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Applied research on the college agenda for businesses and non-profits
Families invited to experience outdoor play
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Applied research on the college agenda for businesses and non-profits
Okanagan College Media Release

Whether it’s exploring ways to speed up and stabilize online connections for gamers or designing better outdoor playgrounds for children, applied research at Okanagan College takes many shapes.

On Oct. 27, Vernon-area companies, non-profit organizations and individuals have opportunities to learn more about how applied research and connections with Okanagan College can help them.

“There are many examples of how the College’s professors and researchers have helped companies, industries and non-profit organizations advance their agendas, whether it is product development, innovation, or solving business problems,” explains Jane Lister, Okanagan College’s Regional Dean for the North Okanagan. “The sessions planned (there are two) for the 27th will help shed light on how the College can help make that happen and where there might be support for such initiatives.”

Dr. Andrew Hay, the College’s Vice President Education, and Dr. Beverlie Dietze, the College’s Director of Learning and Applied Research will lead the sessions, and a collection of researchers and other College Deans will be on hand.

The first free session is focused on business, manufacturing, agriculture, and technology, and runs from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Friday at the Vernon Campus in room E102. The second session runs from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the same room and is also free.

Interested in attending? RSVP to Joan Smeyers at

To see examples of the types of projects Okanagan College researchers have engaged in visit


Families invited to experience outdoor play

The first of two free outdoor play workshops will kick off in Peachland this Saturday, offering children and their families the chance to express their creativity and engage their sense of wonder.Beverlie Dietze - web

Children will have the opportunity to discover and explore playing with loose parts – a trending concept in the world of unstructured outdoor play. Families are invited to join in the fun at the Peachland Heritage Park and Pavilion on Beach Avenue on Saturday Oct. 14, and again on Saturday Oct. 28, from 10 – 11:30 a.m.

And the unique play experiences aren’t just an incentive for families to spend a fun morning at the park – feedback from participants will inform a research project guiding the creation of a new play space unlike any other in the region.

“Research tells us that when children visit traditional play spaces, they spend about six minutes on the play equipment,” says Dr. Beverlie Dietze, Director of Learning and Applied Research at Okanagan College. “They spend more time playing with the gravel and the items that are underneath the play apparatus.

“With a natural play space, children will spend as much time as you allow them. There are options for them to pick up rocks and look at the bugs underneath. They can challenge themselves to balance on a tree stump or walk the length of a log. The play opportunities are absolutely open and expansive. When you add in man-made materials that we call loose-parts then all of those pieces require the child to do something, to actively engage in the play.”

Those types of play opportunities are precisely the kind Dietze hopes to gain feedback on through the workshops as part of a $91,000 research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and neighbourhood developer New Monaco. The goal is to support New Monaco in creating unique naturalized play spaces that fit children’s zest for curiosity, learning, and development. Using a research tool developed by Dietze, data on how children use the loose parts in their outdoor play will be compiled and relayed to the developer and landscape architects at Outland Design Landscape Architecture. The architects and Dietze hope to bring an entirely new kind of play space to the Okanagan.

A potential spot for the unique park has been identified within the New Monaco master planned community currently being developed in Peachland.

“Our vision for the community is to be the healthiest place to live in Canada.” explains Mark Holland, Partner, New Monaco. “We’re very excited to be actively involved in this applied research project with the ultimate goal of understanding how we can create a new type of play space that is innovative, supports healthy lifestyles for children and their families, and goes beyond what people expect to find in a traditional playground.

“New Monaco is committed to working with Peachland to attract more families to this great community and make it the best place to grow up in the Okanagan.”

But before it can ever be built, Dietze’s findings will first need to be translated into a design that can be brought to life in the New Monaco neighborhood. Enter Fiona Barton, Principal of Outland Design.

“Our company is focused on re-thinking the way in which play spaces are designed and support optimal child development. It’s hard to imagine how the next generation will become stewards of the natural landscape if they haven’t actually spent time in it,” says Barton, who worked with Dietze in 2016 to train her staff in the principles of early learning and outdoor play spaces.

“We look forward to embracing the challenge of applying natural outdoor play principles from the research work and incorporating those into a municipally managed, public park system that is beneficial to families in the Okanagan.”

Dietze hopes the project will serve as a model for public parks and play spaces in other areas.

“It would be wonderful to see what we learn with this project in the Okanagan inspire and help others create innovative play spaces across the country and around the world.”

Joining Dietze and Barton at the workshops will be a team of early childhood education students and educators to support children in playing with loose parts. The outdoor play opportunities are free but families are encouraged to register in advance by emailing



UVic professor sheds light on Indigenous Peoples’ land management practices
Okanagan College Media Release

Nancy Turner Oct 2017Indigenous Peoples of British Columbia have historically been described as hunter-gatherers, but according to ethnobiologist Dr. Nancy Turner, this label scarcely acknowledges the sophisticated techniques and approaches First Nations have developed and applied over millennia to sustain and enhance their plant resources and habitats.

Turner, who is a Trudeau Fellow and Emeritus Professor in Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria, will share insight into these management practices in a public talk at Okanagan College as part of the Science in Society Speaker Series. 

The presentation will take place at the College’s Vernon campus in the lecture theatre on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. and is called Looking after the Plants, Looking after the Land: Environmental Management by Indigenous Peoples of British Columbia.

Turner will explain how Indigenous plant managers bring their personal knowledge, techniques and practices passed down through generations, to cultivate wild species. These include influencing ecological succession, creating and extending particular habitats, pruning and coppicing trees and shrubs, enriching soils, distributing seeds, and transplanting species from one locale to another.

“Indigenous Peoples also embrace their own associated cultural institutions, means of monitoring and maintaining productivity, and ways of passing on knowledge to others, including future generations,” says Turner. “Their lessons and approaches are often taught through experiential learning, storytelling, ceremony, and art.” 

Turner’s research integrates the fields of botany and ecology with anthropology, geography and linguistics, among others. She is interested in the traditional knowledge systems and traditional land and resource management systems of Indigenous Peoples, particularly in western Canada.

She has worked with First Nations elders and cultural specialists in northwestern North America for more than 40 years, collaborating with Indigenous communities to help document, retain and promote their traditional knowledge of plants and habitats, including Indigenous foods, materials and medicines, as well as language and vocabulary relating to plants and environments.

Turner has authored, co-authored or co-edited more than 20 books and 150 book chapters and peer-reviewed papers, and numerous other publications, both popular and academic. She has also been recognized with a number of awards, including the Member of the Order of Canada.

Admission to the lecture is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advanced tickets call the Okanagan Science Centre at (250) 545-3644. Eventbrite tickets are available online.

To subscribe or obtain more information visit

This lecture is jointly presented by Okanagan College and the Okanagan Science Centre. The Science in Society Speaker Series is sponsored by the Vernon Atrium Hotel and Conference Centre, Starbucks Coffee, Save on Foods, and the Vernon Morning Star.


