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Imagine: UFV as a university village, a full-sized district that is part of the growing city of Abbotsford. Need help with that? No problem! You are in luck, as UFV’s department of campus planning and development just released its “ Abbotsford Campus Master Plan.”
As a current student who has been part of the community here for many years as both an employee and alumni (twice over), reading through this campus plan is encouraging, inspiring, and yet incredibly difficult to comprehend even at the best of times.
As I look back at how UFV has developed in creating new programs, new spaces, and sustainable initiatives, it is encouraging to see how the university continues to strive to be the very best it can be for its students, staff, faculty, and the surrounding communities. The overall plan’s strategic planning began exactly a year ago in March 2015, as an integrated effort within the U-District neighbourhood plan.
The entire project is divided into four strategic planning stages: Getting Started, Choices and Direction, Preferred Concept, and Final Plans. According to the plan, UFV is now at the Preferred Concept stage. In an online post promoting the plan, Craig Toews, the executive director of campus planning says: “The plan shows great potential for a university village where the campus and community come together. It’s vital we hear again from people who want to shape the future of the campus and neighbourhood over the next 20 to 25 years and we look forward to your feedback.” Part of the feedback process will consist of surveys, stakeholder workshops, and public outreach events.
So now that the new master plan has snazzy pictures and prospective charts it all seems to be coming together nicely. But what about the students? How will they benefit?
The UFV Abbotsford campus did not have very many social, study, or workshop hubs until the recent opening of the Student Union Building. We also do not have a variety of restaurants, cafes, and snackbars to choose from, giving us limited space and flexibility as students on campus.
Looking at the prospective University Village, these layouts and plans would not only give students a proper sense of a “home away from home” but also help increase UFV’s community outreach. Furthermore, it would diversify UFV’s student services, including expanding residence services altogether. Having more residence buildings for different types of people, whether they are professionals, students, or some wonderful crazy artists, will only help increase UFV’s already existing rapport with the greater community. Plus it would create a more natural sense of home than student-run apartments.
This extension of space and the growth of new buildings that would be more environmentally friendly than some of the older, currently-existing buildings would further facilitate the overall campus community expansion. Imagine having more classrooms, imagine the possibility of more than just one section offered in upper level courses where there are no waitlists. Also, having interactive learning environments such as the proposed Digital Hub and other flexible spaces would further help students accomplish their academic goals, complementing their diverse learning styles.
This type of infrastructural expansion, however, needs to be done in a way that is not only environmentally sustainable but also respectful of the surrounding Agricultural Land Reserves (ALR). Although the blueprints, as shown in the master plan, clearly indicate the ALR boundaries, it is important to recognize the possible impacts that newer buildings may have on the surrounding environment.
It is important to note that the proposed Abbotsford Campus Master Plan is a general layout of what could take place. Furthermore, we must acknowledge that UFV’s community inputs are vital at this stage of development. The plan offers a variety of different styles of residence buildings that could, but are not yet certainly going to, be developed as part of the University Village.
Moreover, the plan is a call for public opinion on how people see UFV’s role in the public community. So if you want to be part of something as significant as these proposed developments, then I encourage you to use your rights as a student and talk with people such as a Craig Toews and other executive leaders of this expansion, and share what UFV’s future looks like to you.