Previous Posts(10)
Kelowna author receives national award, second novel already underway
Partnership proves successful in giving new Okanagan nurses a step-up
Building a strong foundation: Greyback Construction project gives students a chance to put their skills to work
Andrew Sheret donation supports Okanagan College’s efforts to go green with new trades training complex
College professor’s novel finalist for national literary award
New award celebrates the legacy of renowned local author; encourages students to promote social justice
Health Care Assistant student awarded W. Brett Wilson Prize for creative care project
Culinary Arts open house demonstrates ripe opportunities for Okanagan chefs
New College liberal Arts program ideal for the curious learner with a broad perspective
Business course paints a picture of co-operation between students and service agencies
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Kelowna author receives national award, second novel already underway
Okanagan College Media Release

All True Not a Lie In ItEven before the honour of winning a prestigious Canadian first novel award has set in, Okanagan College Professor and novelist Dr. Alix Hawley is already hard at work on her second novel.

In a crowded Toronto ballroom, the Kelowna based author was named the recipient of the national First Novel Award for her debut novel All True Not a Lie in It. It is an attestation of Hawley’s talents as a writer, and of the reading community’s appetite for the stories she imagines.

“Writers have to keep chipping at their stories until the book starts to take shape, and that can be a lengthy and sometimes discouraging process,” says Hawley. “Receiving this award is a lovely boost, and an encouragement to keep going.”

The literary recognition is leading Hawley into her second novel: a sequel to All True Not a Lie in It, which continues to recount the adventures of American pioneer Daniel Boone, who Alix Hawley Feb 2015attempted to settle Kentucky and was captured by the Shawnee. She describes that it is in its early “messy note taking and drafting” stage. Readers can expect to have Boone’s character reappear, but will include more about his wife, Rebecca, and their children.

As with her first novel, Hawley will once again write the novel longhand.

“My scribbles and notes would make no sense to anyone but me. I like the secretive feel of that while I am writing. I then enjoy translating those notes, pen on paper, into the draft.”

While it is all business and back to writing for Hawley, she admits that when she was announced as the winner, she thought she had heard wrong. It’s a testament to the caliber of finalists for the award, all bright emerging Canadian authors: Emma Hooper, Sean Michaels, Guillaume Morissette and Chelsea Rooney.

“We congratulate Alix on her remarkable achievements as an author,” said Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “Her recognition as one of Canada’s finest emerging novelists is a tribute to her talent and hard work and a good example of the high degree of intellect, expertise, and knowledge our College faculty possess."

Hawley’s first public appearance since the big national win will be back at home in Kelowna. On Saturday May 23, from 1 to 3 p.m., the public is invited to a book signing event at Mosaic Books (411 Bernard Avenue), where Hawley will be reading passages of her winning novel All True Not a Lie in It.
Partnership proves successful in giving new Okanagan nurses a step-up
Okanagan College Media Release

Optimal patient care relies on nurses being able to make quick, effective, and educated health care decisions. For Courtney Miller, a Courtney Miller 1 May 2015young Kelowna nurse completing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) this year, her decision-making confidence was put to the test in April during an aid trip to Zambia.

“The Western province in Mongu, Zambia, is a low income and low resources area of the country. The people there have an immense need for health care, including the most basic of care,” says Miller. “We had to work very autonomously, and feel confident in our decisions. I even got to deliver babies.”

During her African trip, she also set up a health clinic accompanied only by one doctor and another student nurse in a rural Zambian village. Each day, she would assess, diagnose and prescribe medications to more than a hundred patients.

“Returning to Kelowna, it certainly makes you grateful for what we have, especially the health care facilities, equipment, and medical teams,” adds Miller.

Miller is a member of the first graduating class to complete a partnership program that sees students take years one and two of the BSN program at Okanagan College and transfer to UBC Okanagan to complete the final two years. This inter-institution collaborative partnership, announced in 2011, is a successful example of the enriching educational opportunities available for students within B.C.’s interior. Both programs are recognized by the College of Registered Nurses of BC.

Miller says the small class sizes at Okanagan College truly helped her be prepared to transition into a larger university setting. With only 24 students in the College’s program, she credits the increased one-on-one time with the instructors for making sure questions got answered and concepts were understood.

Courtney Miller 2 May 2015“In a small class size environment, you can’t hide and you don’t get missed. The teachers knew us all by name and made sure we were on the right track,” shares Miller. “It also meant we each had more time in the health simulation labs with the mannequin to practice care scenarios. I felt prepared before going to UBCO, perhaps over-prepared, which is a good thing as nursing school isn’t easy.”

Students at Okanagan College gain practical experience in a state of the art simulation room that replicates a hospital room with all the modern supplies and equipment it would contain. During each semester students rotate through, and with a low student-instructor ratio, this means that every student receives multiple turns to practice.

“In the nursing program we encourage students to ask questions, think critically, and advance their knowledge through practice,” says Monique Powell, Okanagan College Bachelor of Science in Nursing Chair and Professor. “It’s about giving them the tools to succeed in their future endeavors, which with our nursing program affords them the opportunity to transfer to UBC’s reputable nursing program for completion of their degree.”

In describing the combined model, Miller explains that it is a reassurance to have a path mapped out. “It’s the best of both worlds.”

A testament to how the right training leads to jobs, Miller has already launched her career. Two days after returning from Africa, she started at Kelowna General Hospital where she is a nurse on the Acute Medical Floor that provides stroke patient care.
Building a strong foundation: Greyback Construction project gives students a chance to put their skills to work
Okaangan College Media Release

A unique job-shadow project is providing a group of students from Okanagan College’s Residential Construction program the chance to gain hands-on training as they build a high-end home in the South Okanagan.Kayle Blanchard May 2015

The class of 11 students, under the guidance of instructor David Lovisa, is helping construct a home at the Skaha Hills development in Penticton. The project arose as a job-shadow opportunity through Greyback Construction Ltd., the company overseeing the development of the resort-residential project situated on the picturesque bench overlooking Skaha Lake on the Penticton Indian Band reserve.

“This is an incredible learning opportunity for these students,” says Lovisa. “They are working side-by-side with experienced tradespeople and so their work has to be just as precise as the men and women beside them with many more years of experience.”

“Greyback Construction is pleased to be able to support the training and apprenticeship of new tradespeople in the Okanagan,” says Shaun McCafferty, Superintendent for Greyback Construction. “Job-shadowing and mentorship opportunities like this provide students with opportunities for real-world training and we believe that is important.”

For student Kayla Blanchard, the project has helped her to develop confidence on the job site, as well as her carpentry skills.

“This opportunity to shadow with Greyback has been amazing,” says Blanchard. “I’ve learned so much while working on this project. I’m really proud of myself and what I’ve accomplished.”

Blanchard credits her two-year-old son as her inspiration for going back to school to pursue a new career as a carpenter. She encourages other women to consider the trades as a career path.

“If you’ve ever wanted to get into a trade, now is a great time,” says Blanchard. “Go for it. Believe in yourself. I’ve learned that there is nothing I can’t accomplish.”

Her classmate Drake Sylvestre hopes to pursue a career in residential construction in the Okanagan; he acknowledged the value of hands-on training offered by the project with Greyback.

“I’d like to thank Greyback for accepting Okanagan College students on site and allowing us to shadow them and build a house,” he says. “Until you’ve done it, you don’t know how great it feels to actually build somebody’s home and see that come together.”

The 26-week Residential Construction program provides students with the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge to seek employment as an apprentice carpenter in the construction industry. As Lovisa notes, the focus is on developing practical skills for the construction workplace. 

“Having a chance to contribute to a project like this, and to learn by doing, is absolutely invaluable for students at this stage of their training,” explains Lovisa. 

The home the class is helping to build is expected to be finished in early June.

Okanagan College is the second largest trades training institution in the province. The College is currently embarked on a $33-million renovation and expansion of its trades training complex in Kelowna. The Bright Horizons Building for Skills Fundraising Campaign was launched in October of last year to raise an additional $7 million for capital construction costs to supplement the B.C. government’s $28-million investment. 

