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Campus Life  

Do think-tanks matter? A UBC professor says 'think again'

Carey Doberstein, assistant professor of political science

Carey Doberstein, assistant professor of political science

A UBC professor is suggesting government policy makers and advisors need to do a re-think when it comes to giving validity to reports coming across their desks.

Carey Doberstein, an assistant professor of political science at UBC’s Okanagan campus, recently published an experimental study of public sector workers and determined that many give a written report or study purported to be from a university more credibility than one from a think-tank or advocacy group.

Doberstein conducted a randomized controlled survey experiment involving British Columbia public service staff, asking them to read and assess the credibility of various policy studies. For half of the respondents, the authorship of the studies was randomly switched but the content remained the same.

Doberstein then compared the average credibility assessments between the control and experimental groups.

“There were systematic and at times extraordinarily large differences between the credibility assessments provided by these policy professionals on precisely the same policy studies, when the only part I changed was the label of who wrote it,” says Doberstein. “Irrespective of the content and just by virtue of presenting it as written by an academic, the report suddenly becomes more credible in the eyes of bureaucrats.”

The results surprised him, in part due to the magnitude of the differences observed. For one report, originally authored by the Fraser Institute, the credibility skyrocketed among study participants when they read the same document thinking it came from a university academic.

Another policy study, this time written by a university economist, received very high credibility assessments in the control group. But when authorship was changed to be purportedly written by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives think-tank, its credibility plummeted dramatically.

“Put simply, the think-tank affiliation was a significant drag on the perceived credibility of their report and analysis,” says Doberstein.

The same was true for reports said to be written by research-based advocacy groups.

"Some may interpret this finding positively,” he says. “That analysts in government are skeptical of reports or studies that emerge from think tanks or advocacy organizations offering analysis and conclusions that tend to align with the organization’s obvious ideological position.”

Yet Doberstein says having a report’s credibility increase simply by changing the name of the source is concerning as it can appear that policy-relevant research contained within its pages is being ignored by government policy advisors.

“We expect public servants to objectively examine the research evidence available to them,” he says. “However, it seems many are taking shortcuts, and in essence giving academics a free pass.”

And while this study examined the biases among policymakers in BC, Doberstein notes similar results were observed his subsequent replication experiment involving provincial policy analysts in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland.

Doberstein’s study was recently published in Policy Studies Journal (onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/psj.12166/abstract)

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Medical Office Assistant training helps launch graduate into a career she never planned for

JeromeLindsay Jerome never expected to go into the medical field.
 
Yet, Jerome decided to take the Medical Office Assistant (MOA) certificate at Okanagan College and upon graduation was hired by the North Okanagan Medical Clinic at Superstore in Vernon, B.C. Three years later, she enjoys a challenging career at the clinic where every day is different.
 
“I had no idea what I wanted to do and was just working retail – going nowhere,” says Jerome. “I knew I wanted to make more money, and I also wanted a job that was in-demand and that I could be proud of.”
 
Jerome decided to start investigating post-secondary education and her research led her to consider a career as a medical office assistant.
 
“Everybody that I talked to about the job had been doing it for 20-plus years, and they loved it,” says Jerome.
 
Jerome enrolled in the College’s part-time, Medical Office Assistant certificate and worked two jobs – retail and dog grooming – while completing her education. The flexibility of the program, which includes evenings and some weekend classroom time, allowed her to fit both work and school into her busy schedule.
 
Jerome found the instructors knowledgeable and ready to answer all of her questions, and appreciated the fact that her training included an observation.
 
“I did my observation at the clinic that I now work at, and I know for a fact that they wouldn’t have hired me without the course,” says Jerome. “Plus, there’s only so much the books can tell you. Our teacher would often say ‘it depends on where you work.’ So by doing my observation I learned things that were specific to working in a walk-in clinic.”
 
The Medical Office Assistant program is offered at the Vernon and Kelowna campuses and covers medical terminology, medical office procedures (including computerized medical billing), medical office guidelines, and medical and legal ethical standards. Instructors also help students develop time management and effective verbal and written communication skills.
 
