Quest’s New Chancellor Named

Mr. Peter Webster, Chairman of the R. Howard Webster Foundation, was invested as Quest University Canada’s next Chancellor during the Convocation ceremony on September 2. As Chair of one of Canada’s pre-eminent family foundations, Peter Webster has cultivated a deep understanding of philanthropy with a keen eye toward social innovation. The stated mission of the R. Howard Webster Foundation is to make grants to outstanding Canadian charitable organizations offering unique and inspiring programs or projects for the benefit, improvement, and development of Canadian society. In that capacity, the Foundation made an inspirational grant during Quest’s founding era toward the establishment of the University’s library collection. According to Quest’s Board Chair Mary Jo Larson, Mr. Webster “has been a friend and supporter of the University since its inception and has followed us with keen interest throughout our first decade.”

In his younger years, Mr. Webster was involved in athletics, managing Canada’s National Alpine Ski Team, directing the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, and serving as Deputy Team General Manager for the Canadian Olympic Association. More recently, he was a member of the successful Vancouver 2010 Olympic Bid Corporation. Throughout his career in philanthropic work, Mr. Webster has made a sustained impact in the areas of education, health sciences, athletics, arts, and culture. “Most of my work is dedicated to helping youth,” he says. “My hope is that I can help to provide young people today with opportunities that they might not otherwise have.”

Chancellor Webster’s first act of office was to install Dr. George Iwama as President of Quest University Canada. The primary duty of the Chancellor is to confer the interdisciplinary B.A. & Sc. degree upon Quest’s graduates. The University proudly welcomes Peter Webster as a friend of our innovative educational mission and our next Chancellor.

80th Birthday Retrospective Dr. Daniel Birch

It is with great fondness and admiration that Quest must bid farewell to Dr. Dan Birch, who will be stepping down from his position on the Board at the end of August after seven years of service to the University as both Chancellor and a Board member. In his own words, “I will celebrate my 80th birthday on September 1st and this seems like a good time to focus on my family. Doing so will entail no diminution in my aspirations for the future of Quest.”

When Dr. Birch became Chancellor of Quest University Canada, he brought a tremendous background in higher education with him. He received his Ph.D. in Education from the University of California- Berkeley. At Simon Fraser University he was appointed Dean of Education, Associate Vice President Academic, Acting Vice President Academic, and briefly as Acting President of the University. At the University of British Columbia, Dan again served as Dean of Education and for twelve years as Provost and Academic Vice President. He received the Cree name Mitehe (Heart) in recognition of twenty years of support for the development of First Nations programs at universities, including the establishment of the first Aboriginal graduate programs at UBC.

When asked about what attracted him to Quest when he first became Chancellor, Dan notes, “Members of the Quest community frequently say that their goal is to institutionalize revolution and the University is truly revolutionary – from cornerstone to keystone.” In regard to Cornerstone, he emphasizes the interdisciplinary teaching by two tutors from different disciplines, which “like much of the academic program has more to do with learning to ask good questions than with memorizing answers to be reproduced on exams.” As for Keystone, Dan finds it impressive how many lead into interesting employment or personally relevant studies for Quest alumni, either graduate or professional, and often in the most distinguished of institutions in Canada or abroad.

As an educator, Dr. Birch feels that Quest exemplifies the unique possibilities of a discovery-based pedagogy. “Most members of the public expect a university education to entail mastery of a body of knowledge. Quest’s expectation is that students will learn how scholars in a variety of disciplines formulate questions to advance their insight into the world around them and into themselves and others who live in it. Many Quest tutors achieve true distinction as scholar teachers and, in doing so, inspire their students to do likewise.”

Looking back on his service as Chancellor and as a Board member, Dan shared the following thoughts. “I am grateful to have served under two outstanding Chairs, Ian Worland and Mary Jo Larson, who have given themselves unstintingly for Quest’s wellbeing.” When asked about his hopes for the future of Quest University Canada, Dan enthusiastically responded, “I will look for the achievement of fiscal sustainability, continued orderly growth to a planned enrolment total of perhaps 1200 students, for an increase in the international experience of both students and faculty members, for continued relevance in the co-curricular program, and for an increase in peer tutoring. I expect vibrant and strategic leadership from the next President and from a coherent administrative team. It has been a great privilege to have been a member of Quest’s governing board.”

Quest is an inspired community of diverse, unique individuals who share a passion for discovery. Dan Birch exemplifies the spirit of Quest and we are truly privileged to have enjoyed his guidance and support for so many years. Board Chair Mary Jo Larson offered the following reflection on Dan’s contributions to Quest, “Dan has been an invaluable member of the Board. His knowledge of and connections in Canadian higher education have helped not only the Board, but all Quest students. When few graduate and professional programs understood the value of a Quest education, Dan opened doors for many Quest graduates, who continue to pave the way for the students coming after them. All of us are indebted to Dan for his many contributions to Quest.”

