It’s not your typical student residence. Each fall and winter term, up to two dozen students accepted into the Laurentian Leadership Centre live and study for four months at the Booth Mansion, the sumptuous former residence of Ottawa’s wealthiest lumber baron, J.R. Booth. A designated heritage property, the three-storey brick building built in downtown Ottawa in 1909, retains a wealth of period detail, including intricately carved woodwork, stained glass windows, stenciled ceilings, tapestry wallpaper and original sterling silver light fixtures.
The mansion stayed in the Booth family until 1947 when it became home of the famed Laurentian Club. Trinity Western University purchased the property for its planned leadership centre in 2001 when the club was shutting down; the centre welcomed its first students in fall 2002.
“The students live in the building, they take their classes here, they cook meals in the communal kitchen. They go out to their internships and they come back here and have a shared experience. The community life aspect for the students is really one of the highlights,” says the centre’s director, Janet Epp Buckingham.
The students take nine hours of classes a week focusing on leadership, ethics and public policy, says Dr. Buckingham. Another 20 hours a week is spent working in a political or government office on Parliament Hill or at an Ottawa-based NGO.
The purpose of the centre is “to encourage young people to get a deeper understanding of the government and political process,” says Dr. Buckingham. “And we in fact do have a lot of students who either come back to Ottawa or who stay on here. So it’s been very successful in our original goals.”
“It’s been really fantastic,” says Ian Graham, a fourth-year international studies student at Trinity Western who attended the centre this past fall. Mr. Graham interned in the office of Mark Warawa, the member of Parliament for Langley, B.C., the riding that encompasses Trinity Western.
“I’ve learned a lot about how politics work on the inside,” says Mr. Graham. “Trinity Western is a Christian university, and one of the purposes of the program is to bring young Christian students into Ottawa and have them in positions where they can have an influence.”
Living in a mansion was also part of the draw, he admits. “It’s incredibly beautiful.”