John E. Peller to keynote as Wine Talks returns to College
Okanagan College Media Release

Together with Liquidity Winery, Okanagan College is presenting the third installment of its popular
Wine Talks series on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at the College’s Penticton campus.

The third event will feature a single keynote speaker whose recognition and distinction in the industry is notable.John Peller Sept 2017

John E. Peller, LLB, is the Chair and CEO of Andrew Peller Limited. His company’s brands include a growing number of Okanagan wineries, among them are Sandhill, Calona Vineyards and Red Rooster. Andrew Peller Limited made headlines this month when news broke of a $95-million-dollar deal to acquire three additional Okanagan wineries: Black Hills Estate, Gray Monk Estate and Tinhorn Creek Vineyards.

“The topic seems very timely,” says Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College. “This event has been well attended by our community and has brought a lot of value to the industry and I expect to see that trend continue with our third event.”

Peller began his legal career in 1980 in Hamilton, Ontario where he practiced corporate and commercial law. He spent a year in France attending the L’institute de Touraine for six months and worked for six months with DeLuze, the wine subsidiary of Remy Martin. He spent the next four years in New Jersey working with Nabisco Brands Inc., first as Manager, Corporate Planning and Development and then as Regional Marketing Manager for the Grocery Products Division (North East Division).

He joined Andrew Peller Ltd. in 1989, assuming the role of Vice President, Sales and Marketing Planning. He was appointed to the Board of Directors in 1990 and to the position of Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing in 1991. He became President and Chief Operating Officer in 1992, then President and Chief Executive Officer in 1994. He is currently Chair and Chief Executive Officer.

“This is a unique opportunity to hear from a leader of the Canadian wine industry,” says Ian MacDonald, owner of Liquidity Winery. “John's bold vision continues to shape the future of this business.”

Wine Talks will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at the Penticton campus of Okanagan College (room PC 113, 583 Duncan Avenue West), from 7 to 9 p.m., including a coffee and wine break. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online at


Wildfire 2017: causes, consequences and solutions to a wicked problem
Okanagan College Media Release

Lori Daniels Sept 2017As the smoke across the Okanagan barely begins to lift, the Science in Society Speaker Series is sparking a new season with a talk intended to keep wildfires top-of-mind for the public.

Since April the BC Wildfire Service has reported 1,275 fires across the province, representing a burning area of more than 1.212 million hectares. Currently 123 wildfires are active. The impact is undeniable.

“It’s important to recognize that despite the destruction, wildfire is also an essential process in forest ecosystems,” says Dr. Lori Daniels, professor of Forest Ecology and director of the Tree-Ring Lab at UBC in Vancouver. “In the wildland-urban interface though they can be incredibly destructive. What is imperative is the adaptation of individuals and communities learning how to live with wildfire.”

Kicking-off this year’s Science in Society Speaker Series on Wednesday, Oct. 4, the public is invited to hear Daniels present her long-term forest fire patterns research and hear her speak about forest resilience to climate change.

The presentation will take place at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus in the lecture theatre at 7:30 p.m.

“Wildfire is driven by climate, weather and fuels that vary among ecosystems and through time,” explains Daniels. “Combined, land-use change, fire exclusion and global warming have made many forests highly susceptible to intense fires that are difficult to control and spread to large sizes. Revolutionizing forest and fire management will improve ecosystem resilience to climate change, but we will not stop future fires from burning.”

Daniels’ research, published in leading academic journals, applies tree-ring analyses to investigate disturbance patterns and the impacts of climate and humans on forest dynamics. Given her interests in conservation and sustainable resource management, much of her research has practical application and is collaborative with non-governmental organizations, government agencies and private companies.

Admission to the lecture is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advanced tickets call the Okanagan Science Centre at 250-545-3644 or purchase them online at To subscribe or obtain more information

Presented jointly by Okanagan College and the Okanagan Science Centre, the Science in Society Speaker Series is sponsored by the Vernon Lodge and Conference Centre, Starbucks Coffee, Save on Foods, and the Vernon Morning Star.


Okanagan College sees fall student enrolment grow

Okanagan College student and logo

The total number of students enrolled in programs at Okanagan College has climbed by more than four per cent compared to last year at the same time.

A snapshot of enrolment at mid-September shows that 8,463 students had registered in programs and courses, compared to 8,089 on the same date a year ago.

“All indicators suggest that Okanagan College is on track to exceed government enrolment targets for the 13th year in a row,” explains Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “That is an achievement unparalleled in the College sector in BC. The strong demand for our programming indicates we are providing relevant and valuable education for our communities, and that’s what is most important to us.”

In 2016-17, Okanagan College achieved 111 per cent of those government targets.

The mid-September numbers don’t tell the entire enrolment story. Okanagan College has many programs that start at various times of the academic year and a significant winter semester intake in January that will determine final annual enrolment numbers.

The Sept. 15 numbers show:

•           Salmon Arm grew to 709 students from 563.

•           Kelowna grew to 5,330 from 5,155.

•           Penticton grew to 940 students from 884.

•           Vernon’s headcount dropped to 970 from 1044 – partly as a consequence of a rotating practical nursing program that was in Vernon last year and is in Salmon Arm this year.

•           The number of students taking distance education courses has risen to 513, from 443.

The number of international students attending Okanagan College this fall has grown significantly: 878 international students.


Youth Exhibition Powwow returns for ninth year
Okanagan College Media Release

Aboriginal Hoop DancerThe cultural event of the fall season is back and about to kick off at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus. Community members are invited to join in the celebration of Indigenous culture at the 9th Annual Youth Exhibition Powwow on Thursday, Sept. 21 in the courtyard.

“Powwows are vibrant events and are full of excitement as it’s a time to come together and celebrate – celebrate our culture, celebrate Aboriginal youth and honour their educational journey,” says Anthony Isaac, Okanagan College Aboriginal Services Coordinator. “It’s a great opportunity to increase people’s understanding of our ways of knowing and doing and create a sense of belonging for all of our learners.”

Dancers and drummers from across the British Columbia interior will perform in a variety of dance categories at the Powwow including fancy, grass, chicken and jingle. The invited drum groups are crowd favourites, Birch Creek and The Cliffs.

The high-energy, family-friendly event continues to draw large crowds each year.

“The Powwow has always been well-attended, we had approximately 1,000 people join the event last year and we anticipate even more this year,” says Isaac.

More than 600 students from various private band and public schools from across the interior have been invited to attend the exhibition and members of the general public are also welcome.

Attendees will have a chance to taste a variety of traditional Indigenous food and peruse offerings from craft vendors selling artwork, carvings, beadwork and more. Additionally, there will be a 50/50 draw with proceeds going to financial awards for Indigenous students.