The campaign has raised over $3.7 million to date. As part of the $7-million goal, the campaign team is aiming to secure $2 million for programming and student support, which will benefit students through scholarships and bursaries, access and mentorship opportunities, and other support during their training. For more information about the campaign and opportunities to get involved, please visit   

More information about the Residential Construction program and other Okanagan College trades foundation and apprenticeship programs is available at
Andrew Sheret donation supports Okanagan College’s efforts to go green with new trades training complex

Okanagan College Media Release

Trades Complex May 2015Inspired by Okanagan College’s goal of building one of the most sustainable trades training facilities in North America, a B.C.-based distributor of plumbing and heating supplies has stepped forward with major support for the $33-million renovation and expansion project.

Andrew Sheret Limited has pledged $50,000 toward the Bright Horizons Building for Skills fundraising campaign. The company’s donation will support the construction of a tool crib in the new trades training complex currently under construction at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus along KLO Road.

“First and foremost, we see this as an investment in the future tradespeople of the province,” says Brian Findlay, President of Andrew Sheret Limited. “As technology advances, current training is so essential. We’re very proud to be able to support students and help the next wave of apprentices learn their trade.”

“The new trades training complex features innovative design and the latest technology and equipment,” says Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College. “This facility will provide our students with a learning environment that matches the high quality of instruction they are receiving.

“We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Andrew Sheret Limited, and all our campaign donors, for supporting Okanagan College as we build for the future of trades training in the region.”

Findlay notes that the plan for sustainable construction was one of the factors that attracted Andrew Sheret Limited to donate to the College a second time, having previously given $50,000 to support the construction of the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Penticton.

“Sustainability is very important to us,” explains Findlay. “Our home office in Victoria is located in a LEED Silver building, and so when we heard about the College’s plan for sustainable construction on this building, similar to what the College achieved with the Centre of Excellence, that was something we were passionate about supporting.”

Okanagan College is currently the second largest trades training institution in B.C. The 10,000 sq. metre renovation and expansion project includes the construction of a 1,858-square-metre outdoor training space, which is covered by a canopy housing one of the largest solar photovoltaic arrays in the province.

It is estimated that the panel will generate over 208,550 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year. The average home in B.C. uses 8,000 kWh per year, meaning that the panel could generate enough electricity to power 26 homes for a year. The array will aid the College in achieving its goal of net-zero energy usage for the complex—meaning the building will generate all the energy it needs. The new facility will also feature smart environmental controls systems and processes, including geothermal heating and cooling and greywater recycling.

The Bright Horizons Building for Skills fundraising campaign for the $33-million complex renovation and expansion project launched in October 2014. The goal of the campaign is to raise $5 million for capital construction costs and $2 million for program and student support. The provincial government has committed $28 million to the project.

To date, the campaign has raised $3.7 million, including donations of $500,000 from Kelowna Flightcraft, over $600,000 from the valley’s auto dealers, and several other major cash and in-kind gifts.

Campaign Ambassador Mike Roberts is currently touring the valley to spread the word about how the community can get involved and support students.

“This stunning new trades complex will attract thousands of students to train here, work here, and live here,” says Roberts. “The campaign team has been simply overwhelmed by the support from the community so far—from companies like Andrew Sheret to families and individuals—and we’re really hoping people will continue to come forward and help us reach our $7-million goal.”

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

College professor’s novel finalist for national literary award
Okanagan College Media Release

Continuing to the capture the attention of the literary world, Okanagan College English Professor Dr. Alix Hawley’s debut novel All True Alix Hawley May 2015Not a Lie in It has received a nod from one of the country’s most reputable literary competitions, the First Novel Award.

Hawley is one of five finalists for the award that recognizes outstanding contributions to the Canadian novel repertoire by first-time novelists. Head judge and fiction editor of The Walrus, Nick Mount, thoughtfully selected each of the finalists.

“The nomination came as a surprise, and I feel very lucky to be included in such good company of nominees,” shares Hawley. Joining Hawley in the nomination are authors Emma Hooper, Sean Michaels, Guillaume Morissette and Chelsea Rooney.

A panel of judges, including award-winning authors Helen Humphreys and Richard Wagamese, will review the finalists’ novels with the winner being announced on May 21, 2015.

Hawley’s novel, published in February, recounts the adventures of American pioneer Daniel Boone, who attempted to settle Kentucky and was captured by the Shawnee. Narrated in the first-person voice, the novel has been described as "remarkable," "a serious literary thrill," and "a book of great sympathy and sadness."

“As authors, we spend so much time writing our books, which is quite a solitary pursuit,” says Hawley. “It's a thrill to know that readers are finding my book, and even more to hear how they respond to the story. This nomination feels like a bonus above that.”

The award has launched some of the country’s most celebrated authors, such as Michael Ondaatje and Joy Kogawa. Hawley still finds it hard to believe she is included in the company of these renowned writers.

For additional information about the award, please visit
New award celebrates the legacy of renowned local author; encourages students to promote social justice
Okanagan College Media Release

George RygaA local author who achieved national recognition as a social justice playwright is being commemorated through a new award that encourages students to promote social justice in the Okanagan.

Two annual awards valued at $1,000 each have been established in memory of George Ryga, a renowned Canadian playwright and novelist whose work explored complex issues of race, class, wealth, opportunity, privilege, and social structures in Canada. 

The fund was established by Ryga’s sister and brother-in-law, Anne and Ted Chudyk, and is open to Okanagan College students interested in creating awareness around social issues. 

“George had a passion for writing but an even greater passion for people,” says Ted Chudyk. “He was fascinated by people—especially the struggles and injustices they faced—and that fascination came out in his work. There were no bad people in George’s mind. He saw the value in everyone and he fought for them through his writing.”

Adds Anne Chudyk: “This award is meant to inspire students to follow in George’s footsteps, but they need not be writers. It is more important that they demonstrate a strong interest in promoting social justice in some way that will benefit the community.”

“George Ryga established a high standard of social commentary in Canadian literary and theatrical works,” says Dr. Robert Huxtable, Okanagan College’s Dean of Arts and Foundational Programs. “We’re very proud to celebrate his legacy through these awards and hope students will be inspired to follow the example set by a local author who had an immense effect in raising awareness of social justice issues in Canada.”

The fund also supports the production of the Ryga Journal, an initiative of Okanagan College’s English Department of the Faculty of Arts.  Ted and Anne Chudyk May 2015

Ryga (1932 – 1987) was born in Richmond Park, AB, near Athabasca, to poor Ukrainian immigrant parents. He displayed an immense talent for writing at a young age, working through grade school in only six years and completing high school by correspondence while working a variety of jobs to support himself and his family. He later studied at the Banff School of Fine Arts.

Ryga moved to Summerland in 1962, where he lived until his death in 1987 at the age of 55. Ryga garnered national acclaim for his play The Ecstacy of Rita Joe, in 1967. The play, written at his home in Summerland, is considered by scholars and critics to be an important landmark in modern Canadian theatre; it has been studied in post-secondary institutions across Canada, performed from coast-to-coast, and also adapted into a ballet by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Ryga’s final published work, Summerland, a collection of previously unpublished works, was printed posthumously in 1992.

Ryga’s sister recalls his struggles to support a family while pursuing his writing career in the Okanagan valley. 

“He’d be picking apples by day and writing by night,” says Chudyk. “It was a struggle and a labour of love. We hope George’s struggle, and the struggles he explored in his work, will inspire students to try to make a difference.”

The Anne and Ted Chudyk Memorial Awards in Memory of George Ryga are open to full-time students enrolled in any program at Okanagan College. Recipients must submit an essay explaining their interest in social justice. Applications will be accepted from June 1 to July 31, 2015. For more information, please contact Okanagan College’s Financial Aid and Awards Department at or (250) 862-5419.

More information about this award and other Okanagan College awards, bursaries, and scholarships, can be found at
Health Care Assistant student awarded W. Brett Wilson Prize for creative care project
Okanagan College Media Release

Catherine Links May 2015For her embodiment of the true spirit of philanthropy in our community, an Okanagan College student has been named the recipient of the W. Brett Wilson Prize.

Catherine Links, a student in the Health Care Assistant program at the Penticton campus, was awarded the $750 prize for a project she has developed to strengthen care-giver/resident connections in complex care situations. 

