Castlegar Chamber of Commerce group gets updated on Selkirk College topics

Selkirk College President/CEO Angus Graeme gives a state-of-the-college address to Castlegar Chamber of Commerce business after business mixer on April 30.

Selkirk College’s main Castlegar campus played host to the Chamber of Commerce ‘Business after Business mixer last week.

Enjoying the ambiance and appetizers on hand in the college’s faculty lounge, a number of Chamber members got together to be informally brought up to speed on a number of college topics by president/CEO Angus Graeme.

The recent success of Selkirk’s collegiate hockey squad was touched upon first as Graeme got into his video-enhanced presentation.

“There’s a lot of stuff to feel good about at Selkirk, on any given day,” Graeme began, “but to win the BC championship for the second year in a row is a real accomplishment. Kim (Verigin) has worked really hard over the last seven, eight years to bring us from the bottom of the league to the top.

The morale-boosting quality of a strong athletic program was touched upon by the school’s top executive.

“Those early games would have… 30 people, max… and a bunch of those were the scratched players and the bus drivers. Now we’re seeing great community support from Castlegar in particular and, of course, people from around the region. When I’m walking around the streets of Nelson, even when the Leafs are doing well, people are saying (of the Saints) ‘that’s great hockey!'”

Graeme supplied a wide ranging, well-rounded overview of the college, covering such topics as curriculum-based strategies, student-body demographics… and (given the roughly half-venture age of the campus) the rapidly-developing issue of infrastructure improvements.

On the upbeat side of things, Graeme focused on the importance of the institution to the surrounding community.

“If you’re a follower of the community college movement,” he stated, “you’d see that it’s really about the next generation of learner, leader and business leader, but also about supporting economic development.

“I’ve got dollar figures here, but in behind that are all of the student stories,” the CEO related. “We just had our 48th grad ceremony (April 25) and we graduated about 780 students from various programs. About 250 showed up for their cap and gown… it’s just a great community event.”

As for the gravity of the fiscal impact generated by the college, Graeme continued.

“Our operating grant from government is about $27 million and we combine another 11 or 12 (million) to that every year… including the management of about a $7 million endowment that goes toward our bursaries, scholarships and other activities. We inject about $38 million of activity into the regional economy.”

The president told the group of about a dozen that Selkirk College has about 350 full-time equivalent employees. “If you add up the part-timers and on-call folks… it’s closer to 500. It’s about a $30 million payroll,” he said.

Another one of the many interesting points made by Graeme involved input he’s heard regarding the relative status of schools offering two-year courses as opposed to four-year-degree-granting universities.

He had this to say about discussions he’s had concerning the question ‘when is Selkirk College going to grow up and become a university?’

“I’m really proud of the community college movement, and being part of that movement,” he asserted. “We decided not to join some of our brothers and sisters and become a teaching university. It affects us in some ways, but 70 programs and disciplines in an institution of our size would not be possible if we went to a four-year degree-granter.”

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