“The Powwow is intended to bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members from across the region and is a place of cross-cultural learning for everyone,” says Isaac. “It highlights the richness of our culture and how Okanagan College is committed to fostering a learning environment that encourages students to embrace their heritage as they pursue their educational goals.”

The College has one of the fastest growing rates of Aboriginal student participation of any post-secondary institution in B.C. In 2016 the College delivered educational programming to almost 1,700 Aboriginal students, which is nearly 200 more than last year.

Richard Jackson of the Lower Nicola Indian Band is returning as Master of Ceremony and is once again joined by Arena Director Noel Ferguson. Jackson will also be presenting at a pre-powwow seminar on Tuesday, Sept. 19 from 2 - 3 p.m. in the Student Services building at the Kelowna campus. The seminar is free to attend and aims to teach the meaning behind powwow dances, songs and protocols before the main powwow event on Thursday.

The 9th Annual Youth Exhibition Powwow festivities run from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 21 in the Kelowna campus courtyard. Attendance is free and open to the public. For those who cannot attend, Okanagan College is streaming the event live


New pilot project at Okanagan College promotes student wellness
Okanagan College Media Release

A new wellness pilot project is underway at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus and has set out to help students thrive in their studies and personal lives by teaching skills and tools to manage and promote positive mental health.Flourish Sept 2017

“Flourish is a series of workshops held on campus that model and teach students different ways of managing stress, anxiety and depression so that when they experience those overwhelming feelings they have a well-rounded toolbox of healthy ways to regulate them,” says Sarah Lefebure, Counsellor at Okanagan College and co-creator of Flourish.

The workshop series will offer activities, resources and support to help students combat stress. Additionally, guest speakers will help open up the conversation about mental health and work to break down stigmas of mental illness and the challenges students encounter in daily life.

“This project was developed very organically,” says Paula Faragher, Accessibility Services Coordinator at Okanagan College and co-creator of Flourish. “Sarah and I recognized gaps in services in terms of working with students who were experiencing really high levels of stress and anxiety while going to school.”

The project is based on a model of mental wellbeing that suggests everyone experiences times where they are flourishing, languishing or somewhere in between. Mental health care is not only for those diagnosed with a mental illness – everyone can benefit.

“We always believed that healthy campuses equaled healthy minds but it wasn’t until we saw statistics from a campus-wide mental health survey that Flourish really grew into the project it is,” says Faragher.

Last winter, OC Human Kinetics Professor Wendy Wheeler and her class conducted a mental health survey at the Penticton campus. It was found that in the past 12 months 49 per cent of students felt so depressed it was difficult for them to function, 57 per cent have felt overwhelming anxiety and 74 per cent have felt very sad.

“As a counsellor, our goal is to create and maintain a positive climate for students to succeed, both academically and in their personal lives, and a major part of doing that is promoting positive mental health,” says Lefebure.

Flourish was created and received full support from Okanagan College, which awarded the project with an Innovation Fund grant (the College’s internal grant for innovative new programs and initiatives).

“At Okanagan College, we are committed to expanding awareness of mental health issues and providing resources for those students in need of wellness supports,” says Charlotte Kushner Vice President, Students. “We are delighted to support Flourish.”

“The link between student wellness and academic success is well documented and the most recent studies suggest there is a need to improve mental health supports for post-secondary students who are facing an increasingly complex world,” says Kushner. “Students and student success are at the heart of everything we do at Okanagan College and we are committed to expanding awareness of mental health and providing resources for those students in need of wellness supports.”

The first workshop took place this week and looked into the physical, mental and emotional effects stress has on the body. The drop-in workshops are held bi-weekly on Mondays from 2:30-3:45 p.m. at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus in the Community Hall (PC 113). Flourish is open to all students and is free to attend. For more information on Flourish including workshop dates, please visit


Rick and Yasmin Thorpe and Friends award South Okanagan students
Okanagan College Media Release

Thorpe Awards Sept 2017Six students will jump-start their educational dreams at Okanagan College this fall after receiving financial awards through the Rick and Yasmin Thorpe and Friends scholarship.

Makeena Hartmann, Hailey Grunow and Mickella Di Lorenzo Biggs, recent graduates of Princess Margaret Secondary School in Penticton, along with Ericka Bidwell from Summerland Secondary, each received a $2,500 Scholarship for Secondary School Graduates.

Matthew Ironside of Penticton and Timothy Bey of Princeton were awarded with a $1,000 Entrance Award for Trades and Technology.

“It’s really nice to have help when you are going to school, because costs can be a barrier,” says Hartmann, who had a choice of post-secondary options with a 99.8 GPA. She chose to enrol in the Associate of Arts Degree program because she was impressed by the College’s reputation.

“It’s rewarding to see the effort I put into my studies is being recognized and appreciated through this scholarship,” she adds.

In addition to the high academic achievement of the recipients, the Thorpes look for students who are engaged with and contribute to their communities.

Grunow currently works two jobs and has been actively volunteering in Penticton to fundraise for dry grad, LGBTQ anti-bullying initiatives and the Penticton YES Project. She appreciates the scholarship doesn’t just open doors to her education, it will also provide opportunities for continued volunteerism.

“When I learned I received the scholarship I had tears of joy,” says Grunow, who is also entering the Associate of Arts Degree program. “Having the financial burden off my shoulders means I don’t need to work as much, and allows me to pay forward the Thorpe’s generosity by spending more time giving back through volunteering.”

The Thorpes have a long history of championing education in the South Okanagan, and have supported students at Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan for more than a decade. Since the inception of the scholarship program in 2006, $102,250 has been awarded to 49 students entering Okanagan College.

“The contributions of Rick and Yasmin Thorpe impact our students in transformative ways as they begin their educational journey at the College,” says Kathy Butler, Executive Director of the Okanagan College Foundation. “We deeply appreciate their donations, and the support of our other donors in Penticton who provide life-changing opportunities for students.”

Each year the Thorpes make a point of presenting the scholarships in person to the recipients and their families.

“Meeting with students is very uplifting,” says Yasmin John-Thorpe. “They are enthusiastic and happily optimistic about their future.”

For the students, the level of donor interaction is a highlight.

“It's very heartwarming they take the time to get to know each of us,” adds Grunow. “It is so generous they choose to donate their hard-earned money to help students follow their dreams.”

Applications for the 2018 Rick and Yasmin Thorpe and Friends Scholarships open in early November 2017 and close in March 2018. Students are encouraged to review the application guidelines at for more information. 


High school students get a head start on post-secondary education
Okanagan College Media Release


A new partnership between Okanagan College and School District No. 23 will give Grade 12 students a head start in post-secondary education as a certified Education Assistant.

For recent graduate Tiffany Walker, an early start in the Education Assistant certificate program has helped her realize a dream she’s long been chasing.

“I’ve always loved being with children and once I found out there was an established route to becoming an Education Assistant, I jumped on the opportunity – I’m very happy I did,” says Walker.

