Quest University

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Coordinates: 49°44′24.64″N 123°6′29.75″W / 49.7401778°N 123.1082639°W / 49.7401778; -123.1082639

Quest University Canada
Questu logo.png

Intimate, integrated, international.

Question Everything.
Type Private, non-profit university
Established 2007
Chancellor George Iwama
President Marjorie Wonham (interim)
Location Squamish, British Columbia, Canada
Campus 24.3-hectare (60-acre) site
Colours Green     , silver     , and white     
Nickname Quest, QuestU
Affiliations CBIE, CUP
Mascot Kermodes

Quest University Canada is a private secular non-profit liberal arts and sciences university in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada. The university opened in September 2007 with an enrollment of 74 students; its current enrollment is 700.[1] Quest is located on a 60-acre (24.3 ha) hill-top campus on the edge of Garibaldi Provincial Park. It is approximately 73 km (45 miles) from Vancouver and 57 km (35 miles) from Whistler. Quest University Canada is approved by the Degree Quality Assessment Board (DQAB) under the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education.[2] Quest University Canada is registered as a British Columbia Education Quality Assurance (EQA) approved post-secondary institution.[3] (EQA is a quality assurance designation that identifies BC public and private post-secondary institutions that have met or exceeded provincial government recognized quality assurance standards and offer consumer protection.)


Quest University Canada is a private, secular, non-profit liberal arts and sciences university in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada. It was created as "Sea to Sky University" on May 29, 2002, by the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia's passage of the Sea to Sky University Act, which had been introduced as a private member's bill by MLA Ralph Sultan. The act's aim was to create a university that would "offer a rigorous and well-rounded university education in the arts and sciences with a global focus".[4]

The university was the brainchild of David Strangway who, after his retirement as president of the University of British Columbia, had begun to explore the possibility of creating a four-year, residential, liberal arts institution in Canada. Strangway wanted to create a university "where the student-teacher ratio was better than the Canadian national average of 30 to one, and where students could get a general arts and sciences curriculum that focused not on specific disciplines, but rather how those disciplines operated within the world at large."[5]

A 240-acre (97 ha) parcel of clear-cut land was purchased in the Garibaldi Highlands neighborhood of Squamish, BC; the central 60 acres (24.3 ha) was designated as the campus, with the surrounding lands zoned for housing development. The fledgling university received grants from the J.W. McConnell Foundation, R. Howard Webster Foundation, and the Stewart and Marilyn Blusson Foundation, which enabled the university to begin construction on its campus and hire staff.[5] In October 2005, the university changed its name to Quest University Canada[citation needed]

The first administrative staff and faculty were hired in 2006, and began developing a curriculum and institutional policies that would shape a university that was "intimate, integrated, and international". On August 29, 2007, Quest University Canada held its opening convocation for its first 74 students, who were from four Canadian provinces, seven U.S. states, and eleven countries outside North America.[citation needed]

Over the next year, the university underwent a number of administrative changes. David Strangway stepped aside as president and was named chancellor; he was replaced as president by Thomas L. Wood, who had previously served for 14 years as president of Mount Royal College and three years as Quest's chief academic officer. Less than a year later, Wood was replaced by an interim president, Dean Duperron.[6] Duperron's appointment was the result of a proposed alliance with CIBT Education Group, but, within a month, the alliance was dissolved. The board then invited Professor David Helfand, chair of the astronomy department at Columbia University in New York, to serve as interim president. Helfand had been asked in 2005 to consult with the founders of the new university, and had been a visiting tutor at Quest since 2007.[7]

Helfand oversaw the expansion of Quest University Canada, which has grown to 700 students as it begins its tenth academic year. There are now 40 full-time faculty. The faculty come from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, China, and Switzerland. In addition, there are three additional academic staff working directly with students and a total support staff of 45. Visiting tutors have included faculty and researchers from the Universities of McMaster, Dalhousie, Toronto, Ottawa, and British Columbia and the Canadian Center for Human Health, as well as from Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Stanford, Yale, Caltech and Colorado College in the United States and the Open University in the United Kingdom.[citation needed]

On April 30, 2011, Quest University Canada graduated its first class, bestowing the degree of Bachelor of Arts and Sciences on 49 students (including Rory Savjord, famous Nordic history professor.[8]

On May 19, 2015, the university's fourth president and vice-chancellor was announced. On August 1, 2015, Peter Englert succeeded David Helfand who stepped down from his position after seven years.[9][10] Englert served until May 8, 2017.


