Fanshawe College is a post-secondary educational institution located in London, Ontario. As part of Ontario’s Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (CAAT), it is a publicly funded college that provides specific vocational training for a number of highly technical career paths. Founded in 1962, Fanshawe College has provided a full-spectrum post-secondary experience for thousands of students for over fifty years, going beyond the purely educational aspects to provide residential and sports experiences. Now the home to over 43,000 students, Fanshawe is a powerhouse of education in London and in Southwestern Ontario.
Fanshawe College began life as the Ontario Vocational Centre. Founded in 1962, the Ontario Vocational Centre first held classes on September 28, 1964. On May 21st, 1965, the Ontario government passed Bill 153, sponsored by then-Minister of Education and future Premier Bill Davis. Bill 153 created a second series of post-secondary educational institutions outside of the existing series of Ontario universities. The Ontario Vocational Centre was granted status under this piece of legislation, becoming an official part of the Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology. By 1967 it was fully integrated into the CAAT system and had changed its name. Out went the Ontario Vocational Centre, in came Fanshawe College.
The name Fanshawe is derived from Old English. Fane, from the old word meaning “temple” or “building.” Shawe, from the old word meaning “woods.” As such, Fanshawe is literally named “Temple in the woods.” From such auspicious beginnings are legends made.
Fanshawe College reopened in 1967 with 720 students, a campus of 15 acres, and a budget of $2.5 million. Dr. James A. Colvin of Thunder Bay, a pilot in the Second World War, was chosen as the first President of Fanshawe College. The school colours, red and white, were chosen by the Fanshawe College Board of Directors, chaired by John G Laurie.
By 1968 the original 15 acres expanded to 93. This expansion has been repeated often in the decades since, although the gains have been quite a bit more modest. Today Fanshawe occupies 100 acres in East London, a dense collection of buildings and infrastructure that services an ever-growing population of students.
1968 also saw the college expand outside of London. The Woodstock campus was opened that year after Fanshawe purchased a shuttered senior’s home for $7500. The Woodstock campus’ main focus upon opening was their Farm Business Management program, which provided technical agriculture and industry-specific financial education to local farmers. The idea here was to allow the children of southwestern Ontario farmers to become educated in the finer details of the family business without having to leave for months at a time. A similar idea was behind the expansion in 1969 to the Simcoe campus, which provided a Farm Business Management program for the specific needs of the tobacco farming industry.
The next expansion occurred in 1970, when Fanshawe College opened a campus in St. Thomas. The St. Thomas campus originally opened on Ontario Street, but now occupies a picturesque location on Bill Martyn Parkway. The St. Thomas campus’ original mission was to provide employment retraining programs in the Elgin County region; the focus was on industrial occupations and the trades. In that same year, Fanshawe College implemented it’s first co-op program, in Civil Engineering Technology.
By 1972, five years after it opened as part of the CAAT program, enrolment had risen from 720 to 3,300. This would expand further by 1973, as Fanshawe took over the training of nurses, which had previously been handled by separate hospitals in London, St. Thomas, and Woodstock. This was also the year that Fanshawe began the Creative Electronics program, which would grow into the popular Music Industry Arts program. The Creative Electronics also lead to the creation of the Radio and Television Arts program, which Fanshawe has developed into a nationally recognized industry program. One of the events that proved to be a major development for this program occurred in 1978. In that year Fanshawe opened 6XFM (now CIXX-FM), the only campus station in Canada that is both CRTC-licensed and course-run.
Around the same time, the establishment of Fanshawe College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality program provided a similar intense hands-on experience. The Heliotrope, a fine-dining restaurant run by the College, opened up in the A building in the mid-1970s; it would later relocate to a new location and open as Saffron’s, on Fanshawe College Boulevard.
In 1979, Harry Rawson became the second President of Fanshawe College. Under Rawson, the Fanshawe College Student Union was granted space to construct their own building. Completed in 1980, the Student Union’s space takes up 12,400 square feet and comprises Forwell Hall, the Biz Booth, and the Games Room.
Expansion of Fanshawe College continued under President Rawson. In 1984 the College opened the G building, a huge 34,000 square foot building dedicated to the Nursing and Health Sciences program. In this same year, the College employed 1,140 full-time staff and graduated 1,700 students.