Like Walker, high school students who have excelled in their studies can apply to be a dual-credit student in their Grade 12 year. Once accepted, the program will allow students to split their final academic year, spending the first half completing their Grade 12 studies and the second half studying and working towards completion of an Education Assistant certificate from Okanagan College.

“An Education Assistant is someone that works with children with exceptionalities in cognitive abilities, physical challenges, behavioral challenges, autism and related disorders,” says Valerie Banks, Program Coordinator at Okanagan College. “EAs help children with everything from homework to behaviour.”

The four and a half-month, full-time program is offered at George Elliot Secondary School in Lake Country. It gives students the foundation, knowledge and experience to work in British Columbia school districts as well as with special needs adults in group homes and individual families who have children that need assistance.

“School District No. 23 approached us to form a dual-credit partnership and help bring forward the next generation of Education Assistants,” says Banks. “The demand for EAs is high within Kelowna’s school district, which requires all EAs to be certified.”

School District No. 23 is actively involved in the program and works closely with the College to connect students with practicums and educate them on career opportunities in the district.

“The manager of Human Resources from the School District hosts a workshop to talk to EA students about the hiring process. Each student knows exactly how to apply for jobs and how the process of working with the School District goes,” says Banks. “The School District also assists with assigning a month-long practicum to each student to ensure they get real experience and are ready for the workforce.”

“I did my practicum at AS Matheson and it was the best part about the entire program,” says Walker. “The way the program and practicum were laid out made me confident that I had a solid foundation to really do well in the practicum.”

The Education Assistant certificate program is currently accepting dual-credit applications until Sept. 29 for the Jan. 2018 intake. There are also seats available for the general public as well. To find out more information about the program and requirements, please visit


Social entrepreneur workshop returns for second installment

Okanagan College Media Release

A popular workshop for social entrepreneurs is returning to Okanagan College to equip those seeking real-world solutions to challenges in our communities with the essential business tools needed to set social enterprise ideas in motion.

Back for the second time since the project piloted in May, Okanagan College, the Scotiabank Centre for Non-Profit Excellence and Purppl, a social enterprise accelerator, are joining forces to lead the SoFun workshop. The one-day inclusive workshop is on Tuesday, Sept. 26 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Vernon campus of Okanagan College in room E102/103.SoFun Team Sept 2017

“The SoFun workshop uses global entrepreneurial best practices and tools to help social entrepreneurs build predictable, sustainable revenue models that can fund long-term solutions to our toughest community, social and environmental challenges,” says Andrew Greer, founder of Purppl and SoFun co-facilitator. “Communities are struggling under the weight of chronic challenges and organizations trying to solve these challenges are typically underfunded, under resourced and donor dependent.”

Participants will examine the case study of Mission Possible (an organization which helps those affected by homelessness find meaningful work) through the global-standard Business Model Canvas tool. The model applies lean thinking, which aims to shorten the process from startup to implementation, therefore increasing efficiency and impact of the business idea. Participants will also be able to apply key learnings to their own business ideas and work on them while making the most of access to experts and resources in the room.

“This workshop is one way to put information in the hands of those ready to help make changes that will benefit our community,” says Dr. Kyleen Myrah, Okanagan College School of Business professor, faculty researcher at the Centre and SoFun co-facilitator.

Attendees will each receive a copy of the Business Model Canvas, will have an opportunity to work on their own social enterprise ideas, explore available business resources, connect with other like-minded individuals and have access to learn with and from other social entrepreneurs.

“We saw a really rich diversity of entrepreneurs at the first workshop. From beginner to experienced, there was a real excitement and interest in understanding the complexity of social enterprises,” says Greer.

The workshop is suited for: leaders of non-profits, individuals working in existing organizations (non-profit and for-profit) with social enterprise initiatives, entrepreneurs looking to solve a social problem in their community, government employees looking to implement impact initiatives and students.

Myrah and Greer will be joined by OC business professor Kerry Rempel to lead the workshop. Local social entrepreneur, Jaye Coward from the award-winning Farm Bound will also join the presentation team as the luncheon speaker.

Tickets are $45 at and include lunch, coffee and tea.



Aircraft industry expansion creates new jobs for Okanagan College grads
Okanagan College Media Release

AME-S Sept 2017A large expansion in the local aircraft industry and national un-met staffing demands has fueled Okanagan College to offer an additional intake of its Aircraft Maintenance Engineering-Structures program this fall.

Starting on Nov. 14, the program will see up to 12 students step into KF Aerospace’s shop space at the Kelowna International Airport to begin training for one of the region’s most in-demand careers. Thanks to an accelerated 37-week program, students will be ready to enter the workforce by August.

“Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Structural Technicians (AME-S) have always been one of the most sought-after specialists in aviation,” says Steve Moores, Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship at Okanagan College. “With the industry growth and the number of retiring aircraft engineers, we knew it would only be a matter of time before the demand became a big obstacle for local and national employers.”

“In the last 10 years, we’ve built three new hangars in Kelowna and tripled the floor space and the number of aircrafts of which we can do heavy maintenance on,” says Grant Stevens, Director of Human Resources for KF Aerospace. “The number one staffing shortage we have is for AME-S – we just can’t hire trained technicians fast enough.”Grant Stevens Sept 2017

Not only is there a local demand there is also a nation-wide demand. Boeing, a major Canadian airline, predicts a global industry need for 609,000 aircraft maintenance technicians over the next 20 years, making it the most in-demand occupation in the aviation industry.

After searching for and hiring 60 AMEs from various trades schools throughout Canada, KF Aerospace still came up short on staffing and currently has 40 openings for Structural Technicians. Looking for a solution, KF Aerospace approached Okanagan College earlier this summer – setting the wheels in motion for launching the new class.

“KF is supporting this new intake of students through additional space in their hangars, tools, equipment, work benches, office space and more,” says Moores. “Over the past five years our partnership has been amazing and this just adds to it.”

“Our commitment to Okanagan College and the AME programs is to hire a minimum of half the graduating class, however the last three years straight we’ve hired every single graduating student,” says Stevens.

This year will be no different as KF anticipates hiring the entire 12-person class. Conditional upon graduating, students will be interviewed and offered jobs in July 2018, a month before the program is even finished.

“Alongside OC, we hold open houses before each program intake to show prospective students what the workplace looks like, the type of work they’ll be doing, job openings, advancement opportunities as well as what benefit and salary structures look like – we’re very open with what OC graduates can expect from KF Aerospace,” says Stevens.

The next open house is on Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. at KF Aerospace’s location at the Kelowna Airport. It will equip prospective students with the knowledge and resources to enrol in the program and to make a successful career in the aviation industry. Attendance is free and open to the public.

