Previous Posts(10)
Hamilton to stay as OC President until 2019
Good vibrations: College students launch new venture to change the way we think about sound
Okanagan College business student off to Tanzania on prestigious international fellowship
Ford dealer drives up support for new trades complex, celebrates father’s legacy
Okanagan College business students, advisors and faculty recognized for excellence on national stage
Princess Auto Foundation turns key on new trades bursaries at Okanagan College
College names von Mandl, Redmond and Winkler as 2016 Honorary Fellows
College to host 22nd Annual Aboriginal Career Fair on May 5
Rick Gee recognized by College for Distinguished Service
Local business helps College gives trades students a warm welcome
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Hamilton to stay as OC President until 2019
Okanagan College Media Release

Jim Hamilton May 2016Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton has accepted an offer to extend his term until October 2019. The longest-serving president in British Columbia’s post-secondary sector, Hamilton has led Okanagan College since 2004.

“We are absolutely thrilled that Jim will stay on as President,” says Connie Denesiuk, Chair of Okanagan College’s Board of Governors. “Over the course of his tenure he has helped the institution develop a well-deserved reputation for accomplishment, growth and service. I’ve witnessed first-hand how well respected he is provincially and nationally.”

“This news will please many of Jim’s colleagues at Okanagan College, and I know it will be welcomed by the sector generally. Jim is respected for his experience and for his insights, demeanour and intelligence.”

Hamilton sees it as an opportunity to continue to complete some ongoing tasks as well as advance important new initiatives.

“I am proud of Okanagan College’s record of success and achievement but I know a lot remains to be done to even better serve the students, employers and community of this region. I am particularly excited about some of the key directions in the College’s recently-completed five-year strategic plan and I want to be part of moving them forward. Those include working with and learning from our indigenous community, increasing our support for key sectors such as wine, food and tourism and technology, and completing a plan that will expand internationalization opportunities for our students and employers.”

Hamilton’s history at Okanagan College started with teaching English in 1980 at what then served as the Vernon Campus: the old Canadian Forces army barracks.

Prior to becoming President, Hamilton was actively engaged in the College, having served as a faculty member, a member of the Okanagan University College Board of Governors, and the Regional Dean of the North Okanagan.

Currently, he is the Board Chair of the BC Council for International Education as well as a board member of Colleges and Institutes Canada, member of the British Columbia Council for Admissions and Transfer, and a Vice Chair of the Irving K. Barber British Columbia Scholarship Society. In the past he has been the Chair of the Trades Training Consortium of BC and the Chair of BC Colleges.

During his time as President, Okanagan College enrolments have grown by 43 per cent, exceeding government targets every year. Okanagan College is now one of the largest colleges in BC and the second biggest public trades training institution in the province. Aboriginal student numbers have more than tripled to 1,550, and the College has greatly expanded its services to that population. 

Okanagan College has introduced a host of new programs, grown its profile to address regional and provincial labour force demands and skills needs, and worked closely with industry and employers to make the Okanagan, Shuswap, Similkameen and British Columbia stronger.

With the recent completion of the new Trades Training Complex in Kelowna, Okanagan College has seen more than $100 million in new building and redevelopment at its four major campuses in the last decade. The College has earned a place on the national and world stage for the development of the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation. The building was recently named the greenest building in the post-secondary sector in Canada and boasts a number of national and international awards. The new Trades Complex will also support Okanagan College’s reputation as a leader in sustainability.

“As much as construction and enrolment growth are both good for the local economy, what has given me the greatest satisfaction is the success of our students and how our team has worked together to create more access for more post-secondary options for the people in this region,” Hamilton says.

Good vibrations: College students launch new venture to change the way we think about sound
Okanagan College Media Release

When it comes to the places where we live, work, learn, and play, how they sound can be just as important as how they look in determining how we will feel about them.

Two Okanagan College students have launched an innovative new business to help the world sound a little better, one room at a time.Pfeifer and Mulloy_AEMP_May 2016

A common interest in recording technology led Alex Pfeifer and Josh Mulloy to the Audio Engineering & Music Production diploma program at Okanagan College from very different paths. Kelowna-born Pfeifer has a fascination with all things technical, while Mulloy, a musician who hails from Calgary, enrolled to better understand the intricacies of studio recording in the hope of amping up a career in the music industry.

The two young men quickly noticed their complementary skill sets came in handy in the studio and out in the field. While conducting an exercise in acoustic analysis (studying how the design and arrangement of a space affect the overall sound experience) a bold idea began to take shape.

“We instantly knew this was something we were passionate about, and brought two very different perspectives to,” says Mulloy. “We looked at each other and said: ‘How can we make a career out of this?’”

They set about founding their own company, first reaching out to the valley’s business owners for feedback.

“We pounded the pavement, knocked on doors, and had extensive conversations with local business leaders in audio and a ton of different other fields,” says Pfeifer. “During that time, and since then, there hasn’t been a single person in the community who hasn’t been supportive and offered advice or encouragement.”

Buoyed by the positive response to their idea, Mulloy and Pfeifer launched Perception Audio Inc. in February. Their website, is currently under construction.

“We specialize in acoustic treatments and analysis for commercial spaces, but that’s just scratching the surface of what we do,” explains Pfeifer, noting that live sound and studio recording is also among their areas of expertise.

“At the end of the day, we want to bring something new and truly unique to the audio scene in BC,” says Mulloy. “We want to change the way people think about sound during all stages and aspects of putting a space together. We spend our lives in these spaces and the way they sound hugely impacts our experience of them.”

One of those offering constant support and encouragement along the way has been instructor Corey Bell, a widely respected audio engineer and musician who, in addition to teaching at the College, remains extremely active in the audio production and recording industry.

“There are so many avenues you can pursue in audio,” says Bell. “Josh and Alex picked an avenue in starting their own business – doing what they love – and their drive to achieve that goal has been nothing short of phenomenal.”

Both students are quick to acknowledge Bell’s support as a factor in their successful startup, which already boasts several projects in development in the coming months.

“We wouldn’t have gotten to this place without Corey’s help,” says Mulloy. “This program has really brought a profound change to both our lives very quickly.”

“We’re very grateful for the opportunity to do what we do, and appreciate the way people have supported us to this point,” says Pfeifer. “We love what we do and get to go to work each day not feeling like we’re going to work but going to do what we’re best at and enjoy doing.”

According to Pfeifer, the short-term goal is to continue to grow the business, while a long-term priority will be to support those following in their footsteps, whether it means mentoring students at the College or assisting other small business startup owners.

“When you build somebody else up, you build yourself up,” says Pfeifer. “That has been the ethic other business owners have instilled in us and we plan to carry that on in the way we conduct ourselves and our business.”

Pfeifer and Mulloy will join their fellow graduates at Okanagan College’s convocation ceremonies in June. While running their business, both entrepreneurs plan to return to the College to pursue additional business training, Pfeifer in project management and Mulloy in business administration.

More information about the Audio Engineering and Music Production program at Okanagan College is available at

Okanagan College business student off to Tanzania on prestigious international fellowship
Okanagan College Media Release

Karen Vandergaag May 2016An Okanagan College student’s academic excellence and passion for international development has earned her one of the most esteemed fellowships in the country.

Karen Vandergaag, a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Honours student at the Kelowna campus, is one of only 12 young adults across Canada to be awarded an International Youth Fellowship by the Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC).

“My goal has always been to utilize my business degree to find work in international development,” says Vandergaag. “To know that I have launched a future in this field before I’ve even graduated feels incredible.”

While her fellow students are walking across the stage at convocation ceremonies next month, Vandergaag will be in Ottawa for a management seminar with other fellowship recipients departing for international projects.

