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Campus Life - Okanagan

BC Wine Information Society Award helps viticulture student grow her education

Okanagan College Media Release

BC Wine Info Society Mar 2015The pursuit of a career in the wine industry just got a little sweeter for an Okanagan College student thanks to a bursary from the BC Wine Information Society, in recognition of her early achievements in the field. 

Kathleen McCaffrey, who is currently completing the Viticulture Certificate program at the College’s Penticton campus, is the recipient of the 2015 BC Wine Information Society Award, valued at $1,500. 

“I am so excited and grateful for this award,” says McCaffrey, who completed a degree in Business at Okanagan College before enrolling in the Viticulture program. “It’s a huge boost and will help with tuition for the next course I’m taking, which is focused on wine sales.”

“On behalf of the BC Wine Information Society, I would like to congratulate Kathleen McCaffrey on her accomplishments in the Viticulture program,” says Laura Kowalchuk, Manager B.C. Wine Information Centre, which is operated by the Society. 

“The wine industry is a key driver of our region’s economy and so we feel it’s hugely important to support students in the valley,” explains Kowalchuk. “We are so excited to see what students like Kathleen will accomplish as they jump into this industry and put their energy and creativity into elevating the profile of B.C. wine even further.”

The bursary is one of two annual awards sponsored by the BC Wine Information Society, which also made a $300,000 donation to the College last year to assist with the creation of a new Wine Sensory Centre at the Penticton campus. The new centre opened in fall of 2014 and has since become one of the key instructional hubs for the College’s Food, Wine, and Tourism programming.

“Food, Wine, and Tourism is about studying and celebrating the uniqueness of the Okanagan Valley and the people who make these industries a huge success,” says Jonathan Rouse, Director of Food, Wine and Tourism and Associate Dean of Okanagan College’s School of Business. “We’re very grateful and excited that organizations like the BC Wine Information Society continue to support and work with us as we develop and deliver our programs. It makes the student experience that much more rewarding.”

McCaffrey credits the Okanagan’s buzzing wine industry and a trip to Italy last summer as the inspiration to delve deeper into the study of wine. She stomped grapes and worked in cellars while traveling through Tuscany and the Aosta Valley. The trip also enlightened McCaffrey to organic grape growing and winemaking techniques—an experience which she says amped up her appreciation for organic growers in the Okanagan.

“There are such exciting things happening in this region. I want to keep going with my education and learn the ins and outs of every job from field to glass,” McCaffrey notes.

The BC Wine Information Centre was the first VQA Wine Store in British Columbia. Today there are 21 stores across B.C. Operated by the BC Wine Information Society, profits are put back into the local community supporting the wine industry.  

We are a non-profit organization and every bottle sold benefits the community, be it through supporting student awards such as these or other projects. So people can feel good about buying wine here knowing that it’s having a positive impact locally,” says Kowalchuk.

Okanagan College’s Viticulture program offers a variety of courses focused on everything from the principles of grape growing and winemaking to vineyard management and equipment operation to wine sales and public relations. The program involves both classroom instruction and a work experience component at local vineyards. More information is available at   

UBC welcomes Writer-in-Residence Marie Clements

Okanagan writers have opportunity for one-on-one critiques

Marie Clements is UBC’s 2015 Writer in Residence.

Marie Clements is UBC’s 2015 Writer in Residence.

Playwright, screenwriter, performer, director, and producer Marie Clements is UBC Okanagan’s eighth annual writer-in-residence for 2015.  Sponsored by the Department of Creative Studies and the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, this program allows selected local writers to get free critiques on their work.

Clements will spend two weeks on campus from March 16 to 27 meeting with students and writers to do critiques of their written work, select the winners of the Short Story Contest, and visit classrooms for readings of her work. She will present a public reading on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at the Okanagan Regional Library, where she will also announce the winners of the Okanagan Short Story Contest.

Writers in the Central Okanagan are invited to have their work critiqued and to participate in a one-on-one meeting with Marie Clements.  Appointments are limited to 16, with six of the 16 spaces reserved for UBC Okanagan students.

