How I found my sense of belonging at Capilano University

By Christine Beyleveldt
Photo by Jonathan Buffone

I was at work a couple of weeks ago at work, and the entire office staff of Canada Wide Media gathered in the lunchroom to hear our own Editorial Director Anicka Quin’s Ted Talk, which she gave at the Chan Centre the prior weekend. “What’s it like to work in a dying industry?” she said plainly. She spoke of magazines as a keystone species in a world where we are more connected than ever, yet isolated by technology. Magazines celebrate communities. Western Living celebrates inspiring design across the West. The Capilano Courier celebrates the Capilano University community, and though I’ve often heard it said that CapU has no community, it does if you only look for it. 

This month, the University celebrated its 50th anniversary. The Capilano Courier is also celebrating this milestone. We started combing through our archives last year already to prepare for this issue. We found ads for bellbottom jeans and anti-communist propaganda printed in the 70s and story after story about rising tuition fees. We put this project on the backburner for a while, after coworkers started keeping a running tally of the number of times I referenced this issue. 

We’ve changed as dramatically as the school we serve over the years to better inform and entertain our community. Despite the dismal reality that the provincial government reneged on proper funding after Capilano College made its transition 10 years ago, and bitter comments about its status as an institute of higher education, CapU has always persevered.  

Quite clearly I remember one afternoon in my first year I was at Park Royal with my mom. An older woman asked me why I wasn’t in school and I explained that I only had class later that afternoon, so I was spending the morning with my mom. And when I mentioned that I went to CapU, I’ll never forget her comment, “why does that community college still insist on calling itself a University when its not?” She told me I was wasting my time and I’d get a better education at UBC. But CapU is the best of both worlds. It grants degrees but it has a teaching mandate and has the feel of community college. Your instructors not only know your name, they probably what you’re passionate about as well. And it is a community. I didn’t think so either in my first year. I attended class and went home again. But once I found my home in this corner office in Maple 122, everything changed. 

I’ve sat through costume fittings with actors in the Nat and Flora Bosa Centre basement, and later watched them perform on the Blueshore stage in Exit 22 productions. I’ve sat on the bleachers in the Sportsplex on a Friday night cheering on the Blues women’s basketball team with my coworkers as they crushed their opponents, and I’ve performed horribly in Battle of the Bands against the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) executives. 

My point is, home isn’t what someone else gives you. It’s what you make of what you have. A roof over your head or a class you attend twice a week doesn’t feel like home, but you can’t wait for someone else to provide the experience you’re looking for, you have to make it happen. 

A lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into turning our community college – an institute of higher learning that started as a temporary structure on a high school property – into the North Shore’s only University. On behalf of the staff of the Capilano Courier, we wish CapU a very happy birthday.

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