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Campus Life - Okanagan

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:


Short list announced for Okanagan Short Fiction contest

More than 90 entries for 17th annual story contest

It will be a tough call. A total of 93 entries were received for the 17th annual Okanagan Short Fiction contest, sponsored by UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies (FCCS), the Central Okanagan Foundation, and the Kelowna Capital News.

“This is a remarkable list of local writers,” says Creative Writing Assoc. Prof. Nancy Holmes. Many are former or current undergraduate and graduate students. Yet more than half of the entries came from across the Southern Interior, both new and established writers.

“So the contest is drawing out talented writers from everywhere in the community,” says Holmes. “I really congratulate the short-listed writers – it was a fierce competition. Each story is a great read. I don’t envy the judge deciding the winners.”

Marie Clements, UBC Okanagan’s 2015 Writer-in-Residence, will select the best three stories and winners will be announced at a special authors’ event in March. First place winner will receive $500, while the second and third place winners receive $200 and $100 respectively. The overall winner also has the opportunity to spend a one-week retreat at the Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre.

Here is the short list of stories and authors for the 2015 Okanagan Short Fiction contest:

“Rutabaga” by Dania Tomlinson of Kelowna
“Pellucidity” by Katherin Edwards of Kamloops
“Red” by Jocelyn Tennant of Kelowna
“Knock Before Entering” by Ryan Ennis of Kelowna
“The Hills in June” by Connal McNamara of Kelowna
“Thompson” by Monique Theriault of Kelowna
“That’s What They Call It, Anyway” by Brittni MacKenzie-Dale of Kelowna
“The Law of Buoyancy” by Brittni MacKenzie-Dale of Kelowna
“Know You As You Feel You Know Me” by Raven Faith Jones of Kelowna
“The Man in the Black Hat” by Shawn Bird of Salmon Arm
“Well-Wishing” by Sarina Bouvier of Kelowna
“The Summer I Drowned” by Ashley Little of Kelowna


Take it outside! Conference focuses on outdoor play

Okanagan College Media Release

Child’s play is serious work for a group of academics, professionals, and planners who will be gathering March 6 at Okanagan Beverlie Dietze Dec 2013College’s Vernon campus to consider the how and why of developing outdoor play spaces and why they are essential for children’s development and for building healthy, sustainable communities.

Shifting Views – Why Children Need Outdoor Play Now!” is a one-day conference being organized by Okanagan College’s Director of Learning and Teaching, Dr. Beverlie Dietze (who is also a principal researcher in outdoor play) and Jane Lister, the College’s North Okanagan Regional Dean. The conference is also being supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, which funded recent research involving Dietze, and the Kelowna-based Outland Design Landscape Architecture company.

“Recent research is really reinforcing how important outdoor play is to children’s development, especially at a time when so much of their activity is focused around electronic devices and digital interaction,” says Dietze. “Having the chance to connect to nature is about a lot more than just the experience of the outdoors. It impacts a whole range of behavior and early childhood development.”

Details of the conference speakers and sessions, as well as instructions on how to register can be found at

The day-long, free conference features a number of experts and workshops. Two Nova Scotians will present the story of Nova Scotia’s Journey of Advancing Outdoor Play – Peter McCracken (who works with the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness) and Laura MacPherson (who works in the same department and also sits on the ParticipACTION’s National Active Play committee.)

Dr. Mariana Brussoni, an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia will examine the need for children to have play environments that allow them to take a variety of risks in their outdoor play.  

Dietze will present an overview of the current research in the area of outdoor children’s play and how the research should influence public policy, community development, and how it ties into the UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child.

Fiona Barton, the principal in Outland Design Landscape Architecture, will focus on how important it is for landscape architects to create nurturing outdoor spaces for children. She’ll highlight some new outdoor play designs that incorporate natural materials into play space. 

Dr. Diane Kashin, a registered early childhood educator and College professor, will present a session called Cultivating Children’s Identities Through Outdoor Play.


New awards honour aviation pioneers and help college students take flight

Okanagan College Media Release

Margaret Fane Rutledge Feb 2015Students enrolled in the Commercial Aviation diploma program at Okanagan College will soon get a lift from new awards that recognize the achievements of two distinguished B.C. aviators.

The Roy Clemens Memorial Award in Aviation and Margaret Fane Rutledge Award in Aviation, valued at $1,000 each, celebrate the contributions to Canada’s aviation history made by Clemens and Rutledge over the course of their careers in the air. 

