Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

SYMBOLIZING A HISTORIC EDUCATIONAL MILESTONE – Yukon University signs are up along College/University Drive near the new Yukon University.

University hailed as ‘incredible initiative’

The Yukon officially gained a university today, and Canada now has a university North of 60.

By Whitehorse Star on May 19, 2020

The Yukon officially gained a university today, and Canada now has a university North of 60.

Due to the COVID-19 emergency, celebrations planned to mark the former Yukon College’s “historic milestone” are postponed until guidance on safe gatherings is provided by Brendan Hanley, the territory’s chief medical office indicate such gatherings can occur safely.

“Guided by Yukon communities and the territory’s 14 Yukon First Nations, Yukon University (YukonU) is grounded in reconciliation and the northern experience,” the university said in a statement released today.

With more than 50 degree, diploma, certificate, trades and university prep programs, it added, YukonU will continue the tradition of northern-focused education, training and applied research established by Yukon College, while expanding opportunities for northerners.

The school’s creation achieves a significant objective of its 2013 and 2016 multi-year strategic plans.

Both plans were written following extensive consultation with Yukoners and set by the board of governors, which draws representation from First Nations, communities, students and employees.

Since 2012, the board of governors, senior executives, faculty and staff have consulted extensively with Yukoners, and researched new universities in Canada and universities across the circumpolar North,.

They have also collaborated with the Yukon government to establish quality assurance through the Campus Alberta Quality Council and developed and launched two degree programs.

Yukon University is consulting with Universities Canada on a pathway to becoming a member in due time.

Until Yukoners can celebrate in large groups again, the university’s launch is being marked with a renewed website at YukonU.ca and rebranded social media channels. They feature the YukonU logo and fresh institutional colours. Yukon University clothing and YukonU accessories are available for purchase at YukonU.ca/campus-store.  

Online registration is open for fall semester courses. Fall course and student support delivery options will be announced soon.

Calling it “good news” during grim times, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed the new university this morning during his daily media briefing on the COVID-19 emergency, noting it’s the first ever in Canada’s North.

In 2019, the federal government contributed $26 million for a new science centre on the Whitehorse campus, Trudeau told national media representatives.

Dr. Karen Barnes, Yukon University outgoing president and vice-chancellor, said today the time has come for a university in the Yukon.

“Since 1963, our journey is one of constant evolution to meet the changing needs of our students and our community,” she said.

“As YukonU, we promise to continue anticipating and meeting your education and research needs, to offer an accessible pathway for every learner, and to contribute to a strong, resilient north.

“Thank you to everyone who has supported our journey along the way. Together, we are forging a bold, innovative future.”

Dr. Mike DeGagné has been named as YukonU’s eighth president and vice-chancellor. He will assume his duties July 1, and has declined to speak to the media before that date.

Dan Vandal, the federal minister of Northern Affairs, said Ottawa “is pleased to join all Yukoners in celebrating Yukon College’s transition to Yukon University, Canada’s first university North of 60.

“I am thankful to have had the opportunity to tour the facilities earlier this year,” Vandal added.

“Although we must mark this milestone at a distance, it does not diminish the importance and pride we all have on this occasion, and I look forward to celebrating in person with you soon.

“The Government of Canada will continue to work in partnership to support education, training and research that includes northern and Indigenous knowledge and perspectives and to bring more numerous and diversified post-secondary educational options to the territories.”

With the opening, said Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, “Canada joins other Arctic nations in moving forward with a world-class education for northerners by northerners.

“Yukon University will open new doors for Arctic and climate change research, and expand post-secondary options for Yukon students, right here at home. This is an incredible initiative years in the making.”

“Yukon First Nations have represented a significant percentage of the college’s student population, and we have made our mark in terms of affecting its future path,” added Peter Johnston, grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations.

“As Yukon University, higher learning will expand its scope on northern and First Nations issues and provide our people with more opportunities to contribute to their governments, their communities and society as a whole.”

In 1973, noted Premier Sandy Silver, First Nation leaders called for a university in the Yukon.

“In 2020, the launch of Yukon University – Canada’s first university north of 60 – honours that call and breathes life into that vision,” the premier said.

“This is a northern university that will meet the diverse goals and needs of all Yukoners, as well as students from outside the territory, well into the future.”

As a hybrid university, said Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, the institution “will be a hub for international Arctic and northern research while continuing to offer degrees and trades programs that meet the learning needs of all Yukoners.

“This marks a new chapter for post-secondary education in Yukon that will help to enrich our communities and create social and economic opportunities for the people of the North.”

Denise Amyot, the president and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan), said the college’s evolution over the past 50 years “has been nothing short of phenomenal, and I am incredibly proud to see it take this historic step, becoming the first territorial university in Canada.

“By building on its well-established history and expertise, Yukon University will bring even more opportunities to learners in Canada’s North, as well as to the many communities it serves,” said Amyot.

Ruth Wittenberg, the president of the BC Association of Institutes and Universities, also congratulated Yukon University in attaining university status.

It represents the interests of eight post-secondary institutions in BC (Teaching Universities and Institutes), and Yukon University joined the organization in 2016.

“Our commitment is to generate, develop and support adoption of initiatives that positively influence change in higher education,” Wittenberg said.

“Our diversity is our strength, and having Yukon University as part of our organization enhances that diversity.”