For more information on the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Structures program and upcoming open houses, please


The perfect play: education a game-winning tactic
Okanagan College Media Release

With a promising hockey career on the horizon,18-year-old Myles Mattila is laying the groundwork for a bright future—combining his passion for competitive hockey with a solid business education at Okanagan College.Myles Mattila Sept 2017

The right-winger joined the Kelowna Chiefs this season after making his mark with the Okanagan Rockets and Cariboo Cougars. He is just one of approximately 2,380 new students who began classes at one of Okanagan College’s four campuses last week.

“My goal definitely is to play hockey at the highest level possible,” says Mattila. “I can excel in hockey, but why not also with a degree in hand? You never know if an injury or other circumstances could sideline me.”

Finding a program that would not make him choose between hockey or education was key.

“With team practice mid-day I needed something that afforded me the scheduling flexibility to still play competitively,” explains the former Quesnel resident, who recently returned to Kelowna. “That’s why I chose Okanagan College; I was able to build my timetable with morning and evening classes.”

Mattila is confident that the community focus at Okanagan College will also enable him to pursue his other passion: championing mental health awareness. He’s already received wide-spread recognition for his efforts. In June he was bestowed the BC Hockey President’s Award for his dedication to the cause as the founder of, a website designed to educate the Cariboo Cougars hockey community about mental health. He even received a Twitter nod from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his efforts.

“The business program at the College has a reputation for community involvement and enabling students to give back,” says Mattila. “I’m confident that pursuing the management specialty will help me make connections to advance mental health awareness.”

Relatively new to Kelowna, Mattila has already been asked to represent the city at the International Conference on Youth Mental Health. He will travel to Dublin, Ireland in two weeks where he will collaborate with young leaders from around the world who are committed to creating positive changes in youth mental health.

As for long-term goals, even if a professional hockey career pans out: “I’d love to become a lawyer one day, but one thing at a time,” he says. “For now, I’ll just enjoy my first weeks as a college student.”


College looks inward to find its next Regional Dean with appointment of Phil Ashman
Okanagan College Media Release

Phil Ashman Sep 2017After conducting a national search, it turns out Okanagan College didn’t have to look very far to find a new Central Okanagan Regional Dean. Phil Ashman, a 15-year College veteran and current Associate Dean of Science, Technology and Health, will take on the role later this month, bringing a wealth of internal experience and community connections to the position.

Ashman joined Okanagan College in 2002, first as a professor in Network and Telecommunications Engineering. He spent eight years in an instructional role before becoming department chair in 2010. Three years later Ashman joined the College’s leadership team as Associate Dean of Science, Technology and Health, a position he has held for the last four years.

Prior to joining Okanagan College Ashman spent eight years working in Information Technology at the University of Northern British Columbia and the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg.

He holds a Master of Science in IT Network Infrastructure and Design as well as a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering.

“Phil has been an asset to Okanagan College in every role he has taken on during his progressive career,” says Charlotte Kushner, Vice President of Students at the College. “He was a valued and innovative professor and went on to do an impressive job as Chair of the department. When he moved into administration he was successful in providing leadership through relationship-building. Phil’s passion for the College and his ability to move projects forward through collaboration will be a huge asset in his new role.”

Outside of his position at Okanagan College Ashman has been actively involved in the Okanagan tech community. He represented the College as a Board member for the Okanagan Research and Innovation Centre and spent three years as a technical lead on the Okanagan High-Speed Broadband Initiative. He has established strong working relationships with community and industry partners such as Accelerate Okanagan, the City of Kelowna, the Economic Development Commission as well as the Applied Science Technologists & Technicians of BC (ASTTBC) and has facilitated learning opportunities for students throughout the region.

“What interests me most about this new position is the opportunity to build on the successful partnerships Okanagan College has developed with so many valued community organizations in the Central Okanagan,” says Ashman. “I am excited to take on this new challenge and feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work with so many talented colleagues and to help manage the unprecedented growth in the Science, Technology and Health portfolio.”

Ashman will begin his new role as Regional Dean on Sept. 18, 2017. 


College courses offer boomers new perspectives on retirement

Approaching retirement can be a stressful proposition even for those who report feeling well-prepared for their next chapter – a finding that has prompted an Okanagan College instructor to launch two new courses aimed at allaying worries and smoothing the transition for baby boomers in the region.

“Even when retirement is something we’ve looked forward to all our working lives, actually leaving the workforce is complicated,” says Kathy Fahey, a certified retirement coach and one of the instructors for the two new courses that will launch this fall at the College’s Kelowna and Penticton campuses.

A six-week course entitled Launching Your Encore Career will offer soon-to-be retirees insights into how they can fulfil the dream of being their own boss, embarking on second career or using their experience and knowledge to give back to the community.

For those searching for a quick introduction to common retirement pitfalls – and ways of sidestepping them – the College is also offering a four-hour workshop entitled Am I Ready to Retire? How to navigate a smooth transition from the workforce. This shorter offering is designed to help participants gauge their level of readiness to retire, explore their options and develop a plan to make the transition easier.

“Navigating a smooth transition from the workforce can be tricky,” says Dennis Silvestrone, Director of Continuing Studies at Okanagan College. “Ensuring you have the financial means to support yourself is only one of the many factors to consider before picking your retirement date.”

As a coach who has worked with scores of retirees from different sectors and economic situations, Fahey says there are many factors influencing boomers to stay in the workforce – from longer and healthier life expectancies to financial concerns, reduced pension benefits and higher personal debt.

Fahey is also quick to point out another factor she sees in many boomers’ desire to remain in the workforce.

“For many of the current generation approaching retirement age, there is a strong sense of identity and purpose tied to their job, and the desire to continue to contribute.”

“With the expectation of increased longevity and good health, Canadian Baby Boomers could spend more years in retirement than they did working,” says Fahey. “Along with those longer life expectancies, come concerns about being able to support themselves financially and how they will fill their time.”

Launching Your Encore Career starts on Sept. 13 at the College’s Penticton campus and on Sept. 26 at the Kelowna campus. Am I Ready to Retire? workshop runs Sept. 12 and Sept. 14, and Nov. 4 in Penticton and on Nov. 7 and Nov. 9 in Kelowna.

Learn more at


Budding course explores emerging big business
Okanagan College Media Release


As the federal government pursues the legalization of the recreational cannabis industry under the proposed Cannabis Act, a group of Okanagan College School of Business students will seize the opportunity to learn about the regulatory process and business impacts in a new course offered this fall.

“Our third- and fourth-year students will have an unprecedented chance to monitor the regulatory and legislative process of a new sector as it unfolds,” says David Cram, the course’s instructor and a 26-year veteran Okanagan College professor. “The reality is students are hearing and reading about this topic and can relate to it. Our goal is to join the conversation by providing them with an unbiased research-based perspective.”

Topics covered in the Bachelor of Business Administration degree elective course titled The Emerging Marijuana Industry will include: regulation requirements, legal and legislative frameworks, pricing issues and risk assessments, impact on auxiliary industries (such as tourism, health, agriculture, law enforcement), and business ethics. The course is intended to provide an objective perspective and will not include manufacturing or technical operational content.