With the warmest wishes upon the occasion of his 80th birthday, thank you Dan from all of us at Quest!


Quest’s New President Dr. George Iwama

August 25, 2017

The Board of Governors of Quest University Canada is proud to announce that Dr. George Iwama has been appointed the University’s next President.

Quest is the national and global leader of a distinct philosophy of inquiry-based education, and is committed to continuing to innovate and share its work.

When we started our search for a new President, we set out to find someone who would:

  • Champion Quest’s mission, vision, and values;
  • Continue to strengthen, defend, and renew Quest’s pedagogical approach;
  • Recruit and support a truly distinctive student body;
  • Recruit and support world-class teacher-scholars;
  • Ensure a sustainable business model; and
  • Serve as a compelling and effective advocate for Quest as its leading external ambassador.

We strongly believe Dr. Iwama is an outstanding candidate, and we are excited about adding his experience and leadership to Quest University Canada.

Dr. Iwama will be a critical part of helping our University tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities that lie ahead by continuing to develop and champion the vision of Quest as a place for innovation in teaching and learning.

We look forward to hosting a social welcome event where students, staff, and community members can meet and get to know our new President this fall – stay tuned for details. For more information on Dr. Iwama, please visit the Incoming President webpage.

With appreciation,
Mary Jo Larson
Chair, Board of Governors
Quest University Canada


Candidate Evaluation Committee: August 7 Update


Candidate Evaluation Committee Update

Dear Quest Communities,

As you know, the Candidate Evaluation Committee has been working very hard. It reviewed the skills and experiences sought in our next president, solicited community input, and then drafted a Presidential Profile. The CEC has completed its initial evaluation of the candidate in light of the articulated attributes desired and strategic objectives outlined in the profile. The evaluation included reviewing the candidate’s letter of interest and vita, speaking with several references, exploring information available on the internet, and interviewing the candidate in depth.

I am delighted to announce that the CEC has unanimously concluded that the candidate has the experience and attributes needed to lead Quest into the future and has invited him to campus for the next step in the evaluation process. At this time, we are able to share that the candidate is Dr. George Iwama. As many of you may know, Dr. Iwama has previously served as Vice President Academic and Provost at Acadia University and as President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Northern British Columbia. He is also currently the Chancellor of Quest. You can find more information about Dr. Iwama on the Presidential Search webpage.

On behalf of the Candidate Evaluation Committee, thank you for your confidence and support, as well as the patience you have displayed as we work through this important process. We are making good progress and look forward to this final phase.

With appreciation,
Mary Jo Larson
Chair, Board of Governors
Quest University Canada



Presidential Candidate Evaluation Committee: Update

The Quest University Presidential Candidate Evaluation Committee (CEC) met on Friday, July 28. The following is a brief update on the progress of the CEC’s work.

As you know, Marjorie Wonham was appointed Quest’s Interim President last May by the Board of Governors (the Board). At that time, the Board intended to conduct a national search for a new president and began to identify the leadership attributes and priorities for Quest’s next leader.

In early July, a qualified and impressive candidate with higher education leadership experience expressed an interest in the presidential position. As a result, the Board decided to suspend the national search in order to thoroughly review the candidate’s qualifications and established the CEC, consisting of the following members: Board chair Mary Jo Larson; Board members Daniel Birch, Stuart Louie, Chief Dale Harry, Claude Rinfret, Michael Hutchison, and David Fujimagari; faculty Glen VanBrummelen and Ellen Flournoy; alumna Vrindy Spencer; and student Nicole Zanesco.

During the July 28 meeting, the CEC reviewed and approved the leadership attributes and strategic priorities, as well as the process, that will be used to evaluate the candidate. The proposed attributes and priorities were initially captured in a Presidential Profile. This Profile reflects the final changes approved by the CEC. The documentation received by the candidate includes a letter of interest, CV, and six references. CEC members will begin reviewing the candidate’s material immediately and will continue their review until our next meeting in early August.

The identity of the candidate remains confidential until the CEC has completed the initial review process. After the initial review process, if the CEC determines that the candidate satisfies the leadership qualifies set forth in the Presidential Profile, then the name of the candidate will be shared with the Quest community. In addition, the candidate will be invited to visit campus and meet with the campus community before a final decision is made. If this occurs, it is planned to take place at the following times and forums (times subject to adjustment):

• August 9, 2017, 3:00 pm – In-person meeting at Quest
• August 9, 2017, 6:00 pm – Webinar
• August 12, 2017, 2:00 pm – Webinar

We will provide additional details as these dates approach.