If you would like to be considered for an appointment, send a maximum of six double-spaced pages of your writing (plus a one-page synopsis if it is an excerpt from a longer work).  Your work should be sent in an email as a Word or PDF attachment before March 12, 2015 to [email protected].  In the email give your name, student number (if applicable), phone number, and email address. Please put “Writer in Residence” in the subject line.

About Marie Clements

Marie Clements is an award-winning writer, director and producer who has worked for more than 20 years igniting her brand of independent story-making to a variety of media including film, TV, radio, new media and live performance. Engaging with Métis and Aboriginal history and culture, her work has garnered international acclaim for its originality and imaginative power.

Clements has written 13 plays that have been translated in French, Spanish and Catalan, receiving 21 nominations, four awards and 18 publications.

Her film works include Unnatural and Accidental, Pilgrims, and The Language of Love and have garnered recognition and awards at numerous international film festivals including premieres at The Cannes International Film Festival, The Toronto International Film Festival, Vancouver International Film Festival and The Hot Docs International Film Festival.

She is currently in development with a slate of projects with her film company Working Pajama Lab and her live performance company red diva projects.

For more information about Clements’s public reading or the Writer-in-Residence program, contact Mark Giles, Department of Creative Studies at UBC’s Okanagan campus: phone 250-807-8035 or email [email protected]


Last call for high schools to register for 25th annual math competition

Okanagan College Media Release

Leave your calculators at home: a sharp pencil, an eraser, and your thinking cap is all Grade 8 to 12 students need to participate in the annual British Columbia Secondary School Mathematics Contest (BCSSMC) for the Okanagan Region.

Many local high schools have already registered, but those still wishing to do so have until this Friday, March 6 to sign up for the preliminary round. 

On April 1 hundreds of students in either the junior (Grade 8 to10) or senior (Grade 11 and12) categories will put their math skills to the test as they complete the 45 minute multiple-choice exam administered in each of the participating schools by its teachers. The top three to six finishers from each school will be invited to attend the final round taking place on May 1 at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus.

“This year is particularly special, as we celebrate 25 years of fostering mathematic interest and talent in secondary school students in our communities,” says regional contest founder, provincial coordinator, and Okanagan College Mathematics professor Clint Lee. “We always see strong participation numbers, sometimes upwards of 800 students, if not more. To me, that speaks volumes about math being an important part of our kids’ education.” 

Finalists will vie for top honours in each category as well as cash prizes. Rewarding the outstanding achievement of the top senior student, a prize of $200 combined with a one-semester tuition scholarship to either Okanagan College or UBC Okanagan, to a maximum value of $3,000 is up for the taking.

There are many ways students can prepare for the challenging math problems that will test both their problem solving skills and understanding of complex mathematic formulas. Some schools host preparation sessions and students can review past contest papers with solutions online (

“It’s wonderful to see the level of engagement and enthusiasm by the students for the math language. One of the best parts is the conversations the contest generates as students go over the problems with their teachers and with one another,” reflects Lee.

The competition was inaugurated in 1990 by Okanagan College’s Mathematics department as a way to bolster interactions between secondary and post-secondary education institutions and to recognize math achievements locally. Today, the competition is co-sponsored by the College and UBCO. The Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC (ASTTBC), Mathtoons Media, and the Canadian Mathematics Society (CMS) proudly support rising math talent through their sponsorship of the BCSSMC.

New Wilden Creativity Award will recognize an emerging UBC artist

UBC Okanagan Deputy Vice Chancellor and Principal Deborah Buszard, along with Wilden graphic designer Michael Eger and director Karin Eger-Blenk, celebrate the announcement of the new Wilden award at the FCCS Art on the Line event, along with Dr. Michelle Periera, and UBC President Arvind Gupta.

UBC Okanagan Deputy Vice Chancellor and Principal Deborah Buszard, along with Wilden graphic designer Michael Eger and director Karin Eger-Blenk, celebrate the announcement of the new Wilden award at the FCCS Art on the Line event, along with Dr. Michelle Periera, and UBC President Arvind Gupta.