Vandergaag will be headed to Tanzania in August, where she will spend eight months working with CARE, an international NGO dedicated to disaster relief and fighting global poverty. Her work will revolve around research and project coordination with the organization’s Microfinance and Microenterprise arms.

Prior to enrolling at Okanagan College, Vandergaag’s interest in working abroad was kindled by a year-long Rotary exchange to Brazil in 2010. Another eye-opening opportunity came a couple of years later, when a College course in entrepreneurship in developing nations took her to Ethiopia and Malawi for several weeks.

“I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity to put my education and research into practice on the ground and see how the hands on experience compares to academia,” says Vandergaag. “As a business student, I approach opportunities like this from a different perspective than students in similar positions who might hail from international relations, health, or other backgrounds.”

Vandergaag credits the College’s unique approach to business training as one of the factors that has opened to the door to international opportunities and inspired her to apply for the fellowship with the Aga Khan Foundation Canada.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Okanagan College’s ability to broaden horizons and provide a wide base of options. I was able to pursue an Honours degree, travel abroad, be a member of an Enactus team that competed nationally, and secure co-op employment that connected me with local industry.”

“Securing this fellowship feels very validating of all the work I’ve put in, and the education I’ve received at the College.”

And while thinking globally, Vandergaag certainly hasn’t shied away from acting locally during her studies. As a student researcher with the Scotiabank Centre for Non-Profit Excellence located at the Kelowna campus, she helped to develop new curriculum that will assist local non-profits in the area of impact reporting and measurement. She also completed an Honours research project focused on food security in the Okanagan.

“I was looking for a research project that would have application beyond business to a broader social issue with local implications,” explains Vandergaag.

Collaborating with BC-based Urban Matters, a social innovation and development organization, she set out to explore the issue of local food sustainability and how people perceive and interpret food security in the region.  

“Before I started I wasn’t aware of the sheer diversity of food security initiatives already going on in Kelowna,” she notes. “But through this research it was fascinating to look at the impact our choices have on our local food systems, what those systems are able to handle, and will be able to handle in the future.”

She recently presented her findings to the Central Okanagan Food Policy Council and continues to champion the cause of food security in the valley.

Following her fellowship abroad, Vandergaag has no specific plans for her next project, but is confident it will have something to do with social impact.

“I don’t see myself straying too far from the non-profit sector and social change/social impact initiatives,” she says. “That said, geographically speaking, that could take me anywhere. My horizons are completely open.”

Ford dealer drives up support for new trades complex, celebrates father’s legacy
Okanagan College Media Release

A local automotive dealer wants to help rev up the learning environment for trades students at Okanagan College in Kelowna, carrying on his father’s legacy of supporting education and the community.

Orchard Ford and Kelowna Ford Lincoln Dealer Principal Dan Assam has pledged $100,000 to assist the College in outfitting a new student lounge in its renovated and expanded trades training facilities in Kelowna. To the delight of automotive students and car buffs, the lounge will feature a mural depicting a Ford GT50 – a nod to Assam’s father Norm who owned a classic GT40 and for whom the lounge will be dedicated.Orchard Ford donation May 2016

“My father was a big supporter of education and training,” says Assam. “Helping staff advance their skills was important to him, as was giving back to the community. This gift honours and celebrates his legacy, and we hope it will inspire the next generation of automotive tradespeople training at Okanagan College.”

The valley’s automotive dealers and collision repair shops have been among the strongest supporters of the renovation and expansion project, contributing more than $850,000 to the Okanagan College Foundation’s Bright Horizons fundraising campaign since it launched in October 2014.

“We are deeply grateful to Dan and his family for this phenomenal support,” says campaign Chair Dennis Gabelhouse. “This gift sends a powerful message to students at the College that local employers are behind them and gives them a sense of the long legacy of trades in the valley that they are a part of.”

Founded in 1983 by Norm Assam, Orchard Ford remains a family-owned and -operated dealership (as is Kelowna Ford Lincoln) with Assam’s son at the helm carrying on his father’s legacy of supporting skilled training. The two dealerships currently employ 20 Okanagan College-trained Red Seal Automotive Service Technicians, with another six on staff who are currently completing their apprenticeship training at the College.

Existing shops across a host of trades, from automotive to welding, have now been completely re-vamped at the College’s Kelowna campus. Upgrades were made to match the same LEED Platinum-targeted standard as the new building, as a testament to the College’s commitment to sustainability.

The Automotive Service Technician (AST) shop was one of the first new shops to come online for students in late 2014, and features new and emerging technology in the industry. Feedback from students and instructors on the new space has been overwhelmingly positive according to the College’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship Steve Moores.

“Industry support is absolutely vital to what we do,” says Moores. “Quality learning environments support quality instruction and the proof is in the pudding in our students’ accomplishments.”

Okanagan College recently tied its best-ever results at the provincial Skills Canada BC competition in Abbotsford, earning 11 medals overall. Automotive Service Technician students from the College dominated the podium, taking home gold (Aaron Schmit), silver (Dale Blumhagan), and bronze (Hugo Beaumier-Martin) medals.

The new complex will allow the College to accommodate more than 2,700 students each year and comes at a critical time for training as BC faces a potential shortage of skilled labour over the next decade. It is projected that more than 160,000 job openings will exist for trades and technical workers by 2022, with more than 10,000 needed in the Thompson Okanagan region alone by 2024.

To date the Bright Horizons Building for Skills campaign has raised more than $6.2 million toward its $7 million goal, which includes $5 million for capital construction and $2 million for program and student support through awards, bursaries, and emergency funding.

“Creating access and supporting students is at the heart of this campaign,” notes Gabelhouse. “As we enter the summer and approach the grand opening of the new building this fall, community and industry support is going to help us reach our goal and open a world of new doors for students.” 

Okanagan College business students, advisors and faculty recognized for excellence on national stage
Okanagan College Media Release

Enactus Nationals Team May 2016Okanagan College business students chalked up multiple podium finishes at a recent national competition in Toronto. Making the showing all the more impressive was the fact that a number of the students and their mentors were honoured at the highest level for their teamwork.

The Enactus National Exposition brings together approximately 800 students, 500 industry leaders who serve as judges and 100 faculty advisors from across the country to celebrate the achievements of Canada’s future leaders and entrepreneurs. A team of 24 students from the Okanagan School of Business participated in this year’s event, held from May 4-6 at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre.

The Financial Literacy team that presented on the CanSave program came 2nd in the country (behind only SFU), beating out powerhouse competitors from Saint Mary’s University, Windsor, Ryerson, and Memorial, and receiving a $2000 cash prize. The CanSave program is focused on teaching financial skills to elementary students.

"Being awarded National runner-up in the Financial Education Challenge was a humbling experience,” says Abbey Jones, a Bachelor of Business Administration student at the College’s Kelowna campus and the team’s project manager. “Having just completed the second phase of the CanSave pilot program, our team is now fuelled with a strong desire to expand the program across the province, ensure its sustainability and make a lasting change in the financial literacy and lives of those it touches."

Enactus Financial Literacy Team May 2016

The Youth Empowerment Team (a new category this year) came third in the country (behind Ryerson and Windsor), and received a $1000 cash prize. The prizes will help fund the team’s participation in next year’s competition.

Despite stiff competition, the Nationals team from the College advanced to the semi-final round of competition (top 20), before being bested by eventual finalist and last year’s national champion, the University of Ottawa.

“This year marks the 10th year of operations for Enactus Okanagan College,” says Dr. Kyleen Myrah, Okanagan School of Business professor and one of the Faculty Advisors to the team. “I am continually inspired by the incredible work our students do in the region and the outstanding support we receive from all our community partners. I can’t wait to see what they will achieve in the decade ahead.”

