Celebrating 60 years of UVic

Law, Science, Engineering, Human and Social Development, Social Sciences, Co-op, Education, Continuing Studies

“The design and concept of the 60th logo involved a reflection back to early times. The concept is a contemporary approach to the traditional and powerful symbols of the eagle and a killer whale. Culturally, the orca is a part of the emergence story of the wolf people. It is said that our peoples’ existence came from the killer whale to seawolf and then to wolf.” – Butch Dick, artist

For six decades, the University of Victoria has been a place for extraordinary collaboration, research, discussion, expression and innovation—bringing students, faculty and staff together to make a difference in our community and around the world. Among the countless breakthroughs, inventions and events to celebrate in that time, six core achievements stand out—one for each decade—that have helped shape UVic today. These examples reveal core values we hold—in equity and inclusion, partnerships that serve and nurture and in sustainability initiatives that have transformed our campus and are poised to make a global difference. Each represents the outsized national and international impacts we have been able to make, often starting with challenges in our own region and along our shared coastlines.

The next 60 is at our doorstep. As we prepare to face a changing world with renewed commitment, enthusiasm, compassion and humility we know that this moment will define our future. Our times are marked by immediate challenges: from health crises and climate change, to geopolitical instability and the hard but necessary work of confronting difficult truths about our history. We must respond. This is an exhilarating time of innovation, collaboration and possibility. It is time to lead with our values and live up to our commitments outlined in our strategic plan. This is the start of our next 60 years. It is stories like these below and those to come that make us Distinctly UVic.

Advancing academic equity starting in 1963

Norma Mickelson, serving as chancellor at a 1997 UVic convocation.
Norma Mickelson, serving as chancellor at a 1997 UVic convocation.

In its very first decade, UVic played a leading role in advancing gender equity and inclusion at Canadian universities. 

One of UVic’s very first graduate students helped pave the way and expand opportunities for others. Norma Mickelson’s UVic journey from student to dean to chancellor marked an era of massive transformation in gender equity. A student of both of UVic’s forerunner institutions, the Victoria Normal School and Victoria College, Mickelson became a UVic grad student in the fall of 1963, the year the university was founded.

Rising from student to faculty, Mickelson went on to become the first female academic dean of any major Canadian university when she assumed leadership of the Faculty of Education in 1975. She relentlessly challenged the university to address historic gender biases and imbalances, playing a key role in establishing UVic’s equity office—a unit she would be asked to lead in 1986 as the inaugural UVic advisor to the president on equity issues.

The work of the UVic equity office helped to shape best practices for gender equity across all of Canada’s colleges and universities, and Mickelson was hailed by academics from across the country for her work. From 1996-2003, she also served as the university’s chancellor.

Mickelson’s determination and diligence helped create a more fair and equal environment at UVic and colleges and universities across Canada—a project that continues in the work of the UVic Equity and Human Rights office she helped establish, the university's Equity Action Plan and the Chair in Transgender Studies, established in 2016 as the first academic chair of its type in the world.

Building careers with co-op since 1976

Christina Tang
Christina Tang on a UVic co-op work term in 1991.

When the department of chemistry launched a co-op program at UVic in 1976, it was one of only two such programs in Canada. Since then, the program has grown to offer opportunities to students in almost every academic field at UVic, supporting learning and helping build careers at the same time.

In addition to work-term placements with employers, UVic’s co-op and career program supports students’ journeys with career workshops, career fairs, mock interviews and various other informational and networking events. In 2023, co-op launched a podcast, Work It, focusing on UVic grads’ career experiences: what they love, what they've learned and how they got there.

UVic students have completed more than 105,000 work terms since the program was founded. Co-op facilitates more than 4,000 work-term placements each year, and nearly three-quarters of all eligible students now take part in co-op as part of their UVic experience.

The results speak for themselves: for the last four years, UVic has been ranked as the top Canadian comprehensive university for producing career-ready graduates in the GEURS international survey of employers. And last year, 54 per cent of all graduating UVic students (62 per cent of co-op students) received a job offer before graduation.

UVic's co-op and career program has continued to take steps to innovate their programming and curriculum. This includes investing in artificial intelligence technology to provide students with on‑the-spot résumé and interview feedback, developing resources to support students as they navigate accommodation and self-advocacy at work and hiring a new Indigenous co-op coordinator and employment development coordinator focused on equity, diversity and inclusion.

Xʷkʷənəŋ istəl W̱ ȻENEṈISTEL Helping to move each other forward since 1982

Family care workers from Manitoba in grad gear
Family care workers from Manitoba who completed their master’s degrees at UVic in 1997. Shortly after graduation, the School of Child and Youth Care launched a diploma program in early childhood education which is taught by the master’s graduates in their communities.

1982 became an early milestone for UVic in reaching out to meet the needs and expectations of First Nations communities to advance the educational goals of Indigenous students. That’s when UVic’s Faculty of Education founded a First Nations program to help students in Hazelton, BC pursue their teaching certifi­cates without leaving their communities—learning and studying at home and travelling to Victoria for short three-week stints during the summer.

An award-winning partnership was established in 1989 with the Meadow Lake Tribal Council in northern Saskatchewan—recognized in that era by UNESCO as one of 20 leading programs around the world that uses Indigenous knowledge.

2005 saw the culmination of another key partnership, as 11 Inuit students from the Akitsiraq law school received UVic law degrees in a unique partnership between UVic’s Faculty of Law, the Akitsiraq Law School Society and Nunavut Arctic College. The program helped students stay and study in their communities, participating in a full law degree program that combined the UVic curriculum with courses on the law in the North, and incorporated the importance of Inuit law and custom to help guide future legal practice.