“We are proud to recognize the legacy of these two aviation forerunners” says Barry McGillivray, Associate Dean, Okanagan College School of Business. “These awards in their honour will assist young pilots in their training. Okanagan College is very grateful to the Clemens and Rutledge families for their generous support in creating these awards.” 

“We’ve trained over 400 pilots since the program began in 1990,” says Marc Vanderaegen, Flight School Director, Southern Interior Flight Centre, Okanagan College Commercial Aviation Diploma Program. “And the demand for pilots is only going to increase, with retirements looming in the big airlines. It’s a very exciting time to get into commercial aviation. This program gives students some great opportunities to connect with local employers and leaders in aviation from the moment they start training.”

Roy Clemens was born in Moose Jaw, Sask., on March 14, 1918. He studied aeronautics and served as a pilot and technical officer in the RCAF in England during WWII. In 1967, Clemens moved from Vancouver to Kelowna to set up and run Western Star manufacturing plant. It was here he rekindled his interest in flying, soon getting his pilot’s license and building his own plane. 

Clemens coordinated Air Search and Rescue in the region for 35 years, retiring from that volunteer position at the age of 87. He was a founding member of the Kelowna Flying Club and the Kelowna branch of the Experimental Aircraft Association, and provided technical advice to aircraft builders all over the world. Clemens passed away in 2013.

“Dad's greatest passion in life was flying—from his first flight in a crop duster at age eight, right up until the end of his life at age 95,” says his daughter, Patricia Campbell. “He inspired so many people to pursue flying—either as a career or as a hobby—and I know he would be pleased that this memorial award will continue helping others to achieve their airborne dreams.”

Born in Edmonton on April 13, 1914, Margaret Fane Rutledge’s life-long interest in aviation was sparked in early childhood. Rutledge was the first woman west of Toronto to earn a commercial pilot’s license. She overcame frequent discrimination in pursuit of her dream of being a commercial pilot, as many airlines refused to hire women for the role. 

"Aunt Margaret never saw herself as being special because she was a female pilot...she was special because she was a pilot,” says Rutledge’s nephew, Graham Fane. 

Rutledge persevered and ultimately piloted several flights for a Canadian airline, worked with a bush pilot outfit in northern B.C. She worked with Grant McConachie and Canadian Airlines, and also founded the "Flying Seven" - an elite group of Canadian female pilots associated with Amelia Earhart, based out of Vancouver. Rutledge passed away in 2004 at the age of 90.

“She wasn't just a pilot. She was a role model for following your dreams,” says Fane.

Both the Roy Clemens and Margaret Fane Rutledge Award will each be awarded annually to a student who has completed the first year of full-time study in the program. For more information about awards eligibility, please contact Okanagan College’s Financial Aid office at [email protected]

The Commercial Aviation diploma program is for men and women who are interested in pursuing a career in aviation. The two-year program provides participants with business experience along with the aviation training required by Transport Canada to ensure they are prepared to enter into the field of commercial aviation.

For information on the program, additional details on participant eligibility or to apply, contact Marc Vanderaegen at [email protected].

UBC celebrates the research, and those who are making a difference

Celebrate Research 2015

Full week of activities highlights students, professors, and projects that matter

Research matters. Whether it’s a new chip on cell phones to monitor health, helmets that prevent concussions, or new methods to provide safe drinking water, research underway at UBC’s Okanagan campus continues to evolve and improve our lives.

UBC Okanagan is hosting its 10th annual Celebrate Research week March 2 to 6, and is inviting the community to discover the goings-on inside the research labs, in our communities, and what makes UBC’s researchers tick.

Maintain Your Brain Health

UBC Prof. Emeritus Patrick McGeer

UBC Prof. Emeritus Patrick McGeer

The week starts with a keynote address from UBC Professor Emeritus Patrick L. McGeer discussing his research into Alzheimer’s disease and advances using aurin tricarboxylic acid. McGeer, a Canadian physician, professor, and medical researcher has dedicated his life to finding the biochemical recipe to target the amyloid plaques responsible for causing Alzheimer’s.

McGeer has screened thousands of compounds to find aurin tricarboxylic acid and if his predictions are correct that it works in a spectrum of human diseases, it may become the most widespread drug ever developed.

McGeer, one of Canada’s leading experts of neurological disorders, hopes to introduce aurin tricarboxylic acid in clinical settings within a year. His presentation takes place at the Mary Irwin Theatre, Rotary Centre for the Arts, Monday, March 2, starting at 7 p.m. This event is free, open to the public and no registration is required.

