Our new president on the transformative power of education


Philip Steenkamp

The transformative power of education has been a recurring theme in Philip Steenkamp’s life.

From tutoring fellow university students to acting as BC’s deputy minister of advanced education, the transformative power of education has been a recurring theme in President Philip Steenkamp’s life.

He started his career in education in Durban, South Africa, tutoring mature students at the University of Natal, where he completed a Bachelor of Arts (Hons).

“These students were working and taking classes part time and just needed some extra support,” says Steenkamp, who assumed Royal Roads University’s top job Jan. 2. “In most instances they were also raising families and yet they found the time to come back to school.”

While completing a Master of Arts and a PhD in History at Queen’s University, Steenkamp tutored incarcerated students in several of Kingston’s federal institutions.

“I met some of the most incredible people under those circumstances—incredibly bright and curious and dedicated,” he says.

“No matter where you are in life or what hand life has dealt you, that deep appreciation for the power and the importance of education has always stuck with me.”

Since then, Steenkamp held roles in multiple provincial ministries in BC and Ontario and served as vice-president of external relations at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia.

With more than two decades of senior leadership experience in the post-secondary and public sectors, Steenkamp says it’s a privilege to lead the university he has long admired.

 “I was always intrigued by Royal Roads’ model,” Steenkamp says, referring to its demand-driven and applied learning approach.

He says the impact of new technologies on the labour market means mid-career professionals increasingly have to reinvent themselves to remain competitive in a changing labour landscape. Royal Roads is well positioned to provide students with the skills they need to thrive in this emerging economy.

“Royal Roads was cutting edge when it launched and it has evolved and it has remained incredibly responsive to societal needs. I really do think Royal Roads is the university of the future.”

Given the challenges and opportunities ahead, Steenkamp says collaboration—with donors, the university community, West Shore community, government and community stakeholders, and Indigenous communities—is essential. 

Investments that matter

Student awards matter for us all.

Since joining Royal Roads in January, I’ve heard countless stories of students not only transforming their own lives, but also their communities because of donor awards. Some are managing significant personal and family responsibilities. They wouldn’t have this opportunity without financial support.

Donor awards allow them to make real change like support healthy soils for urban agriculture, incorporate climate change adaptation into our everyday lives and contribute to sustainable peace around the world.

As an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus, we give people the skills they need to make change at home and abroad.

When they succeed, we all benefit.

          - President Philip Steenkamp