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Campus Life - Okanagan

Salmon Arm man upgrades to a new career

Okanagan College offered Mike Pogson an opportunity to retrain for a rewarding career in health care at a price he couldn’t refuse.
Pogson, who lives in Salmon Arm, completed nine upgrading courses to qualify for entry into the practical nursing diploma program in 2011. The upgrading courses were tuition-free.
“When I found out I could get the prerequisites to get into the nursing program for free, it made going back to school a much more affordable option,” he says.
Okanagan College’s Foundation programs offer tuition-free upgrading in a variety of subjects including biology, chemistry, computer studies, English, mathematics and social studies, as well preparation for the General Education Development (GED) high-school equivalency test and B.C. Adult Graduation Diploma.
In 2011, Pogson was working in the residential construction industry as a finish carpenter but the market crashed and the jobs had started to dry up. That’s when he decided to go back to school.
“With the population aging practical nurses are in high demand and I knew the work would suit my personality,” he says.
Not long after Pogson graduated with his Practical Nursing diploma and passed his licensing exam, he landed a job as a licensed Practical Nurse at Mount Ida Mews, a 72-bed complex care community located in Salmon Arm.
“I love what I do now,” says Pogson. “Working with seniors is so rewarding. It was worth the time it took to go back to school.”
“So many people don’t have the prerequisites to enter the programs they want and think that’s the end to their career dreams,” says Dan Chetner, Instructor and Adult Basic Education coordinator at Okanagan College.
“When they discover they can upgrade at the College, a whole new world of possibilities open up to them,” he says. “We get students coming from all situations: those who had difficulty in high school, those who didn’t take the credits they need to get into the program they now want to do, and those who want to retool their existing careers.”
“My experience with Okanagan College’s Foundation program was so positive,” says Pogson. “The instructors were great because they got to know me, cared about what my goals were and supported me while I worked toward those goals.”
“We hear a lot about the coming skills shortage and many people may feel the opportunity is closed to them because they don’t have the prerequisites to access the education or training that will open the door to the career they want to pursue. The upgrading programs we offer may be a solution to that dilemma,” says Chetner.
It’s not too late to apply for classes starting in September. To find out more visit


OC’s Computer Information Systems degree answers employer and graduate needs

Chris KlukaChoosing the Bachelor of Computer Information Systems degree program at Okanagan College was a no-brainer for Chris Kluka – and it has been a decision that paid off in spades with career opportunities.

Kluka had taken post-secondary studies at other Canadian institutions, but the credential and education he received didn’t fully meet his needs or expectations.

“I’m interested in infrastructure and systems management,” says Kluka, who is now an IT Systems Infrastructure Architect at Daemon Defense Systems Inc. in Winnipeg.

“I looked at programs across the country and chose Okanagan College. The other program I took and others I looked at had the wrong focus. They were focused on Programming or Computer Science. I wanted a program focused on IT systems implementation and management,” he says.

With the benefit of the College giving him transfer credits for much of his post-secondary education taken elsewhere, Kluka entered the Computer Information Systems (CIS) diploma program at Okanagan College. The CIS diploma is a two-year credential that ladders into the College’s four-year Bachelor of CIS degree. At the College, he was also able to integrate some courses from the Network and Telecommunications Engineering Technology program as electives.

Between diploma and degree, Kluka found work with a Kelowna-based company, FormaShape, where he started as a junior network administrator. Eight months later he was IT Manager. Then he came back for his degree.

After graduation, it was a return to Manitoba, where career opportunities have been unfolding. For the past two years, he has been with Daemon Defense Systems Inc. and the contracts the company has secured have afforded him considerable experience in a variety of environments.

“I’ve been leading architecture design and deployment in projects such as the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, network redevelopment in the Winnipeg Convention Centre and the Investors Group Field, home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Those three projects alone represent 6,300 network drops and $20 million worth of servers and storage architecture. I have designed and implemented the IT systems architecture for three of the largest projects in the province in the last two years. ”

The College’s degree program has a solid reputation among employers, explains Department Chair Rick Gee. Demand for graduates may also partially explain the high ratings given the program by students in independent surveys conducted by the Provincial government. A review of five years of graduate data shows a 94 per cent employment rate, average annual earnings of $56,000 and 91 per cent of surveyed students reporting they were satisfied or very satisfied with their education.

“There will be continued demand for diploma and degree graduates from our programs,” says Gee. “Our lives are becoming increasingly dependent on information systems, and that bodes well for the people who can understand and manage them.”

For more information on the degree or diploma programs in Computer Information Systems, visit

Coyotes ready to hit it out of the park

Okanagan College BaseballExpectations are high this year for the Okanagan College Coyotes baseball team as players report for the team’s seventh season on Sept. 1.

