Dawson College

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This article is about the Montreal-area college. For the September 13, 2006 shootings at this college, see Dawson College shooting. For the community college in Glendive, Montana, see Dawson Community College.
Dawson College
Established 1969
Affiliation Non-denominational
Dean Robert Kavanagh, Ph.D.
Director General Richard Filion
Students 11,000

Pre-University Students

Technical College Students
Location Westmount, Quebec, Canada
45°29′22″N 73°35′18″W / 45.489374°N 73.588298°W / 45.489374; -73.588298Coordinates: 45°29′22″N 73°35′18″W / 45.489374°N 73.588298°W / 45.489374; -73.588298
Campus Urban (4.85 hectares (12 acres))
Sports teams Blues
Colours Blue and White          
Nickname Blues
Affiliations ACCC, CCAA, QSSF, CUSID, CUP.
Website www.dawsoncollege.qc.ca

Dawson College was the first English Collège d’enseignement général et professionnel (CEGEP) and is located in Westmount, just west of downtown Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Dawson College is situated near the heart of downtown Montreal in a former nunnery on approximately 4.85 hectares of green space. It is the largest CEGEP in the province of Quebec, with a student population of approximately eight thousand day students and three thousand evening students enrolled in more than fifty fields of study. The total number of students attending Dawson College is slowly but steadily approaching eleven thousand.


Dawson College behind the Atwater metro station

Dawson College was first based at the Royal Canadian Air Force Base, St. Jean (now Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu), Quebec, in the Montérégie (later the location of Le Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean). It was a satellite campus set up on September 26, 1945 by McGill University to handle the overflow registration of students after the Second World War and the returning veterans. Those students in the first 3 years of the Faculty of Engineering were taught there, thus relieving the McGill campus for the later 2 years for the degree course. That version of Dawson College was closed in May 1950.

The college traces its origins to the merger of several institutions which became public in 1967, when the Quebec system of CEGEPs was created. The current Dawson College was the first English-language institution in the Quebec network of CEGEPs when it opened its doors to 1,200 students in the fall of 1969. The College is named for Sir William Dawson, a principal of McGill University from 1855 to 1893.

The college was originally housed in a converted pharmaceutical factory at 350 Selby Street in Westmount, with additional space in a former elementary school (Richelieu Building) at 990 Rue du Couvent (Mathematics and Business), and the second floor of 4333 Saint Catherine St. W. (Data Processing). In 1970, a second campus (used mostly for Creative Arts programs) was opened on Viger Street just to the north of Old Montreal. Two years later, its third campus was opened near Parc Lafontaine. And in 1975, the Data Processing faculty and New School relocated to 485 McGill St. (Victoria Building). By 1988 Dawson either still or had also operated the Richelieu campus in St. Henri, the DeLorimier campus, the Victoria campus on McGill Street (in Old Montreal), with additional facilities on among other locations.

In 1988, Dawson College occupied the former Mother House of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame. Full consolidation under one roof only happened in 1997, when the Selby building was finally closed. Extensive renovations transformed the century-old building into an attractive, modern, and well-equipped college, occupying an entire city block between de Maisonneuve Boulevard, Sherbrooke Street, and Wood Avenue in Westmount, as well as Atwater Street in Montreal.

In August 2010, Dawson College rented the fourth floor of the Pepsi Forum and added a few classrooms as a solution to overcrowding.[1] The P Wing was therefore equipped with six classrooms for regular day students and one classroom and computer laboratory for programs leading to the obtention of an AEC (Attestation of Collegial Studies). A security office and student lounge were also added.


The de Maisonneuve entrance of Dawson College

The CEGEP offers two types of programs: pre-university and technical.The pre-university programs, which take two years to complete, cover the subject matters which roughly correspond to the additional year of high school given elsewhere in Canada as well as university-level introductory courses in preparation for a chosen field in university. The technical programs, which take three years to complete, apply to students who wish to pursue a skilled trade. Evening courses are offered through continuing education in both credit and non credit division and corporate training is available as well. Dawson recently partnered with the University of Sherbrooke to launch the Confucius Institute in Quebec on its campus.