According to Myrah, another highlight of the event for the team came when two students and two of their mentors, received prestigious awards for leadership.

Fresh off her team’s runner-up finish in the Financial Educational challenge, Abbey Jones and fellow BBA student and Enactus Okanagan College President Cassandra Lum, were awarded the national Founder’s bursary. Valued at $2,500 each, the bursaries recognize students for demonstrating exceptional leadership with Enactus. Only ten bursaries were handed out to students from all across Canada and two went home with Okanagan College students this year.

Enactus Youth Empowerment Team May 2016“It was truly an honour to receive the Founders Bursary and to be recognized alongside great student leaders from across the country, including one from our very own team in Abbey Jones,” says Lum. “I think this speaks to the experience and knowledge we're gaining through Enactus and at Okanagan College. ‎We are fortunate to have a very large support network through the College that encourages us in our endeavours and enables us to achieve these outcomes.”

Outstanding advisors and faculty were also recognized at the event for the critical roles they play in mentoring the student teams.

Elvia Picco was named Team Advisor of the Year in recognition of her outstanding support of the Enactus Okanagan College team. Okanagan School of Business professor Andrew Klingel was inducted as a John Dobson Fellow for his Enactus involvement as a faculty member. A well-known entrepreneur, investor, and business advisor, Klingel teaches courses in marketing and management at the College’s Vernon campus.

Enactus is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action. The Canadian chapter sees annual participation by more than 2,600 students spanning 67 post-secondary institutions.

Full results from the exposition can be found here. More information about Enactus Okanagan College is available at

Princess Auto Foundation turns key on new trades bursaries at Okanagan College
Okanagan College Media Release

Whether building a house or re-building a car, it all begins with a strong foundation of knowledge. A national foundation dedicated to supporting trades education has launched a new bursary fund at Okanagan College to give students a strong start.

The Princess Auto Foundation has donated $25,000 to establish an award fund that will enhance access and opportunities for students entering or continuing in Trades programs at Okanagan College.Princess Auto Foundation donation May 2016

“We are committed to helping students pursue skilled trades training at colleges across the country,” says Princess Auto Foundation Founder Bob Tallman. “We are delighted to work with Okanagan College to open doors for students in the Southern Interior.”

Tallman owns Princess Auto, which has grown to more than 40 retail locations across Canada since his father Harvey founded the retailer in 1977. Established in Manitoba in 2007, the Princess Auto Foundation has distributed over $4 million to 15 colleges in Canada to help students access trades training. Okanagan College joins two other B.C. institutions – BCIT and Camosun – on the list of those that have received support, to date.

“An integral part of Okanagan College’s mission to transform lives and communities is making education accessible,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “We deeply appreciate Princess Auto Foundation’s investment in our students’ futures and applaud their leadership in enhancing access to trades training for students across the country.”

Tallman and his wife Cathy recently toured the College’s new trades training complex in Kelowna. He says the decision to support students in the Okanagan was a natural one, given the College’s vision for elevating trades careers in the minds of students and the public.

“We were inspired by the way the College celebrates tradespeople and recognizes the contributions they make in our communities,” notes Tallman. “The Princess Auto Foundation is proud to be a part of that vision.”

In addition to the Princess Auto Foundation, Tallman’s family also spearheads the Tallman Foundation, which provides full scholarships to post-secondary students in Winnipeg.

Classes are now in session in the College’s new trades facilities, following a three-year $33-million renovation and expansion project. The Okanagan College Foundation has raised more than $6.2 million towards its goal of raising $7 million to top up the province’s $28 million investment. The Foundation is aiming to raise at least $2 million for program and student support.

More information about the campaign and opportunities to get involved is available at

College names von Mandl, Redmond and Winkler as 2016 Honorary Fellows
Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College is bestowing its highest honour on three notable Okanagan residents, each of whom has helped shape and define the region in unique and impactful ways through entrepreneurship, philanthropy and ecological research.  

Anthony von Mandl O.B.C., Bill Redmond and Dr. Rita Winkler will be named Honorary Fellows of Okanagan College during Convocation ceremonies on June 4 in Kelowna.

Anthony von Mandl HF 2016von Mandl, proprietor of VMF Estates, founder of Mission Hill Family Estate and one of the region’s best-known self-made entrepreneurs, will be recognized by the College for his vision and pioneering efforts in making the Okanagan a world-class winery destination.

Born in Vancouver and European educated, von Mandl, without resources, founded a wine importing firm in Vancouver at the age of 22. Despite difficult initial years, he successfully grew Mark Anthony Wine Merchants, and in 1981 began to realize his audacious dream: to produce world-class wines in British Columbia’s then unknown Okanagan Valley. Little did he know that in order to realize his vision he would need to organically build a more than half billion dollar corporation from the ground up without outside financing.

Mission Hill Family Estate, which von Mandl conceived and built to endure for centuries, has become internationally known, and been called “the gold standard of wineries” by Condé Nast Traveler. In 1994, Mission Hill won the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London for Top Chardonnay Worldwide and in 2013, the family’s Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir won the Trophy for Best Pinot Noir in the World in London at the Decanter Wine Awards, the world’s most significant competition with over 14,000 wines entered, putting the Okanagan on the international Pinot Noir map. In 2016, Mission Hill was once again named Canadian Winery of the Year, for the sixth time.

von Mandl has been recognized personally and professionally for his extensive contributions to the industry. In 2005, he was awarded British Columbia’s highest distinction, the Order of British Columbia. In 2011, he was the recipient of The Warren Bennis Award for Leadership Excellence alongside A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble. Previous winners include Mikhail Gorbachev, Benazir Bhutto, and Howard Schultz of Starbucks. In 2015, he was inducted into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame.

A former YPO International Board Member, von Mandl has served on the Advisory Boards of the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario and the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. He is also Chairman of the von Mandl Family Foundation, a charitable organization that supports cancer research in both Canada and the United States.

Bill Redmond HF 2016

Bill Redmond spent 40 years building his career in the wholesale food industry. He is the founder and formerly the president andCEO of HRI Supply Ltd. Redmond launched the company in 1978 and guided its growth until it merged with Sysco Corp. in 2001. HRI Supply is the only food distribution company in the B.C. Interior to merge with a Fortune 500 company in the past 30 years. After the merger Redmond continued his career as president and CEO of Sysco Kelowna until he retired from the company in 2004.

Retirement has been anything but slow for Redmond, who is involved in a number of community organizations. He is active in the Rotary Club of Kelowna and is past-president as well as past-director. He served as Okanagan College’s first Entrepreneur-in-Residence (2007). He was chairman of the Kelowna Roads Task Force as well as a number of private equity funds. He is still involved in business and is a partner in Dockside Marine Centre.

“It’s an honour to be recognized by Okanagan College,” said Redmond. “I was thrilled to be a part of the School of Business and came to realize what a wonderful institution we have right here in Kelowna. My career in business has brought me a lot of joy and I will be proud to address the graduating business class of 2016.”

Rita Winkler HF 2016Dr. Rita Winkler is a forest hydrologist with a career spanning more than 35 years. During this time she has worked in government, academia and private consulting in operational settings, education and research. Winkler is credited with sustaining B.C.’s longest running paired watershed experiment, which is located at Upper Penticton Creek in the South Okanagan. Research at this site focuses on improving our understanding of water supplies from forested watersheds and how natural disturbance, land management and climate change can affect this vital resource.

