Monday, April 21st9.8°C
Campus Life - Okanagan

UBC researchers part of Peachland partnership for large development

Keith Culver chats with Mark Holland

Okanagan Sustainability Institute director Keith Culver chats with Mark Holland, vice-president of development for New Monaco. Holland, a UBC alumnus, is excited about UBC’s research partnership with the District of Peachland and New Monaco.

Developer joins forces with engineering students, Okanagan Sustainability Institute

Taking the lab out of the classroom is becoming commonplace at UBC as academics strive to apply what they know to the world around us.

For researchers with UBC’s Okanagan Sustainability Institute (OSI) and the School of Engineering, one of their current research labs is a sloping hillside in the northern part of Peachland. The 125-acre parcel is the proposed site of New Monaco, a multi-use urban development that will eventually see a fully sustainable community of more than 5,000 residents, commercial businesses, and light industry.

Keith Culver, director of UBC’s OSI, says he is pleased with the distinctive partnerships formed between New Monaco developer Mark Holland, UBC’s School of Engineering, OSI, the District of Peachland, and organizations such as Urban Systems, Fortis BC, and Focus Energy Group.

“We have created a regional innovation system that uses the Okanagan as a living lab for exploration of new ways of doing things together,” says Culver. “And there’s mutual learning about how to apply research principles to solve real problems. We’re not afraid to be ambitious: problem-solving in the Okanagan can be globally relevant if done well.”

Researchers at UBC have received a three-year, $125,000 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council grant that allows a group of graduate students from the School of Engineering to look at several aspects of sustainable development. Engineering Professor Rehan Sadiq says the students are working on projects ranging from sustainable water and electricity supplies, wastewater containment and recycling, and transit.

“Research to transform sustainability principles into planning practices is complex and challenging,” says Sadiq. “Sustainability on a neighbourhood scale requires an holistic and integrative approach to balancing flows of water, energy, material, and finance.”

New Monaco, adopted into Peachland’s Official Community Plan in 2011, will be a community with mixed housing, commercial, and artisan light-industrial zoning with a projected 5,000 residents; doubling the population of Peachland and creating new employment opportunities for the area.

District of Peachland Mayor Keith Fielding says the collaboration between the district and New Monaco is a good example of how communities and developers can plan for the future.

“The developers and district staff have a very effective working relationship,” Fielding says. “It exemplifies best practices with respect to community consultation and the quest to ensure healthy and sustainable outcomes.”

Mark Holland, New Monaco’s VP Development and board director for the Urban Development Institute, says this project demonstrates the immense potential of strategic economic development in the Okanagan.

“We have a world-class university, a local government, a utility, a major developer, engineers, and innovative researchers working together on a real community to drive market-ready innovation,” says Holland.

Culver notes that this research will be invaluable for decades to come, as the goal is to provide results to all communities dealing with issues such as growth and sustainability.

“It is information we will be able to transfer to any neighbourhood in Canada and comparable regions globally,” he says.



Okanagan Heat volleyball star, CIS boss highlight UBC event

Tickets remain available for UBC’s ninth annual Athletics Scholarship Breakfast 

Jill Festival

Jill Festival will speak at the ninth annual Valley First/UBC Okanagan Scholarship Breakfast on Thursday, April 24.

Fifth-year volleyball player Jill Festival has enjoyed team and individual success throughout her varsity days at UBC’s Okanagan campus. To cap off her career with UBC’s Okanagan Heat, Festival will speak at this year’s Valley First/UBC Okanagan Athletics Scholarship Breakfast on Thursday, April 24.

Festival, who graduates this June with a bachelor of arts degree in English and psychology in the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, captained the Heat volleyball team for the past three seasons. Strong in academics and athletics, she has won the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCNA) National Scholar Award and twice been named an Academic All-Canadian.

At the scholarship breakfast, Festival will speak about the importance of community support and how varsity athletes often depend on scholarships to allow them to play at the high-ranking Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) level. Also speaking that morning is CIS top executive Pierre Lafontaine.

Jill Festival

Student speaker Jill Festival, Heat captain for the past three seasons, has won the CCAA National Scholar Award and twice been named an Academic All-Canadian.

Rob Johnson, director of Athletics and Recreation at UBC Okanagan, says it’s exciting to have Lafontaine, a man so tied into the world of university sports, come to Kelowna and speak about varsity athletics.