Funding rewards UBC Okanagan’s talented visual artists for courage and insight

Expressing one’s creativity may be its own reward, but one fortunate visual arts student at UBC Okanagan will now receive added encouragement thanks to the support of the Blenk family, the local developers of Wilden.

The Wilden Creativity Award will go to a graduating student—Bachelor of Fine Arts or Master of Fine Arts—in UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies (FCCS) Visual Arts program whose work reflects a high level of expertise and accomplishment. The award includes $2,500 and an exhibition at the Wilden Presentation Centre at 132 Sky Court, Kelowna.

Wilden director and co-creator of the award, Karin Eger-Blenk says the courage of artists who break out of established patterns is something that needs to be supported.

“We wanted to recognize the creative minds and talents of emerging Okanagan artists, individuals who display the courage, originality, and passion to break out of established patterns of seeing, who offer new and insightful perspectives on the world,” says Eger-Blenk. “This courage is what’s needed to bring about positive change.”

FCCS announced the creation of the Wilden Creativity Award at its annual “Art on the Line” gala and fundraiser in February. The recipient, and two finalists, will be named at the students’ graduation gala on April 26.

“We are immensely grateful to Wilden and the Blenk family for this wonderful award,” says Ashok Mathur, Head of Creative Studies in the FCCS. “There are so few of these types of awards for our students, and this will be the largest. It rewards talented emerging artists for perseverance in their artistic endeavours and commitment to the development of their artistic talent, while being an empowering gesture of support as they launch their artistic careers.”

The Wilden Creativity Award is among the latest contributions to UBC’s start an evolution campaign, culminating this year, which is raising funds for scholarships, research, and spaces. UBC Okanagan has surpassed the $95-million mark on the way toward its goal of raising $100 million and doubling engagement with its alumni.

About Art on the Line

Presented by the FCCS Visual Arts department, “Art on the Line” is a popular art auction of sorts, based on a vast selection of juried artwork donated by students, faculty, community members, and noted local artists. The annual event helps fund the fourth-year BFA students' graduation art show.

About Wilden

Wilden is the largest master-planned community in the Okanagan, just 10 minutes from downtown Kelowna and 15 minutes from the UBC campus. The developer dedicated more than half of the land to be a natural park and for wildlife. A strong focus lies on the visual design of homes and neighbourhoods.


Rotary Club of Kelowna supports Okanagan College efforts to elevate trades training in the region

Okanagan College Media Release

Tradespeople do more than just build houses, they help build communities. This is one of the key messages that a local Rotary club Rotary Club Donation March 2015hopes the community will take away from its decision to support the new trades training complex at Okanagan College.

The Rotary Club of Kelowna has pledged $75,000 to the Bright Horizons, Building for Skills fundraising campaign supporting the $33-million renovation and expansion project currently underway at the College’s Kelowna Campus. 

“Our club has a long history of supporting education,” says Club President Dennis Campbell. “It’s an important part of the culture of what we do. Be it through creating bursaries at the College, or supporting major projects like this, we’re very passionate about helping the next generation of students achieve their educational goals.”

“Trades are a key thrust in our economy,” notes Campbell, “and so it seemed only natural for us to support the training of these young apprentices. When you think about it, you can’t step out your front door and go very far without coming into contact with something that a tradesperson has helped to build, wire, plumb, weld, and so on.”

“We had a chance to speak with students and instructors at the College and learn about the plan for the building,” says Ross Gilley, past-President of the Club. “And when we saw how the expansion will enhance space and equipment for students, we knew it was a worthy project. The College’s efforts will really elevate the profile of trades as a career path in the Okanagan, and we’re proud to support that.”

“The new trades training complex will help us be proactive in addressing the skills gap projected for trades and technical training in B.C. over the next decade,” says Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College. “It is truly gratifying for the College to see people and organizations from all over our region stepping up to support the project.”

“We appreciate the Rotary Club of Kelowna’s generous investment in our campus and our students’ futures.”

When doors open in spring of 2016, the three-storey tower will be a significant update for Okanagan College’s trades facilities, some of which date back to the 1960s. The complex will be able to accommodate over 2,400 students per year in trades programs. Okanagan College is currently the second largest trades training institution in B.C. 

