OC health care student graduates with multiple prospects

Zaynah StewartWhen Zaynah Stewart crosses the stage on Saturday, Jan. 12 to accept her Health Care Assistant (HCA) certificate at Okanagan College’s Winter Convocation ceremony, she will do so with the satisfaction of a job firmly secured.

Stewart began her career working in administrative positions but never lost sight of her lifelong dream of working in the health industry. The HCA program instantly appealed to her because of its short duration, giving her the chance to step into the industry quickly. Stewart will cross the stage with three job offers to choose from after completing the six-month HCA program.

Stewart is one of 31 graduates from the College’s most recent intakes of the HCA program, which ran in Salmon Arm and Kelowna. She is one of 482 graduates who will earn credentials at the College’s two Winter Convocation ceremonies in Kelowna on Saturday.

The Winter Convocations are the first of the College’s eight ceremonies that take place this year. Students from all four campuses will cross the stage at the Kelowna campus to receive their credentials. The College will confer 61 Bachelor’s degrees, 34 Associate degrees, 271 diplomas and 116 certificates. 

The morning ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. and the afternoon ceremony at noon. Both ceremonies will stream live on the College’s Facebook page:

The HCA program is just one of eight health and social development programs that will be housed in the College's new $18.9-million Health Sciences Centre, now under construction at the Kelowna campus. 

Read the full story here.

OUC time capsule opened

OUC time capsule ceremonyThe past came alive at a special ceremony at UBC Okanagan Dec. 11. 

A time capsule, complete with dozens of items tucked away 25 years ago by staff at Okanagan University College (OUC), was opened and its contents revealed. Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton and UBC Okanagan’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Deborah Buszard watched as the time capsule’s sealed lid was removed.

In 1993, the north Kelowna campus of OUC, which is now UBC’s Okanagan campus, opened during a two-day weekend. During the opening celebrations, the capsule was sealed and then placed in the campus library. It sat undisturbed, with the only instructions being to open it in 2018.

Along with newspapers, ball caps, t-shirts, and a penny collection from 1993 all the way back to 1963 (the year OUC began as the BC Vocational School), the time capsule also contained a number of college recruiting video tapes and brochures, a Kelowna bus schedule, a calendar, key chains, mugs and two wrapped presents. One present is for the 2018 board chair and the second is for whomever the board chair will be in 2043—when a new time capsule will be opened.

“When I think about the ever-expanding number of students and alumni of both institutions, and what they will accomplish in the decades to come, the combined potential of their accomplishments is too vast to even consider,” says Hamilton. “But when we look back in another 25 years, those individuals and their work, along with all of you and your accomplishments will be the real testament to what has been accomplished on this campus and by our two remarkable institutions.”

Read the full story here.


Olympic hopeful gets lift from Okanagan College donors

Hannah Mehain - 250pxThanks to the generosity of donors to Okanagan College, Hannah Mehain is pursuing education and Olympic-sized dreams at the same time.

Mehain is in her second year of science at OC’s Vernon campus with the goal of studying medicine or physiotherapy. At just age 20, she is also an accomplished cross country skier, who just made the Canadian World Junior/U23 Championships team in mid-December. Mehain will be travelling to Finland this month to compete with the best in the world. After that, her eyes are on the 2022 Winter Olympics.

“If I did not have the financial support from the College I likely would not be able to compete in cross-country skiing at a high level while going to school,” says Mehain. “Having that support, I can devote my time and energy into doing very well at both. It makes a huge difference.”

Mehain is one of 977 students who received scholarships and bursaries from Okanagan College and the Okanagan College Foundation in 2018. In total, more than $1.1 million was given to students, with much of the funds made possible through the generous support of donors.

Read the full story here.

Survey says: Proud employees but fewer respond

Some of the good news from the 2017 employee survey? 

Ninety per cent of employees who responded to the survey said they were proud to work at Okanagan College, 96 per cent said they would recommend OC to prospective students, and 88 per cent said they would recommend the College to friends or relatives as a place to work.

The not-so-good news? Fewer employees took time to complete the survey.