President Rawson retired in 1987 and was succeeded by Barry Moore. President Moore had previously been the President of Fraser Valley College in Chilliwack, B.C. and of Northern Lights College in Dawson, B.C. He had also been a minister with the United Church in Alberta as well as the Chaplain at the University of Alberta. Under Moore’s hand the College built a new building for the Woodstock campus. While the former senior’s centre had been good enough for the time it was opened in, by 1988 the campus needed larger accommodations and those came in the form of a modern design located at the Woodstock Community Complex.
The 1990s continued the expansion of Fanshawe College. In 1990 the College opened the K building, which became the home of the Child Care program, and H building, which became the home of both the Nursing Assistant program and the Design program. 1990 also saw the opening of a new home for the St. Thomas campus and it’s School of Continuing Education, as well as the opening of an $800,000 recording studio for the Music Industry Arts program. Expansion slowed somewhat during the brutal global recession of the early 1990s, but Fanshawe College and President Moore spent this time integrating the College into the City of London. In 1991 Fanshawe College partnered with Don Smith, who co-founded the construction firm Ellis-Don, to put together a community fundraising drive; such a drive would not have been possible under the College’s original mandate, but by the 1990s times were changing. The integration with the community also included forging new ties with the University of Western Ontario; forging cross-channel course structures between the two institutions was a natural fit, with Western providing the theory and structure and Fanshawe providing the technical ability and hands-on experience.
In 1996, the International Culinary Olympics were held in Berlin. The Culinary Arts program sent a team from Fanshawe to compete, and that team ended up bringing home the silver medal. 1996 was also the year when President Moore retired. His successor was Dr. Howard Rundle, a PhD in Chemistry who had originally been the Fanshawe College Director of Planning and Development from 1972 onward. Under President Rundle, the St. Thomas campus opened up a new campus in 1997, a 28,000 square foot complex that was shared with St. Joseph’s High School. In 1999, Fanshawe College opened up it’s first on-campus student residence. The residence cost $15 million to build and comfortably houses 400 students; by the time the residence was built, Fanshawe had already graduated 69,000 students.
Fanshawe In The 21st Century
The 21st Century has been a story of further development and expansion for Fanshawe College. The beginning of the 21st Century marked the beginning of the Millennials attending post-secondary educational institutions. At the same time, the elimination of “Grade 13” (the Ontario Academic Credit program that added a fifth year to high school from 1921 until 2003) caused the creation of a “double cohort” around the turn of the century. This surge in students attending post-secondary institutions created a need for expanded accommodations, facilities, and courses for students at Fanshawe College.
Seeing the need beforehand, Fanshawe College began an ambitious five year, $77 million program of expansion in 2000. This program, named “SuperBuild”, would eventually result in space for 1,080 additional students and 26 classroom spaces either built or renovated. At the same time, the College expanded the St. Thomas campus. This expansion would add 14,000 square feet to the St. Thomas campus, creating new workshops, laboratories, classes, student areas, and a new theatre for the Theatre Arts program.
The early 21st Century also showed Fanshawe College’s commitment to community involvement. In early 2001 the Scouts Canada facility at Spencer Camp in London was burned to the ground in an act of arson. The facility was used for training and camping, and was a vital part of the Scouting experience in the London, Ontario region. Rather than let such injustice stand, the students of Fanshawe College leapt into action to right it. It would take 80 students, over 6,000 hours, and $340,000, but in the end Spencer Camp was rebuilt with the help of Fanshawe College.
2001 also saw another world-class victory for a Fanshawe student, this time from the Design program. Paula Chin, a student in Fanshawe College’s Fashion Design program, came in fourth in the world in the International Young Fashion Designers competition held that year in Paris, France. The word was out: CAAT institutions were hotbeds of success, and this idea played well with Millennials, who were attending universities but seeing less tangible results from that path than their parents did. In 2002, first-year student enrolment at Fanshawe exceeded first-year enrolment at Western for the first time. The success of Fanshawe graduates proved to be a major draw to drive enrolment at the College.
This is not to say that there was a serious competition between the two post-secondary institutions, or any animosity. Far from it. A number of agreements to create joint degree programs between Western and Fanshawe were set up in 2001-2002. These included programs based in Media, Communications, and Electronics. Another development in program design came in 2002 as well. In that year the Ontario government gave CAAT colleges permission to design and implement applied degree programs. The first two applied degree programs offered by Fanshawe College were the Integrated Land Planning Program and the Bachelor of Applied Technology in Biotechnology.