Our students have a reputation for excellence that we’re very proud of,” says Steve Moores, Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship. “As do our instructors. This new facility will provide an incredible space to learn and work, and, we believe, will further establish the Okanagan region as a hub for trades training in Western Canada.”

The provincial government has committed $28 million to the project. The $7-million Bright Horizons campaign to top up this funding includes $5 million for capital construction and $2 million for program and student support—which will allow the College to explore new trades programs in high demand, as well as create awards and bursaries for students.

The Okanagan College Foundation announced in February that the campaign has officially reached the halfway mark of its overall goal, with over $3.5 million raised. To learn more about the campaign, opportunities to give, and to get involved with the project, please visit

Explore College education options at upcoming information session in Penticton

Okanagan College Media Release

Coleman Helgerson Mar 2015Making a choice of career and credential can be daunting for many people looking at their post-secondary path.

Quality, cost, and location are all factors that enter the picture. Okanagan College instructors and staff will be on hand to shine a light on all those considerations (and more) at an Arts and Science University Transfer Information Session March 9 at 6 p.m. at the Penticton campus.

The session is open to all potential students, including those graduating from high school, their parents, and anyone considering further studies for additional training or a career change. The event will be held in the atrium of the campus’s Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence.

For students like Summerland’s Coleman Helgerson who is currently in the second year of Okanagan College’s Criminal and Social Justice diploma program, the decision to stay within the beautiful Okanagan valley was easy. 

“One of my main reasons was being able to stay close to home,” says Helgerson. “Having that extra bit of support when it’s needed by being close to family and friends has been great.”

The College’s broad course offerings in university transferable arts and science programs enabled Helgerson to consider various directions for his studies. His education plan evolved over the last couple of years, and Okanagan College afforded him the flexibility of exploration. As a result of small class sizes, students benefit from more time with their instructors, enabling discussions such as how to achieve their educational and professional goals. 

The instructors have been a great help, and given me valuable feedback and guidance. That's my favorite part of the program; how much the instructors want to see their students succeed, in whatever chosen career path they have,” adds Helgerson. “As far as the entire College community goes, all the departments work hard to create a positive and energetic environment for students to enjoy.”

Helgerson as well as fellow current students, instructors, Education Advisors, the Aboriginal Transitions Planner, and an Admissions Clerk will be on hand to share the Okanagan College experience and answer questions. This session will also provide information about university transfer credits, financial aid and awards, and discuss career options for those pursuing studies in both arts and science.

Significant impact on water resources by land use change: UBC study

UBC scientists David F. Scott and Adam Wei are co-authors with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in a study that shows that changes in land cover play as significant a role as climate change on the hydrology of watersheds.

UBC scientists David F. Scott and Adam Wei are co-authors with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in a study that shows that changes in land cover play as significant a role as climate change on the hydrology of watersheds.

Climate change ruled out as most dominant factor for watersheds

A UBC-Chinese Academy of Sciences joint study shows that land cover plays as significant a role as climate change on the hydrology of watersheds.

Scientists Adam Wei and David F. Scott of UBC Okanagan’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Dept. in the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences are co-authors of a ground-breaking global study comparing climate change – often considered the main indicator of river flow – to the influence of land cover change, or a watershed’s ability to retain water.

Earlier research varies greatly, and the topic remains controversial in the scientific community. The two factors affecting water yield have often been investigated separately, but not in combination, particularly on a global scale.

The conclusions are dramatic, says Wei. “Climate is often viewed as dominant while land cover as secondary. This study suggests an important portion – 30 per cent – of the world where land cover plays a dominant or similar role.”

For instance, impacts of forest disturbance, urban growth or agriculture can severely affect the hydrological properties of a wetland or change the volumes and flows of a river, directly correlating to forest coverage, watershed slope and area. The results provide planning tools to predict how a specific ecosystem will react in becoming drier or wetter, based on land use.

“In many instances, we found that land cover and watershed condition play as important a role as climate change,” says Wei. The study shows that any land cover changes in non-humid regions or watersheds with low water-retention capacity have greater hydrological impact. The evidence indicates these global patterns have far-reaching significance in studying and managing watersheds.