Also in 2005, the UVic Indigenous support program and research project LE,NOṈET—meaning “success after enduring many hardships” in SENĆOŦEN—was launched to consolidate and document the value of longstanding efforts to make the campus welcoming to Indigenous students and to support their post-secondary success.

In 2018, UVic launched the world’s first Indigenous law degree where students graduate with two professional degrees: Juris Doctor (JD) and Juris Indigenarum Doctor (JID), enabling graduates to practice within Canadian Common Law, and to reason and act within Indigenous legal traditions.

Since then, UVic has witnessed a deepening of support, partnerships and guidance from Indigenous communities. Those many improvements have been made in consultation with the Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ Peoples on whose territory the university stands, coordinated by the university’s inaugural Vice-President Indigenous, Qwul’sih’yah’maht, Robina Thomas, and guided by the principles of the UVic Strategic Plan and the campus-wide Indigenous Plan.

Three decades of national leadership in clean energy

IESVic researcher
An IESVic researcher investigates gas dispersion patterns to improve the safety of next-generation hydrogen fuel cell systems.

The UVic Institute for Integrated Energy Systems (IESVic) is a world-renowned UVic research centre that has made profound impacts on clean energy technologies, processes and adoption for more than three decades.

The '90s saw researchers in energy technology and systems analysis come together under IESVic to work closely with industry, not-for-profits and governments toward developing high-quality, affordable and environmentally compatible energy systems.

The institute continues today to meet a wide range of research needs in the decarbonization of electricity and fuels, increased energy efficiency, reducing emissions from land-use change and developing carbon-dioxide removal strategies.

Current IESVic projects include:

  • Accelerating Community Energy Transformation (ACET)—moving Canada closer to a net-zero future by supporting local, place-based clean energy transitions, one community at a time. ACET is integrating breakthrough renewable energy technologies and solutions from offshore wind, tidal and solar energy to innovative low-carbon financing and governance models that will help communities move to cleaner energy systems.
  • Building a national Energy Modelling Hub to provide consistent, evidence-based tools and information to policymakers on how best to transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources, such as wind and solar.
  • The Pacific Regional Institute for Marine Energy Discovery (PRIMED)—connecting small, remote and coastal communities with marine renewable energy solutions, PRIMED accelerates the development and adoption of marine renewable energy technologies on the BC coast, including offshore wind, wave and tidal energy technologies. 
  • The ReBuild Initiative—creating and refining data-driven retrofit solutions for energy-efficient buildings. 

Transforming ocean research since 2001

Chris Barnes, founding director of NEPTUNE Canada, in a trawl-resistant frame.
Chris Barnes, founding director of NEPTUNE Canada, in a trawl-resistant frame, 2009.

Ocean Networks Canada, one of UVic's research networks, is Canada’s national ocean observatory—recognized as one of the world’s premier “big science” initiatives—delivering ocean data from cabled, mobile and community-based observing networks in the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans.

The foundations of ONC can be traced back to 2001 when marine scientists and geophysicists came together to imagine a next-generation network of underwater instruments to record and deliver real-time data about the ocean to scientists and the public.

UVic launched two networks within the decade, backed by federal, provincial and industry funding, and requiring substantial engineering breakthroughs to create new types of equipment for providing power, data and sensing at extraordinary depths. VENUS demonstrated that vision in 2006 with a node in the Saanich Inlet and several more in the Strait of Georgia near Vancouver.

When NEPTUNE followed in 2009, it became the world’s first regional-scale cabled ocean observatory, with an 800-kilometre loop of powered fibre-optic cable on the seabed across the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate off British Columbia—extending 2,600 metres below sea level, and out more than 300 kilometres from shore.

Today, in addition to the thousands of sensors in its undersea cabled networks, ONC also captures data on ferries, gliders, fixed buoys, autonomous instruments and moorings, and from coastal installations hosting radar, ship-traffic sensors, weather stations and onshore cameras. ONC operations support ocean health through enhanced coastal monitoring, science that promotes ocean resilience and a sustainable blue economy, data that informs maritime safety and education programs that strengthen our connection to and stewardship of the ocean.

Leading the way in digitizing healthcare in the last decade

Three med students look at digital screen
UVic's Andre Kushniruk (right, pictured in 2021) illustrates the use of health monitoring in a smart home.

Health-information technology focuses on digitizing healthcare, and as technology advances, UVic researchers and professors are finding new ways to innovate. Several state-of-the art digital health labs at UVic allow students and researchers to design and develop digital health innovations exploring remote monitoring, smart home technologies, artificial intelligence and visualizations in healthcare.

Since 1981, UVic has been an international leader in health informatics with the first post-secondary program in health informatics in Canada. Unlike other technology-focused areas of study, the majority of health informatics students at UVic are women, and the undergraduate program boasts a near 100 per cent employment rate for graduates. Building off these successes, in 2010 UVic launched a unique double master’s degree program combining nursing and health informatics, the first such graduate program of its kind in Canada.

Another first for Canada, in 2018, UVic partnered with eHealth Ontario, Gevity Consulting and RKL Health Informatics to launch the first Canadian College of Health Information Management (CHIMA) accredited Health Terminology Standards certificate online program.

Other health informatics programs include:

  • A choice of two undergraduate programs: a BSc in Health Information Science for students interested in combining people skills and IT skills to find solutions for health care professionals, or a combined major in Computer Science and Health Information Science focused on the more technical aspects of health care information systems.
  • In partnership with UVic's Continuing Studies, health informatics now offers a professional Micro-certificate in Health Terminology Standards.


In this story

Keywords: administrative, faculty, staff, students, climate, community, indigenous, research, industry partnerships, people place planet, change and transformation, sustainable partnerships, climate action, equity, co-op, clean energy, oceans research, history, Ocean Networks Canada, IESVic

Publication: The Ring

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