Home Post-Secondary Royal Roads University Dr Philip Steenkamp continues the journey at Royal Roads

Dr Philip Steenkamp continues the journey at Royal Roads

Another five years at the helm for Dr Richard Steenkamp as president and Vice-Chancellor.

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Royal Roads President Philip Steenkamp viewing the campus lawn and growing area during May 30, 2023 fund raising announcement. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Thursday July 20, 2023 | COLWOOD, BC [Updated 2:50 pm]

Commentary by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends

It could arguably be said with a sigh of relief that Dr Phillip Steenkamp has been reappointed to lead Royal Roads University (RRU) for another five years.

News of his reappointment as president and vice-chancellor came yesterday in a news release from the Colwood-based university. Steenkamp was first appointed to a five-year term as president in 2018. He has recently ushered in a 25-year strategic vision and a five-year strategic plan.

For details on Steenkamp’s bio and why the board has kept him on board for another half-decade, you can read the full news release below. But here’s why Island Social Trends finds the reappointment important and refreshing for how things operate in the post-secondary sector as well as the broader community of the west shore region of Greater Victoria.

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Royal Roads University President Philip Steenkamp in conversation with Premier David Eby, at the Order of BC ceremony event at Government House, Dec 1, 2022. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

It was honestly just a few weeks ago that this editor marveled at how quickly five years have gone by in the west shore. The office for this publication landed in Langford in 2017 (after lauching this publication series for 10 years in Sooke). Looking back to 2018, it seemed like a step forward for Royal Roads to appoint a visionary leader to head up their institution, after a phase of campus-focussed management. One of Steenkamp’s first high-profile local events was to open the Royal Roads Gardens to the public without a fee.

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Royal Roads University President Philip Steenkamp and Solara Goldwynn, food systems manager of the RRU kitchen garden, announce the campus Kitchen Garden on April 13, 2022. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

Still very much in the initial phases right now are the Royal Roads West Shore campus in Langford (aiming to open in September 2024) and the food-growing efforts on land that was formerly coiffed lawn (first year’s harvest in 2022 provided over 1,000 lb of produce to local people in need). Steenkamp has also overseen a refresh and new directions in curriculum and programs as well as a more open-to-community feel about the campus.

The institution still somehow seems overloaded and top-heavy with staff in a myriad of positions, including a roster of associate faculty who are sometimes only loosely associated with the campus. One might say as well that the employment sector in BC is flourishing with an abundance of mid-career RRU graduates.

The breadth of administration at RRU extends now into relations with the local public education K-12 school district (Sooke School District 62, or SD62) in ways that will share a footprint at the new RRU west shore campus (set to open in September 2024). That process began years ago, but the current president seems to have reinvigorated the process.

sfas, sooke fine arts, 2023

Steenkamp himself brings the softer if not unexpected touch to the big landscape of issues that touch a post-secondary learning institution. For example, he was part of a panel about agritech earlier this year in Vancouver, where the thrust of the four other speakers was about the hard edge of financial and product management considerations. Steenkamp took the opportunity to recommend humility as in Indigenous peoples knowing full well how to grow and feed off the land for centuries.

In the past year or two Dr Steenkamp has upped the awareness of ‘poly crisis’ in our society, underscoring the urgency to address the various challenges of today’s world in a way that sees and works with the interaction of impact that one has on another.

People in leadership and the community who care about the impact of higher-education leadership in the west shore may feel like they can now settle in. The continuation of leadership allows for digging deeper into the full range of initiatives and goals that Steenkamp has set for RRU and by extension for partners and stakeholders beyond the oceanfront campus that still bears the mark of antiquity with castle-style buildings and small internal campus roads.

“Out of the castle and into the community” may well now continue to new heights in the next five years.

Full News Release from Royal Roads University (July 19, 2023):

Dr. Philip Steenkamp has been appointed to a second five-year term as president and vice-chancellor of Royal Roads University. Steenkamp was first appointed to a five-year term as president in 2018.  

“Dr. Steenkamp has proven himself as an exceptional President, helping Royal Roads University establish itself as an institution of choice, inspiring innovation and fostering the value of lifelong learning,” says Nelson Chan, chancellor and chair of the RRU Board of Governors. “As we look forward to President Steenkamp continuing the journey with us for the next five years, the Board of Governors is confident in his ability to guide us through challenging and rapidly changing times.” 