“There is great benefit in preparing a business community to know more about the cannabis industry that is clearly shaping up to be an important part of Canada’s growing economy,” says Cram. “One way to mitigate industry challenges is to promote and advance research. The more we know, the more oversight and accountability, the better and safer people will be.”

A CIBC World Markets report published last year estimated the national recreational cannabis industry is valued at $5-10 billion. Medicinal use is legal and has been a popular treatment for some ailments and pain managements including for arthritis and cancer. The course will also discuss the legitimate medicinal side of the industry.

“As educators, we have a responsibility to prepare students for the world ahead by providing a thought-provoking learning environment,” says William Gillett, Dean of the Okanagan College School of Business. “Our special topic courses, such as this one, are relevant to the changing and emerging business environment students will face upon graduation.”


Jordan Perrey to lead IT Services at Okanagan College
Okanagan College Media Release

Jordan Perrey Aug 2017A respected IT professional with a unique blend of private and public sector experience will join Okanagan College next month with the addition of Jordan Perrey as Director of Information Technology Services.

Perrey comes to the College from the bustling Okanagan technology sector where he most recently led innovation as the Vice President of Operations at Mazu in Kelowna.

Prior to joining the private sector Perrey spent eight years working in the B.C. government. He began his public sector tenure as Director of Technology Solutions within the Ministry of Energy and Mines, as well as the Ministry of Economic Development in Victoria.

In 2012 he joined the Ministry of Advanced Education as its Chief Information Officer and Executive Director. During that time he managed a team of more than 30 employees and completed a number of infrastructure and application projects with a focus on improving efficiencies and services for students.

“I was drawn to Okanagan College because of its strong reputation both in the Okanagan and within the sector,” says Perrey. “The education landscape is changing at a rapid pace and I’m very excited to help guide the College as we seek to find new ways to deliver education. I will be drawing on my previous experience in post-secondary and building on existing relationships to help find solutions to meet the needs of students and employees.”

According to Roy Daykin, the College’s Vice President of Employee and Corporate Services, Perrey brings a unique blend of experience and insight into the post-secondary environment, along with a track record of success in innovation and leadership.

“Jordan’s experience leading IT within the Ministry of Advanced Education is a huge asset for Okanagan College,” says Daykin. “He has developed a strong reputation as an insightful problem-solver who knows how to motivate people and use technology to support students and the delivery of education.”

Perrey holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Entrepreneurial Management from Royal Roads University. Prior to earning his degree he completed a diploma in Computer Information Systems at the University of the Fraser Valley.

Perrey will begin his new role as Director of IT Services on Sept. 25, 2017.



TELUS supports natural play for child care centre with $20,000 gift
Okanagan College Media Release

A major investment from the community will enhance the great outdoors for South Okanagan children at Okanagan College’s new child care centre.  

The TELUS Thompson Okanagan Community Board has announced a donation of $20,000 to the Okanagan College Foundation’s Bright from the Start fundraising campaign. The gift will support an innovative outdoor learning environment at the centre on the Penticton campus.TELUS donation Aug 2017

The College’s project fulfilled two of the funding areas the Community Board strives to support – education and environment.

“TELUS has a longstanding history of supporting Okanagan College and the tremendous work they are doing throughout the community, whether it be through various campaigns, sponsorships or bursaries,” says Steve Jenkins, General Manager, Okanagan and Vice Chair, TELUS Thompson Okanagan Community Board.

“The TELUS Thompson Okanagan Community Board is proud to contribute $20,000 to this new facility knowing it will provide a foundation for future learners and will help foster a passion for the environment and nature for generations to come.”

Operated through a partnership between Okanagan College and the Penticton and District Community Resources Society (PDCRS), the new centre will provide 64 new child care spaces for infant and toddler care, ages 3-5 daycare, preschool, and after-school care for families in the South Okanagan, including College students and employees.

“TELUS has been a long-time champion of our students, programs and campuses,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “We deeply appreciate the generous investment from their Community Board that will help provide a high-quality educational environment for our next generation of learners.”

The outdoor space is designed to follow current research on outdoor learning. Four unique play areas will provide children the opportunity to explore, play and learn through activities that help spark a sense of wonder about the natural environment. 

“It’s important to provide as many opportunities for children to experience and connect with nature as possible,” explains Tanya Behardien, Executive Director of PDCRS. “In addition to the physical benefits, natural play is vital to early childhood development and encourages emotional and intellectual skills, including creativity and problem solving.”

The new child care centre opens September 2017 and the outdoor play environment will be developed later in the year in cooperation with students in the College’s trades program.

The Okanagan College Foundation is approaching individuals, organizations, and foundations, including College staff and alumni in the community to help reach the $700,000 fundraising goal. 

To make a donation or learn more about the innovative project, visit


Call Home program gives mobile injection unit a technology upgrade
Okanagan College Media Release

Interior Health’s mobile RV overdose prevention unit is getting a unique technological boost with a lot of heart courtesy of Okanagan College’s Enactus team and their newest community initiative, Call Home.

Call Home 1 Aug 2017Recognizing a need for better access to communication for some of the community’s most vulnerable people, the College’s Enactus team purchased and installed two iPads in Interior Health’s mobile unit. Access to the iPads will be free and is open to all visitors as a resource to connect with their loved ones. The devices were installed on Aug. 21 and are currently in use.

“Call Home is a project that serves to provide the people who are using this mobile unit with a positive opportunity to reach out to a family member or loved one that they may have not been in contact with for several years,” says Zabrina Semchuk, Enactus Project Manager and Okanagan College student.

Interior Health launched the mobile unit in late April as a response to the opioid crisis. In July approval was received from Health Canada to operate the unit as a supervised consumption site, making it among the first in Canada. Last month alone, more than 1,000 visitors were logged.

Call Home 2 Aug 2017“Call Home is an important addition to the mobile unit because it is often difficult for homeless or marginalized individuals to keep connected,” explains Corinne Dolman, Mobile Supervised Consumption Services Manager for Interior Health. “It can be extremely valuable for them to contact their loved ones and to be reminded that there are people that care about them.”

Enactus Okanagan College is a non-profit student run organization that develops and implements projects in the Okanagan region that improve the quality of life and standard of living across the valley.

“It’s fabulous seeing students developing programs that can have such a tremendous impact on all members of our community,” says Devin Rubadeau, Okanagan College Professor and Enactus Faculty Advisor. “This project impacts families everywhere by giving people in our community an opportunity to connect with loved ones.”

Currently, the RV stops in downtown Kelowna at 455 Leon Ave. from 1 - 5 p.m. and at 125 Park Road in Rutland from 6 - 11:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.