Winkler’s own research on snow processes in forests changed by insect outbreaks, wildfire, logging and regrowth, as well as the resulting changes in streamflow regime, has refined our understanding of the science and guided the development of forest management practices.

Her association with Okanagan College dates back to the 1990s when she was involved in selection of the Forest Renewal BC Chairs in Forest Hydrology. She has been involved in the College’s Penticton Speaker Series and has mentored and collaborated with faculty members at the College for more than 20 years.

“I am thrilled to receive this honour from Okanagan College,” said Winkler. “It is a privilege to be included in the group of Fellow recipients, a program that clearly highlights the College and President Hamilton’s commitment to acknowledge the contributions community members, employees and students all make to life in the Okanagan.”

Anthony von Mandl and Dr. Rita Winkler will attend the morning ceremony on Saturday, June 4 in Kelowna. Bill Redmond will address the graduates in an afternoon ceremony on June 4.

College to host 22nd Annual Aboriginal Career Fair on May 5
Okanagan College Media Release

Hundreds of Aboriginal high school students from throughout the B.C. Interior will converge on Okanagan College on Thursday, May 5 to explore a vast array of post-secondary and employment opportunities.

Aboriginal Career Fair May 2016The 22nd annual Aboriginal Career Fair will take place from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the Centre for Learning at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus on KLO Road. The event is a partnership between Okanagan College, UBC Okanagan, the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, and Westbank First Nation. Students will have a chance to connect with more than 30 exhibitors, including representatives from colleges and universities, and employers in finance, trades, agriculture, health, technology, and other sectors.

“Opportunities like this are an excellent way for Aboriginal students to explore their options for post-secondary, and to learn about employers’ expectations in regard to education and training,” says Okanagan College Vice President of Students Charlotte Kushner.  

More than 300 students are expected to attend. For schools and employers, the career fair is an opportunity to initiate connections with a key demographic for recruitment. Provincial data indicates that Aboriginal peoples are one of the fastest growing populations in B.C.

Okanagan College has witnessed significant growth in Aboriginal student enrolment in recent years. In 2015, the College delivered educational programming to over 1,500 Aboriginal students, more than three times the number that attended a decade prior in 2005-06.

“Working With, and Learning From, the Indigenous Community is one of the five key directions for the College, as outlined in our 2015-2020 Strategic Plan,” explains Kushner. “We value every opportunity like this to collaborate with local school districts, First Nation bands, Aboriginal organizations and industry, to inspire and open doors to post-secondary for Aboriginal students.”

Exhibitor spots are still available. Educators or school administrators interested in having students participate are requested to register in advance. To learn more and to register, visit

Lunch will be provided by students and faculty from Okanagan College’s Culinary Arts program. 

Rick Gee recognized by College for Distinguished Service
Okanagan College Media Release

A retired employee who assembled an impressive career that spanned 30 years and five days will be recognized by Okanagan College with the Distinguished Service award at the College’s Summer Convocation ceremony on June 29 in Kelowna.Rick Gee

Rick Gee, former Chair of Okanagan College’s Education Council and longtime professor of Computer Science, has left an indelible mark on the institution’s curriculum and program development after dedicating more than three decades to supporting students and enhancing academic standards.

President Jim Hamilton, whose career with the College began just five year prior to Gee’s, recalls him as a cornerstone of the institution.

“Rick’s contribution to Okanagan College has been immense,” says Hamilton. “His name was synonymous with Education Council and in that role he became the keeper of educational quality in programming. He has done much to build the institution’s reputation for academic excellence.”

Gee joined the College on July 26, 1985 as a College Professor of Computer Science. Throughout his tenure at the College he served as department chair on three separate occasions, contributing 17 years altogether in the role.

He was elected to the College’s Education Council, the body that is responsible for setting curriculum content, academic standards and policies, eventually becoming Chair in 2008.

Gee was responsible for the development of two degree programs during his time at Okanagan College and Okanagan University College, the Bachelor of Computer Information Systems and the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. He was also the 2013 recipient of the Career Achievement award at the College’s Employee Excellence recognition ceremony.

With 30 years of experiences to reflect upon, Gee says his most memorable moments at the College occurred in the classroom.

“My favourite part was the teaching,” says Gee. “Seeing the light bulbs go on is something that brought me a lot of joy. I also worked with some very interesting and intelligent people over the years.”

In addition to his scholarly contributions Gee was a longtime volunteer and supporter of initiatives like the College’s Career Fair. He dedicated his personal time to support the College community at events such as the annual Clean the Creek, wading in the murky waters of Fascieux Creek at the Kelowna campus to remove garbage and waste.

Gee retired on July 31, 2015. Those who knew him well remember him as a meticulous editor and someone who could advocate on behalf of a comma with an unmatched passion.

“Rick was a stickler for detail, punctuation, grammar and consistency who also had the ability to focus on the big picture of student success,” says Dianne Crommer, who worked beside Gee on Education Council for many years. “Outside of his contributions to the College, he is also a tireless volunteer in the community and is someone who did a lot of great work, much of it very quietly and on his own time.”

Gee is an active member and current president of the Central Okanagan Naturalists’ Club and the director responsible for snowshoeing for the Kelowna Nordic Ski Club. He also volunteers with the NatureKids Kelowna. He dedicates his time to leading people on snowshoeing adventures.

“Rick was very committed to the College and had students at the heart of everything he did,” said Yvonne Moritz, Dean of Science, Technology and Health at Okanagan College. “He was often the driving force on committees to ensure that ideas came to fruition and his many contributions will be long standing.”

Local business helps College gives trades students a warm welcome
Okanagan College Media Release

Coast Appliances Donation May 2016As Okanagan College welcomed students and staff to its new Trades Training Complex last week, a donation of equipment from a local appliance dealer helped ensure it was a warm welcome. 

Coast Wholesale Appliances Inc. has donated microwaves to power up kitchenette stations throughout the new three-storey tower at the Kelowna campus. Construction on the building completed on Mar. 31. Over the past three weeks, more than 700 students training at satellite campuses on Acland and Penno Rd. transitioned to their new home at the KLO campus.

“We are very proud and excited to contribute to the student experience at Okanagan College,” says Robert Siddon, General Manager for Coast Wholesale Appliances in Kelowna. “The trades are connected to our business, and so many others in the Okanagan, and so having a world-class training facility here benefits us all.”

Siddon says it was important to Coast Appliances that students know the valley’s businesses are behind them, which is why the company has also provided a tool credit to assist a student in purchasing tools.  

Coast Appliances joins a growing number of individuals and organizations in the community who have stepped up to help the College enhance student spaces like food service and study areas in the building.

Our goal with this renovation and expansion is to provide a world-class facility that truly celebrates the trades and celebrates our students,” says Okanagan College Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship Steve Moores. “We are very grateful for the depth of community support for that vision. Local industry and individuals are sending a message to our students that they have chosen an important and valued field in the trades.”

Community support has brought the Okanagan College Foundation within $1 million of its $7-million goal for the Bright Horizons, Building for Skills fundraising campaign in support of the project. The Foundation is aiming to raise $5-million for capital construction and $2-million for program and student support, to top up the provincial government’s $28-million investment. To date, the campaign has raised more than $6.2 million.

Last week’s welcome event for students and employees was a soft opening for the building. An official grand opening is slated for the fall.

In the meantime, College officials will continue to put the finishing touches on the new complex over the summer, including landscaping, signage, and activation of the building’s solar panels (when completed, the roof will have the second-largest solar array of any non-utility building in the province, behind only the The Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence at the College’s Penticton campus).