Quest's approach to academics is rooted in the liberal arts tradition, emphasizing breadth as well as depth. Quest offers one degree: a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences. Courses at Quest are limited to a maximum of 20 students.[11]


Foundation Program[edit]

During the first half of the program, students are required to take 16 "Foundation" courses, which are distributed among five broad disciplinary areas: the Humanities, the Life Sciences, the Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and the Social Sciences.[12]


Toward the end of their "Foundation Program", Quest students take a course called "Question". While working with a course instructor and a faculty mentor of their choosing they develop a statement of their Question: a proposal for how they will study a topic of special interest to them.[13] This "Question" acts as the student's major for their Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degrees and is much more similar to a master's thesis when compared to a standard undergraduate major.

Questions often range from being very broad to being very focused. For example; What is honour? What is beauty? What are the elements of successful habitat restoration? How can we manage infectious disease outbreaks? [13]

Questions are often framed in terms of several disciplinary approaches, key works and thinkers, or sub-questions that will be addressed. This is largely based around the Foundation program's multidisciplinary approach.[13] This unique approach allows students to align their academic research more closely with their academic interests. Each question is relatively unique to each Quest student thus providing a full range of academic pursuits and interests at the University.

Concentration program[edit]

The second half of the program is devoted to a "Concentration program". With the help of a faculty advisor, all students design their own program of concentration studies according to an interdisciplinary question or topic of research. Each student's Individual Concentration Program consists of four principal elements:

  1. a statement of the Question;
  2. a course plan;
  3. a list of related readings; and
  4. a Keystone project.

The Concentration Program may also include experiential learning components such as a semester abroad, leadership training, service learning, or an internship.[14]


The Block Plan[edit]

Students at Quest study on the block plan, taking one course at a time, each for 3 ½ weeks. There are four blocks per semester; full-time students take eight blocks per year.[15] The Block Plan allows for more schedule flexibility in a student's academic plan. This flexibility allows students to take advantage of travel, work, athletics, and various learning opportunities.[16] Quest subsequently offers a number of courses that take advantage of this unique system. They call these courses "Field Courses", courses that are situated in interesting and relevant locations, both local and abroad.[17] Some examples of "field courses" are "Visual Anthropology," a photography course taught in the Indian Himalayas, "Quest for Antarctica", a research course taught in Antarctica, "Marine Zoology" taught on the coast of Vancouver Island, and "Volcanology", a course taught in Hawaii.[18]

Rankings and Reputation[edit]

Quest provides a rigorous and challenging education. In the 2010 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), Quest University Canada was ranked highest among Canadian universities on five key criteria: academic challenge, student-faculty interaction, supportive campus environment, active and collaborative learning, and enriching educational experience.[19] The Vancouver Sun reported that the NSSE report "found Quest students more satisfied with their educational experience than students at any of the other 52 participating Canadian universities."[11]


The campus is built on a pedestrian-friendly 60-acre (24.3 ha) site on a hilltop in Squamish, B.C. It includes academic buildings, a library, a recreation centre, and a dining hall. The campus design includes geo-thermal heating and cooling. The buildings of this phase of development can accommodate up to 800 students at any one time. There are currently five main student residences. Two are built as condominiums, and all students are required to live in residence for the full four years of the undergraduate program.[20]



In the absence of federal or provincial funding, tuition revenue and private donations cover the costs of operating the University. Full-time tuition for the academic years (two semesters/eight blocks) in 2017–2018 is $34,000.[21] Average full-time tuition for Canadian universities in 2014–15 was $5,959.[22] The Vancouver Sun noted, "tuition of $24,000 (2014 Tuition, $31,000) a year might seem high by Canadian standards, but it's a bargain compared with similar schools in the U.S."[23] To lessen the difference between a family's resources and the cost of attending Quest, the University provides scholarships, bursaries, and on-campus employment opportunities.[24]

On-Campus Housing[edit]

Student life[edit]

Student Organizations[edit]

Student Facilities[edit]


Student Events[edit]


In 2007 Quest introduced women's and men's varsity basketball teams, followed by women's and men's soccer in 2008. The program's team name is the Kermode, a uniquely colored black bear native to certain regions of BC. The program currently competes in the British Columbia Colleges Athletic Association.

