TRU, UNBC, UBCO join forces to increase research capacity

By Adam Donnelly
December 15, 2017 - 5:08pm

KAMLOOPS — The old saying “Two heads are better than one” got a new twist Friday at Thompson Rivers University, as the three biggest universities in BC’s interior put their heads together to make a significant announcement of cooperation. It’s an agreement that has the potential to reshape the three communities that house these institutions of higher learning.

Friday morning at Thompson Rivers University. The Interior University Research Coalition was announced Friday morning at Thompson Rivers University. It’s an agreement almost two years in the making, involving TRU, UBC Okanagan, and the University of Northern British Columbia, designed to increase the research capacity of all three universities.

“Individually, the three universities have some really good strengths in research, and they also have complementary strengths,” Dr Alan Shaver, President of Thompson Rivers University explained. “By coming together as a coalition, you suddenly get a unit that’s greater than the sum of its parts, so to speak.”

The idea for the coalition came from the presidents of each institution, but the implementation of it fell to a trio of Vice Presidents at their respective institutions; Dr Will Garrett-Petts of TRU, Dr Geoffrey Payne of UNBC, and Dr Phil Barker of UBC.

According to Payne, the strength of the coalition lies in the communities the universities serve.

“What do we do we do well? We work well with communities,” Payne told CFJC’s sister-station, CKPG News. “The students that are engaged in this will have that go back into the communities to really improve the… interior of British Columbia.”

For Barker, engaging with their respective communities is the real purpose of these institutions.

“We’re all within the interior, we’re all tightly connected to our communities, and we’re all interested in solving regional problems,” Barker said.

The agreement will allow students from all three universities to access resources located at one of the other institutions involved in the coalition.

“For example, there’s specialized equipment at UNBC that isn’t in the Okanagan or TRU, so we’ll immediately begin moving graduate students and faculty back and forth so they can access those types of resources in ways they couldn’t do before,” Barker explained.

“That will give them the lens they wouldn’t necessarily get working with their own institution,” Payne said.

TRU President Alan Shaver believes this collaboration between the three biggest universities in BC’s interior has the potential to help address the economic challenges facing the communities these institutions call home.

“One of those [challenges] is developing a diverse economy, that isn't so dependent on resource extraction,” Shaver said. “That’s an example of where we can work together to develop innovation, and new ways of doing business.”

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