We are also planning to have the candidate for lunch and dinner on the 9th and lunch on the 12th. If you would like an opportunity for more informal interaction with the candidate at these lunches or dinner, please contact Ellen Flournoy at . We want to keep the group small enough to allow conversation, but still have departmental representation.

Thank you for your continued interest in Quest University and support of this very important candidate evaluation process. We look forward to staying in touch as the process continues to unfold.

Presidential Search Update

As we announced last week, a very strong candidate has come forward to express interest in serving as Quest’s president. Given the genuine and serious expression of interest, and the strengths the candidate could bring to Quest, we wish to conduct an expedient, thorough, and transparent process of evaluating this candidate, with the intent of completing the evaluation in a timely manner before the beginning of fall term. The Interim President has expressed her strong support for this process. The Board has committed to making evaluation process for this candidate as transparent and as open as we can. We are following this evaluation process and timetable for the rigorous evaluation we are undertaking. We will update the timetable as needed we move through the process.

We will post an update here as each key step of the process is completed, and will email faculty, staff, students, and alumni at major milestones. An important step was taken on Thursday July 20, when Board member and former Chancellor of Quest, Dan Birch (in person), and Board Chair Mary Jo Larson (by Skype) met on campus with interested faculty, staff, students, and alumni on campus to explain the evaluation process, and to listen to their views on the leadership characteristics needed and strategic priorities for the next President of Quest. The conversation was immensely helpful to us as we shape the Profile by which the candidate will be assessed. We have also received several emailed comments, and welcome further input. The Profile has now been redrafted to take into account these comments. After one more review by the Board, this draft will be sent to the Candidate Evaluation Committee for final review and approval on July 28. Anyone may give us additional input on leadership characteristics and strategic priorities any time before July 28 by emailing us at Your views are important to us and the success of the next President, so please do not hesitate to send us your comments!

The Candidate Evaluation Committee consists of Board members Mary Jo Larson (chair), Daniel Birch, David Fujimagari, Chief Dale Harry, Michael Hutchison, Stuart Louie, and Claude Rinfret; Founding Faculty member Glen van Brummelen; Academic Council Board Representative Ellen Flournoy; Alumna and former SRC representative Vrindy Spencer; incoming SRC president Nicole Zanesco. The Board is very grateful to the faculty, alumni, and student volunteers who are contributing their time and efforts to invest in this rigorous and important process.

Quest University Canada is pleased to announce a new member of the Board of Governors, Chancellor, Dr. George Iwama.

Dr. Iwama received his Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of British Columbia specializing in fish physiology and aquaculture. After postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Texas and Dalhousie University, he returned to UBC to join the faculty in Animal Science, where he was subsequently tenured and granted full professorship. In 2000 he went on to serve four years as Director General of the National Research Council’s Institute for Marine Biosciences in Halifax and led the creation of the NRC Institute for Nutriscience and Health on Prince Edward Island.
Read more about our Board of Governors…

Q&A With Board Member Dan Birch

A British Columbia native, Dr. Birch received his Bachelor of Arts (Classical Studies and English) and Master of Arts (History) at the University of British Columbia, and PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. He taught briefly at Berkeley before returning to BC where he spent his career in a variety of leadership roles, first as Dean of the Faculty of Education and Associate Vice-President of Simon Fraser University where he also served some months as Acting President, and then as Dean of the Faculty of Education and, subsequently, Academic Vice President and Provost of the University of British Columbia, a post he held for twelve years. Following an early retirement from UBC, Dr. Birch spent a decade with Janet Wright & Associates, recruiting leaders for institutions in the public and not-for-profit sectors. For six years he co-chaired the BC Council on Admissions and Transfer and is an active consultant to the Degree Quality Assessment Board of the Ministry of Advanced Education. In 1992, he was awarded the FRSA (London), and the following year, received a Cree name—Mitehe (Heart)—in recognition of twenty years of support for the development of First Nations programs in universities, support which led to the establishment of UBC’s first Aboriginal graduate programs and the opening of the First Nations Longhouse on the campus.



1) What is your experience in higher education? Do you have prior experience serving on a board (university or otherwise)?

Most of the details of my career in higher education are in the bio that was put together when I was first appointed Chancellor. One of the most interesting stories, however, comes from when I was a master’s student in history at UBC. Back then students were normally invited to waive the M.A. thesis and continue on in the Ph.D. program, which is what I was going to do. However, Simon Fraser University had just recently been created, and I was invited to join the Education program, which had a novel, differentiated staffing with both Professors and what came to be called Faculty Associates. My first assignment was to write a letter to all of the local school district superintendants explaining what SFU’s Education program was all about. That made me think seriously about what matters most in higher education.