The prize was established by the Okanagan College Foundation earlier this year in honour of W. Brett Wilson, well-known Canadian entrepreneur, philanthropist and 'Dragon Emeritus' from the CBC show Dragons' Den. Wilson delivered a free lecture at Okanagan College on January 27; he spoke about the importance of giving back.

“I am so grateful for this generous prize,” says Links. “It will help me to fulfill the vision I have for a program that will hopefully bring a great deal of comfort and happiness to members of our community requiring complex care.”

“I believe we need to spread the message that giving back to our communities is an opportunity, not an obligation,” says Wilson. “Whether we’re talking about corporate social responsibility for a large organization or individuals and families giving back, the point is that we can all contribute in some way to making our communities a better place.

“I want to extend my congratulations and appreciation to Catherine Links and to all the students who put forward great ideas for philanthropic projects in the Okanagan. I wish you all much success with these important endeavours.”

Links’ essay, “Furthering Philanthropy” was selected by a panel of judges as the top submission among nearly two dozen proposed philanthropic projects.W. Brett Wilson

Prior to her studies, Links had previously cared for two close family members, which inspired her to consider a career in health care. After enrolling in the program at Okanagan College as a mature student, Links, says she found her true calling when she discovered the struggles faced by those in our community who require complex care, including the challenges of dementia and physical decline. 

During her practicum in an extended care facility in Penticton, Links was tasked with caring for a female resident coping with dementia and requiring total care. Through art, music, and personal materials gathered with the help of the resident’s family, Links was able to build a connection with the resident. 

“Giving back is the most beautiful way to spend one's time. I believe it is the very heartbeat of a healthy society,” explains Links.

Links plans to utilize the funds from the prize to develop as many individually-tailored care kits as she can.

The W. Brett Wilson Prize was created for Okanagan College students in any program, who demonstrate a strong interest in strengthening the culture of philanthropy in the Okanagan; entrants were required to propose a project that would tangibly benefit the community.

“W. Brett Wilson’s efforts to further the culture of philanthropy in Canada has been recognized at the highest levels” says Kathy Butler, Executive Director of the Okanagan College Foundation. “We are very excited that the prize in his name has inspired students to develop some wonderful ideas for philanthropic projects in the Okanagan.”

Born in North Battleford, SK, and hailing from Calgary, AB, Wilson owns a home in Kelowna, as well as several properties and businesses, including Global Fitness. He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2011 and has received many awards for his business and philanthropic efforts.

More information about the W. Brett Wilson Prize and other Okanagan College awards, bursaries, and scholarships, can be found at
Culinary Arts open house demonstrates ripe opportunities for Okanagan chefs
Okanagan College Media Release

Jenna Pillon May 2015Imagine landing your dream job at the age of 25. Chef Jenna Pillon has done just that and was able to do it without leaving the Okanagan Valley. 

Pillon is settling into her second year at the helm of one of the South Okanagan’s most esteemed winery restaurants, Hester Creek’s Terrafina in Oliver, and is savouring every minute of it. 

Her culinary career took off rather quickly once she completed her Professional Cook Level 3 Apprenticeship at Okanagan College in 2011. After a two-month stint as a sous-chef, she was promoted to Restaurant Chef at Terrafina.

“I am where I’d hoped to be in five years,” she says. “I’ve come a long way in a short period of time and I’m still working on what’s next.” 

Long before she was creating beautiful dishes at Terrafina, cooking formed a significant part of her life. Pillon grew up cooking at home in Salmon Arm with her family but it wasn’t until she got her first job in a kitchen at a pub in her hometown at the age of 16 that the idea of cooking professionally became a real interest.  

“I realized the excitement of cooking on a line was fantastic and decided to pursue it more,” said Pillon. 

And pursue it she did. After completing her Professional Cook Level 1, she became an apprentice chef at Manteo Restaurant in Kelowna under renowned Chef Bernard Casavant, who is now the Culinary Manager at Okanagan College. She then successfully challenged the Professional Cook Level 2 exams and entered the six-week Level 3 apprenticeship program at Okanagan College. 

For Pillon, the best part of the Culinary Arts program at Okanagan College was the opportunity for hands-on learning. 

“Learning how to process local wild boar and venison in class was fantastic,” she said. “The College’s instructors are very knowledgeable. They helped me so much with wine knowledge, competition practice and constructive criticism. They try to make you the best cook you can be.”

The College is opening up its kitchen doors on the evening of Thursday, May 14, from 7:30-8:30 p.m., and is inviting anyone interested in pursuing a career in Culinary Arts, Pastry Arts or Culinary Management to explore the options for training for a dynamic career. 

“Cooking is a craft that takes true passion and it can be intimidating for the average person who hasn’t had any professional training,” explained Chef Casavant. “The truth is, with the right instruction and opportunities, anyone with that passion can turn it into a career with endless possibilities.”

Anyone interested in attending the free Culinary Arts open house can contact Chef Geoffrey Couper at to register.  
New College liberal Arts program ideal for the curious learner with a broad perspective
Okanagan College Media Release

This fall, Okanagan College will offer a combined multi-disciplinary approach to studying liberal arts that is geared to students who have an intrinsic desire to explore connections and understand the causal relationships between the key subject areas of our society.

The Arts Experience (ArtsX) program was designed by faculty to provide an avant-garde learning option for the two-year university-transferable Associate of Arts Degree. A group of up to 30 students will flow through core course curriculum collectively, but it’s how they will learn that makes the difference.

“We wanted to provide students with a non-traditional learning experience that encourages the pursuit of deeper questions, understanding connections, and exploration of creative and bold ideas,” explains Sharon Josephson, Okanagan College Professor in Communications, and ArtsX instructor. “Rather than go course to course with a fixed timetable, the group of students will learn in a collaborative environment that empowers them to take an active role in their learning.

“This program is geared to students who have a strong sense of self-directedness, curiosity, creativity, and who aren’t afraid to be bold,” adds Josephson.

Students will benefit from increased one-on-one time with instructors. Being with the same classmates for the duration of the two-year program helps foster a trusting learning environment, and a true sense of community.  The result is increased conversation, engagement, and sharing of ideas. The program will have an emphasis on collaborative teaching and learning, multi-disciplinary courses, alternative grading, and beyond-the-classroom education. 

“We designed the program with the student in mind,” says Jake Kennedy, Okanagan College Professor in English, and ArtsX instructor. “It will particularly appeal to students who aren’t afraid to try, risk, and learn from making some mistakes along the way. The focus is on the process of learning and having them take what they learn and apply it analytically to look at how our society works.”

The success of non-traditional learning programs adopted by institutions including Quest University, Brown University, Stanford University, and En’owkin Centre sparked the inspiration for creating a new learning model that would appeal to the diverse range of Okanagan College students. It aims to provide a progressive and innovative education option for those in our community.

Those students who have received admission into the Associate of Arts Degree program at Okanagan College will be given an opportunity to apply to this limited enrolment program and complete their studies through ArtsX. Information sessions about the program will be offered in late May and June at the Kelowna campus, and for additional program details, please visit
Business course paints a picture of co-operation between students and service agencies
Okanagan College Media Release

Kendall and Rilkoff May 2015For Kaitlyn Kendall and the Downtown Vernon Association, Okanagan College’s Social Entrepreneurship course turned out to be a marvelous coupling of learning and real-world needs.

For the Downtown Vernon Association (DVA), the efforts of student Kendall as part of the College’s Social Entrepreneurship course gave them a much sought-after Public Art Plan for the city’s core.

And for Kendall, it offered a real-world, hands-on experience that she sees may have a real impact on her community for years to come.

The course is one of many offered as part of Okanagan College’s renowned Bachelor of Business Administration degree program, which has been accredited by the international Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.

“We were very excited to be a part of this program and provide a real-world project for a student to work on,” says Hailey Rilkoff, the DVA’s Events and Promotions Co-ordinator. 

“The Downtown Vernon Association has been involved in numerous public art projects in the past, and we were looking for a Public Art plan to be developed to guide our efforts moving forward. The report we received as an outcome of the project will be valuable when new public art projects arise and will guide the DVA in partnering with other community groups.”

“There was very strong community integration in this course,” noted Dr. Kyleen Myrah, who taught the Social Entrepreneurship course. “Several organizations stepped forward with service learning projects, including the Upper Room Mission, North Okanagan Youth and Family Services, the Downtown Vernon Association, the Okanagan Indian Band and the Lake Country Art Gallery.” 