More information about the Bright Horizons campaign and opportunities to get involved is available at

Eleven trips to the podium for OC students at Skills BC competition
Okanagan College Media Release

Three Okanagan College students are on their way to Moncton, NB to competeAST at Skills April 2016 in the Skills Canada National competition following their gold medal wins at the provincial competition, which was held in Abbotsford on April 13. The three gold medalists were joined on the podium by an additional eight students who earned four silver and four bronze medals for the College in categories that ranged from Aerospace Technology and Carpentry, to Culinary Arts.

Okanagan College was the best in B.C. in the areas of Electronics, Aerospace Technology and Automotive Service. Second-year student Zachary Andrews won gold in the Electronics category. Spencer Humphries, a first-year student in the Aircraft Maintenance Engineering M License program, won in Aerospace Technology and Aaron Schmidt, a level 4 apprentice, led the College to gold in Automotive Service. He was one of three Okanagan College apprentices who finished in the top three in the province – OC swept the automotive category.  

Automotive Service instructor Jamie Bloomfield said he was extremely proud of the efforts of his students, who he referred to as the dream team.

“Each one of our students took the competition preparation and practices very seriously,” he said. “They had great attitudes and were very motivated. During the competition they shook the nerves off quickly and performed beautifully – I couldn’t be prouder.”

By the end of the competition, Okanagan College had captured 11 medals. Other institutions that took part included Vancouver Island University, BCIT, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Camosun College, North Island College, Northern Lights College, University of the Fraser Valley, Thompson Rivers University and Vancouver Community College.

Okanagan College students placed as follows:

Zachary Andrews – Electronics
Spencer Humphries – Aerospace Technology
Aaron Schmidt – Automotive Service

Dale Blumhagen – Automotive Service
Curtis Koepke – Refrigeration
Sarah Maw – Culinary Arts
Lukas Pfob – Carpentry

Hugo Beaumier-Martin – Automotive Service
Andrew Kennedy – Aerospace Technology
Rav Matharoo – Heavy Equipment Service
Rudi Verlinden – IT – Network Systems Administration

The National Skills Canada competition attracts more than 500 competitors who compete in 40 contest areas, each vying for a chance at a coveted gold medal. The program was launched in 1994, and is the only national multi-trade and technology competition for young students and apprentices in the country.

Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence named greenest post-secondary building in Canada for 2016
Okanagan College Media Release

COE 2016After becoming the first building of its size in the region to receive LEED Platinum certification, The Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation has been named the most sustainable post-secondary building in the country.

The Centre of Excellence earned the top honour – Gold – in the university and college buildings category of the 2016 Green Buildings Review, a recent ranking of Canada’s greenest buildings.

“This latest recognition for the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence is heartening for us because it re-affirms the high level of sustainability we have been able to achieve and maintain since the building opened in 2011,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton.

“Sustainability is deeply rooted in our core values, and this ranking will challenge us as an institution to continue to push the envelope in providing our students with learning environments that embody and inspire innovation.”

The review was released in March by Corporate Knights magazine, a nationally distributed publication focused on corporate ethics. It identified Canada’s dozen greenest buildings, as selected by a panel of building industry experts.COE 2016_2

In order to earn a spot in the top 12, the Centre of Excellence at the College’s Penticton campus first had to land on a shortlist of 22 leading facilities whittled down from an original pool of 200. Judges awarded distinctions of Gold, Silver, and Bronze to the greenest buildings in each of four categories: universities and college buildings, hospitals, office buildings, and other public buildings.

Okanagan College faced strong competition in its category. UBC’s Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability in Vancouver was awarded Silver, and Dalhousie’s Mona Campbell Building received the Bronze award.

“It is a great source of pride for our students and staff that our facility stands among other leaders in the post-secondary sector, and among buildings in much larger centres,” says Donna Lomas, Okanagan College’s Regional Dean of the South Okanagan-Similkameen.

“We could not be more pleased with the way the building has attracted people here to learn, work, and collaborate—from students and staff, to members of the community, to visitors from all over the world.”

This most recent accolade adds to a growing list of provincial, national, and international recognition garnered by the building for its achievements in sustainability. It was one of only three buildings in North America to be featured by the New York Times as examples of carbon-neutral post-secondary facilities.

The College received LEED Platinum certification in June 2015. A ceremony was held this past February to unveil the official Platinum plaque bestowed upon the College by the Canada Green Building Council. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is globally recognized as a means of assessing green building practices and outcomes. Platinum is the highest LEED certification that can be achieved.

The Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence opened in 2011, and was jointly funded by the federal and provincial governments along with more than $9 million in community contributions. Since the opening of the building, continued community support has also helped to launch new programs and create additional support for students at the Penticton campus.

Read the full results of the 2016 Green Building Review here.

Silver Surfers: College students help seniors catch the techie wave
Okanagan College Media Release

Silver Surfers and Daniel Alfred Apr 2016In today’s fast-paced digital age, catching up to the latest technology gadget can seem insurmountable for seniors.

Helping bridge the technology age-gap, twins Daniel and Rebecca Alfred and Sam Jamieson, all Enactus Okanagan College students, have stepped up to connect 28 Missionwood Retirement Resort residents with 15 student volunteers for hands-on tablet tutorials throughout the month of March.

Over the course of four sessions the Silver Surfers project covered the basics of how to use an iPad from turning it on, adjusting volume controls, taking pictures, FaceTiming with family, and how to post, like and comment on Facebook.

“Working part-time at Missionwood, I’d see family members give the gift of a tablet to their grandparent, but without showing them how to use it,” says Daniel Alfred, now in his third year of a Bachelor of Business Administration degree at Okanagan College. “I’d help where I could, but I knew more could be done. That sparked the idea of Silver Surfers.”

He points out that research has shown that many seniors face depression and isolation. Silver Surfers was developed with the goal of helping them reconnect with their loved ones by using the very technology they were being gifted to alleviate these feelings.

First lesson: taking a selfie.Silver Surfers Apr 2016

“It was a great ice-breaker with the volunteers, and was quite fun to see these individuals, many over 70 years young, discover the phenomenon of the selfie,” adds Alfred. “It was incredible to see the relationships forming, and the true connections.”

“I enjoyed the students so much,” echoes resident Lois Patterson. “They were very kind, helpful, and patient with us seniors.”

Complementing the hands-on learning experience, the three business students designed an illustrative booklet with step-by-step instructions to help refresh the memory of the tablet users ongoing.

TELUS Kelowna generously loaned five 3G enabled iPads to the cause, and has committed to doing so again as the program expands to other residences. The project is also branching out across the region after Enactus Okanagan College at the Salmon Arm campus expressed interest in launching Silver Surfers at a seniors’ residence in the community.

College enlists in program that opens doors for Canadian vets, reservists
Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College is enlisting in a national program that helps Canadian Armed Forces veterans and reservists accelerate their education as they transition to other employment.

The College has just signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Canada Company, a charitable, non-partisan organization that serves to engage, educate and build ties between community and business organizations and the Canadian Military. The charity’s goal “is to ensure that the men and women in our Canadian Armed Forces receive the widest support, care and recognition that they deserve.”

The MoU means Okanagan College joins other Canadian post-secondary institutions that are working with Canada Company under the Military Employment Transition (MET) program to provide vets and reservists with recognition for training and experience they have received as they take credential programs at the institutions. It means they may be able to fast-track their way to a credential - an important link to military members’ and veterans’ successful transition to second careers

This opens a door for military veterans and personnel to get credit for prior learning as they enter programs at Okanagan College,” explains Dr. Andrew Hay, Okanagan College’s Vice President Education. “It is a superb way to take what they have learned in their careers with the Canadian Armed Forces and transition into careers in the private sector.