After that, instead of going back to study early modern history, I went to Berkeley for a Ph.D. in Education. In 1969 I came back to BC fully expecting to start doing research and teaching, but got drafted into administration at a very early point in my career. One year out from the Ph.D. and I was appointed Acting Dean of Education at SFU, and later Dean of Education. It was the start of a career in administration. I was appointed Associate Vice President Academic, then Acting VP Academic, then Acting President. After SFU, I again thought that I would become a regular professor, but I got invited to go to UBC, and I repeated the whole cycle over again there.

That’s where I met David Strangway. One of the things that David liked to do at the end of the day was to talk to people about his interests or your interests. He had spent his early career in the U.S. and saw the pinnacle of undergraduate education as the private, liberal arts college. He was struck by the fact that there were no liberal arts colleges in Canada, and that’s what led to the creation of Quest.

As far as Board service is concerned, I was on the Shaughnessy Hospital Board and later became Chair. I was also on the Board of the BC Cancer Agency and always had a role relating to the Board of Governors in my roles at UBC. Even at Simon Fraser University, the Senate Committees that I served on, a large portion of the material I wrote or worked on in committee went to the Board, so I’ve always been aware of how Boards relate to faculty and staff.


2) What do you feel is special about Quest? Why did you choose to serve on the Quest Board of Governors?

There is no question in my mind that Quest has the most coherent, thoughtful, and challenging approach to the delivery of an undergraduate curriculum. The block plan, interdisciplinarity, the international components, opportunities for experiential learning in Canada and abroad, all of these things are of great interest to me. When I was asked to serve as Chancellor I agreed right away.

I served two three-year terms, that’s six years as Chancellor. After that I thought that my involvement was finished, but I was approached and offered a regular seat on the Board, and I agreed. My approach to undergraduate education has been connected to the pedagogy at Quest. It’s been called different things throughout the years, but it is essentially an inquiry- or discovery-based method. This approach is always student-oriented, rather than subject- or teacher-oriented. It was a natural transition for me to go from being Chancellor to Board member.


3) What contribution do you feel you can make to the Board and to Quest? 

I’ve always had a thorough understanding of the larger context of higher education. When I was first appointed Chancellor, Greg Lee, who was President of Capilano, and I were the only two people on the Board who had senior leadership experience. The Quest Board doesn’t have faculty members, and most research university boards didn’t have faculty members until changes in the University Act in the 1990s, so Greg and I became resources to put issues in a larger context. What do other universities do? How are these matters handled elsewhere? Once Greg moved on after his term ended, I was the only one left with a faculty or administrative background. People turned to me to put issues and decisions into a broader context at almost every Board meeting. I still draw on that experience and think that that is my greatest contribution to the Board.


4) Is there anything interesting the Quest community might like to know about you as an individual?

One time I took a group of Deans to the West China University of Medical Sciences in Chengdu. When we got off the plane, our host asked if this was our first time in western China, and my answer was, “The first time in 40 years.” I attended a British boarding school in Sichuan as a child and was evacuated to India at the end of WWII. My parents were missionaries in China as part of an interdenominational mission that set up a number of boarding schools.

Your early years are an important part of your life, and sometimes ideas from my time in western China float around in my head and not entirely consciously. I am by no means fluent in Mandarin, but occasionally a Chinese expression pops up, and it is the only one that truly captures the idea that I am thinking about. My parents understood the importance of language and culture, so we only spoke Chinese when we were outside the home and only spoke English inside, so we would have both cultures. When I visited Expo 86 decades later with my wife Arlene, we represented UBC every day or two at a different pavilion. At the Chinese pavilion I greeted the person in charge, and she immediately asked, “Where did you get the Sichuan accent?” The international context that is a part of Quest has been important to me since childhood and will always be a part of my life. And yes, I am a fan of Sichuan cuisine.


For more information on the Board of Governors please go to:

Q&A with Board Chair Mary Jo Larson

The structure of Quest University Canada, including the role of the Board of Governors, was established by the Sea to Sky University Act on May 29, 2002. The Board is made up of volunteer members, who support the purpose and mission of the University. Members are elected for a five-year term in accordance with the bylaws of the University and may serve two consecutive terms. Typically Board members are accomplished individuals from the professional world or higher education, who share their expertise in the governance of the university.

