Cherisse Seaton was just seven years old when UNBC was created, but she had a rink-side seat during the university’s early days.
Cherisse’s parents Ron and Brenda Edgar were two of 16,000 northerners to sign a petition and donate $5 in the late 1980s asking the government to create a university in the region. The UNBC Act was passed in 1990 and construction started soon after. Cherisse and her family lived close by and were able to monitor the progress.
Cherisse Seaton with her parents Brenda and Ron Edgar
“I remember it being a really big deal when it was opened,” Cherisse says. “My parents were very excited. They already had plans for all their kids to go there. They were very happy to have a university in their hometown.”
Ron’s first experience in Prince George came when his father was stationed at Canadian Forces Station Baldy Hughes. After moving around with his military family, he returned to Prince George for good in 1970.
Ron graduated from high school in Prince George, started his career here and got married. While in many ways Northern BC was an ideal place to start a family, he knew if his children were going to go to university, they’d have to move away.
When he heard that local citizens were banding together to push for a university in the North, he says he was instantly in favour of the idea. He and his wife Brenda had two young daughters at the time, and another child was on the way.
“I was praying we could get it,” he says. “We knew if we had a university here it would make it more financially viable for them to go, because they could stay at home as they studied. Travel and accommodation is a huge amount of the money it costs to go to university.”
Twenty-five years after it was created, Cherisse has become one of only two people to earn a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and a PhD from UNBC. Cherisse’s sister Cari is also a UNBC alumnus with a Bachelor of Arts degree in international studies. Her brother Roy also attended UNBC before completing his studies at CNC.
Cherisse, who earned her PhD in psychology, now works as a research coordinator with the University of British Columbia in Prince George and is an adjunct UNBC professor. She says earning three degrees at the same institution helped her maintain connections with faculty and focus her research. Plus, it was just good to be close to family.
“I didn’t want to move from Prince George,” she says. “It’s my home and where my husband is from. All my family is from here. It wasn’t really an option for me to move. I wanted to pursue higher level education and I knew it was available here locally, so that was a large part of my decision to stay in Prince George.”
Cherisse is working in her field of choice, in the place where she wanted to live. She has a baby on the way, and says she’d love him or her to become a UNBC grad one day as well.
Ron says knowing his daughter attained her dreams at home makes him glad he supported the concept of a northern university from the start.
“It was the best $5 I ever spent,” he says. “It paid off big time for me and my family. I don’t think it can be measured. I think we should celebrate it as much as we can. It was a hard fought battle to get the university here, but we did it.”
Were you one of the 16,000 who signed the petition? Tell us your story here: http://www.unbc.ca/25/public-campaign-update-form