A long-standing partnership between the City of Nanaimo and Vancouver Island University has been formalized on paper.
The city and university announced on Monday, April 19, the signing of a non-binding memorandum of understanding, allowing for expansion of their partnership on projects beneficial to students and other residents.
Senior leadership from both entities will form an executive committee, said the press release, and the memorandum will be in effect until the end of 2023, with an opportunity to extend it.
“This isn’t a one-time thing,” said William Litchfield, VIU associate vice-president of community partnerships. “The institution has been here since 1936 and we’re embedded in the fabric of the community and dedicated to the social, cultural, environmental and economic growth of our community and region.”
At the city’s regular meeting Monday, Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said the agreement is important.
“It reflects the sense of cooperation that is strong in this community right now, for all of us to pull together to make this an even better city than it already is,” said Krog.
Litchfield said the memorandum allows the city and the post-secondary institution “to be able to share, engage and actually create a table for dialogue that is a bit more formal and strategic.”
A city press release said the MOU establishes a framework for collaboration, encourages co-operative participation in projects and activities and pursuit of common strategic interests, and will involve work to identify and address common areas of concern. Some of the shared interests noted in the agreement include diversity, truth and reconciliation, economic and social development, community planning and land use, local research, sustainability and workplace learning.
Litchfield said there are many opportunities to engage the university’s expertise, especially around community-based research. With COVID-19 front and centre of people’s minds, the university will lend a hand in recovery, he said, pointing to the Vancouver Island economic resiliency initiative.
“It activates our [master of business administration] students to be able to support businesses in developing their pivot and shift in their business model to be able to adapt in this new economic landscape,” said Litchfield.
The university is also working with the city and Island Health on a ‘recreation prescription’ project, focusing on getting younger children to try new sports and activities.
“Unfortunately, we’re in a community with a lot of youths that are below the poverty line…” Litchfield said. “Sports are a really big challenge for families if you can’t afford the equipment and so there’s a number of opportunities to be able to provide equipment and get those youths engaged in new recreation opportunities.”