“Kaitlyn did a fantastic job, and the DVA is reviewing her recommendations for implementation.”

Social Entrepreneurship and the service learning experience connects deep learning with active community involvement,” observes Kendall.” It has given me a great appreciation for not-for-profit organizations and the people who run them.

“The course has also allowed me to learn to collaborate and communicate with business professionals in the real world rather than in a classroom setting. Lastly, I feel I've learned how to work with professional deadlines and scheduling, as a large part of this project was working out in the community on the schedule for the non-profit organization I worked for.”

Students can enrol now for the Bachelor of Business Administration Degree program at the Vernon campus of Okanagan College. For more information, visit or contact Tawnya Cameron at (250) 545-7291 ext. 2309.
Graduating student’s invention hits the ground running
Okanagan College Media Release

An Okanagan College student’s ingenuity has the potential to provide running parents with a better experience as they push their Melissa Lang TAD May 2015children’s strollers or wheelchairs while jogging.

Melissa Lang undertook a capstone graduating project as part of her Therapist Assistant Diploma program at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus. An avid runner, Lang was inspired by witnessing the determination a parent had in pushing their wheelchair-bound child across a race finish line. The child’s elated glee at being a part of a race motivated Lang to apply the skills she learned while studying the program and combining them with her mechanical background earned from construction experience.

“I realized that there was an opportunity to help runners gain a better form, keep their arms swinging, and ultimately affect the power they run with while pushing a wheelchair,” shares Lang. “My dad was a mechanic, and I always have liked tinkering with things. It was a bit of trial and error, and I’m still making some adjustments, but there is real potential.”  

The prototype, built by Lang using a recycled elliptical machine, sees attachable arms that easily lock onto any stroller or wheelchair without changing their structure. Runners are able to push while keeping natural swinging arm-motions that reduces the risk of injury by keeping the body moving fluidly.

Safety is a prime consideration for an innovative design that involves children, Lang comments the best seal of approval came from her brother being willing to test the stroller with his daughter (her niece) in it. 

Lang plans to continue to tinker with the prototype, and while there are no immediate plans for production, she’s not necessarily ruling it out. In the meantime, she is focused on her career search, where she is looking for opportunities in the field of occupational rehabilitation so that she can help those working in construction to recover and return to their jobs post-injury. 

A nationally accredited program, the Therapist Assistant Diploma at Okanagan College uniquely offers assistant-level training in all three disciplines: physiotherapy, recreational, and occupational therapy.

“Melissa truly applied the content learned in a variety of courses to improve human mobility and prevent injury through her biomechanical and inventive adaptation. This is one of the reasons she received the Bonnie Thiessen Award voted by her classmates which recognizes excellence in a graduating student,” said Jennifer Stephenson, Chair Okanagan College’s Therapist Assistant Diploma program. 

Among the other graduating students’ capstone projects presented were a pediatric hospital gown and a mental health support website that uses art to help remove stigma around mental illness.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Therapist Assistant Diploma program. The two-year program includes 16-weeks of practicum experience for students in a clinical setting. Since its launch in 1990 (then known as the Rehabilitation Assistant Certificate Program), the program has conferred credentials to 551 graduates. 

Celebrations marking the silver anniversary, and recognizing 25 years of graduates like Lang, will be held throughout the coming year, including an alumni reunion in the fall.

To find out more about the program, including an interview with Melissa Lang, view this video or visit the website
College apprentices shine at Skills BC competition
Okanagan College Media Release

Nathan Schulte April 2015Okanagan College claimed half a dozen medals at the annual Skills BC provincial competition held in Abbotsford in April, including gold in two categories, earning berths into the national competition in Saskatoon next month. 

The College’s Nathan Schulte took gold in Plumbing and Ethan Delichte also won gold in Automotive Service Tech, both outperformed competitors from across the province and will vie for the national title in their respective categories. 

Daniel Forbes won silver in Automotive Collision Repair and bronze was won by the following apprentices: Samantha Wardrop in Aerospace Technology, Maxwell Anderson in Automotive Service Tech, and Nathan Barg in Cabinetmaking.

Schulte, who can now call himself the best apprentice plumber in B.C., completed the entry-level foundation Plumbing program at the College in February and is currently apprenticing at Modulux Designs in Winfield. He put his name forward to represent the College because he knew it would be a great learning experience and he wanted to test his skills.

“I’m a very competitive person and I’ve played sports my whole life so I was excited to go up against the rest of the province’s apprentices,” said Schulte. “It was really a lot of fun and I knew that no matter what the outcome, it would be a good experience.”

Schulte had six hours to build a drainage system for a bathroom group (sink, tub, toilet). According to his coach, instructor Bruce Slater, the assignment was challenging for a first-year student.

“It was really tough and the students used all of their allowed time,” said Slater. “At the end of the day Nathan was more accurate. Only three out of the six entries passed the pressure test, Nathan’s was one of them. I’m very proud of him and it’s really incredible to see how far he’s come. At the beginning of the program most of the students didn’t even know how to hold a wrench and to see the work they can do now, says a lot about their abilities and how strong our program is.”

Schulte will head to the national competition in his hometown of Saskatoon in a month. The experience will be extra special for him because his parents will be able to watch him compete.
25th year of math contest marks College Professor’s retirement
Okanagan College Media Release

In a game of numbers, 25 holds particular significance for Okanagan College Math Professor Dr. Clint Lee. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the British Columbia Secondary School Mathematics Contest (BCSSMC), founded and chaired by Lee since its inception in 1990 and hosted at Okanagan College.

“I could have retired last year from the College, but I wanted to hang on for just one more year specifically to see the math contest to this important milestone,” says Lee, who is announcing his retirement after 25 years of teaching at the College. “It’s a highlight of my career, to know that thousands of students were engaged in mathematics over the course of 25 years, some of whom as a result were inspired to continue their studies at the post-secondary level to become scientists, doctors, and even professors.

“I am proud to be able to call this my legacy.”

On Friday, May 1 Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus will host nearly 90 of the brightest high school mathematicians from 15 schools in the region for the annual contest. Competing in either of two categories – juniors (Grade 8 to 10) and seniors (Grade 11 and 12) – students have the morning to complete multiple choice and long hand questions that will test their logic and mathematical skills. Adding a level of challenge: no calculators are allowed. 

At an afternoon awards ceremony that same day, the top senior student will be awarded a one-semester tuition scholarship to either Okanagan College or UBC Okanagan (co-sponsor of the contest), to a maximum value of $3,000. Top finishers in each category also earn prizes ranging from $50 to $200.

“It’s important for students to have an opportunity to be recognized for their achievements in math, and to see the community engage in the conversation,” notes Lee.

Okanagan College Salmon Arm student Jonathan Bakker, studying his Associate of Science Degree, agrees. Participating in five contests throughout Grade 8 to 12, in his final year, last year, he earned an impressive second-place finish in the senior division. “I’ve always been interested in math, but more than that, the contest helped me practice problem solving, time management, and analytical skills which are definitely applicable in my studies at the College, and beyond,” says Bakker. “It’s about trying to approach a problem from different angles and applying different theories to get to the solution.”

Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton recognized Lee for his many years of teaching at the College, and broader contribution to the education community. 

“Clint has done tremendous work to foster a keen interest in young students for the mathematics discipline,” said Hamilton. “We commend him for his dedication, passion, and determination each year to coordinate this event, and going above and beyond his teaching commitments here at the College.”

Stepping into the role of contest coordinator for 2016 will be Leslie Shayer, along with Satoshi Tomoda, both Mathematics Professors at Okanagan College. 

The Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC (ASTTBC), Mathtoons Media, and the Canadian Mathematics Society (CMS) proudly sponsor the BCSSMC.
College honours Butters, Embree, Pushor and Sharkey
Okaangan College Media Release

Okanagan College will recognize four esteemed community builders as Honorary Fellows during its 2015 Convocation ceremonies in June, including renowned Chef Rod Butters, entrepreneur Norm Embree, lawyer Rick Pushor and social planner Annette Sharkey. 