Last season, the Coyotes made it all the way to the Canadian College Baseball Conference Championships but fell to Lethbridge’s Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs in dramatic fashion, 8 - 7.

Head coach Geoff White is optimistic about the team’s prospects for the upcoming year.

“We have a good group,” says White. “We have many strong returning players and a promising group of freshmen. I have high expectations this season.”

After participating in some social events during Orientation week, the team play starts on Sept. 6, with three inter-squad games at Elks Stadium over the course of the weekend. This will be the first chance White has to see his first year players in action. 

“We have a busy fall schedule, which will give us lots of time on the field. It’s a long season but everything we do is preparation for those CCBC championships in May,” says White.

The Coyotes first series against another team begins on Sept. 13 at 2:30 p.m. when they face the Langley Blaze at Elks Stadium at Richter St. and Recreation Avenue in Kelowna.

Tickets for the Coyotes home games are available at the gate for $5.

For the Fall schedule and player lineup, visit

Photo credit: Greystoke Photography



Indigenous learning flourishes at UBC’s Okanagan campus

Kat Street, left, and Amanda Williams

The population of self-identified Aboriginal students at UBC’s Okanagan campus has increased by 470 per cent since UBC’s Okanagan campus was established in 2005. One-time UBC students Kat Street, left, and Amanda Williams are seen at student residences in this UBC file photo.

Students learn, engage, and grow through Aboriginal perspectives and worldviews

Opening this semester, the new Indigenous Integrated Learning Community (ILC) at UBC’s Okanagan campus provides a place for students in residence to learn, connect with each other, and grow as a community through Aboriginal perspectives and worldviews.

Students who share common interests and identities are brought together to live within one community on campus, designed to enhance the residence and university experience.

The Indigenous ILC is open to all Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal undergraduate students. Its focus is on fostering practical connections with the local Aboriginal community and creating regular programming that may include both on-campus and off-campus activities. Participants will also have the opportunity to engage with various annual cultural events, such as the Okanagan Nation Salmon Feast and Lake Country Native Association Pow-Wow.

“A great deal of the culture of each ILC is determined and developed by the student's within the community; they are encouraged to take an active role in shaping their community and in contributing to the larger campus community,” says Ned Gallagher, residence life manager, Student Housing and Hospitality Services.

The Indigenous ILC is supported by the residential life community in partnership with the Associate Vice-President Student’s Office and Aboriginal Programs and Services.

In the 2005-2006 academic year, there were 58 undergraduate and graduate students at UBC’s Okanagan who self-identified as Aboriginal. This year that number has grown to 331 – an increase of 470 per cent since UBC opened its doors in the Okanagan.

“As our campus continues to experience increasing numbers of self-identified Aboriginal students, providing a sense of belonging and opportunities for all students to engage in intercultural understanding throughout their university experience is key,” says Jeannine Kuemmerle, acting manager, Aboriginal Programs and Services. “The ILC allows for students to actively learn about and contribute to intercultural understanding outside of the classroom, extending it to the daily living and relationships that are part of their residence life experience.”

The Indigenous ILC will be housed in Kalamalka residence, placing it in an already active area of traditional-style student housing.

The Indigenous community is one of five ILCs found throughout UBC’s Okanagan residence. Others include the Performing Arts Community, International Community, Healthy Living Community, and the Leadership and Civic Engagement Community.

For more info visit


Orientations welcome students to UBC’s Okanagan campus

Colour Run at Create -- New Student Orientation

Colour Run at Create -- New Student Orientation

Fun, informative activities for students on tap throughout September 

The first days of September are busy ones on UBC’s Okanagan campus with many events designed to ensure students feel welcome, comfortable and at home.

New international students have an opportunity to participate in Jumpstart, this week to Friday, August 29, while domestic students will take part in Kick Start. Both Jumpstart and Kick Start are intensive orientations held the week prior to classes.  They offer students fun adventures off campus, academic orientation on campus, and the chance to learn alongside other new-to-UBC students.

Create New Student Orientation is a day-long series of events on Tuesday, September 2, specifically for the newest members of UBC’s campus community. During Create, new graduate and undergraduate students will learn about the people, places, activities, and resources available on campus.

Among events is the annual Colour Run, where students get blasted with blue and gold paint as they complete fun challenges. For a $5 donation, the Colour Run will raise funds for Feed the Valley, a food bank initiative. The colour run takes place at 3:30 p.m. at the University commons, beside the University Centre. As well, Showcase, a vendor market to highlight on-campus resources and local goods and services available to students off campus, happens the same day as Create.

