Located in a shopping centre complex, SFU Surrey was never a typical campus.
"It got a bit of a hard time," admits SFU Surrey's executive director Joanne Curry.
The critics would point to a lack of prestige and its defenders would tout its accessability.
We did get some negative comments, and even from parents and students who said, well, it doesn't look like a university campus and is the degree the same as at SFU?
"It was a bit rocky in the beginning," Curry said. "We had to rely a lot on Simon Fraser University's name brand in the community to give comfort because there were some skeptics."
That was the attitude a decade ago, when Surrey SFU was preparing to open its doors in Central City.
Now, as SFU Surrey celebrates its 10th anniversary, the concept is considered a model for others to follow.
In an interview with the Now, Curry reflected on the university's growing pains and triumphs.
SFU Surrey, one of Simon Fraser University's three campuses, opened its doors in September 2002 in a 3,000-square-metre temporary space in the Surrey Place Shopping Centre in Whalley. On Sept. 8, 2006 the university moved into its current posh digs, Central City, a stunning tower designed by architect Bing Thom.
Although SFU downtown is an urban campus, SFU Surrey is unique in that it wasn't simply plunked down in an established city core but rather is an important component of the Surrey's emerging modern skyline.
"It's pretty rare for a university to be set up that really is part of the whole goal of urban revitalization, plus economic development of the city," Curry said.
In preparing for the celebration, Curry dug up some of the early speeches when the campus opened and the discovered that the stated mission was "very explicit" - serving students south of the Fraser.
"It's unique for a university and I think part of our success is that it was well-articulated right from the beginning," she said.
Over the past decade, SFU Surrey has seen phenomenal growth, both in terms of program offerings and students.
Curry acknowledges that growth has exceeded expectations, and believes that creating technology-based programs that help to train a workforce for the future in the rapidly growing region has contributed to SFU Surrey's success.
Due to its central location, Curry believes the campus has contributed greatly to the city's vitality.
"With the university there, showing confidence, I think it really did create a place and create the vibrancy that was needed," she said, pointing to the "doughnut" of new condo developments that envelope Central City and the campus.
She believes that energy is reciprocal, and that students benefit from the urban dynamic.
"Through the expanding student population and the occupants in the tower, the mall became much more lively, so it really was place-making," Curry said.
SFU has plans for expansion but those plans will depend on availability of funding.
"There's no question that we're going to at least double or triple in size and really innovate the programs but the question is when we can get started," she said.
SFU OPEN HOUSE
SFU Surrey is hosting its 10th anniversary open house on Thursday, March 1 from 4 to 8 p.m.
The festivities will feature entertainment, interactive exhibits and displays, and campus tours.
Prospective students will have an opportunity to meet faculty and current students and check out the university's course offerings. For a complete schedule of events, visit www.surrey.sfu.ca
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