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Royal Roads University President Philip Steenkamp on campus, May 30, 2023. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

During his first term, Steenkamp led the process to develop a new 25-year strategic vision, Learning for Life: 2045 and Beyond, and a five-year strategic plan for success. The vision puts courage at its core and builds on Royal Roads’ history as a leader in online, on-campus, and blended education over the last two decades. He also oversaw the development of a new academic plan, research strategy and internationalization strategy. In response to student and faculty needs, he is leading a comprehensive administrative and academic reorganization of the university. 

“I am honoured to be reappointed as President and Vice-Chancellor at Royal Roads for another five years,” says Steenkamp. “During my second term, I look forward to continuing to work with students, faculty, staff, and partners, and to delivering on our vision to inspire people with the courage to transform the world. In many ways, the world doesn’t look remotely as it did when I first joined Royal Roads, and I am invigorated by the challenges and possibilities that the post-secondary sector and our students will be facing.”  

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Climate Smart Agriculture – Raising Better Food seminar speakers in studio March 28, 2023 (from left): Karn Manhas, CEO of Terramera; Bahran Rashti, CEO UP Vertical Farms & Fresh Green Farms; Frederica Di Palma, Chief Scientific Officer & VP Research and Innovation, Genome BC; Peter Dhillon, Chair of Ocean Spray and BC Food Security Task Force member; and Royal Roads University President Philip Steenkamp.

A physical representation of Steenkamp’s lasting impact with the university is the new West Shore campus, now under construction in central Langford, BC. He helped secure $88 million in funding from local and provincial governments to build the first-of-its-kind collaborative post-secondary partnership with the University of Victoria, and Camosun College. It will also include program space for the Justice Institute of British Columbia and School District 62 (Sooke). In preparation for the opening of the new campus, Steenkamp oversaw the development of a new challenge-based undergraduate curriculum designed to respond to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  

Understanding the importance of a strong alumni community, Steenkamp pushed for increased engagement with RRU alumni and enhanced fundraising efforts to support university improvements and student success. Revealing care and commitment to RRU staff, he led the response to COVID-19 and introduced a new flexible work framework.  

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Minister of Post Secondary and Future Skills, Selina Robinson, joined Royal Roads University President Philip Steenkamp on a tour of the new west shore campus construction site, Jan 25, 2023. [Royal Roads]

Steenkamp prioritized truth and reconciliation in his first term and is committed to strong, respectful relationships with the Lekwungen-speaking peoples, known today as the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, upon whose traditional Lands the Royal Roads campus is located. He oversaw the development of an Indigenous education and engagement strategy, which is resulting in increased enrolment of Indigenous students and hiring of Indigenous faculty.  

Prioritizing a safe, inclusive university, Steenkamp created Royal Roads’ first Human Rights, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion office. The rollout of an Anti-Racism Action Plan and HREDI strategy are the first major products of this integral office.  


In his first term, Steenkamp cemented Royal Roads’ role as a climate leader among post-secondary institutions. He facilitated the development of a university-wide Climate Action Plan, setting out a course to achieve a net-zero campus by 2050, complete with a Climate Action Task Force to ensure targets are met. To address food insecurity in the community, Steenkamp launched a food production initiative on campus, titled Farm at RRU, which produces fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit for local community organizations and food banks. 

He also established the Cascade Institute, a world-leading research centre for complex system science headed by Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon. The Cascade Institute is working to address the complex issues of our time – including climate change, threats to democracy, and economic and social upheaval. To initiate important dialogue and awareness regarding the complex problems facing society, Steenkamp helped establish the RRU Changemakers Speakers Series.  

For his achievements, Steenkamp was selected as one of the top five post-secondary leaders in BC and one of the top two university presidents for social media impact in North America.  

Read President Steenkamp’s biography.  


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Island Social Trends (following in the footsteps of its genesis publications MapleLine Magazine 2008-2010, Sooke Voice News 2011-2013, and West Shore Voice News 2014-2020) delivers socioeconomic news insights about life on the west shore of south Vancouver Island. Published by Brookeline Publishing House Inc.

mary p brooke, headshot, july 2023
Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke, July 2021.

All news is posted at IslandSocialTrends.ca . 

Editor Mary P Brooke has steered this publication series for 15 years. In that time period she has covered SD62 and west shore news since 2014. She now reports with the BC Legislative Press Gallery, having covered the COVID pandemic daily in 2020 and 2021 and broader BC news since 2022.

Ms Brooke has been nominated in 2023 for the Jack Webster Foundation’s Shelley Fralic Award for contributing to the community through journalism.

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