According to the Sea to Sky University Act, “the powers and duties of the university are vested in the board, including but not limited to the management, administration and control of the property, revenue, business affairs and academic governance of the university”. What this passage means is that the Board sets the major administrative, financial, and academic policies for the University. The Board consults the Executive team and the Academic Council on policy matters and gives direction to the development of educational and financial plans.

The Board also hears recommendations on employment matters including contract renewals and is informed by regular reports from various university areas, such as Student Life, Admissions, Registrar, Finance, and Development.


Profile- Mary Jo Larson,
Chair of the Board of Governors


Q: What is your experience in higher education?  Do you have prior experience serving on a board?

I completed my first year of university at Kalamazoo College, an innovative, four-year liberal arts university in Michigan. I absolutely loved it there, but I transferred to be with my future husband, who studied music at the University of Michigan. Even though U of M is a huge university, I chose a smaller, live-in, liberal arts college within the university. The smaller classes were much more engaging and also more demanding. The professors had really different expectations of how the students should be working. I went on to complete my J.D. at the University of Michigan law school, but always had a soft spot in my heart for the four-year, liberal arts, innovative education.

I never served on a college or university board before, but I have been on the board of Forgotten Harvest in the Detroit metro area. It is one of the largest food recovery and distribution networks in the world, delivering over 45 million pounds of food annually. We’re talking semi-trucks full of food rescued from stores, restaurants, and caterers to reduce food waste and ensure that no one goes hungry in the Detroit metro area.


Q: What do you feel is special about Quest? Why did you choose to serve on the Quest Board of Governors?

Why Quest? Well for one, we sent our son thousands of miles away from home to go there. We home-schooled our children for educational reasons. Our son, Jordan, in particular thrived with more person-to-person contact and higher demands. Home-schooled kids never lose their excitement about learning. While taking community college classes, Jordan would get so excited about a topic, but then he had to switch to his other classes. He was so excited working on something; he didn’t want to flip. He wanted to run with it.

We looked for four-year liberal arts universities and at the top programs in the U.S. Lots of them had great reputations, but none were really exciting. We decided that maybe our expectations were just too high and we were going to have to settle, but then I read about Quest in a New York Times magazine piece featuring David Helfand. We got really excited. We thought, “This is great. This is what we’ve been looking for.” Quest had innovative, small classes, yes, but even better, one at a time on the block system.

Jordan applied, but we also decided to look into campus during an admit weekend. We had high expectations from online descriptions before that weren’t met by the reality on campus. When we visited Quest, we were blown away. The students were geeked about their classes and what they were working on. Their faces lit up when they talked about class. The other students are a big part of what makes Quest what it is.

Quest was markedly different. We’ve fallen in love with it and I am still blown away by the faculty and staff. I have so much admiration and respect for the tutors, who choose a difficult, intense way of teaching. It is very demanding personally because there’s nowhere to hide. You have to give so much of yourself on the block in these intimate classes.


Q: What contribution do you feel you can make to the Board and to Quest? 

To stay involved in this wonderful place even after my son graduated. I don’t know of anything else like Quest. It’s an improbable and wonderful thing that I want to see continue. It’s not often that you see human beings reaching our fullest potential. Quest is so intensive; it is really reaching the pinnacle of human capacity. That’s why I am on the Board. I want to make sure that this unique way of passing on education thrives in the world.


Q: What has Quest given back to you?

It’s a lot of hard work and time being on the Board and it’s unpaid. All I get out of it is the feeling that I am keeping something special alive and growing. Convocation and commencement are special moments. I enjoy sitting on the platform looking out on the students, who are excited and scared because their lives are about to change. By the time they get to commencement, they are so changed, so mature. Hearing their keystone presentations makes it all worth it.

I like to meet the parents too. They are so different and interesting. We all took real risks choosing Quest. We passed on schools with established reputations and degrees because we believed that our children would grow as individuals here more than in any other way we knew. The parents are quite interesting people and, like the students, brave souls themselves.

For more information on the Board of Governors please go to:

Greeting from the Board of Governors

Hello from the Board of Governors of Quest University Canada,

We are grateful for all the questions and comments you have sent us directly and through the University’s communication channels, including social media and in-person meetings with the President.

Your messages convey to us the passion and care for Quest that we all share. The Board greatly appreciates your desire to understand and help the University. We share those same values and goals, which is why we have chosen to serve on the Board of Governors.

We understand you have questions about Board responsibilities, structure, membership, our vision for Quest, and the financial plan for the University. We would like to provide thoughtful and thorough responses to all these questions in a series of communications. You can expect to hear from us via e-mail and regular updates on the President’s webpage. In the meantime, to introduce ourselves, here are our bios.

We look forward to communicating with you again soon.

The Board of Governors
Quest University Canada