Crystal Schick/Yukon News A student walks up to the main entrance at the Yukon College in Whitehorse on Sept. 7, 2018. College officials are planning for the first convocation as it transitions to a university.

Yukon College gets set to host first university convocation

May 8 and 9 will see numerous events marking the establishment of Yukon University

College Drive is closer to becoming University Drive as Yukon College moves closer to becoming Yukon University.

Whitehorse city council passed the first two readings of a bylaw to rename the roadway from Range Road leading to what’s currently Yukon College as University Drive.

The school is set to officially transition from a college to a university at the 2020 convocation on May 8 with a community celebration to follow May 9.

While the road sign will fall under the city’s jurisdiction, Jaqueline Bedard, Yukon College’s executive director for external and government relations, said school signs at all 13 Yukon College campuses will be changed gradually.

Like many of the transitions for the school, there’s a plan in place for a gradual process that along with new signs will see new branding for Yukon University, a new website and social media pages. There’s also staff email addresses to change.

While May will be a busy month celebrating the transition, Bedard said full implementation of the Yukon University Act, which was officially proclaimed into force last week replacing the Yukon College Act, will take a couple of years.

“That will be a very gradual process,” she said, noting the school is taking a slow and steady approach to the overall transition.

“Behind the scenes a lot is happening,” she added.

In the more immediate future, efforts are underway for what is likely to be the largest convocation ceremony at the school, as officials get ready to welcome academics from across the country to the first university north of 60.

Students who had entered their programs expecting to graduate with credentials from Yukon College will leave the school as Yukon University graduates.

While many universities have a ceremonial mace for major events like convocation, in the case of Yukon University the mace was thought to be too colonial and Bedard individually commissioned artist Shane Wilson to carve a ceremonial centerpiece from caribou antler that will be carried in this year’s procession.

As Bedard explained, she had been setting aside money for a number of years that she planned to contribute in some way to a worthy project or cause.

Given the significance of the school’s transition, she decided to commission the piece.

A beaded piece bearing the Yukon University colours (plum, grey and teal) is also set to be unveiled at the convocation.

On the evening of May 8 a VIP dinner will be hosted as part of the celebrations.

Then on May 9, the public is invited to an open house at the main Yukon University campus where each of the 13 campuses will be represented. Throughout the school, different departments are planning their own events and presentations, including one which has an escape room planned (Bedard would not give away any more details on that).

“There’s lots of creativity exploding out of people,” she said of the school readying for the open house and celebration.

The day will begin with a run from downtown to Range Road up what’s expected to be University Drive to Yukon University for a pancake breakfast for participants. There’s also a walking option that will start a little closer to the school.

And while September is months away, it appears the school’s new status as a university is drawing more potential students with more applications coming in for September studies from prospective students around the Yukon.

Currently the school has about 6,500 students with 1,200 of those in credited programs. About half of those are full-time students.

Last week, it was announced David Morrison has been appointed chair of the Yukon University board of directors and Tom Ulyett, who served as interim chair of the college’s board of governors, has also been appointed to the inaugural university board.

The road’s name change will still need to pass third reading March 9.

The College Drive name would remain in place for the private roadway off the main parking lot where a seniors residence is located, said Pat Ross, the city’s acting director of development services, told council at an earlier meeting.

The residence is the only property in the area that uses Canada Post mail delivery and provided the College Drive name remains in place there, residents won’t have to change their mailing address, he said.

If approved, a new sign would be installed at the Range Road intersection.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

Yukon College

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