Fort Chipewyan Campus

I had traveled up to Fort Chipewyan a couple of weeks ago, in the midst of that early September heat wave, to get a sneak preview of Keyano College's new campus. Going up today for the official grand opening, there won't be a lot of surprises for me, but it will be something special to see the halls crowded with community, government and industry leaders.

Previously, we had rented space in the Multi-Plex, but the time had come to go out on our own.  Thanks to land made available by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and a couple years of design and construction, students are hard at work on semester one in the new facility.  The community also has access to the beautiful Jeanne MacIntyre Library, contemporary, airy, welcoming, in the heart of the campus.

It has great energy.  Every room has natural light, the hallways are nice and wide, and the student lounge cradled in the inner curve of the Keyano College icon has windows that reach to the ceiling and colours that are sure to warm the soul in the cold dark days of winter.

"Students are loving it," said Maxine Bourke, the longtime Keyano employee who greets you as you enter the building.  "They are actually hanging out till the end of the day."

Technology is in abundance in this state-of-the-art learning facility, with hi-speed Internet connectivity, lots of computers, and SMART Boards.

"Technology provides students a wide variety of course opportunities without having to leave Fort Chip," said Cathy Davis-Herbert, Dean, Lifelong Learning.  "This new campus allows us to deliver more options and strengthens the community."

As with most major construction projects, there were a few bumps along the road to completion.  The winter road closed exceptionally early a couple of years ago, before a lot of the construction material could make its way north on trucks.  And once we got building, the opening date became a moving target.  But the wait was worth it, as over 40 students are in the classrooms with a visibly renewed interest in what Keyano College has to offer.

Minister of Advanced Education and Technology, Greg Weadick will join us to add the government's feather to the dreamcatcher that will stand watch over the student lounge, as will Deputy Mayor Dave Kirschner, President & CEO Dr. Kevin Nagel, leaders from the Mikisew Cree First Nation, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Metis Local No. 125.  Elders, staff, students and leaders of the industrial partners who contributed to the project will gather together around noon today to officially open the facility.  We will break bread, give tours of the campus, and bask in the glorious northern sun promised by the weather forecasters.


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