7 Transformational Things that Have Happened at TRU Over the Past Years

As we settle into the first month of 2020, TRU looks back over the years to see how much it has changed. There have been many contributions, innovations, and expansions, and we cannot wait to see what the future brings!

Sustainability: achievements and new campaigns

Sustainability has been a main focus of Thompson Rivers University, and we are proud to say TRU is the first Canadian University to be ranked #1 and awarded the top college or university in North America for sustainability in 2019.

TRU received this accolade and status from many different campus initiatives. The university diverted more than 70% of its waste away from landfills, avoided burning fossil fuels to heat buildings by using alternative energy sources, and started transitioning vehicles into electric or hybrid models. Students can also gain a sustainability certificate, “Leadership in Environmental Sustainability” — earned through environmental engagement – which is announced at convocation and goes on the official transcript.

The Sustainability Office on campus builds eco-awareness and involves faculty and students in the goal of becoming more sustainable as an institution and as individuals. Zero waste stations can be found in all campus buildings and on the campus grounds that includes different bins for plastics, paper, compost, and garbage.

TRU Food Services is focused on reducing the environmental impact of all its operations and partners, working closely with the TRU Sustainability Office on several initiatives. Certain food joints on campus now serve food in eco-friendly, reusable containers. People can get a stamp card when they buy a meal, and they get a stamp for each container they bring back. When a person gets to 10 stamps, they get a free meal! It is a great way to stop using one-use items in the food industry.

“As a result of our collective success with our existing sustainability plan—thanks to the passion and dedication of the entire university community—TRU is recognized as a leader in sustainability among our peers internationally,” said Director of Sustainability Jim Gudjonson. “The Sustainability Office is looking forward to working with our colleagues across TRU campuses to fulfill our renewed vision.”

TRU has some exciting initiatives in the Campus Strategic Sustainability Plan for 2020-2025:

  • Plan for a carbon-neutral and net-zero energy campus.
  • Eliminate single-use items, including plastics.
  • Integrate sustainable purchasing throughout campus operations.
  • Conserve potable water.
  • Advance sustainability performance of the campus built environment.
  • Champion sustainability beyond the TRU campus for global impact.

More information on sustainability initiatives can be found here.

Student experience

Thompson Rivers University’s international department has done an incredible job growing and expanding the international department in the last few years. TRU joined the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP) in 2005, and was one of only three Canadian post-secondary members. In 2007, there were 1,033 international students on campus from 65 countries. Today, TRU welcomes over 3,600 international students from over 100 countries.

Unlike other universities, TRU invests a lot into their International Student Advisors (ISAs). ISAs help support international students before they arrive in Canada up until their graduation. TRU also has an intercultural coordinator that will educate staff and faculty members about cultural differences in education and learning styles so they can better understand each other.

MacLean’s Magazine wrote an article about how TRU is a great place for international students to study. TRU has built its international department to be facilitating and very welcoming to all international students. The article also has international students’ testimonies and experiences.

MacLean’s Magazine also wrote an article about four international students and why they chose to study at TRU. The different stories display the different fears and challenges each student had when thinking about applying to TRU. The curriculum, language, teaching style, and culture were all different, but TRU made them feel at home. Each student has successfully graduated and started their careers. One graduate has started her career at the university to help give back to students, so they can have the same great experience that TRU gave her. 

Campus transformation

TRU has grown and developed immensely over the years. The campus has grown, developed, and even expanded into a new city.

Starting as the Cariboo College in the 1970’s, it quickly gained faculty, students, programs, and buildings. Then in the 1980’s, it turned into a university with Thompson Rivers University being founded in 2005. Since then, there have been many more additions and expansions at TRU.

The campus gained a Faculty of Law in 2011, the first school of law to open in over 30 years in Canada. That is when the plans for the revitalization of the Old Main building were unveiled. The new plan included 2 floors added on top of the building to add 40,000 square feet of new learning space, and it gained international recognition for its design in 2015. The new roof was designed to represent Mount Peter and Paul and bring the natural beauty of the Kamloops landscape into the campus. That same year, the Brown Family House of Learning opened and provided new study spaces and offices.

In 2018, TRU announced a $5-million modernization project of classrooms on Old Main’s first and second floors, which was completed in 2019. Through the renovation and resizing of rooms, two additional classrooms were added to allow for a total of 28 classroom spaces, which offer advanced technology, better layouts, brighter spaces, new furniture and improved sound-proofing and air quality.

A three-storey nursing building is also being built to house TRU’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Nursing, and Health Care Assistant programs that will enhance the quality of nursing education and develop a highly-skilled workforce. The building is expected to be completed by September 2020.  

The Reach is a project that started in 2013 as a plan and is currently being implemented. It will create a “campus community that will transform TRU into a vibrant neighbourhood where people can live, learn, work, and play”. It will create a university village being comprised of mixed-use development, housing and services, and green space.

