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Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology

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A place for learning
In 1965 a publicly-funded college system was established in Ontario. The system was a part of the vision of then-Minister of Education and future Premier, Bill Davis, to create learning environments and to deliver “equality of opportunity to all sectors of our population” through education and the “fullest possible development of each individual”. The Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology was a result of the plan to provide students with the skills of tomorrow, through innovative and supportive classrooms and spaces across the province.

The Lieutenant Governor stands with Alqonquin College in front of an Indigenous mural of Turtle Island

Journey to Truth and Reconciliation
As their 50th anniversary approached, Algonquin College undertook a significant renovation project to transform their library into a multi-purpose hub. Following the founding principles of the college system, it was meant to allow students to expand their knowledge and meet local needs. The college worked with Indigenous communities and the project’s team of architects to ensure that the building incorporated traditional teachings and practices. Named the Discovery, Applied Research, and Entrepreneurship (DARE) District, it welcomed Indigenous and non-Indigenous students alike. Then-President of the college, Cheryl Jensen, declared “this building, with its sweeping ceiling, wide-open spaces, and stunning views of the campus is a place that will inspire a new generation of our learners. We are also very proud that it is a place that, through its very architecture and design, is helping us on our journey to Truth and Reconciliation.”

Combining Tradition and Technology
Completed in 2018 to LEED Gold certification standards, the DARE District features a three-storey atrium and a central staircase. The Indigenous Commons and Gathering Circle on the first floor act as a large collaborative work area that opens onto a courtyard with a ceremonial fire circle and garden, which can also function as an outdoor classroom. Technology and innovation meet with Indigenous teachings on the second floor in the business incubator and maker spaces, and the re-imagined library on the third floor includes a digital literacy lab and studios under a soaring barrel-vaulted timber ceiling.

The Lieutenant Governor speaks with faculty from Alqonquin College

Reflection
It is clear that the transformational vision for college system, which created centres of learning across Ontario and brought together students of all ages to develop skills and disciplines required in their communities is a triumph.

In 2019, I had the opportunity to tour the DARE District of Algonquin College. I was inspired to see how sustainability is central to the philosophy of the college system and how it is applied in very practical ways. Whether through design of the physical space, the nature of the programming or the policies that guide life on campus, the institution practices what it preaches. Through meaningful steps towards Truth and Reconciliation, a prerequisite for social cohesion, to increasing our capacity for economic prosperity by preparing students for the future of work, to leading on environmental stewardship in the built environment on campus, the unique experience of attending an Ontario college enhances the ability to connect the dots of sustainability.

It is my hope that over the next fifty years, we will continue to learn from the adaptive and forward-thinking approach of schools such as Algonquin College and be able to realize a more sustainable, just, and inclusive future.

Sustainability