We had the good fortune to have a visit from the new President and Vice Chancellor of Quest University, Peter Englert, Ph.D. Dr. Englert was making a whirl wind tour of the US to talk to college counselors and independent college consultants about the exciting new developments happening at Quest.
Quest is a small, private, liberal arts college in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada, approximately 45 minutes from Vancouver. It was founded 9 years ago to offer a premier liberal arts education based on intellectual inquiry and experiential learning. It is Canada’s only secular, non-profit college or university.
Quest is unique in many ways, including its curriculum. Like Colorado College, Quest offers a block plan. Unlike conventional universities where students take several classes simultaneously in a semester, at Quest students focus on single “block” courses that run three hours a day, every day, for 3.5 weeks. There are no distractions, no multi-tasking, no competing opportunities pulling students in different directions. The block plan allows students to focus on one subject at a time. It allows for field trips and excursions to highlight or emphasize the course material so that students learn more deeply about the subject matter. For many students, this unified simplified approach is far preferable.
Another interesting aspect of the block plan is that students can choose their schedule. They are required to take two 16 week semesters (4 blocks each) but can do that any time in the year. This allows students to travel, work or pursue other learning opportunities at their pleasure. This feature makes it very attractive for elite athletes, who are discovering that they can continue to train and compete while getting a first class education at Quest.
Although Quest is firmly committed to classroom instruction it also has a strong experiential component. It requires students to have experiential learning experiences in several blocks in their areas of concentration. For students who resist a totally theoretical educational experience, Quest could be a good fit for them.
A parent of a Quest freshman said that the school attracted “brainy, hardworking REI types” with a zest for learning. Many of them are environmentally aware and attracted to extreme winter sports which as so prevalent in the area. Many of them are also musically inclined so it is not uncommon to see students who excel in math or science toting their instruments with them around campus.
Approximately 30% of students are from the US. Many are attracted by the beautiful natural environment and the collaborative atmosphere on campus. Many parents are attracted by the relatively low tuition. Quest costs $32,500 in Canadian dollars, making it much less expensive in US dollars.
We came away with the impression that Dr. Englert is a dynamic, forward-thinking leader who is going to transform this little college in the next few years.
Kyle A. Kane