Just 23 per cent of eligible employees responded to the voluntary employee survey, the lowest percentage since OC started conducting a survey in 2007. (In 2015, about 29 per cent of employees responded to the survey. In 2007, 44.7 per cent of employees responded.)

The response rate, and an interest in how the College can increase participation and make better use of the survey to improve the employee experience, led to meetings with and a commitment from employee group leaders at the College to participate in an ad hoc working group. The group will be focused on redeveloping the survey and using results to help guide change. It is expected to begin meeting in 2019.

Other results from the survey:

  • 71 per cent of respondents disagreed with the statement that the survey would make a difference to their work life at OC.
  • 93 per cent said they understand Okanagan College’s mission, vision and values.
  • 94 per cent said they felt their work is important to the success of Okanagan College.
  • 41 per cent of respondents disagreed with the statement that new employees receive appropriate orientation and training, although 67 per cent of those with fewer than five years’ employment at OC said they received appropriate orientation and training to assist them in doing their job well.
  • 80 per cent of respondents said they knew where and how to seek help or information for their mental health and wellbeing (a new question in the 2017 survey).
  • 80 per cent said they knew how to take action if they see or experience violence, bullying or harassment (another new question in 2017).

OC employees can view a report on the survey in myOkanagan, under the Reports tab > Surveys. It outlines highlights and changes to the survey and methodology in 2017.

2019 Employee Excellence Awards nominations open

Employee Excellence logoNominations are now being accepted for the eighth annual Okanagan College Employee Excellence Awards. 

Employees can nominate their peers in nine categories for making a difference to students, their colleagues, and the institution.

  • Career Achievement
  • Continuous Improvement
  • Key Directions
  • Leadership
  • Scholarly & Creative Activity
  • Service Excellence
  • Strong Start
  • Teaching Excellence
  • President’s Award

Nominations will be accepted until Friday, March 15. Finalists and recipients will be recognized at a celebration event on Wednesday, May 15 from 2:45-4:45 p.m. (details about the event will be shared in future updates). All nomination forms are available on the Employee Excellence website.

The organizing committee also encourages employees to share examples of their own or their colleague’s milestones (completed a credential, been published or have received an award from an external organization) from the past year. The Milestones form can be located here.

College continues emergency preparedness training

Over the past several years Okanagan College has continued to ramp up training for members of its Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). The EOC is a central command centre where OC staff are responsible for carrying out emergency response planning, and – in the event of an emergency – action. 

The EOC team is made up of OC employees from various departments, from IT to Facilities and Business Services to Public Affairs and the Regional Dean’s Offices at each campus. These team members take on different roles in the EOC than their regular positions and have gone through formal training to learn and execute their roles in the face of an emergency. The room where the EOC meets has been continually enhanced and populated with the critical tools and information technology needed to help the team respond to an emergency at any or all campuses, day or night. 

The team meets monthly to work through mock scenarios and complete hands-on training. They have also gone through a number of specialized “table top” simulations with EOC expert, Bob Black, owner of Black Shield Preparedness Solutions. The most recent of these training sessions occurred on Oct. 31, when Black led the group through a table top exercise involving a complex emergency scenario impacting all four College campuses.

For more information about the EOC, please contact Drew Petrie, Manager, Facilities and Business Services.

2018 survey results point to student satisfaction

The seventh annual survey of students in the spring of 2018 demonstrated that a significant proportion – 91 per cent – of Okanagan College students agree that attending OC has been a good experience, that the institution has a good reputation in the community (89 per cent), and say that OC was their first choice (89 per cent). 

The survey drew on responses from 754 students (2,152 of OC’s students were invited to respond), who replied over an eight-week period that ran from mid-February.

Seventy-five per cent of the respondents said their main educational goal was to complete a certificate, diploma or degree at Okanagan College. Ninety per cent of students said they would recommend their course or program to other people.

To a large extent the results mimic those from previous surveys of students. One area of note was a drop in the reported satisfaction levels with wireless services on campus (from 61 per cent in 2016 to 57 per cent in 2018) and a decline in satisfaction with parking: Penticton decreased from 42 per cent satisfaction to 22 per cent, Vernon from 68 per cent to 32 per cent, and Salmon Arm from 89 per cent to 59 per cent. Kelowna held relatively steady at 14 per cent (up from 13 per cent in 2016). 