“I am really excited for Kick Start because I will meet so many people and start making friends right away,” says Anna Bowden, who begins her first year of university at UBC’s Okanagan campus. “I don't know anyone who is going to UBC besides people I have met on Facebook. I decided to register for Create because it is an orientation for everyone and a huge welcome to campus. Who would want to miss that? There are going to be so many great events on campus.  I will get such a taste of everything that the school and city has to offer!”

Create Day will be followed by Week Of Welcome – a full week of events and activities for new students, including barbeques, recreational events, improv, movie nights, festivals, social gatherings and more. And, for the first time UBC’s Okanagan campus is kicking off Spark – a month-long extended orientation program designed to help students achieve academic success, social networking, and make connections to the community.

“We are very excited to offer Spark to students this year,” says Greg Mather, commuter student program coordinator. “By offering four weeks of programs, events and workshops that target these themes, we hope to spark new connections within the UBC Okanagan community.”

For more information and detailed schedules for any of the orientations visit


Talented, experienced professors bring amazing array of arts courses to Vernon campus

Okanagan College Media Release

Award-winning instructors, published poets, experienced editors and publishers, as well as archeologists, geographers, sociologists and political scientists are among those instructors who are bringing an array of interesting and applied university arts courses to Okanagan College’s Vernon’s campus this year.

“There are tremendous talents who teach here,” explains Jane Lister, the College’s Regional Dean for the North Okanagan. “And they are committed to providing students a great learning experience that can’t be matched in larger schools.”

An example of the talent is author and freelance editor and writer Jeremy Lanaway, whose role with publishing company Pearson Longman’s Canadian, UK, and Asian subsidiaries has led him to author, co-author, and edit more than 70 English language teaching textbooks. Lanaway is teaching ENGL 209: Studies in Professional Editing this fall. 

“It is part of the very strong cadre of courses we offer in Vernon that emphasize applied theoretical and creative practice,” says Lister.

Other examples of that emphasis on English and writing include prize-winning poet Kevin McPherson teaching ENGL 150: Poetry and Drama and Kerry Gilbert (another published poet) offering ENGL 116: Introduction to Creative Writing classes. 

A seven-time national award-winner for book design, Jason Dewinetz, offers a course in Applied Publishing Skills this fall. A core of the Diploma in Writing and Publishing, the course (FINA/ENGL 170) introduces students to the use of state-of-the-art publishing and design software, as well as hands-on experience with quality letter presses. 

“Our strengths in university arts go well beyond English,” notes Lister. Amy Cohen infuses her introductory anthropology courses with the passion and engagement that she brings to her community work in and around the Okanagan. Cohen’s principal research has concentrated on the intersection of the law, citizenship and race. 

Brad Clements – a name familiar to many who have been following the efforts to acquire the CN Rail right-of-way for a park – brings his industry experience to the classroom as he teaches the Principles of Micro-Economics.

Craig McLuckie, Associate Dean of Arts and Foundational Programs, returns to the classroom with ENGL 213: British Literature, an examination of Polish, Irish, English and Scottish writing from three genres; a timely course as the UK/GB sees independence votes in its constituent nations. McLuckie is also the author and editor of several books that examine the intersection of culture, community and politics.

“The list of instructors who bring their research and applied experience to the classroom is long. From psychology, to communications, to political science and geography, sociology, Spanish, history, French, philosophy and environmental and indigenous studies – we have many courses that will interest students, whether they are intent on getting a liberal arts degree or just pursuing knowledge for its own sake,” says Lister.

The best way to learn about what is being offered is to visit the campus or, she notes. There is still opportunity to apply to attend Okanagan College this fall. If you only want to take a course for interest’s sake, you can register to audit courses (which means you can experience the joy of learning with no grades!)

College professor’s research unlocks key to Okanagan’s future prosperity

Okanagan College Media Release

Extensive research conducted by the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society, the British Columbia Wine Institute and Okanagan College’s School of Business has uncovered what motivates wine visitors to come to this region and the secret to ensuring they return.

This is especially important given the Okanagan’s increasing profile on the global wine stage. A July poll of readers of the U.S.’s largest circulating newspaper, USA Today, found the Okanagan was the #2 wine destination in the world, second only to Alentejo, Portugal.

“Using interviews with 900 visitors to the Winter, Spring and Fall Okanagan Wine Festivals in 2012 and early 2013, we looked specifically at what impact wine-related events and festivals had on their desire to come to the region,” says leader of the research project Dr. Blair Baldwin, Okanagan College School of Business Professor and Okanagan Wine Festivals Society General Manager.