New programs and increasing enrolment of course required further expansion and development at the College. In 2002 Fanshawe College opened up the M Building, a gigantic 90,000 square foot building that housed the Communication and Design programs. In addition, Fanshawe College opened the N Building, which housed the Spriet Family Greenhouse. The next year, 2003, saw a major renovation to the F Building, including the addition of three stories. Another student residence was opened that year as well, providing housing for 400 more students. In 2004 the Fanshawe Student Union decided that the current Student Union Building was inadequate to meet the needs of the changing and expanding student population. To this end, they funded and built a brand new Student Union Building placed between the two student residence buildings. The College also opened a three-way partnership between the Curriculum Development, Staff Development, and Learning Systems programs. This partnership included the opening of the Centre For Innovation. Another new facility followed in 2005, a $14 million dollar facility that would be labeled the T Building and would become the home of the Centre for Construction Trades and Technology.
This period of expansion coincided with a period of renovation, during which many of the buildings were given major overhauls. In addition to the remakes of the older buildings, the main entrance of Fanshawe College was reoriented so that the entrance to the college opened up onto a large courtyard. 2007 saw the acquisition of Cuddy Gardens, donated by the widow of the late A.M. Cuddy. Taking up five acres, the Cuddy Gardens have since become the domain of Fanshawe College’s horticulture students. 2008 found the College needing to build a third student residence, which, in combination with the other two, allowed for 1,200 students to live full-time on the grounds of Fanshawe College.
2008 was another victorious year for Fanshawe students as well. Laura Mallory, a student in Fanshawe College’s Nursing program, became the youngest Canadian to climb Mount Everest. It was also the year that saw the opening of the Fanshawe College Foundation, a charitable foundation that would support students while also building a base of contributions for any Fanshawe community initiatives it’s students might wish to undertake in the future. A big indicator of how successful the Foundation would be came in early 2009, when Fanshawe contributed $72,620 to the United Way of London & Middlesex, which blew past the original target contribution of $65,000.
As in the early 1990s, 2008 marked the beginning of a major global economic downturn, which resulted in a wave of layoffs across southwestern Ontario, including in the manufacturing sector. To this end, Fanshawe College began retraining services for those who’d lost their job under the auspices of the Second Career program. The Ontario government pitched in on this program as well. London-Fanshawe MPP Khalil Raml announced an investment of $800,000 to train workers in the technical skills of handling agricultural equipment, trucking, heavy equipment maintenance, electrical work, and the skills of an industrial millwright. In 2009 this was further funded by a joint federal-provincial package that would grant Fanshawe $31.8 million in additional monies; this led Fanshawe to expand to the Small Business Centre on Oxford Street. This Small Business Centre would be retooled in November 2009 into the Centre for Applied Transportation Technologies, a 148,000 square foot building that could hold 1,500 full time students.
The second decade of the 21st Century was also a time of success for Fanshawe students. Some of these victories included an innovative form of reporting from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, first and second place finishes for students at 2010’s Canada Blooms, and a NATO Medal of Service for Fanshawe graduate Debra Bodkin, for her work in Kosovo, Darfur, and Rwanda. This was followed up by an astounding eight gold and silver medals won at the Canadian Culinary Federation competition in Toronto in 2011, and the expansion of the College into downtown London with the purchase of the former Royal Trust building on Dundas Street, which would give accommodations and learning space for 400 additional students.
The Ontario Technological Skills Competition in May 2012 brought Fanshawe more competition wins, garnering Fanshawe students three medals from the Architectural Design and Technology competition and the Culinary Arts competition. Another gold medal came in the summer of 2013, when Architectural Technology student Becky DeKlyn won both the gold medal and “Best In Region” at the Skills Canada competition held in British Columbia. Further medals came at the end of 2013, when Scott Baechler, a Fanshawe College professor, won both gold and silver at the Salon Culinaire Mondial in Switzerland.
2013 was also the year when the College purchased the hangar that had previously been used for Air Canada Jazz. The hangar is now used as the home of the Avionics Maintenance and Aircraft Maintenance programs. In early 2014, Fanshawe expanded further downtown, opening up the Centre for Digital and Performance Arts. This centre became the home of a number of programs, including the 3D Animation and Character Design program, the Interactive Media Design and Production program, the Technical Costume Design Program, and the Theatre Arts program. Later in 2014, the College opened up an on-campus massage therapy clinic, providing hands-on experience for the popular Massage Therapy program.
