Okanagan College joins list of schools eligible for federal research funds

Canada’s largest research granting council has added Okanagan College’s name to the list of colleges eligible to receive and administer federal research funding.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) has reviewed and accepted the College’s application to join the growing list of community colleges that will help propel Canada’s innovation agenda.

The decision followed an NSERC review of College policies and practices that pertain to research.

“This is extremely positive news that comes at an opportune time,” says President Jim Hamilton. “Increasingly, colleges are being regarded as a key component in the innovation and commercialization initiatives in Canada. In the latest budget, for example, the federal government set aside funds specifically intended to spur college and community research initiatives and partnerships.”

Among the announcements in the June budget, for example, was allocation of 30 new Industrial Research Chairs at colleges ($3 million in 2011-12, and $5 million a year permanently beginning in 2012-13). A further $12 million over five years was earmarked for an Idea to Innovation program that supports joint college-university commercialization projects.

While the NSERC accreditation will ensure the College is able to apply for those funds and others, Hamilton says it is important to realize that the research and innovation agenda has always been a part of what happens at Okanagan College.

“We have many professors, instructors and students who have been engaged in innovation and research, whether it is a biology professor who is working with a developer to ascertain the effects of a marina on a fish population, or business students who are helping companies or non-profit agencies find better ways to conduct business.”

“There is more applied research that goes on at a college than most would imagine. The federal government is seeing the close connections that colleges such as ours have to industry and community, and is coming to recognize the opportunity to leverage that by fast-forwarding innovation.”

The funding opportunities won’t distract Okanagan College from its mission, says Hamilton.

“We have been, and always will be, primarily focused on education and training. Research funding will help create more learning opportunities for students, and will strengthen those ties between community and college and add further capacity for us to contribute to regional development.”

Okanagan College will officially announce its acceptance to NSERC accreditation tomorrow morning via press release. Stay tuned to the next edition of Inside Okanagan College for information about opportunities for partnership workshop programs, grant applications, and collaborations.

Robobros win international RoboCup Junior

roboBrothers Hudson and Nelson Schier can officially call themselves robotic masters of the world after winning the international RoboCup Junior in Istanbul, Turkey earlier this month.

The Vernon students qualified for the international competition after winning Okanagan College’s Western Canada RoboCup Junior competition earlier this fall. The Schiers have competed at the annual event for the last two years, winning the dance competition each time. Last year they qualified for the international competition but came home without a win. This year was a different story.

The Schier brothers built and programmed a robot based on the green energy theme of the competition. Their work earned them the top prize in the world as well as awards for best programming and super team. Their win marks the first time Canada has won the international competition.

Okanagan College’s RoboCup competition began five years ago when Electronic Engineering Technology instructor Nadir Ould-Khessal came up with a regional competition to spark an interest in electronics, robotics and programming for young people. Since then the event has grown and become more sophisticated every year. Watch coverage of the Schier brothers big win from CHBC.

 The sixth annual RoboCup will take place in November. Visit: for more information.

Minister makes first trip to Okanagan College to meet with students

yamamotoThe Hon. Naomi Yamamoto, Minister of Advanced Education, made her first trip to Okanagan College earlier this month after being appointed as Minister on March 14, 2011.

Minister Yamamoto and her staff spent the afternoon of Thursday July 7 at the Kelowna campus, where they had the opportunity to tour areas of the campus, meet with students and spend some time with the Chair of the Board and Administrative team of the College.

SIFE students Sattu Dhaliwal and Raymond Ong spent a few minutes in the Centre for Dialogue with Minster Yamamoto. They shared some of their experiences as Okanagan College students, as well as some of their achievements as members of the award-winning SIFE team.

Centre of Excellence campaign receives boost from good neighbours

ctIt’s been more than two years since Okanagan College began building the Centre of Excellence at the Penticton campus. As with any major construction project, there have been unavoidable annoyances – a lack of parking, dust, noise and the growing pains that come along with the development of a $28-million facility. 

What has been unusual about the past two years is the unequivocal support Okanagan College has received from its neighbours, chief among them, the local Canadian Tire. 
It turns out good fences don’t make good neighbours – but rather, community–minded business owners make great opportunities for students. 