Pre-university programs offered at Dawson College[edit]

  • Creative Arts, Literature, and Languages (CALL)
    • Cinema, Video, and Communications
    • Business is also now offered
    • Interactive Media Arts
    • Languages
    • Literature
    • Visual arts
  • Fine Arts
  • Sciences
    • Pure and Applied Science
    • Health Science
    • First Choice Science (see Section 2.1.1 below for details)
    • Environmental Science
    • Explorations Science
    • Developmental Science
  • Social Science
    • General Social Science
    • Commerce
    • Child Studies
    • Environmental Studies
    • International Business Studies
    • Law, Society and Justice
    • North-South Studies
    • Psychology
    • Travel and Tourism
  • Liberal Arts

Usually pre-university programs require four semesters (two years) to complete.

First Choice Science[edit]

Dawson College offers a competitive pre-university honours program known as First Choice Science (FCS). Students enrolled in First Choice Science can choose between the Pure and Applied Science or the Health Science Profile. Admission to First Choice Science is by invitation only. Additionally, only students who apply to Dawson College as their first choice college will be considered for admission. Admission to FCS is contingent on the spaces available and is therefore extremely competitive. Students deemed eligible will receive a letter inviting them to join FCS.

It is the philosophy of FCS that the needs of those dedicated students wishing to expand their intellectual horizons beyond the norm be addressed. Equally important is the need to develop in each student a leadership potential, the ability to communicate clearly and effectively, and the ability to develop ideas and present them in a public forum. To this effect:

  • Many topics are treated at a more sophisticated level than in the regular science stream.
  • Active student participation through classroom discussion, office hour meetings, and extracurricular activities is encouraged.
  • Students are encouraged to enter and are supported in their participation in provincial, national and international biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics and physics competitions.
  • Class tests may query students at a more sophisticated level than the regular stream sections.
  • The enrichment nature of FCS does not give faculty a license to overwhelm students with excessive or inappropriately difficult material. It is understood, however, that the student will be an aggressive learner, intellectually curious, and highly motivated to expand their horizons.[2]

Technical and career programs offered at Dawson College[edit]

  • Creative and Applied Arts
    • Three-Dimensional Animation and Computer Generated Imagery
    • Graphic Design
    • Illustration and Design
    • Industrial Design
    • Interior Design
    • Professional Photography
    • Professional Theatre
  • Science, Medical Studies, and Engineering
    • Biomedical Laboratory Technology
    • Civil Engineering Technology
    • Diagnostic Imaging
    • Electronics Engineering Technology
    • Laboratory Technology - Analytical Chemistry
    • Mechanical Engineering Technology
    • Nursing
    • Physical Rehabilitation
    • Radiation Oncology
  • Social Science and Business Technology
    • Accounting and Management Technology
    • Business Management (Marketing)
    • Community Recreation Leadership Training
    • Computer Science Technology
    • Social Service

Usually technical and career programs require six semesters (three years) to complete.

Special areas of study at Dawson College[edit]

  • Creative and Applied Arts
    • Hellenic Studies
    • Jewish and Israeli Studies
    • Women's Studies
  • Social Science
    • New School
    • Preparatory Arts
    • Reflections (see section below)

The time required to complete a program in the special areas of study varies.[3]


Reflections is a double-credit course which offers Dawson students an alternative way to complete their English, Humanities, and Complementary courses by attending weekly seminars. The Reflections program offers a different yet effective pedogagical approach, which include teacher-led discussions and short lectures.

As teachers participating in the Reflections seminars are being chosen, many new course combinations are making their appearance. The Fall 2014 semester will notably include a combined French and Humanities seminar.

General Education Courses[edit]

In addition to concentration courses, students are required to complete general education courses in order to graduate. These core courses include four English courses, two French courses, three humanities courses, and three physical education courses. Most students must also pass two complementary courses outside their area of study. In all cases, students are awarded a Diploma of College Studies upon completion of their program of study. Then, they have the choice to either join the workforce or pursue their studies at university.

Dawson Student Union[edit]

Dawson College's entrance on Sherbrooke Street

The Dawson Student Union (DSU) is the Dawson College students' union representing the approximately 7,500 full-time students and 2,500 part-time students. It funds, coordinates and regulates clubs and activities, and is a resource for students to direct them to appropriate departments and services. The union also does its part to inform students of their rights and also lobbies for them when necessary.[4]

In November 2008, the Dawson Student Union contacted Montreal police after an estimated $840,000 in union funds were misappropriated. This came after much criticism towards the union for not publishing financial statements since its 2005 accreditation.[5]

The DSU has since been working to establish itself as a functional, autonomous, accredited student union.

