For anyone who attends classes near the eastern end of UBC Okanagan’s campus, the sight of construction signs and towering cranes has probably become familiar over the course of the last year or so. In January of 2023, construction crews broke ground next to the Engineering Management and Education (EME) building in an effort to expand our campus’ learning capacity. Since then, Alumni Avenue has been closed, cranes have dotted the skyline, and the campus community has looked on with a collective mild interest in what the future of UBCO holds. This is far from the only construction project that UBCO has undertaken in recent years. The Skeena and Nechako residences finished construction in 2020 and 2021 respectively, and there is work being done towards the expansion of UBCO’s childcare facilities at this very moment. UBCO is even working to expand its presence downtown with the aptly named satellite location of UBCO Downtown. Both this and the construction taking place next to the EME represent the future of what UBCO seeks to build as a whole. So let’s take a look at them, shall we?

First, and most immediately is the new x̌əl sic snpax̌nwixʷtn building, which is being constructed next to the EME. According to the building’s very own website, its nsyilxcən name was gifted to UBCO by the En’owkin Center, an educational institution focused on Indigenous knowledge and conversation. This name can be broken down into three parts: ‘x̌əl’ meaning “for the purpose of;” ‘sic’ meaning “education (new);” and ‘snpax̌nwixʷtn’ meaning “a place where people work together to enlighten and inform each other.” The name is highly appropriate for both the acknowledgement of the building’s position on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded land of the syilx (Okanagan), as well as its purpose. x̌əl sic snpax̌nwixʷtn is meant to be a bold new step for UBCO’s campus presence; an interdisciplinary building with lecture halls, labs, and shared spaces focused on drawing together people and ideas from different disciplines and fields. The construction of x̌əl sic snpax̌nwixʷtn represents an effort to bridge the gap between many parts of UBCO’s academic process and bring it into the future.

It’s certainly an idealistic goal, not to mention an ambitious one. By the time of its planned completion in December of 2025, x̌əl sic snpax̌nwixʷtn is expected to be home to some of UBCO’s most cutting-edge facilities. With that in mind, there is a certain pressure to be felt on the building’s success. Its impact on campus has been felt since its construction began, with the closure of Alumni Avenue extending far beyond its previous projected timeline of Fall 2023, and up into May of this year. Though relatively minor, the road closure has impacted campus infrastructure in significant ways, hampering student traffic and forcing the public transit system to function with reduced space. Hopefully, these minor inconveniences will be outshone by the benefit that x̌əl sic snpax̌nwixʷtn will provide to our campus’ learning experience, which will undoubtedly be significant. As stated by the building’s website, the research programs that will inhabit the space are currently undergoing an application and selection process that is expected to be finalized and announced by fall of this year.¹ Until then, we’ll just have to wait to see what exactly x̌əl sic snpax̌nwixʷtn can provide UBCO’s future.

The other major construction project that UBCO is undertaking right now is the aforementioned UBCO Downtown. Located at 550 Doyle Avenue near Kelowna’s downtown core, UBCO Downtown is a bold step in community-focused learning. With plans to finish construction in 2027, UBCO Downtown is designed to integrate more with UBCO’s community partners to provide novel learning experiences for all those involved. The space is planned to include both learning spaces and special rental accommodations for students involved in programs that use the facilities, all constructed with conservation and sustainability in mind, as with all UBCO construction projects. It’s a bold strategy to help enhance UBCO’s presence downtown, but one that comes with its own set of difficulties. According to a recent Castanet article by Wayne Moore, recent delays due to unexpected troubles with the local geology have put a small dent in construction efforts, and it’s possible that the project’s ambition may outshine its practicality. It remains to be seen.

UBCO is always expanding. For many students, these buildings are something distant and uninvolved which have little to do with their academic futures. For others, buildings like these provide novel opportunities for growth that help make UBCO the best university it can be. Where you land and what you think ultimately comes down to a matter of perspective.