“Our students let their passions roam while being grounded in education and research relevant to the North,” Yukon University said in its statement.

“Our resourceful and creative graduates are building a resilient, versatile and ambitious future for all northerners.”

The 13 campuses are located on the traditional territories of the 14 Yukon First Nations.

The Yukon University Act was passed unanimously by the Yukon legislature in November 2019. The act came into force last February.

The first three YukonU degree programs are:

• Bachelor of Arts in Indigenous Governance (launched in the fall of 2018);

• Bachelor of Business Administration (launched in the fall 2019); and

• Degree in northern studies (in development; anticipated launch in the fall 2021).

The university also offers a Bachelor of Science in Northern Environmental and Conservation Science in partnership with the University of Alberta, a Bachelor of Education, a Bachelor of Education After Degree and Bachelor of Social Work in partnership with the University of Regina.

“Our leading-edge research in climate change and permafrost, Indigenous self-determination and governance, and resource development, technology and innovation, will benefit researchers looking to understand northern climates, the North and the rest of Canada,” the university said.

More than 300 research projects have been completed since 2010.

In 2018-19, the university served 6,030 students – 1,252 in credit programming.

The median age of credit students is 26, and 28 per cent of credit students are Indigenous.

Ninety-eight per cent of students agree that YukonU is a good learning environment, a survey has shown, while 93 per cent of students agree that it’s an environment of cultural sensitivity for all.

Comments (19)

Up 6 Down 0

Groucho d'North on May 25, 2020 at 3:31 pm

My curiosity was piqued so I dialed up the on-line Academic Calendar for our new university to see what is being offered to potential students who may be attending.
What I see is focused I believe on preparing the next generation of northern bureaucrat for jobs in the territorial or first nation governments. This could be a real positive trend for the three territories as we could have government workers who grew up here and have a better understanding of life in the north, our cultures and the environmental realities North of Sixty.
I am one of the critics of government staff being hired from back east with little to no understanding of our way of life, so perhaps our new university can help in a number of ways once their students have attended and graduated and governments are keen to abandon the Pro-from-Magill attitude and hire these locally trained students. Of course that will take a few years before we get an opportunity to see if there is merit for our once vocational school to becoming a university.

Up 15 Down 10

Anie on May 22, 2020 at 12:00 pm

"Yuk U". How appropriate.

Up 9 Down 12

Brainwave on May 22, 2020 at 7:59 am

I would like to see some sort of academic connection with universities in Siberia that are located in the territories of Siberia's shamanic tribes. For the purpose of cultural exchange programs. And the same with Finland and the Laplander societies of Northern Europe.

Up 14 Down 20

Patti Eyre on May 21, 2020 at 2:31 pm

Well you keep going Yukon U, silence all these naysaying anti-progress, credit taking jibber jabbers!

Up 21 Down 6

Bandit on May 21, 2020 at 12:59 pm

Where can I buy a shirt?


Up 23 Down 17

Whatajoke on May 21, 2020 at 11:22 am

Yukon University. HAHAHAHAHAHA

Up 16 Down 6

Brainwave on May 20, 2020 at 9:01 pm

Eat your heart out Tuktoyaktuk.

Up 36 Down 16

Obi on May 20, 2020 at 7:42 pm

“Excuse me?”
You have a degree in what?, from where?
Send in the next candidate please......

Up 15 Down 11

vlad on May 20, 2020 at 7:08 pm

Never quite finished this fine article, but is this university suppose to be something like the University of Tuktoyaktuk??

Up 31 Down 17

Max Mack on May 20, 2020 at 5:30 pm

"climate change research"
aka "climate change propaganda". Never let a good funding opportunity go to waste.

Up 32 Down 25

Josey Wales on May 20, 2020 at 2:06 pm

So our lil college now identifies as a University?
Wonder if it will get a helipad?

As often(but not always) I identify as an attack helicopter, and for full inclusion...I will need somewhere to safely set down.
Great place to churn out freshly indoctrinated Marxists...is a state funded "University".

Cannot wait for a FURTHER slide to Portland North of 60...

Up 36 Down 22

U cannot be serious on May 20, 2020 at 9:50 am

A few fluttering flags do not a University make. Apparently decades in the planning, there is some irony in that it emerged not with a bang, but with a whimper. But good luck with the launch all the same. ( I still prefer “Pot Latch College” ) .

Up 28 Down 12

Oya on May 20, 2020 at 8:02 am

Title should be changed to "University Hailed as Lucrative Initiative".
Yes, great pic, Vince!

Up 25 Down 20

YukonMax on May 20, 2020 at 7:30 am

Good luck! A huge milestone for the Yukon.
Now, let's just wait and see.

Up 44 Down 14

jack on May 20, 2020 at 2:55 am

Surely they could have come up with better degree programs?

The 3 listed here are non-degrees which won't lead anywhere and will be unknown to anyone outside of 867.

Up 17 Down 30

Rolf on May 20, 2020 at 2:09 am

Congratulations YukU! Your Liberals gunning her forward.

Up 22 Down 29

Wilf Carter on May 19, 2020 at 9:49 pm

Don't forget conservative governments building this project over the years.

Up 16 Down 18

Patti Eyre on May 19, 2020 at 4:19 pm

I agree with the bro'ster, very well done indeed!

Up 28 Down 27

Janbro on May 19, 2020 at 2:53 pm

Well done Yukon. Stunning photo Vince.

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