The scientific investigation done by McGeer is a perfect example of why the university celebrates research, says Prof. Gordon Binsted, acting vice-principal, Research and Innovation.

“Our research has come a long way in 10 years,” says Binsted. “Advances in technology mean the research keeps advancing and our professors are finding new ideas and ways to investigate and solve challenges. Celebrate Research week gives our faculty members and students a chance to share what they’re working on and let the public know about some of the many great projects underway on this campus.”

School District 23’s annual Science Fair

During Celebrate Research week, the public is encouraged to participate in a series of campus presentations involving faculty and student researchers. UBC is also shining the spotlight on the community’s youngest scientists by hosting School District 23’s annual Science Fair.

As many as 300 young future scientists will be on campus for the two-day Science Fair. Students will present their science projects for judges and public viewers from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 3 in the Engineering, Management and Education building’s Richard S. Hallisey Atrium, and from 10 a.m. to noon in the University Centre Ballroom UNC 200. Awards will be presented in the UNC Ballroom from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 4.

More highlights

Other highlights of the week include the Three Minute Thesis, where graduate students will compete against each other to present their research in rapid-fire presentations. They have one slide and three minutes to share the depth, significance, and impact of their research with the judges and audience for a chance to win top honours and prize money. The Three Minute Thesis takes place in the University Theatre ADM 026, Wednesday, March 4, from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

Later that day, those concerned about growth issues in the Okanagan will want hear a panel of experts talk about the challenges Okanagan municipalities face dealing with sustainable development. Topics include promoting social inequality, homelessness, historic preservation, sustainable urban planning, and affordable housing. The panel discussion takes place in the Arts Building ART 376 on Wednesday, March 4, from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

Events continue throughout the week and on Thursday, Chris Walker, host of CBC's Daybreak South, moderates a panel discussion dealing with chronic pain. UBC experts Zach Walsh, associate professor of psychology; Susan Holzman, assistant professor of psychology; and Sally Willis-Stewart, senior instructor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences join rheumatologist Michelle Teo to discuss the issues faced by those who live with chronic pain, and whether there are better ways to deal with it.

This public event is at Café Scientifique, co-sponsored by the Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention, and Interior Health. It takes place at the Bohemian Café, 524 Bernard Avenue, Thursday at 5 p.m. and admission is free.

For a complete listing of Celebrate Research events visit:

UBC Asst. Prof. Jennifer Jacoki and students in a physiology demonstration during Celebrate Research Week 2014.

UBC Asst. Prof. Jennifer Jacoki and students in a physiology demonstration during Celebrate Research Week 2014.

UBC Assoc. Prof. Jonathan Holzman tours school children through his engineering lab at Celebrate Research week 2014.

UBC Assoc. Prof. Jonathan Holzman tours school children through his engineering lab at Celebrate Research week 2014.


A comedic curling match with the devil takes the stage in upcoming Red Dot Players production

Okanagan College Media Release

What could be more Canadian than W.O. Mitchell, a curling competition with the devil set in the Prairies and curling stones that can be used in any season?Red Dot Players Feb 2015

This is what you can expect on the stage March 5 to 8 as the Okanagan College Red Dot Players present Mitchell’s comedy The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon at the Kelowna campus. This will be the theatre company’s fifth production.

Based on the classic literary tale of Faust's deal with the devil, a curling match sets the stage for this humorous, clever and Canadianized version of the ultimate battle between good vs. evil. 

"One of the challenges with the script was to create an actual curling match on the stage," says the play’s director Mike Minions, Okanagan College's Educational Technology Coordinator. "Using the big lathe in the College's carpentry shop we built some wooden curling rocks on roller bearings. They painted up pretty well and the actors have been working hard to learn to make the shots they need to for each end of the game." 

The audience will be transported to the fictional town of Wildrose, Alberta in 1936 where protagonist Wullie, a shoe repairman, faces-off with the devil and his rink from Hell consisting of Judas Iscariot, Lucrezia Borgia, and none-other than the melancholic Macbeth in a curling match. The stakes are high: a win means Wullie will ultimately earn gold at the upcoming Brier Championship, but if he loses, he not only loses his immortal soul to the devil, but – even worse in his opinion— he will have to play on the devil’s team in the Celestial Brier, a curling match between Heaven and Hell. This two-act play delivers quirky characters, clever dialogue and takes a fond look at the obsession with curling so typical of a prairie town. 

