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SFU Surrey turns 10

SFU Mechatronics Systems Engineering student Kevin Young works on the Team Guardian unmanned aerial vehicle during a demonstration at the Surrey campus earlier this year. The plane, equipped with cameras to help locate ground targets from the air, will be on display at this week’s open house at SFU Surrey to celebrate the campus’s first decade.  - Evan Seal / The Leader
SFU Mechatronics Systems Engineering student Kevin Young works on the Team Guardian unmanned aerial vehicle during a demonstration at the Surrey campus earlier this year. The plane, equipped with cameras to help locate ground targets from the air, will be on display at this week’s open house at SFU Surrey to celebrate the campus’s first decade.
— image credit: Evan Seal / The Leader

It may once have been considered a “satellite” campus – merely a branch of Simon Fraser University’s main Burnaby and Vancouver campuses – but that’s simply no longer the case at SFU Surrey.

While the local campus opened in a relatively small space in North Surrey with just over 550 students, much has happened in the past decade.

“Surrey is such an important and significant part of our university and frankly, looking to the future, Surrey will likely be the place where we’ll see the most significant growth,” says Andrew Petter, SFU president (below left). “It’s no longer a satellite.”

Andrew PetterSurrey SFU is marking its 10th anniversary with an open house this week, inviting the community to tour the facility and see the type of education and innovative research that is taking place.

If they haven’t visited in awhile, says Petter, they might be in for a bit of a surprise.

It was 2002 when the local campus, nestled in a corner of Central City Shopping Centre (then Surrey Place Mall), opened. TechBC (the Technical University of B.C.) was closed by the provincial government and its students and facilities were transferred to SFU.

While there were only about 565 students enrolled at the time, there are now approximately 6,000 full- and part-time students.

Programs run out of the Surrey campus include arts and social sciences, business administration, health sciences, the School of Interactive Arts & Technology (SIAT), and many more. The campus is also home to extensive research with facilities such as the International Centre for Cybercrime Research, a Virtual Pain Lab and new Mechatronics Systems Engineering labs.

In 2006, the campus had a re-opening after moving from its mall locale into the award-winning Bing Thom-designed tower at Central City. SFU now occupies about 350,000 square feet there, which includes lecture theatres, a library, multi-purpose teaching spaces, as well as a new wing of classrooms and labs that opened last fall.

Petter refers to the Surrey campus as the perfect example of an “engaged university,” one that is fully immersed within the community. For example, there are partnerships with the public education system that welcome elementary and high school students. The new City Centre Library has space set aside for SFU courses. And often SFU researchers work with local businesses to test and showcase their studies.

The Surrey campus has grown alongside Surrey’s City Centre, and has been embraced as an important part of the area’s redevelopment, says Joanne Curry, SFU Surrey’s executive director who has directed the campus since day one.

“I’ve seen many changes in the neighbourhood, including a completely leased office tower, new residential construction, and a new city library,” Curry says. “What is unchanged is the excitement and support of the community. We truly feel a part of the fabric of Surrey and the South Fraser.”

Petter takes great pride in the university’s integration into the neighbourhood.

“A lot of universities do things for the community,” he says. “But I like to think SFU does things with the community.”

What does the SFU Surrey’s future hold?

“The campus is bursting at the seams,” Petter admits, noting that while the recent provincial budget doesn’t reflect the demand for more post-secondary space, SFU is “ready and anxious to get going” as soon as B.C.’s financial picture brightens.

SFU Surrey’s open house takes place March 1, 4-8 p.m., featuring an array of interactive exhibits, live music and displays. Presentations and activities will include a simulation of the ocean’s power, made possible by the Ocean Turbine Emulator created by mechatronics students, who will also show off their unmanned aerial vehicles. There will even be painted maggots – an activity by SFU forensic entomologist Gail Anderson, who studies insects for their value as evidence in death investigations – in which the bugs are will be dipped in non-toxic paint and let loose on white paper to create a masterpiece.

For a full schedule of events, check http://www.surrey.sfu.ca/openhouse

SFU Surrey fast facts:

• 2002 - 565 students

• 2012 - 6,000 students

• 2002 - 74,000 square feet on two levels of shopping centre

• 2012 - 350,000  square feet

sreynolds@surreyleader.com

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