Friday, April 20, 2007

Shooting for the Moon...Again

Watching the construction of our campus near its end, while simultaneously observing the first class take shape, makes this one of the most exciting and rewarding times of my career. The only thing to even come close was working on the Apollo lunar landings during the halcyon days of the space program in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

The academic credentials and diversity of experience among these students applying to Quest are most impressive. We are very pleased to see students enrolling from all over Canada, the U.S. and such countries as Switzerland, Thailand, China, Bhuton, Germany and others. Our entire staff is thrilled by the scholastic achievements of our emerging student body. But we are also delighted by the curiosity demonstrated in the student dossiers. It turns out that “Questers” are an active, entrepreneurial lot who are deeply concerned about world poverty, the environment, self-improvement and making a difference - just as we had hoped they would be.

On the Quest web site, we have asked students from around the world to share their “quests,” to briefly outline a shape for their lives. You can read what dozens of young people have written about their journeys and the contributions they hope to make at Be sure to add yours as well.

My Quest may be even loftier than cracking the mysteries of the moon’s crust: To augment the Canadian landscape with a university that offers students and those who work with them, the opportunity to pursue personal quests that reverberate in wonderful ways all over this big blue planet.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Preview Days - A Window into Quest

I want to draw your attention to these recent photos of our campus in progress.

University Services (Front)

University Services Building (Back)
You can see from these images that the buildings at Quest University Canada—with their sweeping glass facades—were consciously designed to create openings to the natural world, not barriers to it.

Every day something emerges on our campus that wasn’t there before. A construction site begins to look like a building, which begins to look like a graceful modern library (below from a distance)—watching a university take shape is like watching a great work of art come to life.

For the parents and students reading this blog, I want to extend a personal invitation to our next campus Preview Day, Saturday, April 14, (click here) so you can experience Quest personally. Not only do our Preview Days offer you a glimpse of our splendid new facilities, these programs also provide a “taste of Quest,” offering mock classes and staff panels so you can experience the results of the philosophical revolution undergirding our classes and curriculum.

Of course, we offer admission and scholarship/financial aid information during these sessions. And I will be on hand to speak as well as answer any of your questions about Quest and why I think it’s the most important thing to happen in Canadian higher education in the last 50 years.

To make reservations for the April 14 event, simply complete the online registration form here. I very much look forward to meeting you.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Digital Communications from Quest

As our project continues, we are producing a number of different communications pieces to tell the world about what we are doing at Quest. Recently, we've created some short videos, blogs, and other ways for folks to see the latest developments including a "myspace" page Another option is our multi-media page from the Quest website which provides an easy way to find some of our productions. I've also provided some blog links on the side of the page. Your comments are always welcome. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a group of students studying at one of the leading high schools in Korea. I had been invited as a distinguished speaker to visit the school and address the students. We decided that the best format for this presentation was an interview in which I would answer a series of six questions on such topics as my childhood in Africa, my undergraduate experiences, my days with the NASA space program, my time as President of the University of British Columbia and finally, what I had learned as the President of the Canada Foundation for Innovation. This was essentially an opportunity to explain how my own life experiences had contributed to the vision we have created for Quest.

I enjoyed responding to these questions but what impressed me most were the students at this outstanding Korean high school.

When one of the students asked about the admission requirements of Quest University Canada, we turned the question around and asked, “Knowing what you know about this university, what criteria would you set as being most important for admission?”

Having shared my answers to the questions that had been presented to me, I was hugely gratified when a student answered: “passion”. For of all the things that I have learned and experienced in my life, it is a passion for challenge, for inquiry, for discovery, and for experiencing all that this incredible world has to offer that has shaped who I am today. And I thank that student in a Korean high school for reminding me of the starting point of all education – a desire for discovery, a passion for adventure, a joy in dealing with challenges. (I hope he applies to Quest!)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Quest Video

Some of you who read this blog have expressed interest in learning more about Quest University Canada. In this age of incredible technology, I am happy to share with you the video we produced this past summer. With any luck, if you click the play button below, you'll see and hear a little bit about our project.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Emerging Power of China

Recently I was in Kunming, China attending a meeting of an association of university presidents of which I am a member. Returning to the hotel in the evening, I turned on the TV to catch the news. It was a memorable moment as I watched representatives of 48 African nations walk across the stage to be greeted by China’s President in the Great Hall of the People. The occasion was the Africa-China Summit. Together these leaders signed $1.9 billion U.S. worth of business development and trade agreements. China also announced they would offer $5 billion in loans and credit and double their aid to Africa by 2009.