Canadian Tire owners Doug and Lorraine MacMillan have announced a gift of $10,000 to support the Centre of Excellence fundraising campaign. The announcement comes after more than two years of support from the MacMillans, who took every opportunity to make the construction phase of the project as easy for Okanagan College as possible.

“Doug and Lorraine and everyone at Canadian Tire have been phenomenal allies during the construction of the Centre of Excellence,” said Donna Lomas, Regional Dean of the South Okanagan-Similkameen. “They have allowed us to use their parking lot for much of the last year. They have offered up their entry and exits for the big trucks that had difficulty maneuvering. They’ve put up with the construction noise, dust and have been nothing but supportive during it all. They have been a great partner and truly phenomenal neighbour.”

Their $10,000 gift speaks volumes to their belief in the power of education and in providing opportunities for local students. 

“For the past six years we have been happy to build a relationship as neighbours to Okanagan College,” explained Doug MacMillan. “We strongly believe in the power and importance of education and as a neighbouring business to the College we believe it is important to support an institution that is so good for the community. We had the opportunity to go inside the new Centre of Excellence and are so impressed with what the College has brought to Penticton. This donation is a win-win situation for us. We are pleased to be able to support a building and College that does so much for our community.”

Skaha residence gets greener with solar panels

solarOkanagan College’s student residence at the Kelowna campus is the most recent building at Okanagan College to acquire solar panels. A large section of the roof has been covered with large solar panels, which use the sun’s rays to heat the hot water for the residence. The upgrade took place earlier this year and was funded by PESCA, Natural Resources Canada, Fortis BC, Solar BC and Okanagan College.

Prior to installing the solar panels, the hot water needs for the student residence were generated by natural gas. The addition of the panels and an upgrade to the operating systems have resulted in a natural gas saving of 47 per cent, on an annual basis.

During the summer, Skaha residence is able to utilize the solar energy to heat 100 per cent of the water in the building. As the winter days get shorter and sunlight is less available, the system relies on natural gas to supplement the energy created and captured by the panels.

Home Hardware joins the campaign to support the Centre of Excellence with $25,000 donation

hhHome Hardware’s President and Owner of Pro Builders Supply Ltd. recently announced a contribution of $25,000 to support Penticton’s Centre of Excellence. 

“The Centre of Excellence is a great example of the kind of development that will build capacity in the community,” said Paul McCann, whose company owns and operates Home Building Centres in Penticton, Osoyoos, West Kelowna, Kelowna and one store in Alberta. 
“This building is a wonderful thing and we are happy to be a part of it. The number one reason we are supporting this campaign is because we recognize that continuing education builds career opportunities for graduates who then go on to add value to the community. Secondly, educational institutions such as Okanagan College are economic drivers in their own right. The impact of the building, the students and staff of Okanagan College all contribute to our local economy.

“Finally, the building’s focus on sustainability, green technology and the innovative programming that goes hand-in-hand with the Centre of Excellence is going to improve the quality of life for the people of this region.”

“We are extremely grateful to receive the support of Paul McCann and his Home Building Centres,” said Jim Henderson, President of the Okanagan College Foundation. “Mr. McCann’s businesses are recognized throughout our region as leaders in the home building industry and their focus on this community and the people who live here are evident in their ongoing success. We are pleased to call them friends of the Okanagan College Foundation – their support means a great deal us.”

Super Sorters are on the way

sorterFacilities Management will be upgrading every campus at Okanagan College with a superior recycling and waste management system in the coming weeks.

Graham Kershaw calls them super sorters and they have been designed to make recycling and sorting trash, compost and refundables easier. The new system marks another step closer to the College’s goal of generating less waste.


Thurnheer joins provincial Wine Authority Board

thurnheer1A familiar face of business in the Okanagan and around Okanagan College is taking on a new role at the BC Wine Authority with the announcement of Laura Thurnheer’s appointment to the Board. 

Thurnheer joined the BC Wine Authority Board last month after being recommended for the position and undergoing a series of interviews with the provincial Wine Industry Advisory Committee. 