“This is an exciting time for the CIS—a new TV deal with SportsNet, a new strategic plan, and a new CEO to lead us,” says Johnson “With our soccer teams joining our basketball and volleyball teams at the CIS level this fall, UBC Okanagan is well positioned to be an active member in these changes. Canadian university sport keeps getting better and better and we are fortunate to have these opportunities here in the Okanagan.”

Before joining the CIS, Lafontaine was CEO at Swimming Canada, where he led the organization to consistent podium finishes at Olympic and Paralympic games.

However, to get to the podium, student athletes need more than just natural talent and a competitive drive, says Johnston. And that’s where the scholarship breakfast comes in. Money raised goes directly to student athletes.

“Many of our student athletes couldn’t afford to participate on our teams without the financial awards that we offer as a result the athletics breakfast,” says Johnson.

UBC matches every dollar raised at the Valley First/UBC Okanagan Athletics Breakfast and overall more than $400,000 has been raised for the Athletics Scholarship Endowment.

This year’s breakfast agenda is jam-packed as out-going UBC President Stephen Toope will also speak at his final appearance at the Athletic Scholarship Breakfast. He leaves his position in June and this will be one of his last official speaking dates in the Okanagan.

The ninth annual Valley First/UBC Okanagan Scholarship Breakfast takes place on Thursday, April 24 at the Coast Capri Hotel. Doors open at 6:45 a.m. and the program begins at 7:15.

Tickets are still available at:


Kelowna’s Alix Hawley closes out Visiting Author series

Final UBC literary event of season features festive evening

Alix Hawley

Kelowna author Alix Hawley will read from her works at UBC’s final Visiting Author evening of the year on April 22 at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art.

Looking for a cool way to celebrate World Book Night? Join UBC for the final Visiting Author event of the season as celebrated Kelowna author Alix Hawley reads from her works.

The reading is among a trio of literary tributes celebrating the work of authors and poets on Tuesday, April 22, at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art, 421 Cawston Ave., Kelowna.

The evening will also see announcement of the winner and two runners-up for the Okanagan Short Story contest. As well, UBC creative writing students will read from their class project #Vherbage!, and launch their collaborative digital writing site that explores the psychosocial, animate lives of plants.

The program:

  • 5:30 p.m. – #Vherbage!, a class project by UBC’s Department of Creative Studies creative writing students;
  • 7 p.m. – Okanagan Short Story contest winners announced;
  • 7:15 p.m. – Visiting Author Alix Hawley reads from her works.

Hawley was one of five finalists for the English 2014 and 2012 CBC Short Story Prize. Her upcoming novel, All True Not a Lie In It, a first-person account of American frontier hero Daniel Boone's captivity by the Shawnee, will be published this spring.

Hawley has also authored a critically acclaimed short-story collection, The Old Familiar (Thistledown 2008.) A teacher of English literature and creative writing at Okanagan College, she lives in Kelowna with her family.

The evening’s event, which includes snacks and refreshments, is free and open to the public.

April 23 is World Book Day, also known as International Day of the Book. The commemorative was created in 1995 by UNESCO to promote reading, publishing and copyright. World Book Day pays world-wide homage to books and authors, encouraging everyone, particularly young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity.

This date was picked due to its significance as the anniversary of the deaths of literary giants William Shakespeare and Spanish authors Miguel de Cervantes and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, in 1616.


New program empowers Aboriginal students to reach their full potential

Okanagan College Media Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interested students should visit at for more information. 

About Vancouver Foundation

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

Faculty of Management acts on student concerns about course access

The Faculty of Management at UBC’s Okanagan campus is taking action on student concerns about changes to three accounting elective courses.

On Monday, Bachelor of Management students were told that, starting in September, the Faculty will not deliver in-house three of the eight fourth-year accounting subjects for students interested in pursuing Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation after graduation.

“I realize there has been some confusion,” said Deborah Buszard, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Okanagan campus. “I want students to know that they can still earn all the CPA prerequisites and count them as credits toward the Bachelor of Management degree.

“We’re looking within UBC and externally at other ways to provide these courses to our students,” said Buszard. “We are committed to meeting our students’ needs.”