Baldwin and his team discovered that the greatest influence on visitor motivation was event and festivals execution—meaning not just the presence of those events but also the experience guests had while there. 

“You may sell out your event or win an award for your wine but if you haven’t devoted enough resources to ensuring a seamless experience, such as having prominent directional signage, good traffic flow to your wine shop, enough tasting room servers, and ample parking, visitors won’t return. And they won’t recommend it to their friends either,” says Baldwin.

Baldwin was invited to present these groundbreaking findings at the prestigious Academy of Wine Business Research conference at the University of Geisenheim in Germany earlier this summer. 

“The critical knowledge gained from this primary research will add so much value to the industry,” says Jonathan Rouse, Okanagan College’s Director of Food, Wine and Tourism

“This was a rare opportunity to promote Okanagan College and our region’s exceptional wineries, events and festivals to an international audience,” says Rouse. “There were 125 delegates from 28 wine regions including the Okanagan, Niagara, Sonoma, Napa, Marlborough, Adelaide, Bordeaux, Champagne, Oregon and Tuscany at this conference.”

The research project was part of a larger body of research originally conducted by the same group in the fall of 2013 that looked at the economic impact of wine tourism to the Okanagan. See for more details.

Spies, double agents and fugitives take over Okanagan College

Okanagan College Media Release

Dive right into the world of espionage and intrigue at Okanagan College this fall. English professor Dr. Matt Kavanagh will take students on a journey through some of the most riveting 20th century British spy novels ever written in ENGL 213 (Studies in British Literature) which focuses on spies, double agents, and fugitive authors.  

“Even though the genre gets its start at the beginning of the 20th century, the subject matter is very contemporary: declining geopolitical power, betrayal, and terrorism,” says Kavanagh. 

“Fantasy figures like James Bond are meant to embody a sense of national virility at a time when Britain’s sense of its place in the world was very much in question. Then there are organization-men like George Smiley who orchestrate intrigue from their desks in anonymous institutional settings. Most interesting are the traitors who spy against their own country and serve as scapegoats whose betrayal ‘explains’ Britain’s keenly felt sense of diminishment amidst a broad sense of decline,” he says.

Beyond Ian Fleming and John Le Carré, this class examines modernist classics by Joseph Conrad and Elizabeth Bowen as well as contemporary work by John Banville and Salman Rushdie (who has written a memoir of his time spent living on the run from Islamic fundamentalists in Joseph Anton).

ENGL 213 is just one of several unique English courses being offered at Okanagan College this fall. 

Another is ENGL 204 (Applied English Studies), a course that puts students in the role of editor at an actual literary publication, Ryga: A Journal of Provocations. A companion course, ENGL 205, runs in the Winter term.

“From content creation to layout, students use the analytical and writing skills they have learned in their previous English classes and master the applied skills they need to create, design and publish a magazine,” says English professor Corinna Chong.

“Applied English Studies will not only appeal to arts students, but also to students interested in communications, marketing and business, as they will have the opportunity to run a real publishing company.”

While the fall term is fast approaching, Okanagan College is still accepting applications for enrolment. Go to for details.

International team collaborating on a better helmet for contact sports

From left: PhD student Colin Wallace tries on a dirt biking shirt equipped with Armourgel protective covering, while UBC’s Paul van Donkelaar and Imperial College’s Dan Plant look on. Van Donkelaar, director of UBC’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences, studies concussions and is interested in Armourgel’s unique properties for use in sports helmets.

From left: PhD student Colin Wallace tries on a dirt biking shirt equipped with Armourgel protective covering, while UBC’s Paul van Donkelaar and Imperial College’s Dan Plant look on. Van Donkelaar, director of UBC’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences, studies concussions and is interested in Armourgel’s unique properties for use in sports helmets.

Imperial College London researchers visit partners at UBC Okanagan

A partnership between UBC Okanagan and  Imperial College London (UK) is focused on development of a new helmet that could one day reduce sports-related concussions.

Professors Peter Childs and Dan Plant, visiting from Imperial College, spent the week at UBC’s Okanagan campus, meeting with researchers and sharing ideas and designs that can change lives.

Plant is one of the developers of Armourgel—a light, flexible material that absorbs shock on impact and can reduce physical harm from falls or other kinds of contact. While at UBC, Plant met with Prof. Paul van Donkelaar, director of UBC’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences, and demonstrated several samples of Armourgel. The applications of this novel new material are far-reaching -- from protective bike gear, to clothing for elderly people prone to falls, to more effective helmets.

That’s where UBC Okanagan’s new Survive and Thrive Applied Research (STAR) facility comes in.

