Student housing news
Wii Gyemsiga Siwilaawksat. Where learners are content or comfortable.
Spotlight: New Wii Gyemsiga Siwilaawksat Student Building has improved quality of education, students say
Dec 7, 2021
Coast Mountain College’s (CMTN) new Wii Gyemsiga Siwilaawksat Student Building in Terrace has been housing students for a semester now and the dorms feel homier than ever.
For third-year First Nations Fine Arts student of the Lakhtsamisyu clan, Kobe Antoine, the student building is a dream come true.
“Being in a nice student building is important because it improves your quality of life and your overall studies,” says Antoine, who used to live in the former dorms when he attended CMTN in 2017 and 2018.
“I feel like it makes me want to put in more effort into my work because I finally have the right workspace to think clearly. It makes me feel acknowledged as a student and I just really want to keep learning here.”
The Wii Gyemsiga Siwilaawksat Student Building replaced 40-year-old-buildings on campus following an $18.7 million investment from the province, announced September 2019.
Inside it houses a large cultural space, 108 student rooms, two hotel suites, an elder suite, two shared kitchens, two collaboration areas, a computer lab, an Esports room, two shared kitchens and bike storage.
“Living here you feel a lot more accountability to make sure you stay on top of things because you’re all sharing a beautiful space. When you have a sense of community, you want everyone to have a positive experience here,” Antoine says, adding that there is more opportunity to connect with other students because of all the shared rooms.
“It feels like a home away from home and you’re not just restricted to socializing with people in your program. You can just reach out to anybody here because everyone is super friendly.”
Shawna Kiesman, is of Tsimshian/Nisga’a heritage and is also a third-year First Nations Fine Arts student who resided in the former dorms. Kiesman says she was initially hesitant about living on campus again. Both her and Antoine are mature students of the third year advanced diploma program at Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art , which was re-introduced this semester at CMTN.
“The rental market is not so great in Terrace which makes it difficult to find housing, especially as a student and I didn’t want to live in the old dorms again,” says Kiesman.
“When I found out the new student building would be open in time for the start of the school year, it lifted all that stress of worrying that I would have a place to stay.”
Take a step into the Wii Gyemsiga Siwilaawksat Student Building and you’ll be met with beautiful hand-carved totem poles towering over the atrium. The hallways are filled with First Nations art — it’s clear these dorms are like no other.
The artwork draws on the beauty of the rugged landscape of the Northwest and the distinct cultural aspects of the surrounding First Nations territories. The artists are all either instructors, alumni or current students from the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art.
Both Kiesman and Antoine were asked to contribute their talents to create artwork for the building.
“I feel pretty honoured to be included along all these artists, it’s just so inspiring to wake up and see all these beautiful paintings,” Kiesman says, adding she has lots of pride to see her culture celebrated at CMTN.
“As students, coming from far and wide, we are building that future so it’s important for us to have a comfortable and affordable place to focus on that journey... these dorms have made our entire educational experience more valuable.”
Coast Mountain College adds student housing, updated library
Oct 14, 2021
Source: BC Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training
TERRACE – Students at the Coast Mountain College (CMTN) Terrace campus have access to more housing and improved facilities with the opening of 108 student beds and a renovated library.
The design of both spaces was informed by CMTN's First Nations Council, students and staff to create a culturally safe environment that also incorporates Indigenous art and cultural space.
"The care and attention to detail in these projects will inspire students to learn more about the world around them, all while creating a safe place to call home as they adjust to life on campus," said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. "This increased student housing will also reduce the demand for rental housing in the community, helping to alleviate the housing-market pressures throughout Terrace."
The new student housing building, called Wii Gyemsiga Siwilaawksat, replaces housing that was more than 40 years old. The building's name translates to "where learners are content or comfortable." This is reflected in the choice to include two suites for visiting families of students, an Elder suite, two shared kitchens, two collaboration areas, a computer lab, an e-sports room and bike storage.
A central area features a variety of Indigenous fine art created by alumni and instructors from CMTN's Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art. The building features two three-storey wings with 108 beds (104 student beds, up from 71 in the previous spaces).
"We know that safe, comfortable, and inspiring places to live and study give students a boost when it comes to concentrating on their schoolwork," said Laurie Waye, interim president, CMTN. "We are so excited to be opening the doors of these exceptional facilities to students this fall."
The renovated Spruce Building Library, called Waap Sa'mn, is also open. The space includes an Indigenous Reading Circle area that houses Indigenous collections, as well as learning and administrative spaces. The renovation was needed following a 2018 flood in the basement of the building. Phase 2 of the building renovation is expected to be complete in fall 2022.
"I remember how important a home away from home is when a student is going to school outside of their community. The new housing facility will help students feel culturally safe," says Nicole Halbauer, X'staam Hana'ax, CMTN board chair. "The renovated library gives students a comfortable, welcoming and modern new space to study in."
The Gitxsan, Haisla, Haida, Tsimshian, Nisga'a, Wet'suwet'en and Métis Nation are in CMTN's service area. Design elements of the student housing building and library were incorporated to honour the First Nations and the Métis Nation the college serves across its seven regional campuses.
Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
"The new student housing, Wii Gyemsiga Siwilaawksat, is a powerful example of collaboration. From the planning phase through to the realization of this project, there has been a focus on diverse student needs, incorporating elements of local First Nations' art and culture that resonates deeply. I am grateful for the vision CMTN brought to this project and excited for the community to make use of it for years to come."
Nathan Cullen, MLA for Stikine
"Students who choose to study in smaller communities deserve the best facilities we can provide them, and this $21.6-million addition to CMTN's Terrace campus is a fantastic example of what is possible when we work together. These are more than buildings. They're launching points for people's careers, and the start of a rewarding careers that keeps people living, learning and working in the North."
Jennifer Rice, MLA for North Coast
"Resiliency is the key to success, and having a welcoming and inclusive place to call home while broadening one's perspectives through study makes an important difference in the lives of our young adults. The reach and impact of CMTN is felt throughout Northern British Columbia, and the new student housing and renovated library are a fantastic example of how thoughtfully designed buildings can positively influence the lived experience of so many people."
Charlotte Guno, CMTN First Nations Council
"It is so important that our students have safe, clean, affordable student housing so that they can succeed in their studies. A home away from home is vital for student success, and this new beautiful building provides comfortable spaces to live, engage with others and study."
Kobe Antoine, CMTN First Nations Fine Arts student
"Being in a nice student building is important because it improves your quality of life and your overall studies. I feel like it makes me want to put in more effort into my work because I finally have the right workspace to think clearly. It makes me feel acknowledged as a student and I just really want to keep learning here."
Stan Bevan, Instructor, First Nations Fine Art, CMTN's Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art
"We are proud to bring contemporary First Nations art to the new housing facility and the library. The art was created by many of the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art alumni and highlights the program, the college and the maturity of the many artists involved. This will be one of the largest collections of contemporary First Nations Art in northern B.C."
- The $21.6-million new student housing facility received $20.6 million from the provincial government, with the remaining cost funded by CMTN.
- The $4.4-million library renovation is Phase 1 of 2. The total cost is $13.4 million and is fully funded by the Province.
- CMTN, formerly Northwest Community College, was established in 1975 in Terrace.
- The phonetic pronunciation of Wii Gyemsiga Siwilaawksat is "Wee gii'yemk-sea-ga Suewill-la-owk-set."
View the full news release here.
Spotlight: Creating a home away from home
May 10, 2021
Working as a First Nations Access Coordinator, Jillian Stephens has her hands full when it comes to running cultural programs and supporting students at Coast Mountain College.
But when the opportunity came up to help curate a theme for the interior aesthetic of the new student accommodation building on the Terrace campus, she just couldn’t say no. For her, this new building is an opportunity for the College to make the right impression on its students and visitors.
“The general theme for the building is based on Indigenous functions, we’re answering the call to action to build student capacity with intercultural understanding and mutual respect,” she explains. “Being the school of choice for place-based experiences, we wanted that feeling to be imbedded from the start for a student with housing, by creating that home away from home feeling and building that connection.”
Located at the corner of McConnell Ave. and Highway 113, it’s hard to miss the sprawling construction of the three-story building. As the College continues to grow with both domestic and international students, the need for better student accommodation can no longer be put aside.
The new student accommodation building will replace the 40-year-old-buildings on campus following an $18.7 million investment from the province, announced September 2019. Once completed this fall, it will house a large cultural space, 108 student rooms, two hotel suites, an elder suite, two shared kitchens, two collaboration areas, a computer lab, an Esports room, two shared kitchens and bike storage.
“It looks just as big as it sounds. I went in there recently for a site visit and the building is massive. It's beautiful, spacious and it's already welcoming — I can only imagine what it's going to feel like once we start filling it,” Stephens says.
After many months of planning, Stephens and the housing team will finally start bringing the building to life. Their theme draws on the beauty of the rugged landscape of the Northwest and the distinct cultural aspects of the surrounding First Nations territories.
"We thought about how we can combine different types of people coming together in one space. From those who grew up here to those who just immigrated into Canada,” she says. “We know how difficult it is for First Nations students leaving their community, so we wanted to have aspects of their home here to lower their anxieties... but we also wanted it to be an experiential piece for international students so they can still experience the North even when they can’t be outside all the time.”
Stephens says overall, the incredible mountains here are what attract us and make this place home. Embarking from that frame of reference, each floor and wing is to illustrate a different aspect of the trail-walking experience outdoors. “We wanted our first floor to be the root of where we are, which is the grounding aspects of nature and the foundation of ourselves,” she says, adding that details of leaves and water will be found throughout that level to reflect growth. The two cultural spaces and elder suite have been intentionally placed there to represent community and wisdom.
The second floor is intended to be an “eye-level experience”, where Stephen says allusions to local wildlife, such as animals and flora, will be the main way to express “sharing the land”. “The second floor is where we create things together. We focused on the harvesting, creating and the sharing of our region, and what would be happening here through the dining and collaboration areas.”