“We are very pleased that our members have elected Laura to serve on the Board of the Authority,” said Jeffrey Thomas, Chair of the Board of the BC Wine Authority. “Her leadership skills, knowledge of HR-related matters and depth of experience in the wine regions of the Province will be of great value to us as the Authority continues to evolve and work to guarantee the quality and origin of 100 per cent BC wines." 

Thurnheer’s appointment marks an important development in the provincial Board’s four-year history – she becomes the first Board member to reside in the Okanagan.

“It is truly an honour to be a part of this provincial Board,” explained Thurnheer. “This Board is a great fit for me as a Business professor here in the Okanagan. I have a great love of BC wine and believe in supporting our growing BC wine industry.”

The Wine Authority was created by the provincial government in 2007. It implements the system of wine standards and authorizes wineries to use certain prescribed terms on wine labels such as BC VQA. The Wine Authority was created for VQA certification, tasting and enforcement of the Wines of Marked Quality legislation.

Lent returns for ninth annual A Verse to Summer

lent9Retired Okanagan College Regional Dean John Lent took time away from Moosejaw’s Festival of Words to connect with a CBC Radio listener who presented him with a topic for his ninth annual round of CBC’s A Verse to Summer poetry series.

In this perennial summer series favorite, listeners are asking poets to work around the theme of things overheard. A recent listener from Lumby asked John Lent to write a poem about the call of what she refers to as the who-who bird. Those who may think that is an easy topic probably haven’t met Kevin McPherson and Jake Kennedy (self proclaimed poetry Tsar) – Kevin and Jake gave John some constraints to work with when writing his poem.

Follow this link to listen to John read his poem from Moosejaw.

(Apologies to English professor Sean Johnston, who was featured the previous week – Inside OC had technical difficulties recording Sean’s poem and it is no longer available on the CBC website. We will try our best to feature each Okanagan College poet as they share their Verse to Summer.)

The Douglas family grows by two feet


It’s a BOY! Dawn Douglas (from the Advancement & Foundation office), her husband Kyle and their son Joshua are happy to announce the arrival of Brayden Riley Douglas, born on Sunday, July 3 at 1:34 a.m.

Brayden arrived on his due date and weighed in at 8 lbs 6 oz and measured 21 inches long.  

Tanis Stoltz joins Human Resources

tanisTanis Stoltz has joined Okanagan College’s Human Resources team as a Human Resources Assistant in a regular shared appointment with Liz Currie. Both Tanis and Liz work closely with Lynda Dreaper.

Tanis has a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Human Resources from Thompson Rivers University supplemented by a Business Diploma in Accounting from Okanagan University College. Tanis has 20 years of experience in the private sector in compensation, benefits, pensions, accounting and other aspects of human resources functions and activities. 

July 19, 2011 Vol. 5 Issue 8


Volunteers needed for Kelowna orientation

Staff at the Kelowna campus have been working hard to create an exciting orientation to welcome new students to the campus. For the second time in Kelowna, Okanagan College will host a campus-wide semester kick-off of on Sept. 6.

In order to make this event great for new students, the orientation committee is calling for staff and faculty volunteers. Volunteer shifts will be one or two hours long and are needed from 7:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. Help is needed to assist with serving snacks, meeting and greeting students and coordinating parking.

Anyone interested in helping can contact Carolyn Hopkins - local 4469.

New Manulife Benefit 

Human Resources is pleased to announce that Manulife Financial has launched a lifestyle coaching service to provide employees with an opportunity to improve their health by working one-on-one with a qualified professional lifestyle health coach. Manulife extends this service to employees that are plan members of Manulife’s Extended Healthcare Plan.

This service has proven to be a valuable tool for employees interested in improving their health and reducing their health risks. 
Follow this link to learn more about this exciting new service.

50/50 winner announced

Congratulations to Liz Currie from Human Resources at the Kelowna campus, who has won the Friday July 15, 2011 payday draw for $532.50 
All Okanagan College employees are eligible to participate in the Okanagan College Foundation 50/50 Staff Lottery.

If you wish to sign up, registration forms are available from Tessa Derksen (Local 4774) in the Advancement & Alumni/Okanagan College Foundation office (located in P103, KLO Campus) or from Human Resources.