To view the full report, you can go to the Reports tab in myOkanagan, and visit Institutional Research’s link to surveys.


Kirkpatrick serving as interim Director of Advancement and Alumni

Anne KirkpatrickAnne Kirkpatrick assumed the role of interim Director of Advancement and Alumni and Executive Director of the Okanagan College Foundation on Dec. 24.

Kirkpatrick will remain in the role until the search for a new director – to replace recently retired Kathy Butler, who occupied the role since 2003 – has concluded.

Kirkpatrick joined the OC Foundation in January 2009 after a 20-year development career in Alberta. She plays a key strategic role in the Major Gifts program for the Foundation, with an emphasis on Planned Giving activities. 

Aboriginal Services welcomes new transitions planner

Bill Wang - Aboriginal ServicesOkanagan College’s Aboriginal Services team welcomed its new Aboriginal Transitions Planner Bill Wang on Dec. 17.

Wang graduated from Okanagan College in 2015 with a Bachelor of Business Administration, moving to the Netherlands to work in market research while his wife pursued her graduate studies. In 2017, they moved to Taiwan to teach English and continue their adventure abroad. Later that year, they decided it was time to settle down and return to the beautiful Okanagan.

Wang developed his passion for helping others through his time with non-profits and volunteer work in the community. He enjoys going to the gym, exploring the outdoors, photography and playing video games. He feels very grateful to be on the traditional territories of the Okanagan-Syilx people(s).

Education helps opportunity bubble for local wine industry professional

Ryan Fipke - 2018From his start picking grapes at Tantalus Vineyard to now owning a vineyard with boutique winery goals of his own, Ryan Fipke is living proof of the value of education and training for B.C.’s wine industry talent.

As Tasting Room Manager and Private Sales at Tantalus Vineyards, and also co-owner of Vice & Virtue Brewery – one of newest additions to the Okanagan’s booming craft beer scene – Fipke has had many roles over the years, but has witnessed one constant: the importance of learning at every step along the way.

Knowing a career in the wine industry was his passion, Fipke began his formal training a few years back when he enrolled in the three wine certificate programs offered by Okanagan College’s Continuing Studies Department. 

“While I was working full-time, I gained the skills I needed for my career with the viticulture, winery assistant and wine sales certificates,” explains Fipke. “And in the process, I also uncovered a ton of really cool family history that I never knew. My grandma used to make her own wine in the 1940s and my paternal grandpa distilled moonshine, and that’s just the start of it. It turns out wine and craft alcohols run in my blood.”

“When I made all of these connections, I couldn’t help but feel like I was meant to be here. I’ve been working very hard for many years; now that I own a vineyard, I’m literally planting vines for my future dream of running a small boutique winery.” 

Read the full story here.

Student takes Do Some Good mantra to heart

Shivam GuptaOkanagan College student Shivam Gupta was profiled during a Global Okanagan segment on the benefits of giving back through a volunteer app developed locally.

Gupta is a business student taking post-baccalaureate studies in marketing. Through Do Some Good – an online platform that connects people, charities, non-profits and good companies all in one space – Gupta was able to find a volunteer position teaching people with disabilities how to use computers.

“Being an international student, I always wanted to volunteer but I never knew how to get started with it,” Gupta said. “Once I got to Okanagan College I got to know Do Some Good and I’ve been doing my bit to help the community ever since.”

Read the story and watch the segment online.

First Aid trainer shares life-saving knowledge at OC

Andy JackAndy Jack can give plenty of reasons why keeping his skills up-to-date is critical in his profession, but it only took one personal incident for the Vernon-based first aid expert to confirm his commitment to refresher training at OC.

He has seen first-hand the life-saving importance of updating his certification throughout his career.

“Having first aid is one of the most invaluable tickets you can have on the job, because you never know what is going to happen,” he says. “A lot of employers won’t even let you on the job site without it now.”