Okanagan College instructor shares her passion for leadership
Okanagan College Media Release

Carolyn Gibson Aug 2017When Carolyn Gibson first moved to Revelstoke in early 2014, she had no inkling that she would soon find an outlet for combining two of her biggest passions: teaching and leadership. Over the past three years, she has listened to and worked with the region’s business owners to develop and share strategies they need to support their teams and grow their businesses – a collaborative process she’ll continue this fall thanks to a unique and ever-changing course at the College.

Gibson is currently teaching the Leadership Essential Series, a five-part series consisting of one-day seminars focused on specific leadership skills required in today’s workplace.

It’s a course that continues to grow and develop with each semester, as Gibson continues to integrate the latest trends and challenges she encounters from her students, who range from CEOs to those entirely new to leadership.

“The series is ideal not only for seasoned workplace veterans, but also for those leaders looking to identify and develop new leadership skills,” says Gibson, who holds an MBA from Queen’s University and has a Certificate in Conflict Management from Conrad Grebel/University of Waterloo.

Gibson’s students benefit from her wealth of educational and practical experience, acquired over a 20-plus-year career in business, which has seen her start up her own business and consulting firm. She is also an advisor on the MBA program at Queen’s University.

“I love teaching in general as it’s so exciting to see people start to look at things differently,” says Gibson. “It’s great to watch them think about and apply different ways of handling a situation, different ways of looking at their jobs, different ways of communicating.”

Gibson’s path to Okanagan College was fortuitous.

A glance at an Okanagan College Continuing Studies brochure ultimately led her to becoming an Instructor for the College. In the brochure she saw an ad indicating Okanagan College would be open to discussions from professionals in the community regarding potential new course offerings. The rest is history as she celebrates three years and counting as a College instructor, sharing her love for leadership across the College’s campuses from Revelstoke to Penticton.

As a business owner herself, Gibson is quick to point out the value of creating a solid foundation of leadership skills and constantly building on that foundation as trends change – a point echoed by one of her students.

David Murray, Corporate Safety and Environment Manager at Gorman Group, also has the role of coordinating leadership training for his company with Okanagan College and Gibson.

“I can say that Carolyn has been exactly what we were looking for and needed to have regarding an outside trainer for our company,” says Murray. “In order for our management team’s education in leadership essentials to be effective, the instructor not only needs to have expertise in current business and performance management theories and tools, but also needs to be able to tailor the delivery with the challenges that our group faces, and content specific to our high-value wood products manufacturing business. Carolyn and the Okanagan College team did this competently and with the necessary flexibility to our needs.”

The Leadership Essentials Series is just one of the hundreds of Continuing Studies courses and certificates that is offered at Okanagan College campuses. To find out more about the series, or to discover a new career path, check out Okanagan College’s newly released fall 2017 Continuing Studies Brochure.


Indigenous education advancement: learning from the Maori success
Okanagan College Media Release

An international scholar and global leader at the forefront of transforming Maori and Indigenous education will be in Kelowna this week to share insights into how communities can benefit from fostering meaningful relationships with Indigenous peoples.

Dr. Graham Hingangaroa Smith will share his expertise during a free public presentation on Friday, Aug. 18 at 4 p.m. in room H115 at the Kelowna campus of Okanagan College.Dr. Graham Smith

Dr. Smith’s life work has been dedicated to building up the emergence of Maori Education Studies through the development of immersion schools (elementary to post-secondary level). He has played a key role in negotiations and settlements with the Maori and New Zealand government and has worked to ensure that Maori knowledge and presence is pervasive throughout New Zealand.

“Dr. Smith's commitment is not only to Maori interests but to the transforming potential of Indigenous knowledge and praxis globally,” says Dr. Bill Cohen, Indigenous Studies professor and Okanagan-Syilx educator at Okanagan College. “He has resolutely, and respectfully, worked to ensure that actual positive change was, and is, occurring.”

The Okanagan visit is a return one for Dr. Smith: in 2005 he received an honorary Doctor of Literature from Okanagan University College (OUC).   

Okanagan College proudly operates on the traditional territories of the Syilx and Secwepemc peoples. An Indigenization Task Force was created to fulfill the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan’s vision of the institution’s ongoing commitment to working with, and learning from, the Indigenous Community.

“The College has a demonstrated strong track-record of engaging with the Aboriginal community and of supporting our Indigenous students with their educational goals,” says Cohen, who leads the task force. “But we can do more. That’s where the task force comes in. Our goal is to take a good look at the College’s offerings and how we can develop meaningful knowledge relationships across departments, programs and courses.”


Heska appointed Director of Human Resources at Okanagan College
Okanagan College Media Release

Linda Heska August 2017Okanagan College will welcome a new Director of Human Resources next month. Linda Heska, a post-secondary administrator with nearly 30 years of management and consulting experience in the public sector, will step into the role on Sept. 18.

Heska brings considerable expertise in the areas of workplace conflict resolution, collective agreement administration, collective bargaining, performance management, recruitment, onboarding and orientation. She honed this expertise while serving in a number of Human Resources leadership roles with Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) over the past 27 years, most recently as Director, Employee Relations – a role she occupied for almost 10 years.

She holds a Master of Arts in Leadership from Royal Roads University and a Management Certificate, major in Human Resources, from BCIT. Heska has also published a book on organizational practices that contribute to employee engagement. 

“I’m looking forward to working with the Human Resources team to help create and enhance engagement across all our employee groups and every corner of the College community,” says Heska, who hails from Port Moody originally and recently moved to the Okanagan from the Lower Mainland.

“I believe in supporting individuals to be the very best they can be, and that their successes drive organizational success. I’m excited to get to play a role in empowering people to success in their careers at the College.”

“We’re so pleased to have Linda’s depth of knowledge and experience in human resources in the B.C. post-secondary sector without making an understatement,” says Roy Daykin, Vice President Employee and Corporate Services at Okanagan College. “On top of that, she brings a track record of inspiring enthusiasm and motivating those around her that I expect will make her a welcome addition to Okanagan College in short order."

Heska is well versed in the challenge of helping employees thrive and feel engaged across multiple campuses and regions. In her time at KPU, she helped guide policies and practices that affected instructional and support staff at the institution’s four locations in Metro Vancouver. She has also provided coaching services to individuals in the areas of career and transition, performance, leadership and legacy.

“I’m passionate about understanding the bigger picture, but I also pride myself in having the ability to respond quickly and efficiently to situations and needs at the individual level,” explains Heska.


Markin twins challenge College alumni to support next generation of learners

Allison and Quentin Markin have launched a donation-matching challenge to alumni of Okanagan College to help raise $20,000 towards the College’s new child care centre.  

markin family - web

Both attended the College for the first year of their post-secondary education and are appealing to Okanagan College and Okanagan University College alumni to raise funds for the new child care centre, which is currently under construction at the Penticton campus.

The siblings were inspired to donate to the child care campaign in honour of the family’s long-standing ties to the College, and for their parents Allan and Evelyn, on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary.