“The training really is a great jumping off point for our graduates to go into a versatile career,” says instructor Carrol Tull. “We’ve got grads working in doctor’s offices, vet clinics, walk-in clinics, and hospitals.”
 
Tull also says that the instruction is designed to be hands-on and practical.
 
“Having been an MOA for many years I get great pleasure passing on my knowledge to the students who are eager to be part of this industry. It’s exciting to be part of this learning process, watching the students become skilled, confident and eager to start their rewarding careers.”

What does Jerome like best about her job?
 
“You never know what’s going to walk through the door!” she laughs. “It’s chaotic, it’s crazy busy, and it’s challenging because the medical field is always changing and we have about 20-30 doctors who rotate through here. So you’re always learning and definitely never bored.”
 
Jerome has a message for students considering the program: “Just do it – you won’t regret it.”
 
To find out more about Okanagan College’s Medical Office Assistant certificate, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/moa.
 



Researcher looking for answers when a child abandons the family religion

UBC researcher Glendon Wiebe wants to know about parents’ experiences when their adult child leaves the family religion

UBC researcher Glendon Wiebe wants to know about parents’ experiences when their adult child leaves the family religion

A UBC researcher wants to know about the experiences of parents when their adult child leaves the religious tradition they were raised in.

Glendon Wiebe, working with UBCs Okanagan’s Barb Pesut, associate professor with the School of Nursing and Canada Research Chair, is hoping to connect with Okanagan families for his study examining family bonds when religion changes or is abandoned. Wiebe, a PhD candidate at campus, says past research has focused almost exclusively on the people who have left the religion—while the perspectives of the parents have been mostly ignored.

“For some parents, keeping the faith is extremely important and if their child leaves, it can lead to a difficult and somewhat lonely journey,” says Wiebe. “Others, however, may accept it more readily, depending on the circumstances surrounding their child’s religious change."

Wiebe says the diversity of the parents’ experiences is crucial to his research examining faith and family relationships.

“I recognize that it’s a sensitive topic for some, but I’d like to talk to individual parents to see how they have navigated and responded to their child’s departure from the family’s religious tradition.”

For more information or to participate in this confidential study, please contact Wiebe at [email protected] or 250-575-7671.

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UBC Okanagan reduced carbon footprint in 2015

UBC Okanagan reduced its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 17 per cent between 2014 and 2015.

As detailed in its 2015 Carbon Neutral Action Overview Report, the reduction equates to 524 tonnes of GHGs, roughly the equivalent of the annual emission of 111 passenger vehicles or 1,213 barrels of oil.

“UBC’s commitment to sustainability has achieved ambitious emissions reductions that support federal, provincial, and municipal climate and sustainability goals,” says Deborah Buszard, UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Okanagan campus.

As part of its commitment to GHG reduction, UBC Okanagan contributed $2.3 million in land for a new transit exchange on campus, which is being built in cooperation with the governments of Canada, British Columba and the City of Kelowna.

“Transit improvements are key to further reducing GHG emissions and UBC Okanagan is an important transit hub for the region,” says Buszard. “On behalf of UBC students, faculty and staff, thank you to the federal, provincial, and local governments for supporting increased transit capacity at the University and in our community.”

The campus’ carbon neutral report was part of UBC’s annual submission to the BC government’s Climate Action Secretariat. The province has committed to reducing its GHG emissions by 80 per cent below 2007 levels by 2050.

“In 2015, the campus undertook a number of specific actions to ensure that we can continue to meet our GHG reduction goals, including replacing aging water heating equipment, lighting retrofits, and the use of digital over paper technology,” says Associate Director of Sustainability Operations Leanne Bilodeau. “Moving forward, we will focus on our whole systems goals, which will help us further reduce energy demands and GHG emissions.”