“Each year I am truly impressed by the talent our extended College community brings to these plays,” says artistic director and Okanagan College English professor Jeremy Beaulne. “This year we have a cast of 10 and an additional five crew members who worked extremely hard these past few months to make this play come to life.”

Performances take place at the Kelowna campus theatre on March 5, 6, and 7 each at 7 p.m., with an additional matinee on Sunday, March 8 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $15 and are available at the Okanagan College Campus Store, Mosaic Books, and at the door. 

The Red Dot Players is a theatre troupe for Okanagan College students, alumni, and employees based on the Kelowna campus. Previous productions include The Beaux' Stratagem (2011), Blithe Spirit (2012), Les Belles-Soeurs (2013), and The Government Inspector (2014). For more information, visit the Red Dot Players website at

Okanagan College Students’ Union supports the future of trades

Okanagan College Media Release

OCSU Donation Feb 2015The profile of Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus along KLO Road will change significantly over the next year and the Okanagan College Students’ Union is showing support for the new complex that will elevate the region as a hub for trades training.

The OCSU has pledged $100,000 towards the Bright Horizons, Building for Skills fundraising campaign that supports the renovation and expansion of the trades training complex at Okanagan College.

“After supporting the Centre of Excellence at the Penticton Campus a few years ago, seeing how that building came together and the impact that it has had for students as a place to grow and succeed…that really inspired us to get behind this project,” says Chelsea Grisch, Executive Chairperson of the Okanagan College Students’ Union. 

“We are very proud and appreciative of the fact that our students have chosen to invest in the future of their college,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “Their action demonstrates great leadership on their part and confirms our commitment to providing the best possible environment to support student learning.” 

“We think it’s a powerful message that Okanagan College students see the value of this new learning facility and want to step up and play an active role in building it,” adds Grisch. “We hope it will inspire others in the community to give to the campaign and support students.”

The College acknowledges the significance of its students stepping up to support not only their education, but the education of those students who will follow in their footsteps.  

“They are contributing to the students and the generations to come,” explains Hamilton. “That speaks very highly to their character, to the value they place on post-secondary education, and to the value they place on being a part of this community—both now and in the future.”

While the three-storey trades training complex will enhance the physical profile of the College along KLO Road, it was the College’s commitment to sustainability and reducing environmental footprint through an innovative design that motivated OCSU to support the project. The building is aiming to meet both the Living Building Challenge and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum objectives.

“When the opportunity arose for us to play a part in supporting the rejuvenation of the trades training complex here in Kelowna, we wanted to show in a bold way just how important we feel it is for students to have a learning environment that is ahead of the curve, vibrant, and that reflects Okanagan College’s commitment to sustainability,” explains Grisch.

“The community should take note,” says Alf Kempf, President of the Okanagan College Foundation. “To have our students step forward like this and say ‘we want to help make the College an even better place…we want to help build a space that benefits not just our class but all the students that follow us’, that says a lot about our students and the connection they feel to the College.”

Construction of the new complex at BC’s second largest trades training institution is expected to be completed in spring of 2016. 

The $7-million Bright Horizons, Building for Skills fundraising campaign for project launched in October 2014. The campaign’s efforts will supplement the provincial government’s commitment of $28 million to the renovation project. In addition to capital, the Okanagan College Foundation is accepting donations of equipment, tools, and other support to help enhance programs and opportunities for students.

To learn more about the campaign and opportunities to get involved, please visit

UBC Okanagan animal therapy program launches BARK2GO

Students Charlie Drummond and Christy Hui have organized BARK2GO and will station volunteers and therapy dogs in three different locations across UBC’s Okanagan campus every Wednesday.

Students Charlie Drummond and Christy Hui have organized BARK2GO and will station volunteers and therapy dogs in three different locations across UBC’s Okanagan campus every Wednesday.

Building Academic Retention through K9s expands across campus

Students are lining up at UBC Okanagan’s campus—and it’s not for Tim Hortons.

Each semester more than 1,000 students attend Building Academic Retention through K9s (BARK) to spend time with registered therapy dogs. Due to increasing demand, the program is expanding and starting this week, UBC Okanagan students will have increased access to BARK, with the new BARK2GO.

Founded and led by John-Tyler Binfet, assistant professor in the Faculty of Education, and funded by the Office of the Associate Vice-President Students, BARK offers students who are feeling homesick or stressed time to spend with trained therapy dogs through a weekly drop-in program. In its third year, BARK now has a pool of more than 40 community volunteers and certified therapy dogs.