STAR ( is a hub for innovative research projects that focus on human performance and protection by bringing together expertise from across UBC, industry and other universities. In one of the first major collaborations through STAR, van Donkelaar is working with Armourgel and Kelowna’s Helios Global Technologies to develop a helmet liner that could lessen the impact of blows to the head, specifically in contact sports. His research examines the damage sustained by young athletes who have been concussed while playing sports, especially those who have had more than one concussion.

Part of this work examines how concussions can affect blood flow to the brain, how this impacts neurocognitive function, and how to determine when young athletes are physically ready to begin playing a contact sport again.

"Sport-related concussion is becoming a major concern for athletes, parents, coaches, and sport associations,” says van Donkelaar. “Finding ways to improve the safety of contact sports is one key approach to mitigating the risks of concussion. The development of Armourgel helmets could be a step in the right direction to making contact sports safer."

In van Donkelaar’s lab, Plant presented several variations of the Armourgel product, and explained how it can be manufactured in different thicknesses, and can be applied in many ways. The goal now is to work on a prototype helmet liner that may one day become standard safety equipment for those who play contact sports.

During their visit, Peter Childs, Professor of Engineering Design at Imperial College London, spoke about the benefits of a partnership between UBC and Imperial. The goal is to expand the relationship and provide new opportunities for students from both universities.

This spring, UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Okanagan Campus Principal Deborah Buszard signed an agreement with Imperial College as part of UBC’s plan to foster deeper relationships that can lead to innovative research

“The visit by Imperial College London opens the door to exciting new opportunities for this campus and our partners in the community,” says Buszard. “It is wonderful to be hosting scholars of the calibre of Peter Childs and Dan Plant. I look forward to seeing the results of the joint projects already underway with UBC researchers, as well as other opportunities for collaboration discussed during this week’s visit.”

While in the Okanagan, the visitors from Imperial met with representatives from local businesses and industries, community leaders, and representatives from several faculties at UBC including the Faculty of Management, Applied Science, and the Faculty of Health and Social Development.

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Research looks at policy and politics of BC’s most treasured resource: H2O

Grace H. Fan

Grace H. Fan, assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship, in the Faculty of Management at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

UBC professor receives funding to examine the conversation on water in BC and how it may impact the Sustainable Water Act 

Grace H. Fan, assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship with UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Management, has received $73,800 in funding over two years from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to support research on the discourse on water in BC.

“BC is going to have a new water act – the Sustainable Water Act, which is replacing the more than 100-year-old water act, and it is going to have a significant impact on the way water is managed throughout BC,” says Fan, who uses organization theory to explain entrepreneurship and water sustainability. Organizational theory is the study of organizations and their interrelationship with the environment in which they operate.

“My research will focus on the process of how the BC Sustainable Water Act has been developed – who was consulted, how they were involved, the transparency of those consultations, and what, if any, influence or impact those dialogues have in forming policy for the Sustainable Water Act.”

Fan and her co-investigator, Dev Jennings from the University of Alberta, are interested in the process of how the policy is developed, and will also examine how the policy is received by the community and stakeholders, and what further negotiations take place. They will also look at how the Sustainable Water Act will be implemented at the ground level.

It is anticipated the Sustainable Water Act will be announced and reviewed in spring 2015.

“It will be the first time BC is going to have legislation on ground water, which is a significant change,” says Fan. “Also, for the first time, they have included wording about First Nations, which is another important issue.

“We assume there will be lots of negotiation resulting from these two specific issues. We’re interested in figuring out the legal framework in which this all takes place. What groups will be included and invited to participate in this? How will they contribute? How transparent will the negotiations be?”

Fan explains her research could be used by policy-makers, communities, and stakeholders to better understand their roles and possible alternatives in the consultation and negotiation process, potentially leading to smoother implementation of policy and better collaboration from stakeholders.

Fan’s past research, funded by the UBC Okanagan Provost’s research office, has examined policy development and stakeholder collaboration at its best.  She has applied organizational theory to study the collaborative model created and maintained by the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) and Okanagan Water Stewardship Council, who have successfully brought together diverse stakeholders throughout Okanagan communities to address water sustainability issues in the Okanagan Valley.

“The collaborative model is very fascinating,” says Fan. “What the OBWB and Stewardship Council have achieved by working together is often considered a leading example of water management in Canada, and the whole of North America.

“It is important to understand the background of this collaborative model, how it works, who it involves, how it prioritizes and makes decisions, and why it has been and continues to be successful and sustainable in water management.  Once we understand why something works, or why something doesn’t, we can make conscious decisions to achieve best possible results in policy creation, implementation and management.”


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