The study, Global pattern for the effect of climate change and land cover on water yield, is published in the journal Nature Communications. Lead author of the study is Guoyi Zhou of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, with 10 co-authors.

View the study:

UBC Okanagan is also organizing the 4th International Conference on Forests and Water in a Changing Environment on July 6 to 9, 2015. Check the conference website:


Let’s raise a glass (of water) to our water engineering technologists

Okanagan College Media Release

Turning on the tap this morning to brush your teeth, you probably didn’t think twice about the process of how that clean, fresh waterOC WET Grads Feb 2015 made its way into the comfort of your home. Who are those that we trust so immensely with the job of ensuring our water is controlled, treated, monitored, and ultimately safe?

Engineering Week (March 1 to 7) might just be the time to give thought to the vital and universal role of the water engineering technologists we depend on.

“We all want to drink water from the tap that is safe, and likewise to ensure our waste is taken care of properly,” says Professor Eric Jackson, Chair of Okanagan College’s Water Engineering Technology (WET) program. “Our graduates are the water quality monitoring technologists, environmental engineering technologists, and water and wastewater treatment plant operators who work diligently behind the scenes in our communities to ensure public health is protected when it comes to water and wastewater.”

Water treatment is a complex field that is rapidly evolving to constantly improve procedures and to protect the environment.  Engineering technologists monitor the various steps of water management and conduct preventative maintenance.  For the job, candidates need to have a strong foundational knowledge in biology, chemistry, technology, and have good analytical skills. As with all engineers, it’s about the desire to know how something works, and making it work. 

Nicole Moggey graduated from the College’s WET program 10 years ago. Since then she has worked with the City of Kelowna at the Wastewater Treatment Facility and manages the laboratory. 

“Each day I get to come to work in an advanced facility that is cutting edge from a design, technology and science perspective,” notes Moggey. “When I first graduated, I felt prepared to jump right in and put my skills to work. Now, I see new graduates joining our team who are knowledgeable about the latest technologies and methods. That speaks volumes about the quality of education the program provides and how it evolves to keep pace with the innovation we see in the field.”

Helping treat up to 45 million litres a day of wastewater from Kelowna, a total of seven College WET graduates work at the Kelowna Wastewater Treatment Facility.  An additional four graduates work to ensure that the City Water Utility provides safe drinking water.

The two-year WET program at the College offers students hands-on learning that includes traditional chemical and civil engineering technology combined with innovative water-focused environmental studies. The curriculum of the Water and Wastewater Technology specialty of the diploma focuses on domestic water treatment, municipal and industrial wastewater treatment, hydraulics, and industrial computer control.

For each hour of lecture, students have one hour of practical lab skills time. There is the appeal of small class sizes (an intake of 40 students per year) that allows students increased time with the instructors to train for a successful career, many of which are municipal positions offering pensions and job-security. 

“Training is a big expense for employers,” explains Jackson. “The combination of instruction by industry experts, the applied learning model, and co-op job placements mean our graduates are well-equipped to jump right into a job upon completing the program. In fact, most seamlessly transition into a permanent job with their co-op employer.”

Engineering technologists plug in to the business of IT

Okanagan College Media Release 

Troy Berg Feb 2015Information Technology (IT) managers increasingly have the ear of senior management and have a seat at the table when it comes to making strategic decisions to advance a company’s objectives. 

In today’s world, businesses operate on a need-for-speed model and it is the IT team’s responsibility to provide productive, timely, and most importantly connected business solutions. After all, nothing grinds business to a halt as much as Internet service interruptions or not being able to access working files on the network servers.

Kelowna resident Troy Berg graduated four years ago from Okanagan College’s Network and Telecommunications Engineering Technology (NTEN) program and currently works as IT Manager for the law firm of Doak Shirreff. “As an IT professional, I see myself as an advocate for and translator of technology to business managers,” he says. “IT can be confusing to those who are not familiar with it. We can use our knowledge to offer creative and proactive solutions on ways to improve productivity, workflow, security, and profitability. A huge part of my job is to make business cases for ways technology can help make businesses run faster and better, and get a calculable return on investment.”

