SFU announces Community Engagement Centre in Surrey



WEB-Surrey City Centre Library-Province of British Columbia

TD Bank Group donated $750,000 towards the creation of the centre

 By Leah Bjornson
Photos by Province of British Columbia

There was cause for celebration on May 3rd when TD Bank Group announced that it was donating $750,000 to SFU Surrey’s proposed “community engagement centre,” to be located at Surrey City Centre Library.

At the centre’s unveiling, SFU President Andrew Petter expressed hope that the centre would, “enable the university to strengthen its connections with Surrey’s ethnically diverse and growing population. The centre will connect children, adults and local organizations with SFU students, faculty and staff in meaningful ways that will enhance the quality of life for residents of the community.”

The new home of the SFU Community Engagement Centre will be found on the fourth floor of the Surrey library, and will be a place where new Canadians can participate in workshops and courses aimed at inspiring these citizens to pursue post-secondary education with SFU.

The centre will also provide SFU students and staff with opportunities to become involved with their community through programs like Friends of Simon Fraser, which according to their website, “recruits, prepares, and assigns university students as literacy tutors in the Lower Mainland, particularly with [newly immigrated] K-12 students.”

The creation of the centre falls within SFU’s Community Engagement Strategy released at the end of last year on December 29, 2012. The document outlines the university’s strategy to become “Canada’s most community-engaged research university” over the next three years. To assist in the pursuit of this goal, the Strategy proposes certain objectives, such as integrating community engagement in its academic and research goals and plans.

Installing the program at Surrey Campus additionally served the plan by “maximiz[ing] the capacities of [SFU’s] three campuses to enhance the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of communities locally and globally,” but the choice of campus means more than just an even distribution of SFU services.

In 2006, there were 150,190 immigrants living in Surrey. New immigrants comprise 19.4 per cent of Surrey’s total immigrant population, edging out Metro Vancouver’s rate of 18.2 per cent. These numbers become more significant when paired with the statistic that the immigrant population in Surrey has increased by 67 per cent between 1996 and 2006. BC’s overall immigration rate pales in comparison, increasing by a relatively meager 23.9 per cent. Because immigrants are the target demographic of the Centre’s services, it makes sense that the program would be initiated on the campus most closely located to those immigrant populations.

SFU’s Community Engagement Centre was made possible by the large donation from TD Bank Group. The project was unveiled on the morning of May 3rd at the proposed site for the project, Surrey City Centre Library, at 10am. At the event, Frank McKenna, Deputy Chair at TD Bank Group, spoke to the importance of community involvement for the corporation.

“We are proud to open this new centre in Surrey, one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in Canada,” said McKenna. “At TD, it’s important to us to give back to organizations that make a difference in the communities where our employees live and work.” Over the past five years alone, TD’s corporate donations to various causes have exceeded $300 million.

For SFU students, the centre creates another chance to become involved in the community. Brittany Burrill, a tutor with Friends of Simon — which will have home in the new centre — was quoted in Surrey NOW last week expressing her enthusiasm for the new space: “Through working as a tutor with Friends of Simon, I know the value of being involved with the community. I was able to build beyond textbook knowledge and what was required in my classes in order to experience helping real students.”

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