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Thanks to the generosity of donors to Okanagan College, students are able to gain an education and for some, pursue big dreams at the same time.
Hannah Mehain is one such student. At age 20, she's in her second year of science at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus with the goal of studying medicine or physiotherapy.
She is also an accomplished cross country skier, who just last week made the Canadian World Junior/U23 Championships team. She will be travelling to Finland in January 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 this year. In total, more than $1.1 million was given to students, with much of the funds made possible through the generous support of donors.
"I want to thank everyone who is helping make my dream and other students' dreams possible," says Mehain.
She adds that the College professors have been extremely supportive of her athletic endeavors, providing her with flexibility to complete her studies while attending competitions.
“I love going to school every day because I am interested in the material I am learning and because the professors are passionate and knowledgeable about the material they are teaching,” says Mehain.
In November, nearly $500,000 was handed out to students at three awards ceremonies in Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon. The fall award ceremonies provide a timely boost of support for students as the holidays approach. The ceremonies also play an important role in connecting students with the individuals and organizations behind the awards.
“Community support is a significant ingredient in the recipe for student success,” notes Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton.
“Whether it allows students to pursue their studies while chasing other goals or whether it just relieves some of the financial stress associated with their education that help means a great deal.”
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.
“It is a huge help in moving to a new city and community, and I don’t have to worry about the financial aspect,” Lewis says.
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 before transferring to Thompson Rivers University for this fall, in pursuit of a career in education. Lewis says the transition to university has been smooth academically and financially.
“College is a stepping stone on the path to success,” Lewis says. “For me, the scholarship also reinforced that the hard work I had invested into my education was paying off. It was a tough decision to go back to school, but this scholarship really showed me that the hard work was coming back to me.”
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.
This year, Okanagan College had the highest number of students in the province to receive the transfer scholarships in pursuit of educational studies.
“Ike Barber’s legacy of supporting students to fulfill their goals through post-secondary education in the province grows every year,” says Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College. “We’re deeply grateful to the Irving K. Barber Society for this continued investment in students at Okanagan College and so many other institutions. These scholarships create flexibility, mobility, and for many students, a life-changing opportunity to carry on their education.”
Scholarship funds come from the returns on a $15 million endowment established by the province in 2006. The fund is named after philanthropist Irving K. Barber who had a long history of supporting public education and research projects in British Columbia before his death in 2012. This year, the fund supported 171 transfer scholarships in the province, totalling $855,000.
Okanagan College student recipients for 2018 are: Martina Nenasheff (Armstrong); Cristian Kwasnek (Coldstream); Ashley Stocker (Kaleden); Annaka Wojciechowska (Kelowna); Carson Mintram (Kelowna); Cora Withers (Kelowna); Gabrielle Mendler (Kelowna); Garrett Kehler (Kelowna); Hayden Hanson-Street (Kelowna); Jenna Swett (Kelowna); Joshua Clark (Kelowna); Marissa Meyer (Kelowna); Marissa Pineau (Kelowna); Morgan Mathison (Kelowna); Muhammas-Bilal Madani (Kelowna); Quinn Krahn (Kelowna); Ross St. George (Kelowna); Bailey Hillman (Keremeos); Jamie Long (Keremeos); Melissa Fenton (Peachland); Julia Hudson (Penticton); Austin Phillips (Salmon Arm); Blake Lewis (Salmon Arm); Caitlan Gau (Sicamous); Sandra Johnson (Sorrento); Samantha Theobald (Trail); and Shelby Krywonos (Vernon).
To find out more information about the Ike Barber Transfer Scholarships, visit www.ikbbc.ca.
Okanagan College professors are helping to turn a new page in the rising costs of post-secondary education, giving students free access to online textbooks.
An online solution to lower post-secondary students’ costs is spreading at Okanagan College. Open Educational Resources – also known as OER – are high-quality resources (notably in the form of open textbooks) that are available in digital formats and at a very low cost to print.
The latest provincial statistics show Okanagan College ranks sixth in the province for open textbook adoption. By fall 2018, the College reported 147 courses that have adopted open textbooks, helping 2,875 students to save $437,212 (those numbers are up from 95 courses using online texts, 1,673 students impacted and a savings of $248,522 only a year ago). Many professors have committed to continue using and expanding their use of online texts at each of the College’s campuses in Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon and Salmon Arm.
“It is fabulous to see initiatives like this become a reality,” says Andrew Hay, Okanagan College’s Vice President, Education. “Student success is of the utmost importance to Okanagan College and the combination of better student learning with reduced costs is most welcome.”
Okanagan School of Business Professor Michael Orwick is one of many professors at the College who has introduced online textbooks to his classes and he can already speak to the educational benefits.
“Generally, the first mid-term grades in the Intro to Marketing classes I teach average 57 to 61 per cent,” explains Orwick. “This year, my first mid-term just averaged 73 per cent and I heard from students who said they felt the annotated textbook was a major reason for improved scores.”
Orwick has supplemented the text he is using – Principles of Marketing – with his own notes that provide students with additional insights into the subject matter.
“The textbook change for this class alone means a savings of $6,000 and every student is guaranteed to be able to get the textbook,” says Orwick. “There are four sections of this class running this term, so that adds up to $24,000 in savings just for this course. Next semester there may be 12 sections running which amounts to $72,000.”
The savings fit with the Province’s and the College’s agenda, as well as the Okanagan College Students’ Union, which presented to the Select Standing Committee on Finances and Government on Sept. 27 about the very issue.
“The high cost of textbooks has become a serious obstacle to accessing post-secondary education in B.C.,” says Jennifer Meyer, 2017-18 OCSU Board Member. “Textbook prices rose by 82 per cent between 2002-12 and now typically cost more than $200 per book. For the many students and families already struggling to afford education and the cost of living, this unpredictable expense can be a huge burden, causing students to take on additional debt or work longer hours for their required books.”
OC student Andre Dominguez is enrolled in Orwick’s Marketing class and has experienced the financial help that comes with the advent of online textbooks.
“The e-textbook has been a real asset because I can access it anywhere I go, both on mobile or on my laptop, and the fact that it was free is extremely helpful,” says Dominguez. “Expenses accumulate for college and it takes a toll on your bank account which brings unwanted stress that affects your personal and academic life.”
Not only do e-texts bring serious savings they also offer a custom approach to teaching and learning. Professors can annotate the online texts, leaving detailed notes, highlights, comments and provide specialized information. Students can choose to access the text online or can choose to have it printed from the College’s bookstore.
“It’s such an incredible bonus that my textbook is annotated by my professor,” explains Dominguez. “There is more retention when reading and I know I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am and learning as much if it wasn’t annotated. If every teacher had annotated textbooks, it would help students out very much.”