Downtown London - News

October 2018

  • Fanshawe continues serving a growing student experience

    October 9, 2018

    Fanshawe continues serving a growing student experience


    By Sean Meyer


    With the opening of its new campus — revitalizing the former Kingsmill’s department store on Dundas Street — Fanshawe College has firmly entrenched itself as one of downtown London’s cultural and economic drivers.


    Together with the college’s Access Studies program and The School of Digital and Performing Arts, the new $66-million campus — which includes both the School of Information Technology and the School of Tourism, Hospitality and Culinary Arts — has only strengthened the vibrancy of the downtown.


    “We did win the lottery,” said Jim Edwards, chair of the School of Information Technology. “We’re fortunate to be here, fortunate to have the support of London, of city hall, of the businesses, to be able to bring our students down to the digital core of this area. We’re bringing 2,300 students into the core to engage with the community.”


    Michelle Giroux, chair of the School of Digital and Performing Arts, echoes Jim’s excitement.


    That said, given her school has been established in the downtown for some five years now, she’s had a good head start on just how impactful it can be for students who learn and play in the downtown.


    “There was a huge change. It was a mindset for our students, it was a mindset for our staff. It created a culture shift within the school itself to look at how we can do things differently, how we can collaborate more within our own team,” she said. “It also challenged the college to think outside the box to make this all work. And where do we put phase two, which is why we landed where we are.”


    James Smith, chair of the School of Tourism, Hospitality and Culinary Arts, agrees with his colleagues, but in some respects his perceptions more closely reflect those of the students.


    Only recently arrived in London (having moved from Toronto), James acknowledges it has been “full-on hectic” bringing everything together while welcoming another 1,500 students to the downtown.


    “For me, I feel new as well. I’m coming to a downtown area I don’t know so well either. I knew some of the issues the students would have because I’m new too.” James said. “I think one of the things that has made this easier for us all is the support from the college. They’ve all been so excited, from the president (Peter Devlin) all the way down. There are different challenges that are happening, but there always seems to be someone there to help.”


    While Fanshawe has firmly established itself in the downtown, James is quick to point out the connection to the college’s main campus remains.


    The overall message is the downtown schools are a campus, but everyone remains part of the Fanshawe team.


    That said, the work of integrating into the downtown continues.


    “Our students are part of a really cool community,” James said. “Our schools are actually perfectly located, from a Fanshawe point of view, to give all our students perfect access to those spaces for their learning. For me, that’s a huge win for all our students.”


    One big part of the expanded downtown presence comes with the opening of The Chef's Table at Fanshawe College, a restaurant that will be open to the public and driven by the involvement of students.


    For James, the new building, even the restaurant, they aren’t his and they don’t belong to the students.


    Instead it is all part of building a downtown for all Londoners.


    “There is a lot of crossover . . . it’s monumental from that point of view,” he said. “It’s just this really cool space. It’s a restaurant, but this is London’s community space. We want people to come in and be part of student learning.”


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