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An architectural rendering of the Spy Hill facility.
courtesy faculty of veterinary medicine

U of C vet school slow out of the gate

$64 million government grant gets construction underway

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Students who plan on being among the first to attend the University of Calgary's veterinary school can rest a little easier.

In a surprise announcement from Advanced Education Minister Denis Herard last month, the government committed an additional $64 million required for the construction of the school's facilities.

While the announcement came much sooner than anticipated, veterinary medicine dean Dr. Alastair Cribb stressed the building plans are already well underway.

"It doesn't change anything," he said. "We'd moved ahead on the timeline, working towards the September 2008 opening date. This means now we've got all the funds in place we need to meet that target."

The $64 million will be combined with $16 million already pledged to the project, Cribb explained. Twenty-five million dollars have been designated for renovations at the Foothills complex and the remaining $55 million will go towards a new clinical skills building, which is being constructed at the Spy Hill campus in the city's northwest.

Gary Duke, project manager for the Foothills renovations, said he is relieved to have the funding.

"We would be going nowhere without it," he said.

Duke and his team are currently working on development of 30 to 40 new lab and office spaces in the Health Research Innovation Centre, which is currently empty. He plans to start construction in early January, with an opening date set for December 2007.

In addition to outfitting the HRIC, Duke is also in charge of renovating two floors of the Health Sciences Complex to accommodate more classrooms and administrative offices.

While the new money may ease construction worries, it does not accelerate the American Veterinary Medical Association's accreditation process, which the school must still go through.

"It is all fixed in stone," said Cribb, noting the AVMA will be coming to campus June 17 to make their final decision. The AVMA visited the U of C last June, but the university failed to receive accreditation and pushed back its opening date one year.

While the prerequisites for the veterinary program are currently posted on the faculty's website, Cribb noted the school is also working on additional admission requirements.

"We will be looking at people who expect to enter a range of veterinary positions when they graduate," he said. "So not every individual will be assessed exactly the same."

As the school will only be accepting 30 Alberta students, Cribb stressed the importance of students developing a competitive edge before they apply.

"If you want to enter veterinary medicine you need to make sure you learn something about the profession and that you have background that demonstrates an interest in what you say you want to do," he said.

When the school opens in September 2008, Cribb believes it will be a unique place to learn.

"The whole foundation of this faculty is on partnerships and collaboration," he said. "When you build and design your buildings you have to make sure that they facilitate that, and are consistent with your vision."

Cribb also noted the Spy Hill facility will be built to emphasize sustainable agriculture, as the environmentally-friendly building will reprocess all water used on-site.

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