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Rick and Yasmin Thorpe and Friends Awards inspire incoming Okanagan College students
Okanagan College Media Release

Thorpe Award Penticton May 2015Entrance scholarships provided by two Okanagan College donors have inspired a group of graduating Grade 12 students to think about how they can translate education into community impact.

Shad Collins, Matt Finlayson, Jack Holman, Courtney Korabek, Breanne Pitts, and Jaxon Stel each received the $2,500 Rick and Yasmin Thorpe and Friends Entrance Scholarship to support their studies at the College. 

During presentations at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus and Mount Boucherie Secondary School, the Thorpes congratulated the students and asked them about their career goals—a question which immediately generated a flurry of ideas about how each hopes to make a difference in the community.

“First and foremost, this award has helped bring my goal of becoming a Red Seal chef within reach,” says Pitts, who hopes to parlay her training in the Culinary Arts program into a career as a gluten-free chef. “I am incredibly grateful for that.”

Pitts’ mother and brother have Celiac Disease, which inspired her to follow in the footsteps of chefs who have elevated gluten-free cooking in recent years. She hopes one day to also teach cooking classes and pass on her skills to future chefs-in-training.

“The opportunity to be a culinary teacher in the future is really appealing to me,” explains Pitts. “Once I get to the point where I feel I am experienced enough, it would be a way of passing on what I have learned to others—which is a great way of giving back.” 

Established in 2007, the Rick and Yasmin Thorpe and Friends Awards encompass a variety of scholarships and bursaries, including entrance awards for trades and technical students, as well as bursaries for mature students spanning all programs and faculties at Okanagan College.Thorpe Award Boucherie May 2015

“We are proud and delighted to be able to assist students with their post-secondary educations,” says Yasmin Thorpe. 

“These students have very bright futures ahead of them,” added Rick Thorpe. “We look forward to staying in touch with them and hearing about their accomplishments. And if in future they are inspired by the fact that someone supported their education, and they chose to do the same for others, what could be better?”

To date, the Rick and Yasmin Thorpe and Friends fund has provided more than $70,000 in awards to students at Okanagan College. The Thorpes have also established numerous awards for students entering or enrolled at UBC Okanagan.

For Penticton resident Jack Holman, receiving an entrance award has not only inspired him to excel during his training as a plumber and pipefitter at the College, but also to continue his volunteer work. An avid soccer player, Holman currently volunteers as a fundraiser for local youth soccer clubs.

“Community involvement isn’t something that has to wait until I graduate college,” says Holman. “I want to give back as much as I can now, volunteering my time whenever I can.” 

“Rick and Yasmin Thorpe’s support has had, and will continue to have, an immense impact on many students at the College,” says Kathy Butler, Executive Director of the Okanagan College Foundation. “Their generosity, and the generosity of so many donors in the region, directly reinforces the College’s mission to transform lives and communities.”

In the past year, Okanagan College and the Okanagan College Foundation have collectively disbursed more than $1 million in awards to 886 students at the Kelowna, Penticton, Salmon Arm and Vernon campuses.
Team Construction Management Ltd. gift helps Okanagan College build for skills
Okanagan College Media Release

A prominent local construction firm has made a major donation to the fundraising campaign for Okanagan College’s new Trades Gord Wilson May 2015Training Complex, and the company hopes its donation will inspire others to follow their lead in supporting apprentices.

Team Construction Management Limited, based in Kelowna, has pledged $50,000 to the Bright Horizons Building for Skills campaign. The donation will help to build a leading edge classroom space in the new $33-million complex currently under renovation and expansion along KLO Road. 

“As a business owner, foremost in my mind is the fact that we need a good pool of skilled tradespeople to draw from, and that is what the College provides,” says Team Construction founder and president Gord Wilson.

With a skills gap in trades and technical workers predicted as early as 2016 in some trades, the College has set out to proactively upgrade its facilities. 

“The Conference Board of Canada has predicted that we will need one million additional skilled workers across the country by 2020,” explains Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “Support from industry has been crucial as the College helps to address that skills gap.

“We are very appreciative of Team Construction for supporting this project, as we are of all the businesses and individuals that have stepped up to help us build for the future of trades training in the region.”

Construction on the College’s new trades training complex began last June. Doors are expected to open in spring of 2016. The new complex will almost double capacity for trades students at the Kelowna campus, accommodating over 2,400 students per year. 

Okanagan College is currently the second largest trades training institution in the province. The College’s efforts to elevate the learning environment for trades students was a motivating factor in the company’s decision to support the project, says Wilson.

“When you look at the building trades, so much has changed over the past couple of decades. Every day we see new technologies, new materials, new ways of doing things, so trades education and upgrades are crucial and continual.

Young people considering trades should know that picking up a hammer is not the end of your earning potential, it’s just the beginning,” he adds. “There are so many opportunities to advance and grow your career in whatever direction you choose. A lot of successful people in our community got started in trades. Now they’re business owners, leaders, innovators in different fields.”

Team Construction’s support of the project goes beyond the donation. 

Wilson is volunteering his time as a sector chair on the Bright Horizons Campaign, and Team Construction Project Manager Chuck Cullen—an alumnus of the College’s Carpentry program—is also helping the College spread the word about trades careers. For several years now Cullen has delivered spotlight sessions at local high schools, educating students about career paths in the building trades.

“My training at the College was very valuable,” says Cullen. “I went from being a student fresh out of high school to someone who felt confident in my skills and confident on the job site.”

“The construction of this new facility is very timely,” says Wilson. “When you look at the growth of the Okanagan, a region our size needs a hub for trades training. It provides opportunity for students and it benefits the economy of the region. I hope others will choose to support it.” 

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

To learn more about the campaign’s current needs and opportunities to get involved, please visit
Kelowna author receives national award, second novel already underway
Okanagan College Media Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okanagan College Media Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information about the W. Brett Wilson Prize and other Okanagan College awards, bursaries, and scholarships, can be found at
New College liberal Arts program ideal for the curious learner with a broad perspective
Okanagan College Media Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To find out more about the program, including an interview with Melissa Lang, view this video or visit the website