Times Colonist

Founder replaced at University Canada West


David Strong, who helped found University Canada West, has been replaced as president after more than four years on the job.

Neither Strong nor Vancouver-based Eminata Group, which purchased the university last year, gave details about the reason for the change. Strong said he wanted the focus to be on his acting successor, Verna Magee-Shepherd, while Randy Cox of Eminata’s board of directors said the institutio­n is looking toward its next stage of developmen­t.

“We have a lot of respect for both individual­s,” Cox said of Magee-Shepherd and Strong. “I’d say that we’re really blessed to have the foundation that David has created and then be turning it over to someone with the vast experience and capability of Dr. Shepherd.”

UCW opened its doors at the former Blanshard Elementary School in September 2005 with Strong — a former University of Victoria president — at the helm. The university signed a 99-year-lease with the Greater Victoria school district, and the building was renovated at a cost of $600,000 to $700,000.

UCW, which offers bachelor’s degrees in commerce and media and communicat­ions, as well as master’s degrees in business administra­tion, was billed as Canada’s first fully accredited private university. Students can take courses online or on campus.

The university had difficulty attracting enough students prior to its sale for a price described at the time by Eminata executive chairman Peter Chung as being far in excess of $10 million. Around the time of the sale, the school was losing $300,000 a month and there was a ratio of 150 students to 100 full-and part-time teachers.

UCW had been owned by a company with 67 shareholde­rs, 95 per cent of whom approved the sale to Eminata.

In November, UCW announced that more than 500 scholarshi­ps will be available next year for high-school graduates from Canada and around the world looking to enrol. Also touted was a move to five “intakes” of students a year, as well as surveys that showed high levels of student satisfacti­on with the university.

UCW’s fourth convocatio­n was held Nov. 21 at Alix Goolden Hall.

Magee-Shepherd’s first day on the job was yesterday, while Strong is scheduled to stay in his post until the end of the year. A search for a permanent replacemen­t for Strong has begun.

“I’m very much looking forward to obviously becoming acquainted with students and the academic team and staff here,” said Magee-Shepherd, a former dean, vice-president and acting president at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. She has a doctorate in education leadership and policy from the University of British Columbia, and has been involved in teaching and administra­tion at a number of hospitals.

“My primary responsibi­lity at this point, obviously, is in the areas of quality and ensuring that we’ve got a positive student experience and very strong student outcomes.”

Magee-Shepherd said she is impressed with the commitment she sees “to make a difference for students who may otherwise not have had a chance to get a university education.”

She said it is still early days for the university and it is moving ahead well.

The university also has campuses in Vancouver and Singapore, along with an online component.

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