent problem solvers by collaborating across disciplinary boundaries, engaging in hands-on experiential learning, and formulating their own Questions. Upon completing Quest’s liberal arts and science program, all students receive a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences (BA&Sc) degree.”
The curriculum is broken down into 3 segments; The Foundation Program (years 1 & 2), The Question Block, and The Concentration Program (years 3 & 4).
The Foundation Program is comprised of 16 courses in the Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Mathematics. Here students gain a background in a variety of disciplines. The idea is for students to see the links between different disciplines which in turn allows them to see current issues from many different angles.
The Question Block takes place at the end of year 2 and is solely dedicated to the development of their ‘Question’. The Question is guided by the student’s particular passions, interests and goals. Students select a faculty mentor to help develop their question and formulate a plan for the last two years to see it through.
The Concentration Program is a specially designed Course Plan that includes 6 upper level classes relevant to their Question. They are also required to take 3 courses that may provide a different perspective to their topic and they also select 4 blocks of Experiential Learning! This can be in the form of studying with a partner school abroad, field work outside the classroom, an NGO, business or government organization.
Experiential Learning is another cornerstone of a Quest education. Field courses, study-abroad opportunities, volunteer work, internships, and work experience allow students to relate their education to the “real world”. It is required to take a minimum of one block of Experiential Learning in order to graduate, but it can be as long as a whole year in conjunction with partner schools.
A Keystone Project is submitted prior to graduation that is a representation of the progress they have made on their Question.
Classes are conducted in a seminar style with a cap of 20 students per class. The professors are called “tutors” as opposed to “professors” as the idea is not to be “professing” knowledge but to move through ideas and concepts together in more of a tutorial role. Faculty is almost 100% Ph.D’s and there is very little turnover. Faculty are not tenured, instead they are reviewed the first year, enter into a two year contract, then after that the next three years and on up to six years.
So, what do they do when they aren’t studying or in class? There is plenty to do in Squamish and almost everyone is a member of the Adventure Club, which sponsors outdoor activities of all kinds. Whether you are into rock climbing, kayaking the Sound, skiing (downhill and cross country), hiking or biking there is always something going on. Most students we met said they were in bed early on Friday nights as they were resting for an activity they were going to do the next day. There is a sports program and gym for those dedicated to fitness, a recording studio and rehearsal space and an art and education series. If there is something you want to do and it is not available, the school will facilitate the creation of new programs, clubs or activity.
And then there are the dorms – if you want to call them that! Beautiful, apartment type living spaces that don’t even resemble a dormitory! Some even have balconies and porches. It really is an idyllic place!
While Quest is new on the scene and doesn’t have the track record and storied history of many of our universities and colleges here state-side, Quest applications have been tripling each year since they opened their doors. The word is out; and the school is working hard to maintain the standards of excelle nce they began with. Many schools struggle to make their enrollment goals, but Quest seems to have the opposite problem. Academically rigorous, it is not a free ride or for the faint of heart. Students will apply themselves at Quest.