The College joins BCIT, NAIT, Fanshawe College, Eastern College and Marine Institute as participants in the program.

“We’ve already had some interest from a reservist in Kelowna when he learned we were becoming a part of this initiative,” notes Teresa Kisilevich, an Associate Dean of Okanagan College’s School of Business and a key player in the College’s involvement.

“We’re pleased at Okanagan College’s decision to sign on to the MET program,” explains Canada Company President Angela Mondou. “Okanagan College offers an array of programs that veterans and reservists are interested in, from business administration to trades, to engineering technology programs. Many of our vets have undertaken significant training in the military that transfers directly to the business world. Being able to have their prior learning recognized will make credential achievement and transition to employment that much easier.”

For more information or to learn more about the program, veterans and reservists can contact Kisilevich at 250 762-5445, ext. 4393 or

(Okanagan College currently has ties to the Canadian Armed Forces through its Electronic Engineering Technology diploma program, which is accredited by the national military, meaning that students can apply to the Forces and be paid while achieving their diploma at OC, with guaranteed employment on successful completion.)

Student ambassadors honoured at President’s Dinner
Okanagan College Blog Post

At the annual President’s Dinner held on March 31 in KPresident's Dinner 2016, blog postelowna, President Jim Hamilton recognized 145 students for being ambassadors of Okanagan College, noting that the students’ participation in events revealed admirable levels of commitment by these individuals and their instructors to the College’s community.

Student ambassadors participated and represented the College at 17 competitions and events across Canada this past year including, but not limited to, business case competitions, Skills Canada, computer programming events, and culinary battles. In many instances they earned podium finishes, and showcased the high-level of skills, training, and education they have received while studying at the College.

The evening of celebrating success included a sumptuous buffet feast prepared by the Culinary Arts students and Culinary Manager Chef Bernard Casavant.

PrairieCoast Equipment gives Trades Complex campaign an Okanagan-style push
Okanagan College Media Release

With heavy duty mechanics in high demand across many sectors, a donor has stepped forward with a locally-inspired donation to remind Okanagan College students and would-be students that BC’s agricultural equipment industry needs more mechanics.PrairieCoast Donation April 2016

“Our company is very pleased to support Okanagan College in building a facility that is going to benefit so many people,” says Ryan Johnson, Regional Manager for PrairieCoast Equipment. “We feel it’s important to invest in the future of our industry, and tomorrow’s trades students are a big part of that future.”

PrairieCoast Equipment has pledged $50,000 toward the Bright Horizons Building for Skills campaign in support of the new Trades Training Complex at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus. To the excitement of students and instructors, the first installment of the company’s donation arrived on four wheels.

The College’s Heavy Duty Trades shop now boasts a piece of equipment geared towards Okanagan industry: a farm tractor suited to orchard and vineyard work.

“We’re projecting about a 10 per cent increase in our technician workforce this year,” explains Johnson. “So we wanted to provide a piece of equipment that would really benefit and be interesting to students, and that also spoke to the need for skilled workers in our field.”

In the Thompson Okanagan alone, it is projected there will be a need for more than 1,000 new heavy duty equipment mechanics and operators over the next eight years—a need the College is well geared up to address following the renovation and expansion of its facilities. BC Student Outcomes data reinforces the demand; the annual Province-generated survey of recent post-secondary graduates shows that 100 per cent of heavy-duty apprentices from Okanagan College are employed, and at an average wage of $40 an hour.

“We’ve completely updated our Heavy Duty shop and added a 1,858-square-metre outdoor training space,” says Okanagan College Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship Steve Moores. “Support from local industry like PrairieCoast Equipment has played a big role in our ability to make those upgrades to the learning environment.”

The Okanagan College Foundation launched the Bright Horizons Building for Skills campaign in October 2014 to raise $5 million for capital construction costs and $2 million for program and student support. Of the more than $5.8 million raised to date, donors from in and out of region have stepped up with $250,000 in equipment, from tractors to front-end loaders to collections of hand tools.

“Donations of equipment like this one by PrairieCoast also help us ensure that our students can familiarize themselves with a wide variety of vehicles they are going to encounter out on the job,” says Moores.

The new Trades Training Complex represents one of the College’s most ambitious capital projects, valued at more than $33-million and designed to meet the highest standards of sustainability and green-building technology. The provincial government has committed $28 million to the project.

Shops and classrooms have come online in the renovated areas in recent months but students will now have their first glimpse into the all-new three-storey, 5,500 sq. metre Trades Training Complex. Classes begin this week while finishing touches on the building progress. An official grand opening for the new complex is being planned for the fall.

The Okanagan College Foundation is endeavouring to raise about another $1.3 million to complete the project, the bulk of which will go towards funding for students to help increase access and support student success in trades programs.

To learn more about the campaign’s current needs and opportunities to get involved, please visit

PrairieCoast Equipment is a BC- and Alberta-based company with eight locations across both provinces, including one in Kelowna. Another location is slated to open in Prince George later this spring. 

Bluebird day for Okanagan College’s 14th annual Half Marathon

Brad BickleyKelowna runners took the top spots in Okanagan College’s 14th annual Half Marathon, 10 KM and Relay Race on Sunday, April 3.
Kelowna’s Christy Lovig tied the women’s 10 K course record, the same record that she set at last year’s event. Lovig ran the distance in (36:48) in both 2015 and 2016, down to the second. Alison Gill of Kelowna came in second (41:59) and Camille Galloway, also of Kelowna, finished third (42:33).
The men’s 10 K race was swept by UBC Okanagan’s cross-country team. Sam Goodrich finished first (35:49), followed by teammates Michael Mitchell (36:00) and Alex Hansen (37:36).
The half marathon men’s race was won by Kelowna’s Brad Bickley (1:12:24). Vernon’s Aaron Heidt wasn’t able to defend his title from last year but still came in second with a time of (1:13:17). Cael Wainer came in third (1:25:06).
The female half marathon was won by Kelowna’s Gina Tranquada (1:29:55), followed by Tracy Dayman (1:33:57). Jodi Cochran finished third with a time of (1:34:17).
JumperThe half marathon relay event was won by team “Your Pace or Mine?”  The five runners covered the 21.1 KM distance in a time of (1:47:58). Team members included: Jennifer Hostland, Lizzy McKinlay, Laura Fylyshtan, Matt Gibson and Teddy Haley.
“There were an awful lot of happy faces on the course today,” said Christine Ulmer, Race Director. “The sun was shining and temperatures were absolutely perfect. On top of that, we had the largest number of volunteers ever for the race this year so it was very well run and things went off without a hitch. We didn’t break any records but judging by the number of people who thanked me at the finish line, it was a huge success.”
The Okanagan College Half Marathon, 10 K and Relay is an annual not-for-profit event that raises funds to support student bursaries. Event sponsors include: Canadian Springs Water, the Kelowna Capital News, Save On Foods, Active Living Chiropractic, Okanagan College Pastry Arts, Starbucks, the Orchard City Amateur Radio Club.
Aid stations were generously operated by enthusiastic volunteers from: Orange Theory Fitness, Spinco, Okanagan College Trades and Apprenticeship, Aviva, The Hot Box Yoga.
Complete race results will be available online:

OC passes $100 million budget
Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College’s Board of Governors has passed its first $100 million budget: one that will create additional capacity for international and domestic students and provides additional financial aid support for students at each of its four campuses.

The Board passed the budget Tuesday at its regular meeting.

The budget also contains an allocation for an additional 3.7 FTE staff members in the financial aid department and in the finance department to assist Adult Basic Education and English as a Second Language students as they apply for bursaries and grants to offset tuition fees announced earlier this year. Financial Aid will now have a physical presence on all four campuses.