Aug. – 4 Parks Alive! Kelowna will be hosting an acoustic indie band themed night in the courtyard of the Kelowna campus from 6 - 9 p.m. This fun family event will feature music by Alex and Ibriam, Aaron Gordon and Soul Remedy. Admission is free and donations are welcome. Details about the Parks Alive! summer program can be found online at or

Aug. 23-24 – Mark your calendar for Connections 2011. Register today for Okanagan College’s annual employee learning conference in Penticton. Haven’t had a chance to tour the new Centre of Excellence? Find out what all the international buzz is about and tour the new building. Learn about its sophisticated and innovative systems, design, and construction. Follow this link to learn more or register for Connections. Questions can be directed to Kaya Forest.


A community partnership between Okanagan College’s Residential Construction class in Kelowna and the Kelowna Fire Department saw the students lend their skills to the rejuvenation of the Kelowna Fire Museum. Watch a clip from CHBC about the project.

Okanagan College alumnus Shane Koyczan was recently profiled in the Globe and Mail talking about his new work, When I was a Kid, which chronicles his experience being bullied during his youth. Follow this link to read the interview with Shane.

A graduate of Okanagan College’s Home Inspection program was profiled in the Vernon Morning Star after Public Affairs issued a press release about the program. Read Brad Gaynor’s story in Grads seek home inspection jobs.

Students involved in Penticton's Residential Construction program were profiled on CHBC thanks to their involvement in a new cooperative partnership with AGUR Lake. The students have built cabins for the not-for-profit organization to help provide a barrier-free opportunity for people with developmental disabilities.

Former Okanagan College employee Bobby Gidda made the pages of the Kelowna Capital news thanks to a solid review of his award-winning rose from Volcanic Hills. The rose just won the Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Excellence in B.C. Wines. Read more in: Winery’s test sample given thumbs up.

The Hon. Naomi Yamamoto, Minister of Advanced Education, was quoted in the Daily Courier as being “blown away” by the post secondary institutions in the Okanagan after a visit to UBC O and Okanagan College. The Capital News also ran a story about the Minister’s visit. Read more in: Advanced education minister impressed with Valley campuses and Cabinet minister says student debt not so bad.

A Public Affairs press release announcing Canadian Tire’s $10,000 donation to the Centre of Excellence was picked up by the Penticton Herald. Read the full piece here: Big boost from neighbour.

The Capital News picked up a Public Affairs press release highlighting the growing demand for welders in the region. Read more from Chair Dean Nutter in: Recovery raising the demand for welders.

Public Affairs Director Allan Coyle filled in for Jane Muskens’ School’s In column while Jane is on vacation. Allan wrote two columns: one covered the benefits of technology in education, the other highlighted the importance of education and training in responding to one of life’s most feared developments - change. Read more in: Technology only helps to achieve a greater goal – graduation and Change will remain a constant fact of life for students.

The Vernon Morning Star published a letter to the editor from Beryl Nerling in support of a sports complex at the Vernon campus. Read more in: Sports complex is needed.

Laura Thurnheer’s appointment to the BC Wine Authority was covered by the Kelowna Daily Courier and Capital News. Read more in: Business professor appointed to wine authority.

Business professor Margo McMahan submitted a letter to the editor of the Penticton Herald pointing out Canada Post’s declining relevance. Check it  out: Mail’s days are numbered.

The Okanagan Saturday picked up a Public Affairs press release profiling the success of one of Okanagan College’s Women in Trades students, Cola Martini. Read more about Cola’s training and success in the workplace in: Woman in trade mentors others in program.

In his Global Citizen column, former Associate Dean of Arts and Foundational programs Stan Chung wrote about life in the Okanagan during the summer. Check it out: Summertime in the Okanagan


Do you have comments, questions or a submission for INSIDE OKANAGAN COLLEGE? Please email Public Affairs c/o Christine Ulmer.

The next edition of INSIDE OKANAGAN COLLEGE will be issued on Tuesday, Aug. 2. One-hundred-and-forty-six years earlier the first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was published.

Only 21 copies of the first edition were published, making it one of the rarest books of the 19th century.