Jack can cite many ways in which he’s seen first aid training evolve over the years, from education around automatic electronic defibrillators, anaphylaxis response and, more recently, naloxone kits. He has experience working in remote locations and knows having first-aid skills and knowledge can drastically improve the outcome.

Never has a lesson hit home for Jack more seriously than one morning two years ago when he found his spouse unresponsive in the bathroom as he was getting ready for work.

“I didn’t want to move her because I thought she might have slipped and caused a head or neck injury. As I looked closer, I noticed her mouth was drooping on her one side,” he recalls. “I could see her eyes moving, she was trying to hear me, but her speech was slurred. That’s when I remembered FAST – face, arms, speech and time.”

He called 911 and his wife received immediate surgery which saved her life.

Jack was featured in the latest Continuing Studies brochure, which can be found here.

Read the full story here.

Salmon Arm students share new year's resolutions

At a time when many are making resolutions to hit the gym, a pair of Okanagan College students are sharing their thoughts on why hitting the books in January may be even more life-changing.

Salmon Arm student Connor Welsh seized the new year in 2017 to kick-start his education, as the timing would allow him to continue to lend a hand with the family business.

“I started in January because I found it worked better for my schedule,” explains Connor Welsh, whose family owns Country Camping Leisure Products and works long hours during the peak tourist season. “In the summer months, I’m often working the most during the year. That’s when I have the longest hours and am the busiest, so studying in the off-season is better.”

Fast forward to this January, and Welsh finds himself with just one course left to go. He says the College’s small class sizes and personal approach have been critical to his progress, and inspired him to consider additional business education as well.

“From the moment I took a step through the doors, the staff were focused on what I needed to succeed and move forward,” Welsh explains. “It is such a friendly atmosphere, the quality of the education is great, the classroom experience is good because people want to be there, and the instructors care about your learning.”

Read the full story here.

Barber Society scholarships smooth road ahead for students

After being out of school for years, Blake Lewis is now well on his way to a career in the classroom, thanks to a spark of inspiration at Okanagan College and a boost from the Irving K. Barber Scholarship Society. 

Lewis is one of 27 students from Okanagan College who received a $5,000 award from the Irving K. Barber Scholarship Society, which are awarded annually to undergraduate students who have completed at least one year at a public post-secondary institution in B.C. and are transferring to another degree-granting institution to complete their studies.

The Shuswap native had been working in pest control for years, but always felt the desire to explore his options. Attending professional training at Okanagan College’s Salmon Arm campus inspired him to take action.

“I was hesitant about going back to school as a mature student. It was a big change, but ultimately, everyone at the Salmon Arm campus made it really easy for me,” he says. “I really enjoyed it, and have been trying to convince others to give it a go, too.”

He completed his Associate of Arts degree at OC before transferring to Thompson Rivers University last fall, in pursuit of a career in education. Lewis says the transition to university has been smooth academically and financially.

This year, Okanagan College had the highest number of students in the province to receive the transfer scholarships in pursuit of educational studies.

Read the full story here.

Jan. 8, 2019, Vol. 12, Issue 25


New channel developed for staff and student input on OC Board policies

The Okanagan College Board of Governors has directed College administration to post Board policies under development for review in a space online where students and staff can access them and provide feedback.

Follow this link to read the new policy called Policy Approval Authority – Board, Education Council and President.

The first policy up for review using this process is the President Selection Policy which has been identified as requiring an update. To review and comment on the revised policy, please click here to be directed to the Moodle form on or before Jan. 23. No personal identification is required to submit feedback on the policy. Accordingly, you will not receive a response regarding your comments.

Shape the future of Kelowna’s creative scene

In 2011, the City of Kelowna created its first Cultural Plan and as a community has made a lot of progress since then, but there is still more to be done. The City of Kelowna is seeking your feedback on the current plan's goals, what your priority areas are, and what ideas you have to help achieve those goals - whether it's ideas for different kinds of affordable space or how we can enhance existing support programs. You can fill out the survey online (open until March 31) or add to our ideas board

You can also participate by applying for a grant for a Host Your Own Event or participating in the Young Professionals Forum (apply by Jan. 14).

