Nanaimo is a wonderful little city on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. Its industrial history is of coal mining and fishing, its pre-industrial history includes numerous First Nations with rich language, culture, and economy holistically and firmly rooted in the water, the land, the mountains, the place.
I’ve been delighted to get to know some of the “movers and shakers” of this place during my six months here. My job is more than public relations and communications director: I’ve been tasked with getting to know this place, what makes it tick, who gets things done, who needs to be consulted and supported, who has the passion and commitment to bring to fruition any community project worth doing. It’s more than “public relations” – it’s building meaningful relationships.
Relationships in the community are not the job of one personal VIU. It’s not just up to me (thank goodness!), and it’s not just Ralph, our President. It’s everyone. There isn’t one advisory council, board, committee, or planning group in Nanaimo that doesn’t have someone from Vancouver Island University participating. (If you know of one, let me know!)
A couple of weeks ago I was at a roundtable meeting of some regional economic-development-type groups doing a check-in of what’s planned for the coming years: the airport, the Chamber of Commerce, the port authority, regional governments, etc. Then this past week I attended a community check-in that included a wider swath of the community: economic development plus the art gallery, some local business people, the theatre.
Not to get too sentimental: but it warmed my heart to be part of the 2020 Roundtable on Wednesday, and I was excited to be able to tell the group where VIU has been, what we’re up to, and what we’ve got planned for the coming year. It made me a little bit sad that I’m not staying on full-time after my term position is up at the end of May. I also resolved to get out more, to see more of the sights and attractions while I’m here, and engage with more people socially, outside of work. I’ll always have a soft spot for Nanaimo.
But I’m eager to get back home, too. I feel the same way about Vancouver that my Nanaimo friends feel about their home. I’m trying to engage from across the straight, which has been a challenge, but in many ways it makes me appreciate my chosen city all the more. Just you wait Vancouver – these Nanaimo people have taught me all about citizen engagement – and I’m taking the lesson home with me.