With an historic meeting and the stroke of a pen, the dynamics of the relationship between Africa and the West has been dramatically changed as China and the developing countries of Africa begin forging strong relationships.

China is boldly and dynamically building friendly relations with African counties with a keen eye to the future and the potential for the exploitation of Africa’s natural resources, particularly oil. It is a coup of significant proportions potentially causing a major shift in international positioning. For the moment at least, the West has been outflanked. It would be ironic if this led to the West beginning to break down its agricultural subsidies in order to enable success at the WTO Doha Round of Negotiations. These negotiations stalled essentially because the West would not end its agricultural subsidies which have kept prices high, and as such, inaccessible to most African nations.

I should note that Kunming, once the isolated provincial capital of Yunnan province, is today a bustling urban centre of more than 5 million people. The broad clean streets bear witness to the community’s slogan, “city of eternal spring” - even at this time in November there is an abundance of flowers, green trees and pleasantly warm weather. The building boom seems relentless with new construction wherever you look. Modern, well-stocked department stores with all of the latest designer goods, fashions and trends vie with traditional markets and hawkers for the attention of locals and an increasingly large number of international visitors. The major billboard in the centre of the city features the latest handsome young singing sensation, a guy with attitude called “Jay”. A student guide informed me that the slogan beneath his picture translates as “Don’t take the usual path”. I couldn’t help but feel that the new youth of China are an incredible force for the future. I have no doubt that they will indeed break new ground.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Integrative Learning - A Key Component of Higher Education

For some time now I have wanted to reflect on exactly why I think it is important to integrate the arts and the sciences in undergraduate education.

Researchers, journalists, writers and thinkers around the globe are more productive than ever before. Estimates are that the amount of new information is more than doubling every ten years. Assessing and analyzing even a tiny fraction of the current global output – to say nothing of knowledge generated in earlier years – is a daunting challenge. The addition of different cultural perspectives, new academic disciplines, countless discoveries and new ideas, and the massive expansion of the world’s university systems and research capabilities have made it impossible for even the most devoted and engaged citizen to stay on top of anything but a small fraction of the knowledge, information, ideas and insights now in circulation.

The result, not surprisingly, has been the development of academic and personal specialization within the post-secondary education system. Increasingly people know more and more about less and less. Students are expected to specialize early, often receiving little or no introduction to the insights and ideas generated in another part of the academy. Subsequently many students graduate from university with a highly fragmented understanding of the knowledge available in the world and few strategies for coping with its complexity.

“What is needed?”

Ironically, our complex, inter-connected world requires more integration of knowledge, not less, and more generalists to work with the specialists now graduating from our universities. Scientists need to understand the dictates of national politics and the ethical parameters within which new discoveries must be developed. Cultural understanding, in the form of language, literature, and popular culture, has to be integrated into efforts to explain regional, national, and international social movements. Understanding the social dynamics of technological change requires knowledge of both social structures and the intricacies of contemporary technologies. The myriad influences of globalization – ecological change, cultural diffusion, political, and economic integration – require many different perspectives. Citizens seeking to work in this rapidly changing and complex intellectual environment require the skill of integration and the ability to work with and between bodies of disciplinary knowledge.

We need to rekindle enthusiasm for intellectual integration. We need to encourage students to read between the disciplines and to develop the special skills of synthesis. We need to revive the generalist approach to personal growth and intellectual development.

Quest University Canada is inspired by precisely this kind of thinking. I am convinced that an education based on the science of synthesis and integration, learning across cultures and academic disciplines, will prepare our graduates very well for the challenges and opportunities of an interconnected, interdependent world. And that’s why I think it is so important to integrate the arts and the sciences.

I would like to hear other’s views on this great challenge we face in preparing students for life in the 21st century. What do you think about the direction of education for the future? And by the way, a warm welcome to dialogue at Quest!