Cross-Cultural Awareness presentation – hold the date

You’re invited to save the date for the next three presentations as part of the Cross-Cultural Awareness events. Students will present on China on Jan. 30, Philippines on Feb. 27 and Jamaica on March 27. All presentations are delivered by international students on their respective country’s culture and educational systems.

Click here to view the upcoming event posters.

Learning and Applied Research professional development workshops

Be sure to check out the professional development workshops being offered by Learning and Applied Research. Workshops begin as early as Wednesday, Jan.9. Click here to view the workshops and email Learning and Applied Research to register for workshops in advance.

Holiday Season Closure Dates announced for 2019-20

The 2019-20 holiday season closure and 2019 summer hours schedule has also been released. The College will be closed to the public beginning Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019 at 3 p.m., and will re-open on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. View the schedule here

Emergency procedures in the classroom

As a reminder for the new year, emergency posters are posted in every classroom at all campuses, in high visibility areas (often near the door or light switch). Posters include emergency contact numbers (250-862-5401 from any cell phone or 6699 from any campus phone), the steps to take if you need First Aid, what to do if you experience a fire, lethal threat, power outage, hazardous material exposure or gas leak, building flood or if you need to evacuate a building.

Please review the poster with your classes during the first few days of each semester so everyone is familiar with the proper procedures. It is also recommended that students and employees download the OC Safe App. Click here for details about the app.

Employee and Family Assistance Program article - Thriving in an Inclusive Workplace

To succeed in today's global world, supporting diversity and inclusion in the workplace pays dividends. Age, race, religion, orientation, cultural background — we all bring a unique set of talents and abilities to the workplace. For support and resources, read the online feature here or call LifeWorks toll-free 1-888-307-0590 (open 24/7). 

Butcher Shop Fridays return

Butcher Shop Fridays will restart this Friday, Jan. 11 at the Kelowna campus cafeteria. Stop by the meat station in the cafeteria every Friday at 9:30 a.m. to purchase delicious prepared meats such as sausage, bratwurst, bacon, chicken, burgers and more. 

Infusions reopens for 2019

Infusions restaurant at the Kelowna campus has reopened for lunch and dinner service. Lunch service is available Mon-Fri from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. and dinner service is available Tue-Fri from 5:30 – 8 p.m. Click here to view the lunch and dinner menus and book your reservation using OpenTable.

Infusions is also one of many local restaurants participating in the upcoming Dine Around Thompson Okanagan event which features special menus with affordable pricing to encourage. Click here to view the menu. 


OC Coyotes game and pep rally

Jan. 11 – Show your Okanagan College spirit and come cheer on your OC Coyotes women’s and men’s basketball teams. Games start at Kelowna Secondary School at 6 p.m. (women’s) and 8 p.m. (men’s). Pep rally runs from 4-6 p.m. Learn more about the Coyotes and find team, game and season info here.

Winter Convocation

Jan. 12Winter Convocation ceremonies will be held in the CFL Atrium at the Kelowna campus. The 10 a.m. ceremony is for Arts & Foundational, Science, Technology and Health students, and at noon, the Business ceremony will be held.

Both ceremonies will stream live on the College’s Facebook page

Cross-Cultural Awareness presentation

Jan. 30 – Join in for the next installment of the Cross-Cultural Awareness project on Jan. 30 in the Trades Atrium at 12:15 p.m. for a presentation on China. Learn about Chinese culture and education systems first-hand from international students.


Okanagan College and the University of British Columbia Okanagan opened the time capsule to unveil items from 1993. The Salmon Arm Observer, Summerland Review and Vernon Morning Star shared details about the event and Castanet shared a video.

The 2018 Vernon Health Care Assistant class from OC’s Vernon campus made waves last year for starting a food drive for the Upper Room Mission. The Salmon Arm Observer reported on OC HCA graduate (2018) Baljit Sandhu, who is helping to carry on the tradition of lending a hand by continuing his efforts with this year’s HCA class.

OC Honorary Fellow (2013) and chairman and CEO of KF Aerospace Barry Lapointe was featured by the Daily Courier for recently being inducted into the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame. He will receive the formal honour during a ceremony in Montreal in May.

