Champlain College: Trent’s College System and What it Means Today

Champlain college courtyard featuring towers A/B, C/D, and E/F.

Shortly following the University’s opening in 1964, Champlain College welcomed students in 1967 at the Trent Symons campus. Its eye-catching architecture designed by Ron Thom, the college buildings sit on the bank of the Otonabee river that runs through the university, and from a bird’s eye view, the college buildings form two interlocking C’s that stand for Champlain College. It was named after 17th century explorer Samuel de Champlain, in which his sword also became the Trent university crest, and the college motto was dubbed as “continuer mes decouvertes” meaning “to continue my discoveries.” It began as an all men’s college, and eventually became co-ed. With the underlying definition of what a college is, a part of a whole, it is constantly changing to fit with the times – to always serve its students and enhance their academic experience, with evolving traditions and guidelines.

This year, Arthur sat down with Champlain College’s new principal, Tina Fridgen, to discuss the function of colleges at universities, and the new college system that Trent has returned to after a brief four-year change. Whilst discussing the role of colleges, especially under the change that Trent has undergone this year, Fridgen shares that “the main purpose of the colleges remains to offer academic supports to all students while building and maintaining community between its members (students), fellows (faculty and staff), and alumni.”

“Ideally a strong collegiate system would enhance communication and engagement between students, supports and faculty – while creating more opportunity for clubs and groups, departments, and the Peterborough community to celebrate together in academic spaces.”

With the growing number of students at Trent, changes of the college structure has changed to meet the needs of such students, in which “programming options, needs and interests are diversifying,” as Fridgen put it.

“The changes made seem to incorporate the best from the college models we have had in the past. We are keeping focus on providing students with strong academic support services, keeping consistent access across the university, while increasing autonomy between the colleges which allows for our differences to shine.”

Fridgen is also a Trent alumnus and was Champlain’s Academic Advisor for five years, before taking on the role of Principal of the college. As an alumnus of Lady Eaton College Tina describes her experience for Arthur.

“When I was a student (‘95) at Trent our college had many roles for upper-year college students to help engage with the new students throughout the entire first year. In those days, the faculty were Dons, so the college and cabinet were the main drivers of community building. Now with centralized supports we have stronger housing and orientation teams, amazing wellness teams, clubs and groups are strengthened, and we have a very active central government; there are many sources of community programming for students to choose between. I think it is more important than ever for our support services, clubs and groups, TCSA and the colleges to work together to streamline communication and programming to our students. To keep enough choice to reach out to the diverse needs of our student body, but to ensure that the students do not feel over programmed will always be a challenge.”

Essentially, colleges are created to ensure that students are receiving a personalized student experience, focusing on academic achievement. Rather than having a different academic adviser at each appointment who doesn’t know your name, having a college system allows establishing a connection and greater interaction between students and faculty members, so students don’t feel lost or like they are a number in a massive institution. The new college system also allows for principals to be more engaged, and to focus on programming that tailors to the changing numbers and diversity at this growing university. It is a community for students to feel like they belong, and to give and receive guidance from all those who share the same space and opportunities.

This article is taken from Arthur‘s insert, “West Bank Love.” Check out “East Bank Love” featuring Otonabee College and Peter Gzowski College in Issue 9, out on newsstands February 13, 2019.