Thursday, March 10 saw a rare and unusual spectacle at UFV’s student-run restaurant, Casey’s on Campus: a wildly successful student event. Put on by members of Geography 460, the event was an information gathering session for the future UFV-centered area of Abbotsford – or “U District,” – for which planning is currently underway.
The class, a practicum and planning course that meets on Saturdays, is led by professor Cherie Enns, who has also been involved in the university’s global development efforts. A small and dedicated group of students in the class, which includes Scott Varga, Kristin Galcso, Chris Ovens, Milan Francisty, Angeline Mushumanski, Jessica Kugler, were responsible for organizing the event, which registered over 300 attendees – no small feat on a typically disengaged campus.
“The plan was to get students’ input,” said Ostrikoff, “and to bring that to the [city council], to bring the students’ voices to the city.” For this reason, the event (which ran from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.) was focused around student input. Free snacks and door prizes in conjunction with house drink and food specials drew in an exceptional amount of interested students. The packed pub was then introduced to the U District concept and allowed to add their suggestions.
“I want to see the beginning of a real university culture; a community that embraces university life, informed thinking, global development and international awareness,” said Ostrikoff of her own desires for the future community. Others added their ideas at five stations, set up to let students share their experiences in getting to school, what they like and dislike about the current campus experience, what they would like to see in an improved U District and where they would like it to be.
The proposed U District includes an area which stretches on either side of King road from McCallum to McKenzie and includes area all around the Abbotsford campus, including some of the surrounding industrial and residential areas.
The students from Geography 460 asked their peers to speak on their needs and wants with respect to personal and public transit, housing, retail stores, entertainment, culture, food and drink services, and green and social spaces.
The class will present their findings at the beginning of April. What happens from there will depend on the involvement of the city, the university, businesses, and the general public. It is a massive undertaking that will likely take years to be fully realized, but many involved think that signs of improvement will soon start to show.