The Revelstoke Review presented highlights from the recent school board meeting, including Okanagan College’s plans to offer a tourism diploma program in Revelstoke this September.

A Daily Courier article featuring Cannabis companies gave accolades to Okanagan College for being the first post-secondary institution to offer a cannabis course, The Emerging Marijuana Industry, and for now offering several cannabis-focused Continuing Studies programs.

OC Automotive Mechanical graduate (1992) Allan Louis was appointed as a director to the Interior Health board. The 100 Mile Free Press and Vernon Morning Star shared details about Louis who also serves as a councillor of the Okanagan Indian Band, co-chair of the Aboriginal education committee for School District 22 and is an active member of the First Nations Health Council.

OC employee and alumna Daria Zavarzina was featured by the Capital News for playing a role in Kelowna Community Resources’ mentorship program. The Russian native is working closely with her Ukrainian partner, despite the fact that their home countries are conflicting.

The Vernon Morning Star shared information about OC Enactus’ recent partnership with the North Okanagan Valley Gleaners to help feed local youth through their healthy food initiative, FruitSnaps.

InfoTel News took on a large question – How Kelowna grew to become the biggest city in the Okanagan – and attributed part of the growth to post-secondary institutions, including Okanagan College.

The Daily Courier shared 2018 highlights from the Okanagan Rail Trail campaign, including the vision for the project which OC economics professor Brad Clements had a hand in shaping.

OC culinary students and instructors shared in the Christmas spirit and played their part in preparing a holiday meal for hundreds of people at the Parkinson Recreation Centre and the Daily Courier and KelownaNow took note.

The Capital News shared Olympic hopeful and OC student Hannah Mehain’s story, who was one of 977 students to receive scholarships and bursaries from OC and the OC Foundation to make her educational dreams come true. 

Former OC employee Terry Jordan was profiled by the Campbell River Mirror for his search for aspiring playwrights.

The Capital News reported that OC alumna and Olympic gold medalist Kelsey Serwa has been named Kelowna's athlete of the year.

The Salmon Arm Observer and Vernon Morning Star shared details about the annual vigil hosted at both OC's Salmon Arm and Vernon campuses to honour women who experience violence. The vigil was hosted by Okanagan College's Students' Union and Aboriginal Services department. The Vernon Morning Star also shared a second article.

OC Honorary Fellow (2015) and renowned chef Rod Butters received a shout-out in Maxine Dehart's column in the Capital News. His cookbook won a silver medal in the Regional/Cultural Cookbooks category at the 2018 Taste Canada Awards.

OC business student Shivam Gupta was profiled during a Global Okanagan segment on the benefits of giving back through a volunteer app Do Some Good.

The Capital News touted Okanagan College’s three Continuing Studies wine certificates as helping to grow the region’s wine industry. OC graduate Ryan Fipke completed all three wine certificates and has used his education to start a life-long career in the industry. 

The Salmon Arm Observer, Vernon Morning Star and Capital News shared OC graduate Blake Lewis’ story about receiving a $5,000 Irving K. Barber Scholarship to help him in his transfer to another post-secondary institution after completing his Associate of Arts degree at OC.

Okanagan Life magazine featured the Roche family home, an 800 square foot net-zero energy house, on Penticton’s Upper Bench, which OC Sustainable Construction Management Technology students and their instructor planned and built.

Castanet announced the upcoming Dine Around Thompson Okanagan event which kicks-off at Okanagan College with a launch party on Jan. 15. The College’s restaurant, Infusions, is one of the many local participating restaurants.   

OC English as a Second Language student and Syrian refugee Raad Alhajjr was featured by the Capital News for opening his own business, a Mediterranean food truck, in Kelowna.

The Regina Leader-Post shared details about OC Coyotes sophomore baseball player Jesse Poniewozik who recently signed with the Edmonton Prospects of the Western Major Baseball League.

Retired OC professor Les Ellenor was featured in the Salmon Arm Observer for telling the story of how the Reformation and Puritans killed Yuletide.


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

To ensure your submission is included, please send all details at least one day in advance of the newsletter’s publication.

The next edition of INSIDE OKANAGAN COLLEGE will be issued on Jan. 22, 2019.