Philip Steenkamp never imagined how prestigious Royal Roads University (RRU) would become as an institute in only 25 years, but day after day he’s still amazed.
“This is the place where people go for lifelong learning, and it shows with the successful leaders we train for the world,” says the president of RRU. “At the same time, everyone knows the [Hatley] castle for being in film. I get to say that I work in Xavier’s House for Gifted Youngsters. It’s all part of the magic of this place.”
The university stands on 565 acres of forested lands at Hatley Park, previously used as a military training facility for 47 years. When the military college was converted into a university in 1995, the lands were designated a National Historic Site of Canada.
These days, visitors continually drop by the grounds to visit Hatley Castle, where films from the X-Men and Deadpool franchises were shot. Steenkamp says tourists lie on the ground and cross their legs, just like movie star Ryan Reynolds did in an Instagram post during film production.
Now, RRU has big plans for celebrating its 25th year in operation – one item on the agenda is moving their convocation back to campus after 10 years.
Currently, graduates walk across the stage at the Royal Theatre in downtown Victoria.
Before 2010, students would pack into a large white tent on the university grounds. In the fall, there will be a new 400-seat auditorium on campus.
This is made possible by renovating an old swimming pool. The idea had been around for ages, according to Steenkamp, but the funds hadn’t come through. Now, they’re planning to have the fully renovated auditorium up and running by October.
Additionally, the university plans to launch a speaker series starting on March 19, featuring ideas from students, alumni and industry professionals.
The first event featuring Thomas Homer-Dixon, a best-selling author and science professor, is sold out, but organizers are starting a waitlist.
Steenkamp has only held the title as president of RRU for just over a year, but he’s fully aware of the challenges that the future holds.
“We don’t live in a world where you go to high school, get a degree, and work your way up a single job ladder your whole life,” Steenkamp said.
“We live in a gig economy where everything is constantly changing. We’re doing our best to make sure Royal Roads will be nimble and adaptive to the needs of the future.”
RRU has been in talks with Camosun College and the University of Victoria for a joint campus on the West Shore in Langford since receiving $1.5 million from the province to make a business case on the idea.
Steenkamp is looking forward to what a campus focused on undergraduate programs can bring to the community. Until then, you’ll find him walking through the Japanese garden from time to time, planning how he can help guide the university into another 25 years of success.