The two-year NTEN diploma program at Okanagan College teaches students the intricacies of technology in three distinct areas of focus: network infrastructure, telecommunication, and client/server administration. Attuned to the business needs of the future, the program incorporates business management courses to help students understand the correlation between IT and business. 

“Certainly a passion for technology and a curiosity for finding out how things work is a must when entering this field of study,” says Phil Ashman, Associate Dean of Science, Technology and Health at Okanagan College. “More than simply being ‘techies’, our graduates are engineering technologists who apply their thorough understanding of the sophistication of IT in order to support businesses broadly across industries. They are employed as IT specialists for banks, natural resources companies, government and education institutions, and in Troy’s case a law firm.”

The diploma affords graduates the practical skills to become Computer System Analysts, Cloud and Data Centre Specialists, Network Administrators, Telecommunications Technicians, and IT Integrators and Consultants as examples. Since its launch, 136 students have graduated from the niche NTEN Diploma program. The BC Student Outcomes Survey results for the last five years found that 91 per cent of NTEN graduates are employed, many of which in a variety of organizations throughout the Okanagan.

“The convenience of technology is a part of our everyday life, and as such it’s easy to think we all know IT quite well. It’s the millennial factor,” explains Ron Light, Okanagan College Professor and Chair of the NTEN program. “What we see in our students in their first week of class is how surprised they are to discover the intricate back-end complexities of user technologies.”

As a rule, the easier the technology is for individuals to use, the more complex and bigger the team on the back-end to make it operate smoothly. It’s an unforgiving field of work with no margin of error: it either works or it doesn’t.

“I agree that this is indeed the age of the ‘Internet of Everything’,” says Light. “You cannot run a business today without having an efficient and secure computing infrastructure. From our smart phones and wireless devices that enable us to work remotely, to Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and streaming video for conferencing, to fibre optic connectivity and cloud-based services., these are the tools of business today. The IT department is the architect, mechanic, and occasionally maybe even the magician, that makes it all happen.”

Engineering Week (March 1 to 7) celebrates the engineers and engineering technologists who make things work in our community. Visit for more information about Okanagan College’s program.

Popular three-minute thesis contest returns to UBC campus

UBC Okanagan graduate Jennifer Forsythe, shown with parents Tracy and Irwin, was the winner of the Three Minute Thesis competition at Celebrate Research week 2014.

UBC Okanagan graduate Jennifer Forsythe, shown with parents Tracy and Irwin, was the winner of the Three Minute Thesis competition at Celebrate Research week 2014.

Precision and clarity are keys to rapid-fire research presentations

Imagine having three minutes to explain what you’re passionate about. And there’s money on the line if you do a good job.

That’s the challenge facing a group of competitive grad students at UBC’s Okanagan campus,  going head to head in the annual 3MT (three-minute thesis) event. Finalists from campus run-offs will compete as part of Celebrate Research Week activities. This year’s 3MT takes place Wednesday, March 4 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the University Theatre ADM026. This event is open to the public.

UBC Okanagan’s 3MT is open to graduate students from all disciplines. In three minutes, and with just one presentation slide, participants must explain the significance and summarize the extent of their research to a panel of judges. Judging is based on comprehension of the material, engagement, and strength of communication. The winner and runner up are selected by the judging panel. The audience also takes part, selecting the People’s Choice Award winner.

Last year’s 3MT winner Jennifer Forsythe, who studies the complex relationships between plants and soils, says the event reinvigorated her passion for research. “Participating in the 3MT competition was an amazing experience on so many levels,” says Forsythe, who has applied to medical school.

“Not only did I gain valuable presentation skills that are translatable to both academic and non-academic settings, but it pushed me to strive for the clearest, most concise, and most interesting way to communicate relatively obscure and complex topics in my research.”

More than bragging rights are at stake, with cash prizes for the top presentations and the overall winner invited to attend the Western Regional 3MT Competition at Thompson Rivers University later this year.

To find out more, visit:


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