“I am extremely proud to announce these four individuals as Honorary Fellows of Okanagan College,” said president Jim Hamilton. “Much like the College, they are diverse, unique and represent a wide range of interests and communities. We recognize them as Honorary Fellows for demonstrating excellence in their chosen fields and decades of service to the people of our region.”

Rod Butters April 2015Rod Butters is best known locally as one of Kelowna’s top chefs, but his reputation extends well beyond the Okanagan. He is the chef and owner of both RauDZ Regional Table and micro bar & bites. Butters’ career has taken him into the kitchens of the Four Seasons Hotel group including Toronto, Chateau Whistler, and Shangri-La Hong Kong, to name a few. In 1996 he became Chef de Cuisine of the world famous Wickaninnish Inn of Tofino. He relocated to Kelowna in 2000 to open the award-winning Fresco Restaurant and Lounge. He was inducted into the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Canadian Chefs Federation Honour Society in 2013 for outstanding commitment to his profession. 

Butters is credited with advancing the farm-to-table movement through his local restaurants. He is also heavily involved in a number of not-for-profit initiatives and supports the Kelowna Food Bank, Growing Chefs, and Nature’s Trust, among others. Butters is an active member of the Okanagan College culinary community – he serves as Chair of the Culinary Arts program advisory council and has mentored and hired numerous Okanagan College apprentices and Red Seal chefs. 

Norm Embree has spent a lifetime working as an entrepreneur and has devoted decades to Norm Embree April 2015public service, most notably as the former Chair of the Interior Health Authority Board of Directors (2007-14) and as Chair of the Board of Governors as Okanagan College transitioned from Okanagan University College in 2004-05 and served until 2006. 

Embree’s career began in securities and he eventually joined his family’s machining business, Embree Industries Ltd. of Hamilton, ON, which was founded by his grandfather in 1913. At just 34 years of age, he bought the company from his father and became President and CEO. Embree would grow the company to become a manufacturing and distribution business with more than 90 employees and several million dollars in annual consolidated sales. 

A graduate of the University of Western Ontario, Embree made good use of his degree in economics and went on to work for the Business Development Bank of Canada, as well as forming his own management consulting company, Presidents Network Inc. 

Embree moved to Salmon Arm in the late 90s and became deeply involved in a number of not-for-profit organizations. He has served as a Board member of the Salmon Arm Economic Development Advisory Committee, OUC, Haney Heritage House, Shuswap Hospice Society, Nature Trust of BC, and the College of Pharmacists of BC. He has been a driving force behind the fundraising efforts of the Shuswap Hospice Society, the BC Liberals, the Shuswap Centre for the Neskonlith First Nation and the Rotary Club of Salmon Arm. 

Rick Pushor April 2015Rick Pushor is a founding partner of Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna. Established more than 40 years ago, Pushor Mitchell now numbers more than 120 employees and is the largest law firm in B.C. outside of Vancouver. 

He earned his undergraduate degree and law degree at the University of Alberta, relocated to Kelowna in the 1970s and practiced with Pushor Mitchell until 2013, when he retired. Pushor’s preferred practice areas include business formation, financing, restricting, acquisition, and share and asset transactions. 

Pushor is a founding director of both the Rutland Rotary and the Ogopogo Rotary clubs and past director of Pathways (formerly the Central Okanagan Society for Community Living). He is the past president of the B.C. Curling Association and the B.C. Interior Junior Downhill Ski Association. He was also deeply involved in the Kelowna Minor Baseball Association, where he served as past director and was a longtime coach. 

Pushor continues to be active in Chaparral Industries (86) INC., a business he owns with his two sons.

Annette Sharkey is the current Executive Director of the Social Planning Council of the North Okanagan and has provided leadership in the social services field since taking Annette Sharkey April 2015on the role in 2006. 

Raised in Vernon, Sharkey attended classes at the Vernon campus of Okanagan College. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science and English from the University of British Columbia but continues to be deeply involved with the College, serving on the Vernon Regional Advisory Committee and partnering in several College initiatives, such as Patchwork Farms at the Kalamalka Garden. 

Sharkey has worked in the not-for-profit sector since graduating from university in front-line roles with agencies such as the RCMP, women’s centre, and immigrant services. Her passion and commitment to inspire significant change led her into the social planning field and she is a proponent of Partners in Action, a consultative model of social planning. Partners in Action has mobilized the community and created significant change when it comes to social issues.  

Sharkey has brought more than $6 million dollars in capital into the North Okanagan through the Partners in Action model. 

Each Honorary Fellow of the College will address a unique graduating class in June. Embree will attend the morning ceremony on Saturday, June 6 in Kelowna and Butters will address the graduating class of business students later that afternoon. Pushor will attend Summer Convocation on Thursday, June 25 and Sharkey will attend the Vernon ceremony on Tuesday, June 23. 

The 2015 Honorary Fellows join colleagues: Margriet Ruurs, Raghwa Gopal, Jim Henderson, and Garry Benson (2014); Alan Gatzke, Ernie Philip and Barry Lapointe (2013); Janet Shaw, Yasmin John-Thorpe and Lane Merrifield (2012); Beverley Busson, Mel Kotler and Dr. Tom Landecker (2011); Dorothy Tinning, George and Trudy Heiss and Peter Haubrich (2010); Robert Fine, Barbara Marchand and Charles Armstrong (2009); Jeannette Armstrong, Ken Harding, Richard Cannings, Robert Cannings and Sydney Cannings (2008); Ken Smedley, Lorraine McGrath and Ross Gorman (2007); Mike Roberts, Lois Serwa and Albert Baldeo (2006).  
One year of ‘likes’ in sharing Kelowna’s storied past through photos
Okanagan College Media Release

Modern technology is giving Kelowna’s rich history a collective voice. With 8,400 likes garnered since its launch, the Old Kelowna Dorothy and Charlie Bubb April 2015Facebook page is celebrating its one-year anniversary on Friday, April 24.

It all started when Okanagan College English professor Dr. Shona Harrison, a fourth-generation Kelowna resident, posted a photo on her personal page of her grandmother, Dorothy Bubb and her brother Charlie, in front of the Train Station in the 1920s. Today the building is restored and operates as a popular pub. The overwhelming response from friends intrigued Harrison about the community’s appetite for cherishing the past.

“I saw an opportunity to share stories of our past and to make accessible the hidden narratives of Kelowna’s history: its residents, families, businesses, buildings and culture,” shares Harrison. “Pictures tell a remarkable story. Since I launched the page last spring, it has grown exponentially, quite unexpectedly. The number of photo submissions individuals continue to send to the page for sharing is quite remarkable.”

Applying her arts education, Harrison credits her scholarly background in medieval manuscript studies for her expertise in cataloguing and archives, skills that were instrumental in launching the social media page. An excavator of photos, she knew how and where to look when beginning the quest of sharing the city’s history through photos. 

“The Old Kelowna page has done a great job of engaging the community and has helped spark a renewed interest in the preservation of our local heritage,” says Amanda Snyder, Kelowna Museums Curatorial Manager. “The community support and participation the site has received reflects the keen interest Kelowna residents have in protecting our shared heritage.”

A Director on the board for the Central Okanagan Heritage Society, as well as a committee member for the City of Kelowna’s Heritage Grants Program, Harrison’s commitment to preserving the city’s old structures is nothing new. She hopes the social media conversation generated will shine a spotlight on the importance of maintaining the buildings that are integral to how Kelowna got to be where it is today.

“Kelowna is in transition, and while growth brings many benefits, it also evokes a certain anxiety and lament about the past, especially preserving it for generations to come,” comments Harrison. “I hope that the page can inspire the preservation, and repurposing of old buildings for a harmonious marriage of old and new.”

The Old Kelowna Facebook page has received likes from individuals in more than 22 different countries. Its popularity momentum continues, and it received the Special Projects in Heritage Preservation 2015 award from the City of Kelowna and the Central Okanagan Heritage Society. Most recently, it was nominated for the Best of Kelowna award, results will be known at the end of May.

To browse through our city’s past, and share your own heritage family photos, visit
College Alumnus helps trades students plug into cutting edge classroom and financial skills training
Okanagan College Media Release

The current generation of students needs to feel that the community is behind them and invested in their futures, says an Okanagan College alumnus whose donation is helping build a new learning environment at the College’s Kelowna campus.DKL April 2015

Dale Lamb, President of D.K.L. Financial Services Inc., has donated $50,000 towards to the Bright Horizons Building for Skills campaign. Lamb’s support will help build a state-of-the-art classroom space in the new Trades Training Complex currently under renovation and expansion along KLO Road. 

“Having called the Okanagan valley home for the past 36 years, I believe it’s important to give back locally,” says Lamb. “When I heard about the new trades facilities at Okanagan College and the way this space would elevate training to a whole new level for students in our community, I thought ‘What a great way to show my own children that giving back is important.

“I see this as an opportunity not just to support students, but also to inspire young people—and everyone in our community—that whether it’s a few dollars or thousands, by giving back and paying it forward, we can all have an impact.”

“The new trades training complex is going to help us be proactive in training new apprentices and staying out in front of the province-wide skills gap projected in the trades sector over the next decade,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “We sincerely appreciate Dale Lamb’s investment in our students’ futures with this generous donation and through his active involvement in mentorship at the College.”

There's one key set of tools that all trades students need but won’t find in a tool box, says Lamb: the tools to manage their money.

Which is why, in addition to making a donation toward the Building for Skills campaign, Lamb has also stepped up to sponsor a series of financial literacy and money management presentations for students. He notes that trades students especially, as they step into high-paying employment that often involves complicated contracts and work in and out-of-province, should learn a few key money management skills specific to their sector and type of employment.

“We have many clients who are tradespeople, so we understand the specific challenges and pitfalls they can face if they don’t have a solid understanding of how to manage their earnings right off the bat,” explains Lamb. 

“We hope this series will be very informative for students and gets them excited about planning ahead for their futures as they step out into the workforce, or upgrade their skills at the College to take their careers to the next level.”

Lamb studied business at Okanagan College before pursuing a Bachelor of Arts with a focus on business economics and statistics at the University of Victoria. Over the past 20 years as an advisor affiliated with Sun Life Financial, and running his own brand D.K.L. Financial, Lamb has been a leader and one of the top performers in the financial field, not only in Canada, but also worldwide.

The Bright Horizons Building for Skills fundraising campaign for the $33-million complex renovation and expansion project launched in October 2014. The goal of the campaign is raise $5 million for capital construction costs and $2 million for program and student support. The provincial government has committed $28 million.

Okanagan College is currently the second largest trades training institution in BC. When completed in spring of 2016, the new complex will be one of the largest, most sustainable trades training facilities in Western Canada. To learn more about the campaign’s current needs and opportunities to get involved, please visit
Nickoli and Perrott earn College’s Alumni Association top honours
Okanagan College Media Release

Embodying true ambassadorship for our region, two outstanding Okanagan College alumni are being recognized by the Okanagan College Alumni Association (OCAA) for their exceptional contributions to the communities in which they live.  

Sareena Nickoli April 2015Vernon’s Sareena Sharma Nickoli is this year’s recipient of the OCAA Distinguished Alumni Award that recognizes excellence in the areas of leadership, the environment, business or industry, public or community service, the arts, and/ or support for Okanagan College. Kelowna’s John Perrott will receive the OCAA Young Alumni Award, an award celebrating the outstanding contributions of an alumnus who is under the age of 35. 

Their combined achievements in promoting economic development for the Okanagan, significant charitable contributions, commitment to volunteering for the betterment of the community, and their consistent positive can-do attitudes have earned them the OCAA’s top honours.

Nickoli, Director of Purchasing and Marketing at Vernon’s City Furniture & Appliances is a 2001 Bachelor of Business Administration graduate, and in 2003 she returned to the College to pursue an Interior Decorating Certificate that equipped her to excel in the family furniture business. 

Never one to sit idle, Nickoli is also a leading Zumba Fitness instructor helping many in the community move to the rhythm and dance their way to a healthier lifestyle. She recently launched Vernon’s Soul Studio, where she teaches four fitness and dance classes a week plus workshops, and manages a team of instructors, on top of her career with City Furniture. 

Leveraging her passion for Zumba fitness she has organized multiple Zumbathons that have helped raise tens-of-thousands of dollars for the new maternity tower at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, and to help purchase land for the Habitat for Humanity Vernon chapter. She has sat on the Board of the Downtown Vernon Association, volunteered with the Queen Silver Excellence programs mentoring young dancers, is a member of the Vernon Women in Business, and been a guest speaker at Women’s Enterprise Center and Community Futures events.

“I am humbled, I was taken aback when I found out about the award,” shares Nickoli. “I do things because I love to do them and to help out. Having inspired people to get fit and give back to their community along the way has been very rewarding.”

Young Alumni Award recipient Perrott graduated from the College’s Bachelor of Business Administration in 2003, specializing in Marketing. John Perrott April 2015

Early in his career, Perrott demonstrated civic dedication through his work with the Downtown Kelowna Association, first as the Marketing Director, and eventually as Executive Director. He immersed himself into creating a better sense of place for the city’s residents, and visitors, and as a result has been invited to speak at conferences as an expert on various downtown management topics.

Staying on the civic path, today Perrott is the District of West Kelowna’s Economic Development Officer. Pioneering this role he is paving the way in generating economic growth, including promoting tourism through the creation of the Westside Wine Trail and Westside Farm Loops for the District.

Giving back to his community, Perrott currently serves on the Board of Directors for Creative Okanagan and has volunteered with Central Okanagan non-profit organization The Bridge Youth and Family Services, has served as Chair of the Exceptional Service Under the Sun Award committee, been the Vice President of the Business Improvement Area Association of British Columbia, and previously served as a Services Canada Employment Insurance Board of Referees member.

“It’s an honour to be recognized with this award, especially when you consider the esteemed list of business and community leaders who have earned the distinction in years past,” says Perrott. “It’s a real privilege to join their circle.” 

“Both Sareena and John have accomplished a great deal in their careers to date,” says Kara Kazimer, President of the Board, Okanagan College Alumni Association. “We believe that the contributions to their communities and industries sets a standard that all current and future Okanagan College alumni should strive toward. They are a true testament to the exceptional educational and experiential foundation provided by the College.”

Nickoli and Perrott’s achievements will be celebrated at the Okanagan College Alumni Association awards ceremony and reception at the College’s Kelowna campus on October 15, 2015. For more information about the awards and previous years’ recipients, please visit
Inland donation drives home local industry support for Okanagan College’s trades campaign
Okanagan College Media Release

Inland Donation April 2015Engines were revving and the crowd was cheering as a big cheque was presented to Okanagan College at Inland Kenworth’s open house on Saturday.

Inland has pledged $50,000 to the Bright Horizon’s Building for Skills Campaign. “The Smoking Gun”, a 1968 Canadian Kenworth diesel drag semi, roared in the background as the Inland team presented the cheque to Okanagan College Foundation’s John Haller at the company’s West Kelowna location on Ross Road.

The donation will help build a bay in the new three-storey Trades Training Complex currently under construction along KLO Road. 

“The new trades training complex will elevate the Southern Interior as a hub for trades training, by providing students with a world-class facility to match the high quality of instruction that Okanagan College has offered for more than fifty years,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “We’re very grateful to Inland for investing in the future of our students and our campus.”

“We’re very proud to call the Okanagan home,” says Boyd McConnachie, vice president of business development at Inland. “It is key to the economy that local businesses and organizations work together to develop our own homegrown talent.” 

Inland originated in the Okanagan over 65 years ago, with operations in Vernon, Penticton and Kamloops. The West Kelowna facility is the most recent addition, opening for business last fall. Inland now owns dealerships throughout Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and B.C. and the Yukon Territories in Canada. 

The BC-based company is a strong supporter of apprenticeship. As a way of promoting and encouraging Red Seal Training, Inland provides apprentices with tools, mentorship, and other support to help them begin their careers. 

“Inland is well known for employees who spend their whole careers with the company,” says Kent Brownlow, vice president of human resources at Inland. “To hold on to that loyalty, we must invest in training and provide opportunities for our employees to continuously learn and improve their skills and expertise.” 

The Bright Horizons Building for Skills fundraising campaign for the $33-million complex renovation and expansion project launched in October 2014. The project includes a 10,000 sq. metre renovation and expansion, including new construction and bringing the College’s existing shops and classroom spaces up to LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge standards. When doors open in 2016, the new facility will accommodate over 2,400 students, almost doubling capacity for trades training at the Kelowna campus. Okanagan College is currently the second largest trades training institution in B.C.

The provincial government has committed $28 million to the project. The goal of the campaign is to top this up by raising $5 million for capital construction costs and $2 million for program and student support—which includes entrance awards and other assistance to help students start training.

To learn more about the campaign’s current needs and opportunities to get involved, please visit
Trio of Okanagan College business students seek votes in the Economist’s competition
Okanagan College Media Release

Find a company that you think has the potential to fail. Langille, Vnadergaag, Loyd April 2015

Wait, let’s make it a little harder: find a company that is currently valued at billions of dollars that you think has the potential to fail within five years. Explain why you think it may fail.

Next, let’s have you do it in a venue that is international, in an event sponsored by the world’s leading business magazine, The Economist.

That was the challenge facing three Okanagan College students, whose submission to The Economist’s student case competition is to be found online among 17 other submissions from business schools from around the globe, including the US, Finland, Hong Kong and Britain. The only other Canadian team entered is from Carleton University. The American competitors include teams from Kent State, Loyola, Rutgers, the University of Colorado, Texas Tech University, and San Jose State University. 

Officially the competition is called “Find a Zero: Which Billion Dollar Company Will be Bankrupt by 2020" and is sponsored by Kerrisdale Capital Investment. (Kerrisdale Capital is an investment management firm based in New York that is known to publically engage in the practice of “short selling” securities. Short selling involves researching and anticipating declines in the value of shares in order to capitalize on the drop in price.)

The purpose of the competition is for students to research and identify business strategies used by actual companies that may be over-valued in the markets. First prize in the competition is $15,000 US. The entire prize package totals $26,000 US, including a $3,000 people’s choice award.  

Coached by Okanagan College Professor Dr. Yunke He (a CFA Charterholder), Karen Vandergaag and her teammates, David Langille and Curtis Loyd spent countless hours in the two-week window they had for the competition looking at various sectors, before settling on the telecommunications industry. From there, it was a review of major players until they settled on a prospect.

“The task was daunting,” explains Vandergaag. “First we needed to zero in on a sector or an industry and then search out one of the larger players and test its strength and stability, looking for issues with the company’s business strategy and its valuation, watching for disruptive forces and trends within the company’s sector.”

The trio of fourth-year Bachelor of Business Administration students put together a compelling case about why they think the company may find itself in deep financial trouble by 2020. Their argument focuses on the practice of growing through acquisitions, and its effect on a company that is already highly leveraged, participating in an industry that requires ongoing transitions to new technology to remain competitive. 

“We’ll learn in May what the judges of the competition think of our choice and case submission,” says Loyd. “Hopefully our case will be compelling and will resonate with the judges.”

“It was an intense undertaking,” says Langille. “It was a great chance to put the analytical skills and knowledge developed through our studies to work.”

“Case studies such as this are an integral part of the academic experience at Okanagan College,” explains Dr. Heather Banham, the College’s Dean of the School of Business. “We encourage students to participate because, as in this instance, it gives them a chance to put what they learn to work.”

“This case competition is particularly interesting because it is a different approach, with the students asked to look for a company that may be about to experience failure,” adds Banham. “It is important to realize that their analysis is an academic exercise. The companies identified by the teams in this competition may already have plans to deal with perceived weaknesses.”

To view and vote for the Okanagan College team’s entry visit
A recipe for success, College alumnus wins big at investors’ forum
Okanagan College Media Release

Donnie Ungaro 2015Hungry for business, Okanagan College alumnus Donnie Ungaro credits making calculated business decisions, following his passion, and serendipitous timing as a few of the keys to his recent success at Venture Okanagan. 

Ungaro took top spot at the local investors forum held last week at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus. Presenting in front of more than 90 spectators and business leaders, Ungaro successfully pitched his business Culinary Ink—a socially conscious comfort food business powered by bicycle—to a panel of Angel investors. He was rewarded with the grand prize of $5,000 from title sponsor Grant Thornton LLP to put towards the developing business. 

“The win couldn’t have come at a better time,” shared Ungaro. “I recently decided to commit my time completely to the launch and growth of this business. It’s a validation of my decisions and of the company’s potential.”

A graduate of Okanagan College’s School of Business, and also recipient of the Young Alumni Award in 2014, Ungaro acknowledges that the Bachelor of Business Administration degree he earned in 2003 provided a sound foundation. 

“It goes beyond the tangible degree, it’s the people you meet that is the greatest value. You maybe don’t realize this as a student, but I can attest that the community at the College was instrumental in bringing Culinary Ink to life,” noted Ungaro, adding that beyond the mentorship from instructors, and networking opportunities, he is currently interviewing College alumni to potentially join the company. He even chuckles to mention he met his wife indirectly via the College community.

Initially, Ungaro started a thriving career in insurance, but the tragic loss of his father in 2006 led him to self-reflect on pursuing a career he was passionate about, not just a job that paid well. He gained some training in culinary school, apprenticed with top chefs, including Chef Rod Butters of Kelowna’s Raudz Regional Table, and started building the concept.

As an entrepreneur, Ungaro calls the Venture Okanagan prize a nice buffer to help launch his company, though there’s no slowing down now. He’s already appropriated the funds, that includes having booked a booth at the upcoming Canadian College and University Food Services Association trade show (to be held in June in Kelowna). 

“I’m hoping having a presence there could help lock in additional contracts to be at colleges across Canada and operate the company on a franchise model.”

Culinary Ink launches this month, and beginning April 25 two food bikes located at the College’s Kelowna campus will serve up dishes including taco al pastor, served in a “taco cone” made of naan, and chipotle mac ‘n’ cheese with pulled pork. Ungaro says they are dishes you can feel good about eating since 10 per cent of all sales will be donated to support three local charities: the Kelowna Food Bank, Metro Community and Soles4Souls.

“Donnie exemplifies what we see in many of our graduates at the College. They are bold, smart, innovative and creative,” said Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College. “The Venture Okanagan competition was very steep. It’s an exceptionally proud moment to have one of our alumni recognized by the business community at an event held right here on our campus.” 

In addition to Culinary Ink, other pitches included Motivation Engine, VO2 Master, Visland Media, Illuminous Laser System, and X Co. Venture Okanagan is a private sector entity investors’ forum that is organized collectively by the Okanagan Angel Investor Network and Enactus Okanagan College. It is made possible with support from title sponsors Grant Thornton and the Business Development Bank of Canada. 

“The entrepreneurial spirit in the Okanagan is alive and well,” noted Steven Watson, Okanagan College business professor and Venture Okanagan Chair. “Venture Okanagan brings the community together – entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, and students. There definitely is an appetite by investors to hear these business ideas.”

To the budding entrepreneurs for which the Okanagan is quickly becoming known for, Ungaro shares his advice: “passion, education, experience and purpose. The success is in putting your heart into it.”

Photo credit: Pinstripe Productions

Support from regional media helps Okanagan College spread the word about trades training complex campaign
Okanagan College Media Release

Media outlets across the valley are helping Okanagan College to spread the word about the fundraising campaign behind the renovation and expansion of the $33-million Trades Training Complex at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus—and the added awareness has helped to bring in some life-changing support for students.

Global News, Shaw, Bell Media, Black Press, Daily Courier, and Castanet have donated over $385,000 collectively in advertising and media support to the Bright Horizons Building for Skills Fundraising campaign. The goal of the campaign is to raise $7 million: $5 million for renovation and construction on the new three-storey trades tower along KLO Road, and $2 million for program and student support, which includes bursaries and other assistance to help students enter into trades programs.

“With a province-wide skills shortage projected across the trades sector, Okanagan College is renovating and expanding our facilities to train ahead of that need and help thousands of new tradespeople get job-ready,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “We truly appreciate how the region’s media has bolstered our efforts to raise awareness about this project.”

Bell Media has donated over $158,000, Black Press has contributed over $77,000, Global Okanagan and Shaw have jointly contributed $100,000, The Daily Courier has contributed $30,000, and Castanet $25,000 in donated media support.

According to the campaign team, the media’s added support in sharing stories about the trades expansion has been crucial for showcasing how the community can get involved and the positive impact that their donations will have on future students. 