“There is an important message in this budget,” explains Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “Through collaboration between departments, through dedication, through looking at opportunities Okanagan College has found ways to continue to grow access and support our goal of diversifying the institution.”

“We started the budget process several months ago with a gap of about $2 million we needed to wrestle with, and we have found a way to address that and continue to build Okanagan College,” notes Vice President Finance and Administration Roy Daykin. “Our enrolments and tuition revenue were larger than budgeted in 2015-16, and we were able to incorporate those on an ongoing basis as well as find ways to build capacity for international and domestic students. Our international department has exceeded its target for 2015-16 and saw ways to continue that momentum working with the program areas in the coming year.”

Additional capacity for both domestic and international students will be added in network and telecommunications engineering technology, electronic engineering technology, computer information systems, and business administration, requiring five additional instructor positions. International recruitment and advising will also grow by 1.7 full-time equivalent positions to expand recruitment efforts and to increase advising services to students. A new digital content and social media specialist is being added to Public Affairs.

“I’m pleased that we have been able to make the 2016-17 budget one that sees some limited growth, some investment where we think it will bear return, and that sees no reductions in programs and services,” says Daykin.

New Salmon Arm diploma option maps ties between information and geography
Okanagan College Media Release

A new two-year Environmental Studies diploma option at Okanagan College’s Salmon Arm campus is focused on a growing area of research and study that integrates information and computer-based mapping.Andrew Perkins March 2016

Beginning this fall, students can take the Geographic Information Science option in the Earth and Environmental Studies Diploma program. It is a field of expertise that is in increasing demand by everyone from police forces to forest companies, First Nations to smartphone app developers.

“Paper maps are outdated as soon as they are printed. Digital maps overlain with interactive information are like living objects, leading you to decisions on where things happen, how frequently they happen, when they will or might happen, and who or what is making them happen,” explains Dr. Andrew Perkins, a Salmon Arm professor key to the program’s development and delivery. “Now, that map is an enhanced tool for data storage, data analysis and, ultimately, better decision making.”

An information session focused on the program is being held May 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the Salmon Arm campus.

“We’re building on an area of expertise this campus already has,” explains Professor Stephanie Bunclark, the chair of the College’s Geography, and Earth and Environmental Science Department. “Salmon Arm has been offering a certificate course in Geographic Information Systems for several years and we’re building on that with university courses in Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, in addition to other courses in the Social Sciences and Sciences.”

This diploma program will lead students to understand the research, analysis and human resources, as well as the hardware and software integral to Geographic Information Science.

“It blends theory and technology to provide graduates with a diploma that will open career doors for them in a number of fields, including urban planning, local government, mining, forestry, resource management, or surveying,” explains Bunclark.

The program will be one option that students can choose within the College’s Environmental Studies Diploma program. The full two years of the GIScience option are housed on the Salmon Arm campus and will provide hands-on opportunities to work with tools of the trade like GPS (global positioning system) and UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles).

“Geographic Information Systems were initially developed in Canada to help us better manage our farmlands. Since that time the technology has exploded globally where it helps individuals, organizations and government make better decisions about every aspect of the issues they face,” explains Perkins, whose research interests include Augmented Reality and Geographic Information, UAV-based data collection and glacial geomorphology.

“To accomplish this, GIS users capture spatial data surrounding an issue, display and analyze the data to provide new insights on issues, and generate new, creative outputs that aid in critical understanding of the issue.”

For more information visit

Nominations open for 2016 OCAA Alumni Awards
Okanagan College Media Release

The Okanagan College Alumni Association (OCAA) is now accepting nominations for the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award and Young Alumni Award.

The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes alumni of Okanagan College and Okanagan University College for their demonstration of excellence in the areas of leadership, the environment, business or industry, public or community service, the arts, and/or support for Okanagan College. The Young Alumni Award celebrates the outstanding contributions of an alumna or alumnus who is under the age of 35.

“It is a joy and a privilege each year to review nominations and learn more about the accomplishments of our alumni,” says Kara Kazimer, President of the OCAA Board of Directors. “Okanagan College and OUC alumni are doing remarkable things, and these awards are a wonderful opportunity each year to recognize the impact they are having in our surrounding communities and far beyond.”

All members of the Okanagan College Alumni Association are eligible to be nominated for the distinguished or young alumni awards. Nominees must have completed a certificate, diploma, degree, apprenticeship program or have completed a minimum of 30 academic credits at Okanagan College or OUC.

The deadline for nominations is April 29. Nominations may be made by completing an online form available at:

Sareena Sharma Nickoli, Bachelor of Business Administration (2001) and Interior Decorating Certificate (2003), was the recipient of last year’s Distinguished Alumni Award. John Perrott, Bachelor of Business Administration (2003), was honoured with the 2015 Young Alumni Award. Profiles of previous years’ recipients can be found at

For Nickoli the award was a reminder of the role education has played in her success as a local business leader, while the ceremony was a chance to re-connect with her alma mater.

“I have always worked hard with the intent to better myself and those around me. To be recognized by Okanagan College, where I got my degree and started myself off on the path I’m on today, was such a humbling experience.”

The 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award and Young Alumni Award will be selected by the Alumni Association Board of Directors and presented at the association’s annual general meeting in September.

Arts education promotes an open mind, critical thinking, and global perspective
Okanagan College Media Release

Aaron Gregory March 2016Adopted from a Haitian orphanage as a baby, 21-year-old Kelowna resident Aaron Gregory’s personal history has instilled in him a deep commitment to humanitarianism and giving back to the community.

Gregory has found his stride at Okanagan College where he is completing the second year of an International Development Management diploma. He also volunteers in his spare time as the Vice President of Enactus Okanagan College (a student-run social entrepreneurship organization), where he spearheaded the InnSpire project that raises funds for local shelter Inn From the Cold. He is also a student ambassador, giving campus tours to prospective students, and mentors little ones when working at Camp OC in the summer.

“I chose an Arts education because it encouraged me to analyze the world around me, and to think critically about ways to contribute to its betterment,” says Gregory about the multi-disciplinary program that combines diplomacy, political science, and business courses.

On Tuesday, April 5, prospective students, parents and anyone curious about Arts programs at the College’s Kelowna campus will have a chance to speak with Gregory to learn more about his experience as a student during an Arts Open House from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The event will be held in the atrium of the Centre for Learning.

Informal in style, the open house will enable Grade 11 and 12 students who are considering applying, or those who have already applied but not accepted their offer, to connect with instructors, advisors, current students, and alumni in order to help them choose the right Arts education path. More than 180 courses in 21 subject areas are offered in the Arts discipline at Okanagan College and representatives from these will be on hand to share information.

In addition, two information presentations at 6 and 6:30 p.m. in room E202 will cover the topics of the application process, funding options, university transfer credits, and the Freshman 15, giving practical tips of what to know before starting post-secondary.

“I looked at nearly 40 schools across Canada to find the right one,” explains Gregory. “I chose Okanagan College for its reputable programs but also so that I could stay close to home. I didn’t want to experience the big 300-person class, that’s intimidating. Small class sizes and the ability to connect with professors was a big driver for me, especially coming from a small town.”

He adds that the Arts program transfer credits are a great asset, noting that high school students he meets are surprised to learn that courses are fully transferable to universities and other institutions in B.C. and in Canada.

“I’ll be transferring to the Okanagan College School of Business to complete a Bachelor of Business Administration. It’s fantastic that my first two years of Arts count as the first two years of the BBA.”

For more information about the April 5 Kelowna Arts Open House event visit No pre-registration is required to attend, and parking will be free that evening.

