Bow Valley College's History
Acknowledgement of Territory
We are located in the traditional territories of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot Confederacy) and the people of the Treaty 7 region in Southern Alberta, which includes the Siksika, the Piikani, the Kainai, the Tsuut’ina and the Iyarhe Nakoda.
We are situated on land where the Bow River meets the Elbow River, and the traditional Blackfoot name of this place is “Mohkinstsis” which we now call the City of Calgary.
The City of Calgary is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.
1961 – Technical and Vocational Training Agreement provides funding for development of vocational training facilities across Canada
1965 – School is named the Alberta Vocational Centre and offers Academic Upgrading and Business Education to 535 students
1972 – New Campus opens at 332 - 6 Avenue SE (current North Campus) serving 1,400 students
1990 – School name changes to Alberta Vocational College to reflect new emphasis on academic programs
1998 – Alberta Vocational College becomes a Board-Governed institution and the name is officially changed to Bow Valley College
2004 – Bow Valley College hosts its Inaugural Premier’s Scholarship Luncheon
2008 – North Campus redevelopment project completed
2013 – South Campus opens (345 6 Avenue SE) shortly before the June floods
2013 – Bow Valley College opens the Iniikokaan Aboriginal Centre
2014 – Bow Valley College becomes the largest comprehensive community college in Alberta
2017 – Bow Valley College launches School of Creative Technologies
2019 – Bow Valley College launches its new Strategic Plan, Open Doors – Open Minds
A Humble Beginning
It all began in a basement.
In the autumn of 1963, a handful of apprehensive but hopeful students attended a new academic upgrading class in the basement of the Administration Building at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology on Calgary’s North Hill.
It wasn’t called academic upgrading then. In those days, basic courses in English, mathematics, and science were labelled Vocational Preparatory training. They were offered to adults who had not gone far enough in school to permit them to enrol in trades programs such as welding, beauty culture, bookkeeping, appliance repair, stenography, and drafting.
That single class gave wings to an educational idea that would eventually give renewed opportunities to hundreds of thousands of students to achieve their career goals and lead directly to establishment of today’s Bow Valley College.
A Passion for the Practical
The Alberta Vocational Centre (AVC) in Calgary was one of four similar provincial institutions. What began as a post-secondary institution offering short-term courses and programs, developed into Vocational Preparatory programs. It also built bridges to the international community by offering ESL programs in China and Africa.
The school moved officially into a permanent home, 332 - 6 Avenue SE in 1972, where the original structure remains and continues to serve students as our North Campus.
As AVC gradually earned its enviable reputation for fast-paced programs that responded quickly to practical needs of adult learners and our economy, its credibility within the community grew. Demand for its skilled graduates, already high, continued to increase. Before long, AVC was working closely with SAIT, Mount Royal, other regional teaching institutions, and various government departments and agencies to provide specialized vocational programs and eventually, career development, throughout southern Alberta.
AVC also collaborated more directly with other post-secondary institutions. These initiatives ranged from serving as the Calgary learning centre for Athabasca University to the formation of co-operative educational consortia with Mount Royal College, SAIT, the Calgary Board of Education, the University of Calgary, and the Alberta Attorney-General’s Department.
Fast, Focused and Flexible
By 1990, AVC was serving 6,500 full-time and 15,000 part-time students annually from its main Calgary campus, 12 urban learning centres within the city, and outreach centres in Airdrie, Blairmore, Brooks, Claresholm, Cochrane, Okotoks, Stettler, Strathmore, Taber, and Three Hills, and on the Eden Valley, Morley and Sarcee territories.
Increasingly, AVC was developing training programs that met the specific needs of the private sector. It was even encouraging entrepreneurialism among its graduates by assisting them to start their own businesses.
The gradual shift in the AVC mandate had positioned the institution well for the next major change in its evolution. In February of 1997, Alberta’s Minister of Advanced Education and Career Development declared that the province’s four vocational colleges would become board-governed institutions. In keeping with the administration’s focus on fiscal prudence and private sector management of public services, success would now be determined by the degree to which the College responded directly and well to the employment needs of the communities it served.
In 1998, AVC officially changed its name to Bow Valley College and created four departments to market their offerings, recruit paying customers, develop sustainable partnerships throughout southern Alberta, and find innovative, cost-effective ways to deliver educational programs for the benefit of students.
Growing Beyond Expectation
Signs of a successful transition to board governance were everywhere. More than 10,000 students attended the College annually. By 2002, the revitalized College was able to report student satisfaction rates exceeding 98 per cent. Just as important, almost every one of its students found employment within six months of graduation. In fact, the College was so successful that it could hardly accommodate its growing student population. “Bursting at the seams” was how one report put it.
At its Premier’s Scholarship Luncheon in October 2004, Bow Valley College announced its plans for a major, two-phase campus redevelopment and expansion to double its capacity. The plan sees the College redeveloping its existing facility and building a new structure across the street on the site then occupied by the Provincial Courts of Alberta. The plan was the culmination of years of working with stakeholders including the Government of Alberta to find ways to increase Bow Valley College’s physical capacity.
In the fall of 2005, Bow Valley College celebrated its 40th anniversary and received a tremendous gift from the Government of Alberta: its commitment to fund the first phase of the College’s campus expansion as well as secure the Provincial Courts of Alberta land once vacated. Funding for Phase 2 of the expansion was announced in the summer of 2008.
In 2010, Bow Valley College broke ground on the future site of its South Campus, which was opened in 2013. The North Campus also went through extensive renovation and as part of this redevelopment, the college also opened its Child Development Centre in partnership with the YWCA.
The building also included the new Iniikokaan Centre which celebrates Aboriginal culture and provides support for Aboriginal learners and welcomes all BVC learners looking to share in this deep rooted way of life.
Today, the College supports a thriving downtown campus, as well as locations in Airdrie, Banff, Canmore, Cochrane, Okotoks and Strathmore.
Academic Planning and Collaboration
With access to post-secondary education becoming a major issue in Alberta, the College developed its first Academic Plan in 2005, outlining ambitious growth plans for the next five years. The plan aimed for a major growth in enrolment in career programs and moderate growth in ESL and academic foundations. That same year, Calgary’s five public post-secondary institutions signed an historic memorandum of understanding to create Campus Calgary, to increase access to education and transferability/ articulation between institutions.
The College also turned its attention to fundraising to build broader community support. At its Premier’s Scholarship Luncheon in October 2005, Bow Valley College officially launched its first-ever public fundraising campaign, Improving Lives Beyond the Classroom, with $10 million goal.
The College also provided a significant boost to its applied research capacity, launching an Applied Research Office in 2008 to help foster research activity and develop a culture of evidence across the College. In its first six months, the Applied Research Office led the way in securing nearly $1 million in revenue to support applied research projects.
Putting Community Back into College
Through staff and public events, the College took time to celebrate its 10th anniversary as a board-governed institution and as Bow Valley College. This milestone anniversary evoked memories of the challenging period when in an instant the College joined its peer institutions as an equal: a board governed institution. This transition was complex, but the College community managed it with proficiency.
Such capable qualities would be called upon again to lead Bow Valley College through its second major transformation.
The Government of Alberta designated Bow Valley College as a Comprehensive Community College, calling on it to play a greater role in closing the province’s skills gap, addressing the labour demand, and promoting a prosperous economy to sustain the quality of over 4 million Albertans enjoy.