Vancouver Community College President: Diversity is Strength

Drishti Magazine, Canada's leading South Asian lifestyle publication, proudly features Ajay Patel as its cover story for the first issue of 2024. As the president and CEO of Vancouver Community College (VCC), Ajay’s journey from humble beginnings to transformative leadership serves as a beacon of inspiration for the VCC community and beyond.

As the sole South Asian president among British Columbia's public post-secondary institutions, Ajay's commitment to diversity and inclusion is exemplified through VCC's innovative Campus Plan, which has secured substantial investments for the institution's future. Beyond his academic pursuits, Ajay's dedication to community and culture resonates throughout his work.

“A culture is strong when people work together—for each other. A culture is weak when people work against each other—for themselves. Success is a team sport.” This wisdom encapsulates the fibre of the honest, authentic, and humble nature of Ajay Patel, president and CEO of Vancouver Community College (VCC).

Drishti Magazine had the glee of sitting down with Ajay, hearing about his humble beginnings and journey to his present-day success. He may be the president, but he always gives credit to his team of 1,200 employees at the college.

Ajay Patel is a first-generation Southeast Asian Canadian with roots in Fiji and family origins in Gujarat, India. Growing up in East Vancouver as an immigrant settler, Ajay is mindful of the truth and history of this land that is traditional and territorial to the Coast Salish peoples. Ajay’s lived experience relates to the rich diversity in Metro Vancouver and Canada that comes with its own interconnected and complex challenges.

As one of the very few visible minorities (and the only one of South Asian descent) president at the helm in one of B.C.’s 25 public post-secondary institutions, Ajay recounts key moments of his life with us. Here we learn about his work at VCC, the oldest college in B.C. tracing its roots back to 1890 that today trains over 16,000 students annually across two campuses. Ajay’s leadership at VCC reflects his values centred in family and community.

“I feel the responsibility to advance my institution’s culture and the sector’s approach of safely supporting Indigenization (including UNDRIP and DRIPA) and equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). One thing I am most proud of at VCC is that we hired on merit and talent, and the result was the most diverse leadership team in post-secondary institutions across the country that is making waves in the sector for our performance and approach.”

Ajay and his middle brother emigrated to Canada in the 1970s. They lived with his aunt (father’s sister) and grandfather, who raised him. His parents would later immigrate to Canada in the ’90s with his youngest brother. Alongside his cousins, Ajay would work at the family businesses: the well-known landmark, the original South Asian grocery store, Patel Supermarket on Commercial Drive. The family also owned a chain of movie cinemas. This often meant school from Monday through Friday and work Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sundays. This interaction and responsibility at a young age would build his interpersonal skills and confidence.

Article from Vancouver Community College