Building on the success of BARK and recognizing that not everyone can get to the weekly BARK session, BARK2GO will station volunteers and therapy dogs in three campus locations—the Fipke Centre, the Engineering, Management and Education building, and the Library—every Wednesday from 2 to 3:30 p.m.

“BARK has built a strong identity on campus, and students know they can come and de-stress,” says Charlie Drummond, BARK2GO volunteer coordinator. “The difference with BARK2GO, is that we will be able to offer a quick BARK fix between classes or exams.”

The expansion is a result of BARK outgrowing its weekly drop-in space in the Innovative Learning Centre—typically more than 100 students were and lining up for the weekly sessions.

Binfet and his team were optimistic when they learned about Pitch This!—a grant competition which invited students, faculty, staff, and alumni to forward ideas to boost wellbeing on campus. A successful pitch by Drummond and fellow student Christy Hui was the first step to launching BARK2GO.

“We hope that the outreach will raise awareness about the program,” says Hui, a former BARK participant, and BARK2GO coordinator. “I remember when I was really stressing out in my first year, and I looked forward to coming to the BARK sessions to relax and de-stress. I really hope that BARK2GO will connect with more students, and offer them the same benefits.”

Binfet is thrilled to see his student volunteers taking this initiative, and he says it is UBC Okanagan’s many supporters that make BARK and their new initiative possible.

“BARK plays a role in supporting the well-being of our students on campus and BARK2GO is an extension of the work we do in ensuring that students have access to therapy dogs in a safe and comfortable environment,” says Binfet. “BARK is their home away from home.”

For more information on BARK visit


UBC honours contributions to science of dinosaurs and distant planets

Philip Currie helped found the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta (photo courtesy of The Alberta Order of Excellence).

Philip Currie helped found the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta (photo courtesy of The Alberta Order of Excellence).

Paleontologist and astrophysicist to receive honorary degrees in June

Sara Seager’s research focuses on theory, computation, and data analysis of exoplanets.

Sara Seager’s research focuses on theory, computation, and data analysis of exoplanets.

Two accomplished Canadian scientists--a discoverer of dinosaurs, and a discoverer of atmosphere on planets orbiting distant stars--will receive honorary degrees at UBC Okanagan’s June Convocation.

Philip Currie is an internationally renowned palaeontologist whose scientific accomplishments have led to a greater understanding of dinosaurs and their scientific significance. Currie is currently Professor and Canada Research Chair in Dinosaur Paleobiology at the University of Alberta.

Sara Seager is a Canadian-American astrophysicist and planetary scientist, and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is known for her work on exoplanets and their atmospheres.

The honorary degrees will be conferred during Convocation ceremonies at UBC’s Okanagan campus on June 4 and 5, 2015.

Okanagan College’s Dr. Barry McGillivray has decided to reinvest in the economy of the region that has treated him well

Okanagan College Media Release

Dr. Barry McGillivray, Associate Dean of the College’s School of Business, is donating $100,000 to develop a research centre at the College Barry McGillivray Feb 2015that will be focused on small business and entrepreneurship in the Southern Interior.

“I’m giving back to a region that has been very good to me,” says McGillivray. “Supporting research to benefit small businesses and entrepreneurs is one of the most effective avenues of building our region’s economy.”

A portion of the funds, invested with the Okanagan College Foundation, will be directed toward scholarships and bursaries for students as well. 

“I have a great and abiding faith in the quality of our students,” says McGillivray, pointing to a long list of student accomplishments in national and international case competitions and to a growing number of notable alumni from the College’s Business Administration degree and diploma programs.

“Research will round out the School of Business’s profile – regionally and nationally,” says McGillivray. “We have a well-deserved reputation for teaching excellence, and for meeting student and employer needs and expectations. We also have a cadre of professors who are undertaking research important to our region; research that focuses on small- and medium-sized enterprises, on the wine industry, on agriculture and on tourism.

“My intent is that the Centre for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Research will serve as an incubator for some of our newer faculty to do more applied research, especially with regard to the barriers that entrepreneurs face.”

McGillivray is also hoping that his contribution will spur others to support the Centre.

“Barry’s commitment to this region and to our institution is remarkable,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “I know he thought carefully about what he could do to help the communities we serve, consulted many people and struck upon developing this Centre as the best investment he could make. I applaud him for his generosity and his foresight.”

“Barry’s donation is also evidence of the support being shown for the College by the very people who make this place what it is,” notes Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director Kathy Butler. “It is encouraging to see students, staff and instructors choose to contribute to enhancing the College and supporting students.”

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