School of Continuing Studies breaks new ground online and off

This March, construction crews began work on the School of Continuing Studies’ new, self-funded building at York University’s Keele Campus. Located at The Pond Road and James Gillies Street, the building will mark the first time the school’s professional and language program students, instructors and staff will be united in one location. To celebrate this milestone for the University community, the school has launched a virtual ground-breaking website.

Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly

Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly

“This building is bold, it’s innovative, it’s cutting edge – it’s designed to suit who we are,” said Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly, assistant vice-president, Continuing Studies. “Our students are bold, they’re confident, and they’re ambitious. It is an embodiment of who we are as a school. It will be an iconic building on a gateway site at the Keele Campus that feels symbolic of York’s founding commitment to providing high-quality education to non-traditional students.”

At 97,000 square feet and with 50 classrooms, the impressive building will accommodate the school’s rapidly growing student population. But as big as the building will be, the need for the building is even bigger.

Since 2015, the School of Continuing Studies’ professional programming has grown exponentially. Starting with only four certificate programs, the school’s portfolio now includes 24 programs in emerging, in-demand technical and business fields. In addition to their professional programs, the school is also home to the York University English Language Institute, an internationally respected leader in language education.

“In uncertain times, the need for innovative and responsive lifelong learning is greater than ever,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton. “This new, standalone home for our School of Continuing Studies demonstrates York’s commitment to serving the current and future needs of learners and employers, here at home and around the world, as they rise to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the demands of a dynamic global knowledge economy.”

The building does not only boost the school’s growth, it also supports York’s University new Academic Plan 2020-2025, which has a priority of reaching a 20 to 25 per cent international student population within the next five years.

The School of Continuing Studies building exterior

An artist's concept drawing showing the exterior of the School of Continuing Studies building

The York University English Language Institute has become core to the University’s international student growth. Last year more than 42 per cent of the incoming international undergraduates were recruited and prepared by the institute. The number of institute students who have gone onto studies at York University has grown from 547 in 2013 to 1,194 in 2019, an increase of nearly 120 per cent. The institute’s important role in language preparation for international students has garnered back-to-back iStudy awards for World Language School of the Year and a coveted nomination for the PIEoneer 2019 Language Educator of the Year award. The new building will be essential in facilitating further growth in high-quality international students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The ground level of the new building

The ground level of the new building

The school’s growth also complements the University’s commitment to creating diverse new professional programs with flexible delivery options. In five years, the school has seen more than 1,000 per cent growth in professional program enrolments, which resulted in the school filling unmet national and international requirements for accelerated professional certificate programs that address vital skills gaps and labour market demands.

The school’s certificate programs are in high-demand fields with many, such as the new People Analytics and Blockchain Development programs, are the first to be offered in Canada. In the school’s 2019-20 academic year, 35 per cent of professional programming students were international and five per cent were domestic students living outside of Ontario. The school has also partnered with Mount Royal University to deliver their Cyber Security program in Alberta. The school’s professional programs have opened York University to new national and international audiences and contributed to York’s reputation as a leader in providing life-long learning options.

For Victoria Granova, the school’s Cyber Security program was an opportunity for her to return to York and enhance the BBA she completed at the Schulich School of Business with the additional technical skills she needed to successfully pivot her career to a more technology focused role from finance and accounting. Granova was recently nominated as one of IT World Canada’s Top Women in Cyber Security.

“The network I formed with the students and instructors greatly helped me continue to explore the field outside the classroom and develop an understanding of the career possibilities that lie ahead,” said Granova.

An artist's concept drawing showing the second floor of the new building

An artist's concept drawing showing the second floor of the new building

The new building will allow both the school and York University to move forward with creating more diverse programs in emerging fields that will support professionals like Granova in their career ambitions.

“I am excited by the potential for this new building to ignite even more innovation and growth in our micro-credential and non-degree offerings, while also improving the learning experience for our English Language Institute and professional certificate students,” said York University’s Provost & Vice-President Academic Lisa Philipps. “The school of Continuing Studies is vital to York’s leadership in serving international students seeking to build their English language skills, as well as adult learners who are looking for new career pathways and flexible programs that work with their busy lives. The building will enhance our Keele Campus community and will help us achieve our University Academic Plan aspiration to meet the diverse needs of more learners from all backgrounds.”

The building will also be a beautiful contribution to the Keele Campus with a signature twist design, signifying the changing nature of university education. To learn more about the School of Continuing Studies new building and what makes it such a special addition to the Keele Campus, visit the school’s virtual ground-breaking website that features video interviews with University stakeholders, building renderings and more.

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