An FAQ about these changes is online:

-- 30 --

Primatologist tells of the heart, soul, and struggle of the orangutan

Scientist Birut? Galdikas inspired by four decades spent in the jungle

Primatologist, conservationist, and ethologist Birut? Galdikas shared her story Monday night about the wild yet gentle orangutan and her life-long mission to protect the endangered primates and their habitat.

Her talk, Curious Orange -- Preserving Orangutans and Forest, was the final event in this season's Distinguished Speaker Series, presented by UBC's Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences.

"Orangutans are not our closest relative in the animal kingdom, but they share 97 per cent of our DNA," said Galdikas. "And the interesting thing about this DNA is that it has not much changed since the ancestors of the great apes and the ancestors of humankind parted ways. So when we look at the orangutan we are looking at a creature that basically has the same, more or less, DNA as the ancestral great ape that was once a sibling of our own ancestor."

Galdikas has been in Central Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), studying and protecting wild orangutans and the forest since 1971. She is an expert in wild orangutan behaviour, and focuses her efforts on the development of orangutan conservation programs, and the re-introduction of captured apes into the wild.

"Extinction happens in front of our eyes and we don't actually see it. We watch it eyes wide open and don't actually understand it. This is the situation facing all the great apes of today," she said.

The main threats facing orangutans are poaching, illegal logging, illegal mining, fires, and palm oil plantations.

"Certain biological attributes increase vulnerability to extinction. Orangutan natural history suggests they are susceptible to sudden changes in the environment, and certainly global warming and deforestation are two very real changes to their environment," said Galdikas. "That said, if orangutans do go extinct in this century, and it might happen, it will be due to palm oil. The one thing that people can do to help the orangutan -- and it doesn't cost a thing -- is to stop using palm oil, in all its forms."

Galdikas established Orangutan Foundation International (OFI) in 1986, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of orangutan and their habitat. OFI operates Camp Leakey, an orangutan research centre within Tanjung Putting National Park, and also runs the Orangutan Care Centre and Quarantine facility in the Dayak village of Pasir Panjang, which is home to 330 displaced orangutans, many of which were captured by poachers. OFI helps manage the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve, where rehabilitated orangutans were released into the jungle.

"The orangutan is very dear," said Galdikas. "When you look into the eyes of these creatures, you are looking into eyes that resemble human eyes; the eyes that gaze back at you reflect your own."

Primatologist Birut? Galdikas with a 1971 National Geographic cover where she was featured in a story about her work with orangutans in Borneo. Galdikas gave a community talk at the Kelowna Community Theatre Monday night as part of UBC’s Distinguished Speaker Series.

Primatologist Birut? Galdikas with a 1971 National Geographic cover where she was featured in a story about her work with orangutans in Borneo. Galdikas gave a community talk at the Kelowna Community Theatre Monday night as part of UBC’s Distinguished Speaker Series.

Birut? Galdikas talks with audience members

Primatologist Birut? Galdikas talks with audience members following her UBC Distinguished Speaker Series talk, Curious Orange -- Preserving Orangutans and Forest, at the Kelowna Community Theatre Monday night.



'Dig Your Neighbourhood' project digs into Rutland’s history, future

UBC’s Dig Your Neighbourhood Rutland team of student writers. Students pictured are: front row left to right:  Stacy Schmidt, Jessica Klassen, Jessica Bonney, Becca MacDonald, Kelsey Andersen, Sasha Curry, Jade Hignett. Back row left to right: Harrison Crerar, Melissa Demale, Joe Dermo, Brittni MacKenzie-Dale, Nancy Holmes, Nik Vreugdenhil.

UBC’s Dig Your Neighbourhood Rutland team of student writers. Students pictured are: front row left to right: Stacy Schmidt, Jessica Klassen, Jessica Bonney, Becca MacDonald, Kelsey Andersen, Sasha Curry, Jade Hignett. Back row left to right: Harrison Crerar, Melissa Demale, Joe Dermo, Brittni MacKenzie-Dale, Nancy Holmes, Nik Vreugdenhil.

UBC's creative writing students capture the character of historic Kelowna district

Imagine John Rutland, founder of the historic community bearing his name, in a Monty-Pythonesque soliloquy about his escapades. Or how about a dating guide that highlights all the local places to take a great date or ditch a bad one? Or a CD of music celebrating Rutland, a graphic novel about scary hauntings in Rutland, or a lifestyle magazine featuring fabulous homes and styles of residents?