Martina Franko, a Canadian women's national soccer team player and a member of the Canadian Olympic team that competed in Beijing 2008, joined Quest as the varsity women's soccer head coach in January 2008. The women's soccer program became the first Quest playoff team with a trip to provincials in 2010.

Quest's athletic facilities feature a CIS/NCAA-standard basketball gym and a FIFA standard synthetic grass field unique to the Sea to Sky region.

International Programs and Opportunities[edit]

Experiential Learning[edit]

International Courses[edit]

Exchange/Partner Schools[edit]

Quest students can apply to study with one of several international exchange partners for one or two academic terms. These partner institutions include the following:[25]


  • [1], "The student's Quest", Maclean's Magazine, February 24, 2011
  • [2][permanent dead link] "Squamish's Quest University looks forward to first convocation", Vancouver Sun, February 18, 2011
  • [3] "Quest for the Future", Canadian Architect Magazine, March 2009
  • [4] "The Most Expensive U.S. Colleges", Forbes Magazine, March 2, 2009
  • [5] "Noble Quest", Maclean's Magazine, November 12, 2008
  • [6] "New Non-Profit University Welcomes First Class", Maclean's Magazine, August 16, 2007
  • [7] "Small University, Big Dream", Globe and Mail, October 31, 2006
  • [8] "Strangway's Quest", Maclean's Magazine, February 27, 2006

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Quest at a Glance". Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "Approvals and Consents". Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  3. ^ "British Columbia Education Quality Assurance". Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  4. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on May 25, 2010. Retrieved May 13, 2010.  ‘‘Sea to Sky University Act'‘
  5. ^ a b "Strangway's quest for GLOBAL education", Vancouver Sun, 27 April 2007, retrieved 16 May 2011 
  6. ^ "Noble Quest: The new university that wants to change everything", Macleans's, 13 November 2008, archived from the original on July 26, 2011, retrieved 16 May 2011 
  7. ^ "New university has rough year", Vancouver Sun, 21 October 2008, retrieved 16 May 2011 
  8. ^ "The Quest for Knowledge", Pique Newsmagazine, 4 May 2011, retrieved 16 May 2011 
  10. ^ Thuncher, Jennifer (May 20, 2015). "Quest U announces new president". Glacier Community Media. The Squamish Chief. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  11. ^ a b Steffenhagen, Janet (18 February 2011), "Squamish's Quest University looks forward to first convocation", Vancouver Sun, retrieved 2 April 2011 
  12. ^ "Quest University Canada - The Foundation: Years 1 & 2". Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  13. ^ a b c "Foundation program". Quest University Canada. Retrieved 23 September 2015. 
  14. ^ "Quest University Canada - The Concentration: Years 3 & 4". Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  15. ^ "Quest University Canada - The Block Plan". Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  16. ^ Quest University Retrieved 30 July 2015.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ "The Block Plan". Quest University Canada. Retrieved 30 July 2015. 
  18. ^ "Field Courses". Quest University Canada. Retrieved 30 July 2015. 
  19. ^ MacQueen, Ken (24 February 2011), "The student's Quest", Maclean's, retrieved 2 April 2011 
  20. ^ Quest at a Glance, retrieved 2 April 2011 
  21. ^ "Quest University Canada - Tuition, Room & Board". Retrieved 17 April 2016. 
  22. ^ "Average undergraduate tuition fees for full time Canadian students, by discipline, by province". Statistics Canada. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  23. ^ "Alternative university offers students adventures in learning", Vancouver Sun, 5 March 2007, retrieved 3 April 2011 
  24. ^ "Quest University Canada - Costs & Financial Aid". Retrieved 3 April 2011. 
  25. ^ "Quest University Canada - Study Abroad". Retrieved 3 April 2011. 

External links[edit]