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In 2018, the solution presented itself. A building owned by the province had originally been home of the Saskatchewan Forest Centre, but the not-for-profit folded in 2009 and the building was put up for sale in 2015. It sat mostly empty, housing a handful of offices until the university purchased it for $8.125 million in 2018. The official opening of campus was celebrated virtually last week — the COVID-19 pandemic prevented a larger gathering — though the celebration wasn’t what the university originally had in mind.
“I’ve never opened a new campus anywhere before,” Stoicheff said. “I’ve opened new buildings and those have always involved lots of people in attendance, and they give me the opportunity to thank people face to face for all the support needed for a big project … to come to fruition. For something as big as a whole campus in a brand new city, the fact that we haven’t yet been able to do it in person is a challenge.”
Still, Stoicheff said, the virtual celebration was “extremely moving.” Speakers included university staff, instructors, students, Indigenous leaders, and civic and provincial politicians. While Stoicheff called the alternate celebration somewhat “bittersweet,” the facility still marks a promise fulfilled. The new campus is “one of the ways to make good on that commitment that’s right in our title,” Stoicheff added.
The Prince Albert campus also represents a promise to the students and university as a whole. The most important way for the U of S to measure growth for the P.A. campus is to give access to students “who would otherwise be prevented from attending university because they can’t make the move to Saskatoon,” Stoicheff said. Putting existing programs together and adding new ones, such as dentistry, business, agriculture and bioresources and the entire first year of kinesiology, helps students and researchers, Stoicheff said. The university is also examining adding education courses in the city. As well, he noted, having a campus in a more northern location will allow for more research opportunities.