Person of influence: Rolling Stones Manager

Thompson Rivers University proudly announced in 2019 that Rolling Stones manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, is offering a once-in-a-lifetime course on the evolution of pop culture from 1954 to 1984. He propelled the band into the spotlight when he became their first manager and at 19. Since those days, he has engaged in an extraordinary life as an influencer and observer of pop and rock culture. 

Oldham will be a visiting scholar-in-residence with the Faculty of Arts while he gives 10, two-hour interactive talks during the 13-week course being co-taught by Bruce Baugh from philosophy and Billy Collins from tourism management. “Andrew Loog Oldham was at the epicentre of the most exciting music scene of all time: London in the 1960s. Not only did he manage the Rolling Stones, but he knew the Beatles, the Who, the Kinks, Rod “the Mod” Stewart, Jimi Hendrix (who was pals with Brian Jones and Mick Jagger of the Stones), the original Small Faces, Jimmy Page (a producer for Andrew’s Immediate label), and on and on,” said Baugh.

“This is truly an exceptional and unique opportunity — not only to relive the firsthand experiences of a living icon from the music industry, but to go beyond that to explore an era and a time with a major influencer who helped to shape it,” said the Faculty of Arts Dean Rick McCutcheon. “The learning that students will do in this class will go far beyond anecdotes and stories, to extend into a deeper understanding of a pivotal period of pop culture and society that has contributed to the cultural influences that we see today.”

Limitless Campaign

TRU’s Limitless Campaign is a $50-million effort that supports students, innovation, collaboration and building capacity to create a future of possibilities — for our campus, for our community and beyond.

The Limitless Campaign focuses on four key priorities that will leave:

  • Our campuses better places to learn, grow, and explore
  • Our students better equipped to excel
  • Our communities stronger
  • Our researchers better positioned to find solutions to the world’s rising challenges

We’re pushing boundaries in accessibility and research. If we are going to seek solutions to the problems around us, we need to do more, be more and go further.

With our Limitless Campaign, TRU is investing in students so they may choose their paths, in researchers to explore their concepts, in our communities to help them thrive and in a campus that inspires a generation ready to learn. Since momentum on Limitless began in 2012, private contributions to TRU have totalled more than $41 million.


The largest donation TRU ever received

On October 5th, 2017, TRU received the largest-ever single donation in the history of the university. Dr. Sherman Jen of Maple Leaf Educational Systems gave a generous donation of $5 million. The donation was broken into different amounts for scholarships, teaching facilities, and research facilities.

“This generous gift supports innovation and capacity growth through teaching and research excellence for faculty and students and by creating new opportunities for student success through scholarships and innovative capital development,” said former TRU President and Vice-Chancellor Alan Shaver. It has truly helped shape the campus and the opportunities for faculty and students.

Research: groundbreaking research being done at TRU

TRU has some groundbreaking research that has helped shape the campus, community, and nation.

TRU’s Dr. Naowarat (Ann) Cheeptham is part of a research team looking at whether probiotics can help bats ward off the highly fatal fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, a disease that has been described as the most catastrophic wildlife disease to hit North America.

Dr. Cheeptham and her research partner, Dr. Cori Lausen, are featured in a 21-minute documentary by Spotlight Productions with help from a grant received through Telus Storyhive. It features Cheeptham and Lausen talking about their work trying to save Western Canada’s bats from white-nose syndrome. Cheeptham’s research has been featured in numerous publications around the world, including The Nature of Things and Science Business. 

Dr. Rochelle Stevenson, assistant professor of sociology, is working alongside the University of Windsor’s Dr. Amy Fitzgerald, Dr. Betty Barrett, and Dr. Patti Timmons-Fritz on research that explores the intersection of violence against women and violence against animals. Their research has illuminated a gap in services for women wishing to leave abusive relationships.

The goal of their research is not only to create a better understanding of the barriers that exist that prevent women from leaving violent homes, but also to work directly with service providers to address some of these complexities. The research not only assesses the scope of animal abuse as it intersects with intimate partner violence, but will determine the best strategies for addressing the needs of abused women, and the researchers will share that information with practitioners and policymakers in order to develop programs that reduce barriers to access.

Stevenson and her research partners have presented their work to the BC Society for Transition Houses with the goal of using this research to inform policy and reduce barriers to access. There is also significant advocacy for BC Housing to develop more pet-friendly housing. 

Graduate students Shannon Mendt and Joey Chisholm have been awarded Environmental Science and Natural Resource Science Fellowships as a result of their commitment to conducting research that contributes to our understanding of the natural world.

Chisholm has completed data collection, which involved the novel use of wildlife monitoring cameras to better understand the habitat needs of squirrels and snowshoe hare in North Central British Columbia. This fellowship, he says, provides much appreciated financial support, but also validates his research program. Mendt’s research takes her to the Coast, where she studies marine ecology, specifically the juvenile mortality of intertidal invertebrates.