Campus activities[edit]

Dawson College behind the Atwater metro station

Dawson College has a number of clubs, 25 officially funded by the college and 8 that receive no funding. These include religious and language-themed clubs, para-academic groups, athletic clubs, program-based clubs, cultural clubs and more. Dawson also has a radio station, CIXS: The Edge, as well as a student newspaper, The Plant, which publishes every Thursday during term, with a circulation in 2012 of about 1350 copies. Founded in 1969, it is a member of Canadian University Press (CUP), and is the largest CEGEP newspaper in Quebec. Editors are chosen at the end of each semester (August–December, January–May) for the upcoming semester based on a democratic vote by the previous editors and the 'Writing For The Plant' class.

The majority of the clubs are in the 2C wing of the college. This wing is also on the ground-level in the center of the school, while the athletics department is located in the 1H wing, in the metro-level south-west corner of the school. New clubs can be formed with the help of the DSU.

Campus athletics[edit]

Dawson College, known nationally as the “Blues” has one of the largest intercollegiate programs in Canada. A large number of recreational and intramural programs are also offered to the student population. Although Dawson College offers a wide variety of sports to its student body, the national governing body of college athletics, the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) only sanctions five sports nationally (AAA), those sports are: basketball, soccer, golf, badminton, and cross country running. Of these five sports Dawson College competes nationally in basketball, golf, cross country running and soccer. Some of Dawson's highlights from its athletic history include winning the Men's and Women's Provincial Hockey Championships and having the CCAA award the Dawson College Blues a banner representing "25 Years of Basketball Supremacy".

School shooting[edit]

Two days after the tragic event, people bring flowers to the de Maisonneuve entrance of Dawson College where the first gunshots had been fired.

On September 13, 2006, a shooting occurred at Dawson College. Kimveer Gill, a 25-year-old resident of Laval, Quebec, entered the school armed with a variety of guns. Gill began firing on students outside of the entrance and again in the Atrium, before committing suicide after being shot by a police officer. Some witnesses reported to having seen a second gunman, a claim later proven incorrect by local police force. There was one other death, 18-year-old female student Anastasia Rebecca de Sousa, while nineteen more were injured, eight critically.

Gill was dressed in a black trenchcoat, military clothes and combat boots, resulting in comparisons with Columbine High School killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. He was a member of gothmetal.net where he is seen holding guns and favored the video game depicting the Columbine High School shootings. A similar profile has been depicted on the website www.vampirefreaks.com, though it was taken down by the website administrators for unknown reasons. His profile name on that website was fatality666. Around 10:41 that morning, Gill made a final entry on the Vampirefreaks and listed his mood as "No mood." He wrote "Whiskey in the morning, mmmmmm, mmmmmmmmm, good!!"

The media developed a theory that Gill's motive was to copycat the Columbine shootings. Students said Gill was calm and shot randomly.

The college was closed until Friday, September 15, when teachers and support staff returned. Students were given access to the campus again on Monday, September 18, and classes resumed the following day, on Tuesday, September 19.

Other schools in Canada, including the four universities in Montreal (McGill University, Concordia University, Université du Québec à Montréal, and Université de Montréal), provided grief counseling for their students. Some had also put up special messages regarding this incident.

Student records security controversy[edit]

During the 2012/2013 academic school year, a student, Ahmed Al-Khabaz, was working on an application to give students access to their on-line records from mobile devices. While developing the application, he and another student discovered a security hole due to "sloppy coding" in a third-party student records system.[6]

Al-Khabaz and his colleague reported the issue to the college administration, and they were congratulated. They were told the problem would be fixed immediately. However, days later, when Al-Khabaz ran a web vulnerability scanner on the college's servers to see if the problem had been resolved, Skytech company president Edward Taza called Al-Khabaz and accused him of performing a cyber attack. Taza spoke of the possibility of legal action and imprisonment and suggested Al-Khabaz sign an agreement to tell no one about the flaw, which Al-Khabaz did. After signing the non-disclosure agreement, the college expelled Al-Khabaz, and his appeal to tell his side of the story was denied.

At first the college refused to comment on the expulsion, stating that they could not discuss individual student situations. However, due to overwhelming public pressure, they said at a press conference that the student had been warned not to attempt to test the security of the system.[7]

Skytech has reported that the problem has since been fixed. They have offered Al-Khabaz a part-time job, and a scholarship to another institution. There is also a petition available requesting Dawson College to reinstate the student, due to the lack of due process. The possibility of a class action suit by students regarding the College's laxity in dealing with a serious threat to their data and poor security protocols remains.

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]

English-language CEGEPs:


External links[edit]