The Carbon Neutral Action report is available at: sustain.ok.ubc.ca/reports/cnar

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Camp OC keeps kids learning all summer long at Okanagan College

Summer in the Okanagan means lazy days at the beach, but for 1,500 kids in Kelowna this year it also means exciting adventures in everything from Lego robotics to the culinary arts at Okanagan College’s Camp OC.
 
Last week, more than 150 children and teenagers filled the College’s Kelowna campus for nine different camps including Chef Academy, Java Programming using Minecraft, and Jewelry and Craft Creations. Camp OC – Okanagan College’s educational summer camp – offers more than 100 camps and runs from now until Aug. 26 at the College’s Kelowna, Vernon and Salmon Arm campuses.
 
“We started offering Camp OC in Kelowna 12 years ago with about 10 camps and 70 kids,” says Helena Jordo, Camp OC coordinator. “This year we are expecting close to 1,500 kids and teens to attend 100 camps during the eight weeks of summer. “We’re really proud of how the camps have developed.”
 
Jordo explains that all of the Camp OC programs have an educational component, and are taught in a fun and interactive way.
 
“One of the biggest differences compared to other camps is that the majority of our camps are taught by actual teachers with a passion and expertise in the subject they are teaching and obviously a background in teaching.”
 
Matching industry experience and expertise with a student’s area of interest is nothing new to the College, nor Camp OC for that matter. Jordo says that one of the purposes of Camp OC is to get children and teens familiar with the College now so that when they graduate from high school they are already comfortable with the campus and the post-secondary environment.
 
Eden Froom, 10, attended the camp Movie Director – Lights, Camera, Action! and says using the green screen to make funny videos was her favourite part.
 
“I love Camp OC because I can make new friends and do stuff I’ve always wanted to do,” says Froom.
 
Kevin Nickel, who teaches the Movie Director camp, says one of the things that makes Camp OC so much fun is the educational experience without grades or risk of failure.
“Taking grades out of the equation is great for both the instructors and for the kids because it allows a ton of room for creativity and genuine learning.”?
Camp OC runs weeklong day-camps for children entering Grades 2-9 in the fall, throughout the summer. Space is still available in some camps. To find out more or register, visit the Camp OC website:www.okanagan.bc.ca/campoc.



Factory-built homes could help cities with tight housing markets

UBC researchers Kasun Hewage (left) and Mohammad Kamali believe modular construction needs a closer look.

UBC researchers Kasun Hewage (left) and Mohammad Kamali believe modular construction needs a closer look.

Cities facing housing shortages should encourage more modular construction to increase options for prospective homebuyers and renters, a UBC researcher says.

Following the first comprehensive review of conventional and modular construction research of its kind, Kasun Hewage, an associate professor of engineering at UBC’s Okanagan campus, says cities like Vancouver and Kelowna, BC should consider looking to factories to ease their housing shortage.

“With increasing housing prices and decreasing availability in Canadian cities, the research is telling us that modular construction can offer housing that is cheaper, faster and results in fewer workplace injuries,” says Hewage. “While this kind of construction will need to overcome transportation challenges and perceived product inferiority, it’s clear we need to start looking at this as a viable alternative as demand outstrips conventional construction’s ability to keep up.”

Modular construction, where buildings and residential homes are put together in a factory setting, would be particularly useful for the construction of multi-family dwellings, adds Hewage.

In assessing the potential modular construction—factory-built homes or buildings that can be thousands of square feet in size, are transported in blocks and are assembled on building sites—compared with conventional construction, Hewage and UBC researcher and PhD candidate Mohammad Kamali reviewed research data from universities, governments and industry compiled between 2000 and 2015.

The two believe that as housing pressures and sustainability expectations continue to mount, information on the benefits and drawbacks of various construction methods will become increasingly important to both individual and corporate housing consumers.

“The public’s negative perception of new construction methods is a considerable factor that hinders the development and use of modular construction as they are often thought to be similar to mobile homes found in trailer parks,” says Kamali. “The next step in our research is to develop a tool that offers consumers, developers and government decision-makers the option of comparing the sustainable construction aspects of modular and conventional construction methods.