As for the third floor, Stephen says the theme will be the “bird’s eye view of it all” where the scenic mountains and lakes are ingrained into this level. Throughout the entire building, accents of red and traditional neutral colours will be entrenched amongst wooden cedar panels and a variety of artwork.
“We are working with 10 artists from across the Northwest region, from talented people who focus on traditional form lines, contemporary digital art to photography. We will fill these themes with their pictures and prints so with whatever they create, we want students walking through to see and feel their perspective of the region,” she says.
With so much heart already invested into the project, Stephens says she’s most excited about the Elders suite. This mountain-view room includes a kitchen, a living room and a private bedroom.
View the full spotlight story here.
Coast Mountain College construction projects bring jobs to Terrace
May 10, 2021
Source: BC Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training
TERRACE - Students are not the only ones to benefit from three major construction projects at Coast Mountain College.
An estimated 318 jobs have been created locally on work to build 108 student housing beds, a library renovation and a renewed, more accessible academic and registration hub.
"These projects will not only deliver upgraded learning spaces for students in Terrace and surrounding communities, but also create good jobs for local workers with benefits flowing to their families and into the local area as well," said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. "It's exciting to think of the collaborations, learning and personal growth that will be inspired inside the walls of these new facilities when they are complete."
The B.C. government has invested $34 million on the projects, with the college providing $1 million toward the student housing. The ministry estimates the jobs break down as 221 direct jobs and 64 indirect jobs. An estimated 33 more jobs would be created as a result of direct and indirect employees and their families spending those employees' incomes on consumer goods and services.
"Students, regardless of where they live in the province, deserve the best we can offer in student housing thats also on par with urban centres," said Nathan Cullen, MLA for Stikine. "These critical renovations, in addition to 108 new student housing beds, provide the type of major upgrades that show students they're entering a post-secondary institution they can be proud of. This is also a great investment in the region and will have impact on the Terrace economy."
As part of the overall $34-million investment, government announced $4.4 million in June 2020 for a library renewal, giving students dedicated space to study and learn following a 2018 flood that impacted the basement of the Spruce Building (Waap Sa'mn.
"I can't wait to see the response of our students, communities, staff and faculty to these incredible renovations and new spaces," said Justin Kohlman, president, Coast Mountain College. "These provincial investments will ensure our students will have leading-edge experiential learning provided in a unique learning environment that honours our region."
The library renovation is expected to be completed this summer. It is co-ordinated with renovations to the two floors above where the main-entry registration hubs, learning space and faculty/administrative offices will be. These renovations are expected to be completed for fall 2022.
In addition, 108 new student housing beds, including one Elder suite and two visitor suites, are Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training set to be ready for students in fall 2021.
The $9 million upgrades to the top two floors of the Spruce Building (Waap Sa'mn) include:
- an accessible focal-point entryway with automatic doors;
- improvements to front-of-house services, including computers, registration counter and staff offices;
- more flexible learning spaces, furniture and technology for students to collaborate;
- reconfigured and modernized faculty and administrative spaces; and
- an upgrade of building's HVAC, electrical, mechanical and technology to improve energy efficiency, air quality and comfort.
The Gitxsan, Haisla, Haida, Tsimshian, Nisga'a, Wet'suwet'en and Métis Nation are in Coast Mountain College's service area. Design elements of the student housing and library are expected to honour and strengthen the college's relationship with the First Nations and the Métis Nation it serves across its regional campuses. The new student housing facility and library are anticipated to feature Indigenous art created by instructors, alumni and students in the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art.
"We are so grateful for this support for our students because these projects truly lay the foundation for their success," said X'staam Hana'ax, (Nicole Halbauer), Chair, Board of Governors, Coast Mountain College.
The B.C. government is directly investing $1.7 billion in planned capital expenses in B.C.'s post-secondary sector over the next three years (2020-21 to 2022-23).
These projects align with the ministrys mandate to create opportunities for Indigenous peoples to be full partners in B.C.'s economy and provide a clear and sustainable path for everyone to work toward lasting reconciliation. They also support the plan to build 8,000 new student housing units as part of Homes for BC, the B.C. government's 10-year housing plan, and to support students to succeed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery.
View the full news release here.
New housing project under way in Terrace
Work is currently under way for brand new, affordable, on-campus student housing at Coast Mountain College’s Terrace campus, expected to welcome its first occupants in September 2021.
The new facility will create 108 new beds, replacing older housing units that are more than 45 years old, with a modern new facility. Provincial funding for the new housing unit was announced in September of 2019 and work began in earnest in 2020.
The new housing facility will particularly help students from rural and Indigenous communities to have a safe, comfortable and welcoming home away from home when they are attended face-to-face programming.
The building features two, three-storey wings and a central area that will feature a variety of First Nations fine art created by alumni and instructors from Coast Mountain College's Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art.
The project includes a suite for elders in residence and two rooms for visiting families of students. Students will share common areas, kitchen facilities and laundry. Informal learning spaces, dining areas, an e-sports gaming room and a maker-space are other highlights of the building. First nations cultural space has also been included. And for students who use a bicycle to get around, a heated indoor bike storage area is part of the design.