In 2016 Fanshawe College opened the Canadian Centre For Product Validation, an innovative centre that tests products for quality assurance before they go out on the market. The College also opened a new site in Goderich, Ontario, a picturesque little town on the shores of Lake Huron. The Goderich site offers a Business – Entrepreneurship and Management diploma.
The mandate to provide practical, hands-on, technical training allows Fanshawe College to offer some truly interesting degree programs. Some are time-honoured and tested, others are cutting-edge and future-oriented.
The Practical Nursing program is one of the oldest and most popular programs offered at Fanshawe College. The skills training taught in the Practical Nursing program includes learning about anatomy, nutrition, and pharmaceutical knowledge. Graduates of the Practical Nursing program are qualified to write the Canadian Practical Nurse Registration Examination and become Registered Practical Nurses.
Another long-running and popular program is the Theatre Arts program. Theatre Arts is divided into two major sections. The first is Theatre Arts – Performance, which prepares students for a life in performance on stage or on screen. The faculty in Theatre Arts are professional directors and actors and provide the kind of hands-on experience needed to really succeed in the field. The training here includes acting for the stage or camera, mask work, movement, Shakespeare, and improv. The second section is Theatre Arts – Technical Production, where students learn the skill necessary to build and run stage productions. At Fanshawe’s downtown London facility, students learn the ins and outs of lighting, scenic painting, special effects, lighting, carpentry, rigging, and set design. The program combines aspects of technology and project management to give students the skills necessary to produce next-generation stage shows that combine theory with practical skills.
Some of the programs are more cutting-edge, the kind of training programs that might have seemed the stuff of science fiction when Fanshawe College first opened in 1967. One example of this is the Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems Commercial Operations graduate certificate. This program, one of the newest offered at Fanshawe, gives students the opportunity to learn all of the aspects of a career in flying drones. Students learn the design and maintenance of remotely piloted aerial systems, including the electrical system, communication, navigation, and data systems. The other side of the program involves the business skills necessary to successfully navigate commercial drone flying, including skills in entrepreneurship, research, and market analysis.
A similarly future-oriented program is the Environmental Technology program. This full-time program gives the tools students need to succeed in a career in protecting and maintaining the environment. These skills include a foundation of bacteriology, analytical chemistry, air pollution measurement, managing water quality, and hydrogeology. Students of the Environmental Technology program go on to find lucrative careers with government regulatory agencies at all levels, as well as wastewater treatment plants, the petrochemical industry, pollution control, the manufacturing sector, and multiple types of research agencies.
A less technical example of Fanshawe offering courses that cater to the ongoing current needs of industry is the Sustainable Local Foods program. One of the biggest movements in the culinary industry in recent years has been a shift toward local food, often taking the form of “farm-to-table” restaurants that gather ingredients from local farms to create a high-end dining experience. The Sustainable Local Foods program gives students the skills and knowledge necessary to plug into this growing industry, including courses in urban agriculture, understanding the farm-to-table food cycle, the causes and outcomes of food insecurity in Canada, and sustainable farming practices.
Of course, Fanshawe College isn’t just about taking courses and preparing you for future careers in lucrative, technical fields. Fanshawe provides a well-rounded student experience to rival any other post-secondary institution in Canada. Fanshawe offers a full-scale residence experience, with 1,200 apartment-style room and 400 townhouse-style accommodations. These residences are fully furnished and come with maintenance services and some light housekeeping. Cable and internet are provided, as are heat, hydro, and water. The residence facilities also include laundry facilities, study lounges, common areas, and activity lounges. The buildings are air conditioned, with on-site management and a 24-hour help desk available on the ground floor. Every residence room comes equipped with a double sized bed, a desk, a closet, a fridge, counter, and sink, a microwave oven, sofa and armchair, and a bathroom with sink and toilet. Other features include a common kitchen, a movie lounge with television and surround sound, and activity lounges with pool tables, ping pong, foosball, and shuffle board.