Provincial funding spurs program for Health Care Assistants in Princeton

With funding from the Province’s Ministry of Advanced Education, Okanagan College will offer a new Health Care Assistant program in Princeton this year, providing education for eight students in the six-month certificate program.
“There is a growing need for health care professionals throughout our province,” says Jackie Tegart, Fraser-Nicola MLA on behalf of Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson. “Funding a health care assistant program in Princeton demonstrates the commitment by our government to answering the skills needs of our province.”
Okanagan College will receive $90,000 to support delivery of the program.
“We anticipate that classes will commence in September for the program,” explains Donna Lomas, Okanagan College’s Regional Dean for the South Okanagan Similkameen. “That will provide time for prospective students to ensure they have the necessary prerequisites.”
Those prerequisites include having medical certification of good health, a FoodSafe certificate, first aid certification, necessary immunizations and a criminal record check.
The program provides students with the skills and knowledge to act as direct client care providers and members of a health care team. Graduates provide care focused on promoting the physical, emotional, cognitive and social well-being of clients. Graduates of the program are prepared to work in any level of continuing care including home support, adult day care, assisted living and complex care.
“There is significant demand within our region for Health Care Assistants,” notes Yvonne Moritz, the College’s Dean of Science, Technology and Health. “And there was tremendous support for this project from the Princeton and District Community Skills Centre and the community. Interior Health has been very co-operative and supportive as we put the plans together for this program.”
Details of the program will be available shortly on the College’s website and an information meeting is being planned for the near future. Dates and details will be advertised.

Pastry Arts students provide extra incentive for a race to the finish line

PastryOkanagan College has come up with a few sweet and savoury reasons for runners to register for the 14th annual Half Marathon, 10 K and Relay Race, which will take place on Sunday, April 3 at the Kelowna campus.

In addition to the traditional post-race fare of bagels, fruit, cookies, and other carb replenishing snacks, students in the College’s Pastry Arts program will be serving up an assortment of warm baked goods, fresh from the oven.

With input and guidance from instructor Chef Danny Capadouca, the Pastry Arts students developed a post-race menu that includes something for everyone’s palate.

Runners will be able to snack on fresh baked field berry scones, rich chocolate brownies with walnuts, peanut butter and jam muffins, homemade trail mix and a hazelnut truffle, to satisfy those with a sweet tooth.

“Our students are involved in a number of community events and the half marathon was a great fit for us,” said Chef Capadouca. “It provides another opportunity to showcase the skills of our students to an audience who otherwise might not be aware of the talented chefs we have in our program. It’s also really nice for the students to present their food and get out of the kitchen to interact with the community.”

Race Director Christine Ulmer says the addition of the Pastry Arts students into the annual event makes sense on a whole number of fronts.

“I’ve been organizing this race for the past six years and I can’t believe I never thought to invite our student chefs into the mix,” she said. “I was running in a race this fall and was so excited to see a group of our Pastry Arts students serving amazing snacks on the course. It made me wonder why we weren’t doing this at our own race. I put a call into Chef Danny and he’s put together a really special selection for our runners. I think people will be very impressed by the food they get to enjoy and I think it will add a special touch to this unique event.”

Registration is still open for the race, which offers three different distances: a half marathon, a 10 K, and a relay race that covers the half marathon course. Online registration is available until Wednesday, March 30. After that time, runners can register in person the day before the race at Okanagan College’s Centre for Learning or on race morning. All proceeds from the race go to support Okanagan College student bursaries.

Visit for more information. 

Why is there public resistance to vaccination?
Okanagan College Media Release

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? This is a question loaded with contention in a public debate that has come to be mainstream in recent years.Dr. Edgar Marcuse March 2016

Vaccines are generally regarded as among the most effective public health interventions. Scientific research has increased knowledge about immunology and new technologies have made possible the development of countless vaccines that protect against diseases that were otherwise common only a generation ago.

Paradoxically, why is it then that we are seeing a decline in public confidence in the safety and effectiveness of vaccines?

Concluding this year’s Science in Society Speakers Series, Dr. Edgar Marcuse, MD and Pediatrics Emeritus Professor at the University of Washington, will address this question in a public talk titled “Let’s talk vaccines: was there ever an age of reason?” on Thursday, April 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus lecture theatre. 

“The crux of the issue is that our understanding of the science of vaccine development far exceeds our understanding of individual decision-making and how best to influence it,” claims Marcuse.

In his talk, Marcuse will review the history, origins, scope and impact of vaccine hesitancy, highlighting some common concerns, while exploring the relative role of science, culture and emotion in parents’ decision-making about vaccines. He will make the case that timely and complete immunization should be standard practice. He will suggest that values play a central role in both individual decision-making and policy development and argue for the need for a public discussion of values.

Marcuse is an academic general pediatrician with a special interest in immunization policy, practice, ethics, economics and vaccinology. He has served as a member and Chair of the US Department of Health and Human Services National Vaccine Advisory Committee and most recently has served on the US Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. He has authored more than 100 publications relating to immunization, general pediatrics and public health.

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.
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Presented jointly 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.

Voyager RV gives back, sees bright future for technicians in B.C.
Okanagan College Media Release

Voyager RV Donation March 2016The Okanagan’s largest dealer of “homes away from home” has made a major donation towards the new home for learning students at B.C.’s second largest trades training institution.

Voyager RV has donated $30,000 to support the construction of a bright new student space in the trades training complex at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus.

“We jumped at the chance to be part of building a facility that will make students proud and excited to learn their trade,” says Voyager’s Vice President Jason Friesen.

“I think the College is doing wonderful work to remind people that there are bright futures in the trades. Tradespeople are vital to so many businesses like ours in the Okanagan and all over the province.”

A completely renovated, state-of-the-art 6,302 sq./ft. RV shop is now in operation. The entire new complex is slated to open doors to students by the end of the month and will provide the College with room to train more than 2,600 students each year.

“Support from industry and the community has helped make this building a reality,” says the College’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship Steve Moores. “We thank Voyager RV for supporting so many of our graduates over the years and now for this generous investment in our new facilities.”

Friesen says the demand for RV technicians remains strong, noting that Voyager is already experiencing peak season traffic early in the year.

“Every year we keep adding technicians who have gone through the College’s RV program. We’ll be relying on these graduates for our workforce for the future as our business continues to expand.”Voyager RV Jason Friesen March 2016

The Winfield company has grown by leaps and bounds since Friesen’s father Rod set up shop 1984 with one employee and a handful of consignment RVs scoured from around the valley.

Today, the business employs between 45-50 people depending on the season—including more than a dozen alumni of Okanagan College, from the RV Service Technician program to the Women in Trades Training program. About a year and a half ago, Voyager added a brand new six bay service shop to keep up
the demand for both sales and servicing of the RVs and to house its growing team of technicians.

As the company has grown, so too has Voyager’s connection to the community.

“We’ve been fortunate to be able to do this for the last 34 years, due to the incredible people in the valley here who have supported our business. So we like to give back to local causes whenever we can.

“This was a particularly special opportunity. It has been amazing to watch the building come together and to know that something we supported will endure and benefit students in the Okanagan for many, many years to come.”

When completed this spring, the $33-million renovation and expansion of Trades shops and classrooms at the Kelowna campus will cap off one of Okanagan Colleges largest ever capital construction projects. In addition to more space for students, the project will see older, less efficient facilities replaced with more sustainable, energy-efficient spaces.

The provincial government has committed $28-million to the project. The Okanagan College Foundation is currently embarked on a $7-million fundraising campaign to raise an additional $5-million for capital construction and $2-million for program and student support.

More information about the campaign and opportunities to get involved is available at