York University’s Glendon campus celebrated the official opening of the Centre of Excellence for French-Language and Bilingual Postsecondary Education, which will provide better access to French-language higher education for francophone learners across southern Ontario.
The Centre of Excellence was made possible through a $20-million investment by the Government of Ontario. The centre is first new building constructed since the campus was founded in 1966 and heralds a bright future for French and bilingual education at Glendon.
“We at York University strongly believe there is a growing need to expand French and bilingual postsecondary education in southern Ontario,” said York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri at the May 15 opening. “I am proud we are able to provide opportunities for the growing francophone population right here at York’s Glendon Campus.”
Shabbirr Auhammud, a fourth-year French studies student from Etobicoke, said Glendon was clear choice for him since it was the only University in the area that offered the direct-entry bachelor of education for future French teachers.
“I think it’s really important that we all recognize the importance of a strong francophonie in Ontario. It’s part of our sense of there not being only one way to do things. And, I think, it’s part of the reason Ontario, and Canada, has been able to become a model for the world,” said Kathleen Wynne, MPP for Don Valley West. “The Centre of Excellence will reaffirm that vision for generations to come and become the heart of French and bilingual education in Ontario.”
While the new building provides much-needed classroom and study space, including a 250-seat amphitheatre, the Centre of Excellence will also provide an increased capacity and diversity of program offerings at Glendon.
“We may refer to this building as the Centre of Excellence,” said Glendon Prinicipal Kenneth McRoberts, “but in effect, through this building all of Glendon is able to become a Centre of Excellence.”
Glendon has a long history of bilingual and French education. “As a Centre for French and bilingual education [this building] is very important; it means the Government of Ontario recognizes that here in southern Ontario, Glendon is the place to study in French,” said Jerzy Kowal, associate principal academic & research.
Third-year iBA student Drew Pinkerton was a French immersion student before making the decision to come to Glendon to continue his bilingual education. “I just really wanted to take advantage of all the opportunities that learning two languages has to offer in Canada,” said Pinkerton. “The small environment is also big advantage.”
Glendon students may belong to Canada’s third largest University, but they have a very tight campus community of about 3,000. Kowal described Glendon as family. “It’s the people that make Glendon special. Everyone here loves languages.”
As Auhammud, explained, “You are away from home, but at the same time, this is your home.”
Glendon alumna Méliane Etien (BA ’11) echoed those sentiments. “The sense of community is amazing. The teachers know you by your first name and there are so many clubs and associations you can get involved in.”
Etien is a francophone who came to Glendon from the Ivory Coast. After graduation she chose to stay in Canada – and close to Glendon. She still lives walking distance from the campus and goes to visit at least once a month.
“It’s wonderful we are being recognized as a great place to study in both French and English,” Etien added. “Being bilingual opens doors everywhere in the world. It’s so important.”