Campus life naturally goes beyond just the residence. Fanshawe College features an on-campus Student Wellness Centre, which offers group exercise programs and personalized training and nutrition coaching. Group exercise includes classes to improve your strength, increase your aerobic power, and to ramp up your endurance, speed, and agility. Personal programs include lessons on physiology and nutrition. Also available through the Student Wellness Centre is the Health Services Medical Clinic, which offers medical services ranging from basic illness care to birth control to immunization.
Athletics are a major part of campus life at Fanshawe College, and it bears saying that Fanshawe College has the largest college recreation program in Ontario. Intramural sports are a big thing at Fanshawe, for students looking for casual recreation. Intramural sports at Fanshawe include flag football, 3-pitch, basketball, cricket, volleyball, and (for a small fee), hockey. For those looking for a more intense, in-depth team sport experience, Fanshawe offers the chance for students to find a berth on any number of travelling competitive teams. Fanshawe has teams in badminton, baseball, basketball, cross country, curling, golf, indoor soccer, outdoor soccer, and volleyball.
The student-athlete experience at Fanshawe College is top-notch among post-secondary institutions in Ontario. Travelling teams are transported to games in WIFI-equipped charter buses wrapped with the Fanshawe Falcons logo. Hotel accommodations for road games are kept to a high standard of quality, and Fanshawe College operates a policy whereby each athlete is apportioned their own bed while travelling. Home games give Falcons team members access to the largest lockers in the Ontario College Athletics Association, featuring two power outlets and two USB ports for every single locker. Locker rooms are also equipped with full sound systems and a state-of-the-art smart board for strategic planning.
Keeping on top of wellness and injury is a snap for Fanshawe Falcons athletes as well. The Student Wellness Centre includes a full-service fitness centre, including a 36-foot high rock climbing wall, a doctor’s office, a Booster Juice outlet, and a quiet nap room. Falcons athletes also have access to the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic, which offers a full range of physiotherapy options to help solve an athlete’s recovery path from injury.
The athletic facilities at Fanshawe are both numerous and well-equipped. The Glenn Johnston Athletic Centre, home of the Fanshawe Falcons, features two adjustable gymnasiums divided by a sliding hydraulic wall. The Glenn Johnston Centre features seating for 924 spectators, high efficiency lighting, two scoreboards with shot clocks, a full sound system, nine changing rooms, and a sizable mezzanine that overlooks the gyms. The configurations available for the gyms include one regulation-sized basketball court, one regulation-sized volleyball court, 2 basketball courts, 4 volleyball courts, or 8 badminton courts.
In addition to the Glenn Johnston Centre, there is a third gym primarily meant as a practice area, or for recreational sports. This gym has seating for 300 people and can be used as a single basketball court or two volleyball courts. Fanshawe also features an international-sized grass soccer field, a baseball diamond, and a large all-purpose field that supports a variety of recreational activities.
Beyond the technical knowledge and skill education, supporting students and fostering an atmosphere of success for student entrepreneurship are important goals for Fanshawe College. They recognize that, for a number of reasons, students will want to translate the skills and knowledge they are learning at Fanshawe into actionable businesses. Some of these reasons may be to express creativity, to attain financial independence, to pursue a passion or to make an impact on the local community or society as a whole. However, entrepreneurship requires a certain mindset and ability to put yourself out there in terms of risk; these are separate skills that require an entirely different method of educational delivery.
To this end, Fanshawe College has, in conjunction with the Ontario government, created a learning program called LEAP Junction. LEAP Junction is a part of the Ontario government’s Campus-Linked Accelerator program, which helps students accelerate the commercialization of their ideas or inventions and build them into viable, successful businesses. LEAP Junction supports startup businesses with a one-on-one analysis of the business, and personalized mentoring services. They also offer workshops focused on building entrepreneurial skills, hosting pitch competitions, exploring opportunities for getting retail sales, and networking events. These networking events are integrated into the London business community and provide access to local investors and industry. In addition, LEAP Junction also runs the Leap IN summer incubator, which provides seed funding, mentorship, and co-working space for qualifying students.
Fanshawe College is an integral part of the post-secondary educational infrastructure of the entire London region. With a strong, successful presence in London as well as campuses in St. Thomas, Simcoe, Woodstock, and Huron/Bruce, Fanshawe College has been the beginning of the careers of many successful entrepreneurs, tradespeople, and business leaders. With a full-service student life experience as well as an athletic experience second to none in Ontario, Fanshawe College offers the complete post-secondary experience for students of all skills and interests.