Knowledge-based agreement signed

Students interested in attending the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia should take note: a unique educational partnership between Capilano University and Sochi State University for Tourism and Recreation may create exciting volunteer opportunities in the small Russian city.

A Memorandum of Understanding between the two universities was recently signed, allowing Capilano University to share knowledge and experience gained during Vancouver’s Olympics with the future hosts of the Games.

The agreement was first proposed during a conference held in Sochi in October of last year, in which Capilano University and Thompson Rivers University were featured speakers. At that time, the topic of interest was professional training and development for the volunteers and employees of the Games.

Catherine Vertesi, Vice President of Education, Management and International Programs at Capilano University, explains that although the agreement is very general right now, Sochi State University will decide exactly what they want to gain from Capilano’s experience.

“They might hire us to train volunteers, or we might do language training. There’s a whole range of possibilities.” Vertesi cites a recent project in Paraguay and Vietnam, in which Tourism students taught local homestay hosts how to accomodate Westerners, as a possible framework for a student program in Sochi.

“Sochi is really interested in building volunteerism, and we want to share our attitudes and knowledge in that area,” Vertesi says. The exchange of knowledge has already begun, as student volunteers from Capilano met with young volunteers from Russia during the Olympic break to discuss their experiences. The volunteers worked in a variety of areas, including customer service, disability support, and homestay management.

Capilano University President Greg Lee hopes that the school’s 2010 strategy, which involved creating learning opportunities, Olympics-related courses, and opening the school to community events, will be a source of inspiration to Sochi State University. Speaking in a press release, Lee said, “We recognized that it was our responsibility to create quality learning experiences for our students, rather than VANOC’s.”

The agreement between Capilano University and Sochi State University is paralleled by a general agreement between the province of British Columbia and the region of Sochi, acknowledging a similar transfer of knowledge.

In particular, Sochi hopes to expand its infrastructure for the disabled during both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, using Vancouver as a model. “There’s not much tolerance for the disabled in Russia,” Vertesi says. A lot needs to be done before Sochi is an accessible city, and Vancouver’s support for people with disabilities is one of the most important features the city will pass on.

Although the details of the agreement are still unclear, the one thing of which the administration is certain is that Capilano students will benefit greatly from the relationship. According to Vertesi, “There is no question that there will be volunteer opportunities,” while adding that an exchange program is also likely.

Sochi, a small city on the coast of the Black Sea, received much attention during the Vancouver Games due to the elaborate Sochi Russia House hosted at Science World. The country hoped to portray a “new, modern Russia” in contrast to the grim public image of the Soviet Union. The Sochi Games will be the first time the Russian Federation has hosted the Winter Olympics.

// Laura Kane

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: