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College returns from Skills BC with eleven medals
College students’ research leads to national exposure
Sustainability expert to lead new College diploma program
Okanagan College drives trades career exploration to Revelstoke
New program empowers Aboriginal students to reach their full potential
Close race for College’s 12th annual Half Marathon
Local mom chooses College’s Practical Nursing program to launch a new career
UBC biologist is saving the eco-system one bee at a time
UBC biologist is saving the eco-system one bee at a time
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College returns from Skills BC with eleven medals
Okanagan College Media Release

If the future of our region is dependent on a skilled workforce, the Okanagan is in good shape. Nearly a dozen Okanagan College trades and technology students have returned home after podium finishes at the BC Skills Canada competition, held earlier this month in Abbotsford.

The College earned 11 medals (three gold, four silver and four bronze) in a series of timed high-pressure skills competitions ranging from Automotive Collision Repair to IT Network Systems Administration.

“I’m extremely proud of the results of our students,” said Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College. “The Skills BC competition is a great measure of how our students perform in the real world. They are faced with hands-on applied challenges and are given a set amount of time to make repairs, trouble shoot and come up with relevant solutions. The medals are evidence of our students’ skills and the great instruction they receive.”  

Winners of the provincial competition are eligible to compete at the nationals, held in June in Toronto. The Okanagan College students who will represent the province in Toronto are: Vernon’s Dominique Zimmermann, gold in Aircraft Maintenance; Kelowna’s Ken Anderson, gold in Automotive Service; and James Webber, gold in Electronics, also from Kelowna. 

For the second year in a row Okanagan College swept the Electronic Engineering competition, taking all three podium spots. It’s the third year the College has competed in this category; each year students from the program have returned with medals. The College earned gold, silver and bronze in 2013 and took home a silver and bronze in 2012. 

“I am really excited to support Dominique at the national competition,” said AME M instructor and coach Dale Martell. “After winning the provincial competition I’m feeling very confident about how he’ll do in Toronto. We’ve been sending students to the Skills competition for three years and are yet to return without medals. Dominique and Derek are no exception. They are both great students who can work independently and will be a huge asset to the industry.”

Other medalists include: Derek Volling, Aircraft Maintenance (bronze); Russell Relling, Automotive Collision Repair (silver); Jay Kendrick, Automotive Collision Repair (bronze); Nick Spottock, Automotive Service (bronze); Christopher Dalton, Carpentry (silver); Josh Wams, Electronics (silver); Alex Pelton, Electronics (bronze); Bryer Edwards, IT Network Systems Administration (silver).
College students’ research leads to national exposure
Okanagan College Media Release

Groundbreaking research often results from an unpredictable combination of circumstances. For Okanagan College students Julia Thielmann and Arianna Lapham, answering a call for student assistance in a research project had the unexpected results of participating in a study of international significance and getting the opportunity to give a presentation at the Canadian Association of Geographers conference at the University of Victoria last month.

“It was such a great experience and I learned so much,” said Thielmann, a second-year Okanagan College student. “I really enjoy research work now and I’m hoping to be able to do more presentations. Talking with the other conference participants and learning about their work was really interesting.”

Led by Dr. Terence Day, College Professor of Geography & Earth and Environmental Science, the idea for the research study began with the College’s purchase of magnetic lab equipment from Lakehead University in Ontario. 

Using soil samples collected by Day from a nine-kilometre stretch of coastline in North Norfolk in the United Kingdom, the research team sought to establish a relationship between levels of coastal erosion and magnetic materials left by waves. Coincidentally, the research study samples were taken from an area heavily damaged in December 2013 by severe storms and storm surges that swept a number of beach-side homes into the sea.

“There are clear environmental implications,” said Day. “There is more magnetic material in areas where there is more erosion. We can identify rates of coastal erosion even in places where they are not routinely monitored.”

Day will be using the magnetic lab equipment in two summer research projects – one in collaboration with UBC Okanagan which will measure properties of rocks from the Himalayas, and another in conjunction with the Royal British Columbia Museum and the University of Lethbridge examining sediment samples from the Merritt area.

“We were the only undergraduate students giving a presentation and we were definitely nervous,” said first-year student Lapham. “But we did really well, and the audience was very supportive. We got lots of compliments.”

For Thielmann and Lapham, the excitement of the past year is taking them in different directions. Having completed two years of university transfer studies at the College, Thielmann is moving on to complete her undergraduate degree at UBC Okanagan. 

Lapham is looking forward to her second year at Okanagan College and is planning to take more geography classes.
Sustainability expert to lead new College diploma program
Okanagan College Media Release

Amy Vaillancourt, an expert in sustainability assessment, has joined Okanagan College as the lead instructor and program Chair for the College’s new Sustainable Construction Management Technology (SCMT) program.

Vaillancourt brings a unique blend of international education and work experience in sustainable development and environmental engineering to the position, making her an ideal fit to guide the SCMT program through its launch in September 2014.

“What drew me to Okanagan College is its reputation for innovation and being at the forefront of sustainability education,” said Vaillancourt. “The College implements programs needed by industry, giving students valuable opportunities to help meet those needs.”

“The goal of the SCMT program is to train students in new ways of doing things, and to prepare them for jobs opening up in the sustainable construction field,” explained Vaillancourt. “As older workers retire, gaps are created and a new generation of workers needs to have the knowledge and skills to work with changing building codes and new industry and government regulations.”

Vaillancourt earned a B.Sc. in civil engineering from the University of New Brunswick (UNB), Fredericton, and then completed a Master’s in Sustainable Development at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. She returned to UNB Fredericton to pursue a PhD in civil engineering.

Work experience as an engineering consultant in environmental engineering, and for the provincial government Department of Transportation and Infrastructure in New Brunswick have given Vaillancourt a broad skill set and range of perspectives.

Her current research interests are focused on implementation of sustainability assessments for municipal infrastructures, which include urban forestry, transportation, water and wastewater, and energy.

“The SCMT study stream aligns closely with my research,” said Vaillancourt. “The program takes a lifecycle approach that has students acquire knowledge of every building lifecycle phase -- from resource extraction through construction and concluding with end-of-life.”

The SCMT program is the only one of its kind in B.C. Program students will have the opportunity to learn in Okanagan College’s Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation in Penticton, one of the most sustainable buildings of its type in world.

“The zero-energy building itself is the classroom,” said Vaillancourt. “It has visible geo-thermal heating and cooling, screens that display energy conservation, solar water heating, and more. It’s the perfect environment for students, and will definitely be an important part of the learning experience.”

The Sustainable Construction Management Technology program is a three-year diploma, which provides students with the technical, business and interpersonal skills to successfully manage construction projects of varying size and complexity, with an emphasis on sustainable design principles.
Okanagan College drives trades career exploration to Revelstoke
Okanagan College Media Release

For the very first time, Okanagan College’s Trades Discovery Trailer will stop in Revelstoke.

On April 24, Okanagan College instructors and industry representatives will be at the Revelstoke Forum to show secondary school students, their parents, and members of the general public, what it means to work in a variety of different trades.    

“There has never been a better time to learn a skilled trade. A career in the trades provides challenging and interesting opportunities to work with the latest technologies in a variety of environments,” says Steve Moores, Okanagan College’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship.

Attendees at the event will have the chance to experience the latest technology in trades educationthe virtual reality Welder Trainer simulator. In addition, there will be demonstrations and hands-on activities for the following trades:  
  • Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Maintenance
  • Collision Repair & Refinishing Prep Technician
  • Carpentry/Joinery
  • Electrician
  • Recreation Vehicle Service Technician
  • Automotive Service Technician
  • Sheet Metal
  • Welding

Students will have the opportunity to find out more about existing programs and new developments, like the Electrician Pre-Apprenticeship program being proposed for Revelstoke in August of 2015. Attendees will also be able to learn about the benefits of school district dual credit programs and tuition savings for trades training.

Taylor Pro Training, the Automotive Training Standards Organization and Okanagan College employees will be on hand to supervise the activities and demonstrations as well as answer questions about programs, application process, working in the trades and job options.

The Trades Discovery Trailer exhibition runs from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Revelstoke Forum, 1100 Vernon Ave. Members of the public are invited to attend as well.

For more information about Trades and Apprenticeship education at Okanagan College, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/trades.

New program empowers Aboriginal students to reach their full potential
Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College’s Aboriginal student population has grown by more than 208 per cent over the last seven years – the fastest rate of any post-secondary institution in the province.

To respond to this exploding growth, Okanagan College developed the Academy of Indigenous Scholars through the generous support of a $40,000 grant from the Vancouver Foundation.

The Academy of Indigenous Scholars is a culturally relevant program developed to support first-year Aboriginal students. The goal of the program is to empower students to take greater control of their education and fully utilize the services Okanagan College offers.

This program comes from a place of advantage, not disadvantage,” says James Coble, Director of Student Services and former Aboriginal Access and Services Coordinator at Okanagan College. 

“We know these students can be successful and we’re here to facilitate their abilities, help them set goals for themselves and get the most out of their education.” 

The program is open to all self-declared Indigenous students in their first year of university-level arts, science and business programs starting in September 2014. An Indigenous student is anyone who declares himself or herself to be of First Nation (status or non-status), Metis or Inuit descent.

The Academy of Indigenous Scholars is accepting 30 students across Okanagan College: 15 in Kelowna, and five from each campus in Penticton, Vernon and Salmon Arm.  

“Acceptance into the program isn’t based on grades. What’s important is students’ commitment to carrying through with the program to the end of the year,” says Coble.

Each student will meet with the Aboriginal Access and Services Coordinator and develop an individual achievement plan. Each plan lays out recommendations based on that student’s particular circumstances. 

For example, some students may benefit from counseling and peer mentorship, while another might want to focus on utilizing study tutorials and one-on-one sessions with faculty.

The program launches in September. Students must be enrolled in at least three university transfer courses in each of the fall and winter semesters to be accepted. Once the individual achievement plan is developed, it’s up to each participating student to carry out it out. At the end of the school year, if the student has fulfilled their program’s academic requirements and executed the plan to their Coordinator’s satisfaction, they will receive a $400 bursary. 

There are four pillars of services that Indigenous Scholars can take advantage of:

Intellectual: Tutorial, study skills and exam prep sessions, advising and tutoring
Emotional: Transition planning, peer mentor and counselling
Spiritual: One-on-ones with Elders, peer counselling, access to community sweat lodges and weekly smudges
Physical: Recreational activities, financial aid, and disability services 

“We’re focusing on helping students develop their whole selves not just the academic component of their education,” says Coble.

Research suggest that those students who are in touch with their emotional needs and cultural heritage, do have a greater chance of success because they can draw on that strength to navigate their way through the system,” he says. 

Interested students should visit at www.okanagan.bc.ca/indigenousacademy for more information. 


About Vancouver Foundation

With almost 1,500 funds and assets totaling $814 million, Vancouver Foundation is Canada’s largest community foundation. In 2012, Vancouver Foundation and its donors made more than 4,000 grants, totaling approximately $46 million to registered charities across Canada. Since it was founded in 1943, Vancouver Foundation, in partnership with its donors, has distributed more than $917 million to thousands of community projects and programs. Grant recipients range from social services to medical research groups, to organizations devoted to arts and culture, the environment, education, children and families, disability supports for employment, youth issues and animal welfare. To find out more visit: vancouverfoundation.ca.
Close race for College’s 12th annual Half Marathon
Okanagan College Half Marathon

In the end just 12 seconds separated the winner and second place finisher in the 12th annual Okanagan College Half Marathon.

Cache Creek’s Ryan Day won the 21.1 km event in a time of 1:11:16 edging out the 2013 winner, Hans Aabye, who finished second. Kelowna’s Jeff Vogt came third in the men’s half marathon division with a finishing time of 1:18:35.

On the women’s side, Salmon Arm’s Sandra Kilmartin came in first with a time of 1:28:56. Michelle Blackburne of West Kelowna came in second at 1:29:45 and Fruitvale’s Heather Johnson placed third at 1:31:26.

In the 10 K race, the top female finishers were: Glynis Sim of Salmon Arm (38:36), Carrie McGillivray of Kelowna (43:50) and Chantal Jeffrey of Blind Bay (43:50.)

The men’s 10 K race was swept by Kelowna runners, they were: Jonathan Menzies in first (37:52, Paul Willinsky (38:18), and Ken Byl (40:18.)
The Half Marathon Relay Race was won by the Results 4 Life 2 team (1:24:07.) In second in the relay was Re-Lazy (1:40:11.) Third place went to UBCO War Child with a time of 1:40:47.

“Today’s race couldn’t have been better,” said Race Director Christine Ulmer. “We had a great mix of elite and amateur runners, each of whom added a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm to the event. I continue to be amazed by the wide range of participants in this event. Some of our most competitive racers are under the age of 15 and then we also have some really great seasoned runners who come out to enjoy the nice course and supportive environment.”

“I can’t thank our volunteers enough – they make this race really special and we couldn’t do it without them.”

Complete race results are available online at: www.okanagan.bc.ca/halfmarathon.
Local mom chooses College’s Practical Nursing program to launch a new career
Okanagan College Media Release

For one mom, Okanagan College’s Practical Nursing program was the best way to get back into the workforce after raising her kids.

“I always wanted to be a nurse and I chose to go to Okanagan College because it has an amazing reputation for nursing,” said Marie Walker, a 2013 graduate of the Practical Nursing program in Penticton who now works as a Licensed Practical Nurse at Queen Victoria Hospital in Revelstoke.  

“Whenever I spoke to people in the field, Okanagan College was always highly recommended,” she says.

To help prospective students learn more about Okanagan College’s Practical Nursing program, an information night is being held at the Penticton campus on April 9. 

Once Practical Nurses have completed the program and passed their licensing exam, they are qualified to work on interdisciplinary teams and provide nursing services in a number of settings, including residential, acute care and palliative care. 

“I finished the program in May, got my licence the end of June and started a full-time job as a charge nurse in August,” she says.

Walker, who went back to school at age 36 after raising her kids, isn’t alone in choosing the College’s nursing program to launch a new career.

A 2012-2013 BC Student Outcomes survey found that 96 per cent of the Okanagan College Practical Nursing graduates surveyed were employed and 72 per cent had found full-time work. 

“The 17-month program builds leadership, communication, inter-professional practice, critical thinking and technical skills, which makes graduates highly employable in multiple health care environments,” says Dana Susheski RN, instructor in Okanagan College’s Practical Nursing Program.

A new January intake of the Practical Nursing program at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus is now accepting applications. All qualified applicants must complete a 14-week anatomy and physiology course via Distance Education prior to the program’s start in January. Applications for the program close on July 31.

Admission requirement details will be available, as well as the opportunity to meet graduates of the program, learn about career prospects and see the practical nursing laboratory, at the open house on Wednesday, April 9 from 5-6:30 p.m. at the Penticton campus, Sunoka building, Room C6. 

“Going back to school and becoming a nurse is the best thing I ever did. I couldn’t be happier,” says Walker.
UBC biologist is saving the eco-system one bee at a time
Okanagan College Media Release

Dr. Leonard Foster April 2014Since 2006, North America has lost nearly one third of its honeybee population due to infectious diseases and climate change. As honeybees are one of the most important pollinators in Canadian agriculture, countless crops across the country—including blueberries in British Columbia and canola in Alberta—are at risk.

“Bees’ importance to us goes far beyond honey,” says Dr. Leonard Foster, a molecular biologist and associate professor at the University of British Columbia. 

“Without them we’ll depend more on imports and have to pay more for our fruits and vegetables,” he says. 

Dr. Foster discusses the importance of bees to our eco-system in “What’s the Buzz in Bee Biology?” on Tuesday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Okanagan College’s main lecture theatre at the Vernon Campus. The event is sponsored by Genome BC and admission is free. 

Specifically, Dr. Foster will talk about some of the most interesting aspects of bee biology, what threats bees are currently facing and how his research is trying to improve bee health. 

In addition to his work at UBC, Dr. Foster is also the Director of the Centre for High-Throughput Biology, which has been leading an effort in western Canada to develop bees that are better able to resist diseases. 

One of these efforts is Bee Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a project he works on with a group comprised of scientists, bee breeders, and researchers from across Canada. The IPM’s research addresses the fact that many bacteria, viruses, fungus and mites responsible for bee-specific infectious diseases are becoming resistant to pesticides, which means science needs to find new approaches to protect bee populations.  

The Science in Society Speaker Series is a joint project by Okanagan Science Centre and Okanagan College and is sponsored by the Pacific Inn and Suites, Cooper’s Foods, Starbucks Coffee, and the Vernon Morning Star.

To subscribe to or obtain more information about the series, visit www.okscience.ca or http://okanagansisss.wordpress.com.
UBC biologist is saving the eco-system one bee at a time
Okanagan College Media Release

Dr. Leonard Foster April 2014Since 2006, North America has lost nearly one third of its honeybee population due to infectious diseases and climate change. As honeybees are one of the most important pollinators in Canadian agriculture, countless crops across the country—including blueberries in British Columbia and canola in Alberta—are at risk.

“Bees’ importance to us goes far beyond honey,” says Dr. Leonard Foster, a molecular biologist and associate professor at the University of British Columbia. 

“Without them we’ll depend more on imports and have to pay more for our fruits and vegetables,” he says. 

Dr. Foster discusses the importance of bees to our eco-system in “What’s the Buzz in Bee Biology?” on Tuesday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Okanagan College’s main lecture theatre at the Vernon Campus. The event is sponsored by Genome BC and admission is free. 

Specifically, Dr. Foster will talk about some of the most interesting aspects of bee biology, what threats bees are currently facing and how his research is trying to improve bee health. 

In addition to his work at UBC, Dr. Foster is also the Director of the Centre for High-Throughput Biology, which has been leading an effort in western Canada to develop bees that are better able to resist diseases. 

One of these efforts is Bee Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a project he works on with a group comprised of scientists, bee breeders, and researchers from across Canada. The IPM’s research addresses the fact that many bacteria, viruses, fungus and mites responsible for bee-specific infectious diseases are becoming resistant to pesticides, which means science needs to find new approaches to protect bee populations.  

The Science in Society Speaker Series is a joint project by Okanagan Science Centre and Okanagan College and is sponsored by the Pacific Inn and Suites, Cooper’s Foods, Starbucks Coffee, and the Vernon Morning Star.

To subscribe to or obtain more information about the series, visit www.okscience.ca or http://okanagansisss.wordpress.com.
College Board passes $95.5-million budget for 2013-14
Okanagan College Media Release


Okanagan College’s Board of Governors has approved a $95.5-million balanced operating budget for the coming fiscal year, addressing a $1.6 million shortfall through a number of measures, including reduced expenditures, expected increases in enrolment and a two per cent increase in tuition fees.    

“We must a produce a balanced budget for the institution,” explains College Board of Governors Chair Tom Styffe. “That balance extends to what we’ve asked our staff to do and what we are expecting of students. Our departments have found ways to reduce expenditures and increase revenues through contract training and through enhanced enrolment. At the same time, we’re increasing tuition two per cent.”

“This is only the third time in eight years that we have implemented an across-the-board fee increase,” Styffe notes. “Our goal this year was to avoid program and service cuts and we have achieved this. We want to ensure that we continue to provide access to the quality education that our students and communities deserve.”  

Most institutions in British Columbia have taken the allowable two per cent increases each year since the Province implemented the limit on tuition fee increases in 2005. While tuition has gone up by 6.1 per cent at Okanagan College since 2005, the Consumer Price Index has risen more than 15 per cent.

For a full-time student in university Arts with a typical course load, the two per cent increase in 2013-14 will amount to $62.79 per year, while a level one Automotive Painter apprentice would see tuition increase by $7.96. 

In addressing the 2013-14 budget issue, the College had to manage $952,000 in inflationary costs, as well as an anticipated $120,000 reduction in funding from the Province (part of a $70 million reduction to be applied sector-wide over the coming three years).

The increase in tuition is expected to yield about $302,500, while an increase in enrolment is projected to yield about $92,000 in additional tuition. Reductions in departmental expenses and increases in revenue are estimated at $240,000, while increased revenue from contract and custom training is projected to yield $670,000.

Employment program leads student to a career he never could have imagined

These stories were written by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and are being redistributed to the Okanagan with their permission.  See attached photos of Brad Tronson and Teresa Proudlove and Jennifer Jack.


Employment program leads student to a career he never could have imagined

From Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada

Brad Tronson March 2014Brad Tronson knows the value of having support when you are trying to make decisions about your career. He had worked in construction for 10 years when an injury on the job changed everything. Forced out of the career he loved, Brad ended up working in security to pay the bills but his heart wasn't in it. Fortunately, he bumped into an old friend who told him about a program that could help. Even better, it was being offered right in his own community — Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB).

As Brad discovered, OKIB's pre-employment program helps community members take the first steps towards a life-long career. Designed and delivered in partnership between OKIB and Okanagan College, this training program caters to the specific needs of the community. With the support of funding provided by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) and the Province of British Columbia, the program was recently expanded to include essential skills training and Adult Basic Education. The program now includes a five-month curriculum that equips students with practical skills and industry-specific certification that will make them more employable.

Like many of the students in the program, Brad faced several barriers to finding long-term employment. He didn't have a computer, Internet access or the skills to research career options and education requirements. Moreover, without a driver's license, he couldn't drive to classes or interviews outside the reserve. The pre-employment program helped him assess his skills, learn how to explore the job market and even obtain his driver's license.

By the end of the program, Brad was able to choose a career path that inspired him and he registered for the carpentry and joinery program at the Okanagan College Kelowna campus. "I've built houses for 10 years and I'm good at working with wood. I figured joinery is right up my alley and it's less physically demanding."

Brad recently won a bursary for Aboriginals in Trades and is on track to complete the college program in March and plans to pursue a Red Seal certificate in carpentry soon. However, another career change may be in store. He was recently approached by the Dean of Carpentry to help recruit Aboriginal youths to train for working in the trades. He will have to complete another college program to be eligible but looks forward to deciding on which career path to take – career options that were not on the horizon six months ago.

"I'm glad I found the program," says Brad. "Teresa and Jennifer really helped me find a career I can get excited about. I like what I'm studying now and look forward seeing where it will take me."

  

For students of Okanagan Indian Band’s employment program, success is tailor made

Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) and Okanagan College have put considerable care and attention into ensuring its pre-employment program meets the needs of its members. They know that if individuals succeed, the community as a whole will also benefit.Proudlove and Jack March 2014

To help ensure the pre-employment program addresses community needs, OKIB and Okanagan College continually seek input from Band stakeholders, students as well as program alumni. The program was recently expanded to include essential skills training, employability certification and Adult Basic Education through funding from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and the Province of BC. As a result, the course curriculum includes not only typical pre-employment training topics such as skills-assessment and resume writing but also workshops that focus on Aboriginal culture, communication skills, financial management, healthy eating and fitness.

OKIB Social Development Worker Cindy Brewer, Okanagan College Program Coordinator Cindy Meissner and lead facilitator Teresa Proudlove designed the pre-employment program to integrate foundational Aboriginal workshops throughout. "We have Social worker Molly Brewer talking to students on topics such as relationships, addictions and anger management that could be potential barriers to employment. Elder Judy Goodsky comes in to facilitate workshops about Aboriginal history and the medicine wheel helping students learn more about their heritage and how to keep themselves in balance" says Proudlove. "Many employment programs miss these critical cultural elements which reinforce students' honour and pride in their culture."

Joshua Edwards, a current student, has found the broad range of topics helpful. The class "got into depth with some of the cultural stuff," he says. "I'm not normally interested in my culture so it was pretty cool to hear about it." Kane Alexis, another student, was surprised at the number of topics that are covered. "I thought it would only be about upgrading education requirements but it was more about developing social skills and gaining all kinds of employable skills."

Jennifer Jack is the recruiter and facilitator from the OKIB office. Her deep knowledge of this close-knit community helps her identify people who would most benefit from this program. Now a proud mother of two, she was once a young woman on welfare without a high-school diploma and few prospects. When she became pregnant, she decided to fight for a second chance. She completed the necessary upgrades and continued on to receive her Human Services Diploma and her degree in social work.

Jennifer uses her journey as an example to keep students motivated. She likes to remind community members that it's never too late. "I barely thought I could earn a diploma, let alone a degree. It was scary but I went back."

Equally important is simply creating an environment where people want to come to class every day. "The program is here at Okanagan Indian Band. That's really fantastic; it makes it easier to get here," Proudlove says. Simply coming to class makes a difference she continues, "What would you be doing if you weren't making a commitment to come to class everyday for five months to focus on your career?"

Amber Phelan, a graduate of the program who is now taking Business Administration at Okanagan College agrees. "A lot of students would never come to town to participate in something like this, first of all because of transportation and gas and everything else."

The presence of the classroom in the community also helps reminds people that their friends and family are taking concrete steps towards building a future says Amber. "Having the program here is really cool because it spreads awareness through the community. Parents hear about it and they want their children to do something with their lives. It just opens doors for so many people and gives people a push to do something great."


Okanagan College Business Professor empowers women entrepreneurs in eastern Europe
Okanagan College Media Release

Kylenn Myrah March 2014Starting a new venture requires so much hard work and dedication; it’s enough to scare off even the most adventurous entrepreneur. Now, imagine undertaking a start-up as a woman in an embattled region in the face of entrenched gender bias? 

Under the principle that investing in women profits all of society, Okanagan College Business Professor Dr. Kyleen Myrah has been working with Invest for the Future (IFTF) in Croatia, a non-profit organization created under the leadership of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer. Geared to improving the economic situation of women in southern and eastern Europe and Eurasia, the group hosts a series of events and initiatives that brings together women entrepreneurs, educators and policy makers.

“The situation in eastern Europe has required many people to start over and be really creative doing it,” says Myrah, who is also the IFTF’s Canadian coordinator.

“I have been so impressed with the commitment from the entrepreneurs I’ve been working with. It’s so gratifying to see them make so much progress with such limited resources in a short amount of time.”

Take, for example, the story of one of the IFTF’s entrepreneurs from Georgia, Nino Zambakhidze, who moved back to the village she grew up in to start a farm, something previously never done by a woman in her region. 

“She faced incredible obstacles to launch her new venture,” says Myrah. “But with the IFTF’s support, she built a successful enterprise, garnered national attention across eastern Europe, and inspired 250 other women to take up farming.” 

Myrah’s work with the IFTF involves mentoring entrepreneurs and helping to facilitate the annual conference with the Croatian coordinator Tina Lee Odinksy-Zec, which took place earlier this month in Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb. She delivered part of the conference’s keynote address, participated in the international press conference, and organized mentorship workshops for attending entrepreneurs on several topics, including public speaking, business financing, and marketing. 

After the conference, she took advantage of the opportunity to meet with representatives at the Canadian Embassy to Croatia to discuss support of the IFTF initiative in the region, taught a class at the Zagreb School of Economics and Management and interviewed local business owners for her ongoing research into social entrepreneurship.

While the conference is over, Myrah’s work with the IFTF is far from finished. She is now focusing on creating online resources, creating a mentoring network structure, and helping country coordinators develop the infrastructure to host events in their own areas.

“Without the support of Okanagan College, it would be impossible for me to make these kinds of contributions,” she says. “This year has been amazing experience and will help shape my work going work forward.”