“We wanted to recognize our parents and their connection to the College,” says Allison Markin. “Our parents gave us an appreciation for the transformative power of education and we wanted to pay it forward to the next generation of learners.” 

The siblings are prepared to match donations from alumni who contribute before the centre opens this fall, up to a collective total of $10,000. The matched gifts go towards the College’s “Bright from the Start: Building for the Future” campaign goal of $700,000.

“It takes alumni to support College students and the next generation of learners,” adds Markin, who also volunteers on the campaign committee. “By doubling the donations, we hope to raise $20,000 to give the child care centre a boost and our future students a bright start." 

The new child care centre will serve families in the South Okanagan, including Okanagan College students and employees. It will be operated through a partnership with the Penticton and District Community Resources Society.

The siblings originally moved to Penticton with parents Allan and Evelyn in 1988 when Allan took on the role of Campus Director for the College. Both parents are well known for championing many educational, fundraising and community-based initiatives in the Penticton area, including the Mad Hatter’s Ball, a fundraising event for the College.

Due to their parents’ involvement at the College, when it came time to consider their post-secondary options, both siblings chose to get their start at the Penticton campus, before going on to complete degrees elsewhere.

Allison Markin is an in-demand marketing expert with her own consulting business and has previously utilized her expertise at the College as an instructor and a communications specialist. Twin brother Quentin is a highly-regarded international lawyer.

“It’s wonderful to see our alumni taking active roles to make a positive impact for our students and the broader community,” says Kara Kazimer, President of the Okanagan College Alumni Association.

“We hope Allison and Quentin’s generosity will initiate a momentum among the 3,000 alumni in the South Okanagan and they will rise to the challenge by maximizing the funds raised to benefit families in the region.”

Alumni can donate at and share their support online using the hashtag #BrightStartChallenge.

Non-alumni can make a donation or learn more about the innovative project by visiting the Okanagan College Foundation website at

New apocalyptic lit course comes to College’s Penticton campus

A new English course is sure to bring much-wanted doom and gloom to students at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus this Fall.

jeremy beaulne fall 2017 lit class webWhen English Professor Jeremy Beaulne discovered he was teaching English 231: Studies in Popular Narrative this September, he immediately set out to create a unique course that has never before been offered at the College. 

After scanning a wide array of first-year English courses at the College and across the country, he decided to focus the course on a topic popular from highbrow literature to Netflix – the apocalypse.

“Recently, I’ve seen many first year English classes talk about technology and the thought of technology potentially surpassing humans,” explains Beaulne. “I was interested to see how this cataclysmic thought manifested in popular media and quickly saw it’s something people are obsessed with. There are constantly new movies, TV series and literary works about apocalyptic scenarios.”

Beaulne’s course will provide an in-depth study on apocalypse through a series of classic texts, contemporary works and modern films. Students can expect to delve into materials spanning over two centuries, from 19th century poetry to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which has recently seen new life and a surge in popularity thanks to a 2017 TV series adaptation on Bravo.

“I have always loved to imagine end-of-the-world scenarios, especially zombies,” says Beaulne. “This course will look into different types of apocalypses including alien and technological invasions, zombies, ecological decimation, and other doomsday scenarios.”

Another unique feature of the course sure to delight students: Beaulne’s end-of-the-world reading list is open-ended.

“Students will have the chance to bring their favourite—or new—apocalyptic literature and complete an assignment based on their chosen text,” says Beaulne. 

Beaulne has been a member of the Okanagan College English Department since 2008. When he is not teaching, Beaulne is active in amateur theatre and can often be found in the director’s chair helping to craft the next production for Okanagan College’s Red Dot Players.


A better way to build: College grad constructs net-zero family home

In search of an innovative building solution, David Sawatzky discovered much more than a new perspective when he enrolled in Okanagan College’s Sustainable Construction Management Technology diploma (SCMT): he adopted sustainability as a way of life. 

“I had worked in the building industry for years and was dissatisfied,” says 38-year-old Sawatzky. “I knew there had to be a better way to build.

Sawatzky David“The SCMT program was exactly what I was looking for,” explains the recent graduate who was part of the program’s first graduating class last month. “It was unique in Canada, a first of its kind. Right away I knew it could give me the leg-up on the industry competition.”

Inspired by the skills and theories learned in the classroom, he set out to build his own net-zero energy house.

“My wife and I wanted to go beyond the need of a house, it had to be sustainable,” explains the father of three. “We had to be pragmatic but also visionaries. We said let’s make it a size we need, but not more, we don’t want excess nor wasted space.”

The family moved into the custom 1,700 square foot house in Lumby earlier this month. It boasts the most sustainable and industry innovative features including: LED lighting throughout, a super insulated concrete form foundation (as opposed to the conventional uninsulated concrete), Energy Star compliant fixtures and appliances, low flow plumbing fixtures, and a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) and mini-split ductless heat pump. The latter two are essential for heating and cooling in energy efficient ways using existing airflow, especially for the seasonal temperature range experienced in the Okanagan. 

“The icing on the cake though is the solar panels on the roof,” says Sawatzky of the 7.4 kW photovoltaic array (28 panels that generate 265 watts each). “We needed a new car, but we preferred the house to be energy zero, so in they went.”

The ultimate goal is to be energy net-positive, meaning the house would create energy that the Sawatzkys would sell back to the power grid, but they will have to wait a year to measure their success.

“If it all works out, hydro will actually write me a cheque every year,” adding that the only utility bill they will have is a small water bill. “It pays to be green.”

Sawatzky is confident his College education will also help him succeed as an entrepreneur in his new sustainable construction business.

“I learned that it’s not just the solution that matters – the process to the solution is equally important,” he says. “We need to build in eco-conscious ways and find a balanced triple bottom line approach: people, planet and profit.”

This type of thinking is one way the SCMT program proves it’s in-line with Okanagan College’s recognition as a leader in post-secondary sustainability. 

“It enriches the students’ experience to study in buildings that represent the exact sustainable features we teach in the classroom,” says Dr. Amy Vaillancourt, Chair of the SCMT program at Okanagan College. “The College is committed to building green, as exemplified in buildings on multiple campuses, and continues to approach future construction with this in mind.”

The Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation at the Penticton campus (where the SCMT program is taught) achieved LEED Platinum status, was built with the intention to meet petals of the Living Building Challenge, was named the greenest post-secondary building in Canada in 2016 by Corporate Knights Magazine, and has the largest solar panel array on a non-utility building in Western Canada. 

At its Kelowna campus, the Centre for Learning is certified LEED Gold and the recently completed trades building is targeting LEED Platinum. Meanwhile a new trades building under construction at the Vernon campus aims to achieve LEED Gold standard.

The College is now accepting applications for the next student intake in the two-year SCMT diploma program. Classes start in the fall of 2017. For more information, visit