Dec. 4, 2023

Construction starts on UCalgary’s Veterinary Learning Commons

New learning and student space will double number of vet med seats from 50 to 100
UCalgary’s new Veterinary Learning Commons
From left: Professor Serge Chalhoub, President Ed McCauley, Camrose MLA Jackie Lovely, Minister Rajan Sawhney, Dean Renate Weller, and Shania. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

A growing demand for veterinarians in Alberta was answered last Friday with a ceremonial shovelful of dirt, as groundbreaking for UCalgary’s new Veterinary Learning Commons building took place on the Spy Hill campus.

Backed with $68.5 million in provincial capital funding, the new facility will provide flexible active classrooms and student gathering areas and wellness spaces, while doubling the annual number of veterinary medicine training seats from 50 to 100 when it opens in the 2025/26 academic year.

“This vital provincial investment into expanding veterinary education facilities will help UCalgary address a growing demand for more veterinary professionals,” said Dr. Ed McCauley, president and vice-chancellor, University of Calgary.

“When this building is complete, there will be double the number of new veterinarians graduating every year to protect the health of domestic animals and support Alberta’s animal production industry and public health.”

Ed McCauley

Ed McCauley speaks at the groundbreaking event for the new Veterinary Learning Commons building.

Province provides an extra $10 million for vital project

The Dec. 1 groundbreaking ceremony saw the province investing an additional $10 million in the project, which aims to address the shortage of veterinarians.

“Veterinary medicine is vitally important to agriculture in Alberta. This investment will ensure that the University of Calgary can continue to support Alberta’s producers with skilled and much-needed veterinarians,” said Rajan Sawhney, minister of advanced education.

Rajan Sawhney, minister of Advanced Education

Rajan Sawhney, minister of Advanced Education

Renate Weller, dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, says the provincial investment comes at a critical time for expanding the number of veterinarians in Alberta, as well as the school’s ability to offer diagnostic services.

“This is a crucial investment that will help to address the pressing shortage of veterinarians in our province and also enhance our diagnostic capabilities for everyone, including livestock producers, reinforcing our commitment to supporting the province’s agricultural community,” said Weller. 

“The new facility will allow us to double the number of veterinary medicine students in Alberta providing veterinary care, ensuring food safety and safeguarding against zoonotic disease, thus serving the people of Alberta and beyond.”

Renovations to expand diagnostic services

The province is also providing $1.2 million in capital funding for renovations and lab equipment, building on $580,000 in grants provided in 2022/23.

The funding will expand the Diagnostic Services Unit, which offers fee-for-service diagnostic services for the veterinary community and researchers, including in-house necropsies, histopathology, cytology and bacteriology.

“We understand the seriousness of the vet and vet tech shortage, which is why we have taken a whole-government approach and provided funding toward the issue,” said RJ Sigurdson, minister of agriculture and irrigation.

“At the same time, we’re providing capital funding for renovations and lab equipment to further expand veterinary diagnostics so rural vets and producers have affordable and timely access to services to manage animal health and welfare.”

Renate Weller, dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

Renate Weller, dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

Key piece of long-range plans

The Veterinary Learning Commons is a key piece of the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) for UCalgary’s rural campus at Spy Hill.

The Spy HIll campus LRDP, which outlines future building plans and sets a development outlook for the next 20 to 30 years, ensures the 500-acre site has a framework that creates an overall community and enhanced connection to neighbouring areas, while accommodating research and academic growth.

Displayed at two open houses held earlier this year, the plan creates a cohesive campus that respects the unique rural landscape of the site: “Unlike more rigorous geometric campus planning approaches, future development sites respond to the existing topography and surface drainage patterns to create a protected and celebrated ecosystem,” reads the LRDP.

The university has occupied a portion of the Spy Hill lands since 1992 under a lease agreement with Alberta Infrastructure. The Spy Hill campus is currently home to UCalgary’s High Density Library and the Veterinary Medicine Clinical Skills Building.

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