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Inuvik Town Council gives feedback on Aurora College transition

As Aurora College transitions towards a Polytechnic University, the usage of its many separate campuses will need to reflect its new reality.
A representative from Planit North consulting visited Town Council to get feedback on plans to upgrade Aurora College to a polytechnic university. Town Councillors gave her an earful about the lack of programming at the campus instead. Eric Bowling/NNSL photo

As Aurora College transitions towards a Polytechnic University, the usage of its many separate campuses will need to reflect its new reality.

Planit North community planner Amanda Blair was on hand at Inuvik Town Council’s March 26 meeting to explain the current vision, answer questions and collect feedback on the transition of Aurora College to a fully accredited polytechnic university.

Blair, who has been commissioned to complete the Facilities Master Plan for the project, said the plan was to push the Inuvik campus to a more research oriented focus, but also to expand community programming and potentially restore old programs like trades and arts. She noted the current plans for programming are being made 10 years in advance to assist in securing grant funding for projects.

“We’re working under the assumption that all of the programs that are at the Aurora Campus today would continue on,” she said. “There’s going to be growth in in programming. For example some things that I’ve heard from other stakeholders has been around expansion of the trades program here and what that might mean from a facility standpoint. I understand that in the past you had quite a robust arts program that was going on. Things like hide tanning was happening and so on and so those things would have specific facility related components that we want to consider.”

There are big plans for other campuses as well. Blair noted the Fort Smith Thebacha campus will expand its student housing facilities and establishing a new North Slave campus in the Yellowknife area. Community learning centres across the territory will be linked up to provide the expanded programming to remote areas as well, which could also provide additional resources for researchers.

Coun. Grant Gowans asked if there were any plans to expand student housing in Inuvik, however Blair said the current focus was on facilities and programming. Gowans said programming should reflect the needs of local employers and called for more trades training. Coun. Tony Devlin suggested an Indigenous governance program, highlighting the ongoing self-government negotiations between both the Gwich’in and Inuvialuit and Canadian governments.

Regardless of the programming, councillors stressed the use of the Aurora campus had fallen off the radar over the last few decades and noted any investment or programming in the facility would be of benefit to the community and Beaufort Delta region, regardless of whether the college becomes a university or not.

“I first came here 23 years ago to teach at Aurora College and during that time, I’ll be really blunt, I’ve seen that campus be gutted from being an extraordinarily busy campus with lots of programs with a very wide range to basically now offering the office admin programs — while they’re very, very important, the more academic programs have disappeared. The natural resources technology program is gone, the recreation leaders program is gone, the social work program was here at one point, the criminal justice program was here they’ve basically all disappeared.

“The history in Inuvik is if a program does well here it gets stolen by Fort Smith or Yellowknife.”

Mero added Arts programming in particular helped people improve their standard of living by providing them with additional means of making money selling their crafts.

Coun. Natasha Kulikowski suggested future buildings for the campus should be more spread out through the community, noting the “hand me down” nature of how the campus was set up using old military facilities meant that the entire campus was currently downtown. The campus could also include a fitness centre for athletics, which would enrich community activities as well. A tourism and hospitality program would also be of great benefit to the region, she added.

Blair added future plans for the college involved expanding the campus, towards the Children’s First Centre. The college is also looking to acquire more land for future developments.

About the Author: Eric Bowling

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