“When you consider that the new complex will be able to accommodate over 2,400 students per year, the ripple effect of those students entering the workforce, supporting their families, and contributing to our local economy is immense,” says Campaign Chair, Dennis Gabelhouse. “Our donors are contributing to that ripple effect—their donation is a direct investment in the future of a student working to attain his or her dream and build a rewarding life for themself.”

The Bright Horizons Building for Skills campaign kicked off in October and construction is currently in progress on the 10,000 sq. metre expansion and renovation. The new trades training complex is slated to open in Spring of 2016. The provincial government has committed $28 million to the project.

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

Quotes from media partners:Hamilton, Hinchliffe, Gabelhouse

“Global Okanagan and Shaw are thrilled to support more opportunities for students in trades,” says Derek Hinchliffe, Station Manager & News Director, Global Okanagan. “We are honoured to participate in this important community initiative and look forward to developing strong ties with Okanagan College.”

Derek Hinchliffe
Station Manager & News Director, Global Okanagan


Hamilton, Hill, McAuliffe, Gabelhouse

"The Capital News & Black Press are proud to partner with Okanagan College on the Bright Horizon's campaign. Trades are a vital part of this community and the communities throughout the province of B.C., this facility will provide opportunities to prepare skilled trades workers for years to come."

Karen Hill
Publisher, Kelowna Capital News


Hamilton, Armstong, Gabelhouse

"This is an exciting time at Okanagan College, and we're thrilled to help share this success story throughout the valley," said Terry Armstrong, publisher of The Daily Courier. "Expanding and renovating the Trades Training Complex into a modern, state-of-the-art facility is strengthening our valley's future. It's giving students access to some of the best facilities around, and we're so very pleased to offer our support."

Terry Armstrong
Vice President & Group Publisher
The Okanagan Valley Newspaper Group
College team captures first in case competition
Okanagan College Media Release

OC HR Team Apr 2015Three Okanagan College business students impressed judges at the TRU Human Resources Management Case Competition last week, taking first place in a high-pressure challenge that put their business knowledge to the test.

Erika Swanson, Brandi Antonucci and Kirsten Schmid won the competition, finishing ahead of competitors from the host school, Thompson Rivers University, as well as teams from BCIT and Kwantlen Polytechnic University. 

The students are all pursuing Bachelor of Business Administration degrees at the College and all specializing in human resources management. 

Swanson came to Okanagan College from Selkirk College; she transferred in after completing two years at home in the Kootenays. She’s set to graduate this spring and will pursue a career in human resources. 

“I was a little bit nervous coming to Okanagan College,” said the 23-year-old. “I wasn’t sure if I would fit in because I started the program part-way through but it is such a good school. I would recommend the College to anyone, the business program is so strong and well respected.”

Though she’s been at Okanagan College for two years, Swanson had never taken part in a business competition outside of the classroom, until her experience at the TRU competition. 

She says the competition really challenged her to work well under pressure, and to apply her knowledge in a very practical way. 

Competitors were each given a case study on a real business situation and were challenged to create a 15-minute power point presentation for a panel of judges. The teams each had one hour to prepare before presenting. 

“We presented last so we didn’t get to see any of the other team’s presentations,” said Swanson. “Maybe that was a good thing, I think it helped us focus on what we were doing.”

After facing a few questions from judges, the team from Okanagan College was declared the winner of the competition. 

“I’m very proud of the team’s result,” said Laura Thurnheer, Chair of Business Administration and co-coach of the College team. “Our students consistently perform well in these kinds of challenges. This marks the second time a team from the College has finished in the top three at this competition. It speaks volumes about the quality of our program and the graduates we produce.”
College, Faculty reach tentative agreement
Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College and the Okanagan College Faculty Association, representing approximately 255 professors have reached a tentative local agreement.

The two parties reached the agreement March 28 following an agreement in early February between the Post-Secondary Employers Association and with faculty of several institutions represented by the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC (FPSE). Okanagan College, Camosun College, College of New Caledonia, College of the Rockies, Douglas College, North Island College, Northwest Community College and Selkirk College were among those institutions whose faculty were represented by FPSE in the provincial settlement.

The tentative provincial template settlement is for a five-year term beginning April 1, 2014. It includes a 5.5 per cent wage increase over the five years with potential for additional increases if the B.C. economy exceeds the annual forecasts set by the Economic Forecast Council during the last four years of the agreement.

Dates for the College Board of Governors and the Faculty Association to consider the tentative settlement have yet to be determined.
Emil Anderson Construction helps Okanagan College students step into heavy-duty classroom
Okanagan College Media Release

EAC Donation April 2015Prompted by the looming skills gap across the trades sector, a local construction company has thrown its support behind the $33-million project to expand and renovate the trades training complex at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus.

Emil Anderson Construction has made a $50,000 donation to the Bright Horizons Building for Skills fundraising campaign. The company’s donation has enabled the College to build and outfit a new classroom in the heavy mechanical trades shop, which integrates new technology and equipment into the learning space.

“We know there is a coming shortage of tradespeople, and we’re very proud to support the College’s efforts to train new apprentices so we can stay out in front of that skills gap,” says Mike Jacobs, President & CEO of Emil Anderson Construction.

“As a company, we need heavy-duty mechanics and other tradespeople, so we are sensitive to the need to encourage young people to enter the trades. Without them, how are we as a society going to build roads, bridges, buildings—all our key infrastructure?”

“The new trades training complex will provide our students with learning environments that are truly modern,” says Dr. Andrew Hay, Okanagan College’s Vice President of Education. “We are very grateful to Emil Anderson Construction, and to all our donors, for investing in our students’ educational experiences. It sends a powerful message to our students that local industry is behind them.”

When completed in spring of 2016, the new three-storey complex along KLO Road will be one of the largest, most sustainable trades training facilities in Western Canada, accommodating over 2,400 students per year. In addition to the new building, the College is currently renovating existing shops and classrooms, rejuvenating decades-old facilities to meet the complex’s overall goal of achieving LEED Platinum and Living Building Standards.

Upgrades to the heavy mechanical trades shop were completed in summer 2013, including the construction of a 1,858-square-metre outdoor training space, which is covered by a canopy housing one of the province’s largest arrays of photovoltaic solar panels. The new heavy-duty classroom features built-in heavy-duty equipment and technology, offering a blend of shop and classroom learning.

Emil Anderson Construction is a fourth generation family construction business based in Kelowna that specializes in highway construction, paving, design build projects, site development, land development and housing. 

Jacobs notes that for many years he has witnessed students being steered away from trades training in favour of other post-secondary education, a trend which he sees as problematic given the provincial and federal government’s projections for a major skills gap in trades and technically trained workers over the next decade.

“We have supported many local projects and organizations—from the Mission Creek Greenway to the YMCA,” explains Jacobs. “And this project is another vital one for our community. We absolutely need to get young people into trades. The opportunities are huge for them right now with a wave of retirements coming among experienced tradespeople.”

The Bright Horizons Building for Skills fundraising campaign for the $33-million complex renovation and expansion project launched in October 2014. The goal of the campaign is to raise $5 million for capital construction costs and $2 million for program and student support. To date, over $3.6 million has been raised. The provincial government has committed $28 million to the project.

To learn more about the campaign’s current needs and opportunities to get involved, please visit
Artwork submissions deadline for Earth Matters art competition extended
Okanagan College Media Release

The Okanagan College Earth Matters event, an environmental art competition and symposium, has been rescheduled to the fall.

New and experienced Okanagan artists can submit their artwork by October 20, 2015. A symposium and award event recognizing the winning art pieces will follow in mid-November. 

The artistic event aims to highlight the correlation between intellect and creative expression in the natural and social sciences. 

Artists can participate in two categories: secondary school students in Grades 10 to 12 and a second category for any adults age 18 and older. The art entries must reflect on one of the four themes—biodiversity, water resources, waste, climate change – which will be the focus of the academic symposium.

Prizes for the winner in each category include a $500 tuition bursary for the secondary school division, and the adult open category winners will receive a one-day workshop with internationally acclaimed nature artist Terry Isaac at his studio in Penticton.

Details about the symposium, and winning entries will be made available in the fall. For more information about the Earth Matters competition, including artwork submission guidelines, please visit