When Yianni Ntokolas graduated from high school, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. So he opted to travel and work for his father until further notice.
“But I was playing a lot of games throughout that time. I’ve played games my whole life, and a friend of mine told me about this program at LaSalle College Vancouver,” he says. “I got to talking with him about it and thought: Wow. This is something I can see myself doing.”
After reading up on the school and touring the facilities, his decision was made, and in June 2020, Ntokolas graduated from the college’s game art and design program.
LaSalle College first opened in Montreal more than 60 years ago and added its Vancouver campus in 1998. Today, LaSalle College Vancouver (LCV) is a private post-secondary choice with a creative bent to its applied arts programs, and offers students hands-on learning in an intimate setting.
Not only has the college continued to offer its unique learning approach throughout the pandemic, it’s also embarking on the opening of a new 108,000-square-foot building to provide further learning opportunities and help prepare students to get jobs.
When Ntokolas began at LCV, he was understandably nervous. “I knew nothing about game design or development,” he says. “But they cater to people like that. They taught me everything from scratch, and I’ve taken that to where I am now in the industry.”
Within four months of graduating, Ntokolas landed a position as a test associate with a quality assurance tester.
Being prepared to jump into the industry is one benefit of enrolling. “Because we offer certificates, diplomas and degrees, we have a real applied focus rather than just a degree where knowledge is gained,” says Dr. Jason Dewling, president of LCV. “We’ll take what’s natural to a student — their inclination and passion — and advance their skills to lead to a job.”
Given the hot Vancouver job market and the amount of film production, game development and other creative work that happens in the city, LCV is poised to help students move into the workforce, both now and when the new campus opens.
“All of our hospitality students, for example, are offered jobs before they complete their program. We have some disciplines such as graphic design, interior design and fashion design where we have both diplomas and degrees, and it’s often hard for students to keep going for their degrees when they’re offered jobs out of their diploma,” Dewling says.
But the focus isn’t just on what comes after a diploma or degree. LCV also emphasizes the student experience.
Allison Thompson arrived at LCV looking for something different. After all, she already had a bachelor of science and a master of arts in art business to her name.
“I really liked the look of LaSalle. It had more of a creative edge to it compared to other schools. It was also a private school, so the class sizes were smaller,” she says.
Once she made her way through the three-year interior design degree program, she came to appreciate something else about LCV as well.
“You have this level of personal contact with your teachers that you don’t have at other universities. I’m still in contact with some of my teachers after graduating this year, and some are now friends,” Thompson says. “And if you didn’t come to a class, it was noticed. They make sure students come to class, are motivated and enjoy what they do.”
This stayed true even amid the pandemic. When B.C.’s measures allowed it in July 2020, LCV welcomed back between 10 and 15 per cent of students with stringent COVID-19 protocols in place to offer physical — and mental — safety, and the school continued to offer online classes as well.
“We’re fortunate to be part of a global network with a strong IT infrastructure, so moving online was mobilized quite quickly,” Dewling says.
When LCV classes resume this October after the summer, the school will offer hybrid learning while continuing to ask people to be diligent about safety when moving throughout its campus.
The school also continues to evolve, as it recently started construction on a new campus: a “high-touch and high-tech” building, according to Dewling, that’s adjacent to the current campus.
Scheduled to open in 2023, the new facility will have accessibility certification from the Rick Hansen Foundation, as well as amenities such as a suspended theatre and a gaming lounge. It will also meet Fitwel standards for a healthy building thanks to design features like a rooftop meditation garden and 85 per cent of the building receiving natural light.
The new campus will also house LaSalle College Vancouver High School, a private, independent school for students in Grades 10 through 12, and Languages Across Borders, the college’s English language school.
“For potential students, they won’t find a building purpose-built for students in the private sector like this anywhere in Canada,” Dewling says. “It’s a massive step forward for our students to learn in an environment that’s good for their mental and social well-being as well as their learning environments.”
Did you know the Princeton Review ranked LaSalle’s game design program the best in Canada in 2021?
Find out more about this program and other opportunities online or at one of the college’s virtual open houses this fall.