Emerging artists from UBC are engaging Rutland in an innovative endeavour called Dig Your Neigbourhood Rutland. The UBC Okanagan initiative is driven by a creative bunch of students from the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies. The ultimate goal of the project is to generate discussion around the cultural, historical and ecological issues of a specific geographic and cultural space.

Creative writing and visual arts students have created a limited-edition package of artworks that will be distributed to new residents of Rutland by Welcome Wagon Ltd. The public is invited to the launch of this art initiative on Saturday, April 12, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Hillcrest Farm Market, 700 Highway 33 East, Kelowna. There will be refreshments, entertainment and a number of artworks will be for sale.

Students are excited about the neighbourhood dialogue and how their Dig Your Neighbourhood work will shape what Rutland newcomers need to know about their new homes.

Jessica Bonney co-authored a book of poetry about Rutland with Sarah Megan Hunter, called Daylighting. “There’s a really fabulous sense of community in Rutland,” says Bonney. “I really love coming here.”

“It was really cool to see it all come together,” says Nik Vreugdenhil, who worked on maps for a walking guide for DYN. “I learned so much, not just about the community, but in collaborating with artists and using industry-standard programs and software.”

Jessica Klassen did design work on three individual pieces, Daylighting, the walking guide, and a teen survival guidebook. “Just getting to know the character of Rutland turned out to be a fascinating experience,” she says.

Nancy Holmes, associate professor of creative writing, says Dig Your Neighbourhood is an innovative project unlike anything done anywhere else. Students learned how to write to a specific audience and how to develop a project from concept to finished product.

“Writers get to work with visual artists and they get a sense of their own role, the contribution they make, as well as collaborating with each other and engaging with the community,” says Holmes.

Rutland, a community seeking to re-energize itself, is home to many low-income families and recent immigrants. Misconceptions about Rutland are nothing new.

“Local residents and community groups are excited about our involvement because we will be able to assist them with some of their own projects, and with helping the neighbourhood overcome negative stereotypes,” says Holmes.

The Dig Your Neighbourhood project is a partnership of UBC, Welcome Wagon, artsVEST BC, the Eco Art Incubator, Lake Publishing and the Uptown Rutland Business Association.


Name change reflects institute’s research themes

Lael Parrott, director of Okanagan Institute for Biodiversity, Resilience and Ecosystem Services (BRAES)

Lael Parrott, director of Okanagan Institute for Biodiversity, Resilience and Ecosystem Services (BRAES)

BRAES a leader in eco research and environmental policy at UBC Okanagan

The Okanagan Institute for Biodiversity, Resilience and Ecosystem Services (BRAES) has risen from the former Institute for Species at Risk and Habitat Studies (SARAHS) at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

“The name change not only more accurately reflects the institute's research mandate, but also better positions the Okanagan campus as a centre of excellence for research in ecology, natural resource management, and the environment,” says Lael Parrott, director of the Okanagan Institute for BRAES.

BRAES comprises more than 20 faculty members and about 70 graduate and undergraduate students from various faculties, including programs in biology, mathematics and statistics, earth and environmental sciences, physical geography, economics and creative studies. In collaboration with more than 50 partner organizations, including government ministries and non-government organizations, the goal of BRAES is to increase scientific understanding of ecological systems from genetics to landscape scales and to inform management and planning decisions that promote environmental sustainability.

Researchers with BRAES were granted $3.2 million in research funding in 2012-2013, and had more than 90 peer-reviewed scientific papers published. The institute facilitates multidisciplinary collaboration, and members of the research team work in a variety of environments and locations around the globe, using a wide range of field, laboratory and quantitative methods.  BRAES is committed to promoting research partnerships and carrying out research that will directly inform environmental policy and management decisions.

More information:


Local mom chooses College’s Practical Nursing program to launch a new career

Okanagan College Media Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Going back to school and becoming a nurse is the best thing I ever did. I couldn’t be happier,” says Walker.

UBC biologist is saving the eco-system one bee at a time

Okanagan College Media Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To subscribe to or obtain more information about the series, visit or

Read more Campus Life articles