"It's important to be able to make an informed choice about the environmental, social and economic impacts of each building type.”

Hewage and Kamali’s research was recently published in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews (sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032116301411).

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Local builder proud to support future tradespeople

Okanagan College Media Release

With more than two decades of experience under his tool belt, a local construction business owner and Okanagan College alumnus is giving back to support future tradespeople.

John Bachelder July 2016John Bachelder, owner of Bachelder Construction Ltd., has pledged $10,000 toward the Bright Horizons Building for Skills Campaign in support of the new Trades Training Complex at Okanagan College.

“This is an incredible facility that really honours tradespeople,” says Bachelder. “I’m excited to be a part of that. I imagine students are going to feel very proud to learn here and proud of the career path they’ve chosen.”

Bachelder moved to the Okanagan in 1970 when he was just 14-years-old, and says the trades have always been an important part of his life from an early age. He studied Commercial Transport at the College in 1985 before going into the construction business in 1993.

“I’ve been around the housing industry for most of my life,” says Bachelder. “And there has always been the challenge of finding enough skilled people. We need to stay ahead of the curve and that begins with supporting and encouraging the next generation of tradespeople.”

Among that next generation is Bachelder’s son Brady, who also trained at Okanagan College—earning Red Seals in Carpentry and Welding—and has gone on to be very successful right out of school.

“The trades are becoming increasingly technical, which is why education and training is so important,” notes Bachelder.

His wife Cynthia and daughter Anna-Leigh are also College alumni, having completed the Early Childhood Education and Human Service Work diploma programs in recent years.

In addition to his philanthropic activity with the College, Bachelder is also a member of the Kelowna chapter of 100 Men Who Give a Damn.

“I like to support things that tug on the heart strings a little, and we’re lucky to have a place like the College in the region, it creates a lot of opportunities for students.”

The College recently completed construction on its new and expanded trades training complex—a $33-million project. More than $6.2 million has been raised from local industry and individuals, to top up the province’s $28-million investment. The fundraising campaign goal is $7 million, which includes $5 million for capital construction and $2 million for program and student support. An official grand opening is being planned for the fall.

According to Bachelder, becoming a donor has afforded him the chance to build a stronger connection with the College and to others in his industry who have supported the recent trades expansion project.

Bachelder reconnected with his alma mater during a dinner hosted by two of his fellow home builders Lambert Schmalz and Gord Wilson. Both men have contributed to the fundraising campaign for the project and have invited other builders to support their future workforce.

“It’s been great re-connecting with the College, and meeting with others in the industry to hear what they’re doing to support the next generation. It’s great to see that there is a growing number of us who believe in supporting the future of our industry.”

As a sector, local homebuilders have contributed more than $500,000 to the project.

“We greatly appreciate the support our local homebuilders have shown for the project,” says Steve Moores, the College’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship. “This gift from John Bachelder is very generous, and once again demonstrates for our students that local employers value the training being offered at the College."

More information about the new building, the fundraising campaign and opportunities to get involved is available at www.okanagan.bc.ca/campaign




Cell research could help with heart tissue transplants

UBC researcher Keekyoung Kim

UBC researcher Keekyoung Kim (left) works in his lab with student Zongjie Wang.

A new technique developed by a UBC researcher could make tissue regeneration cheaper and safer for health-care systems and their patients.

A study, conducted by UBC researcher Keekyoung Kim while at Harvard University, has identified new ways in which proteins and various biological molecules—known as growth factors—can work together to turn cells on the surface into cells that form the middle layer of the heart valve.

“Science has long been working towards ways to minimize or eliminate the rejection risks faced by tissue transplant patient,” says Keekyoung Kim, assistant professor of engineering at UBC’s Okanagan campus. “While the goal of using a patient’s own genetic material to grow a body tissue is still a long way off, this study has moved us further towards that goal.

“This new technique essentially allows us to use less material to study heart-valve regeneration process more quickly and at a lower cost.”

As part of his study, Kim used a microarray (technology that allows various groups of microscopic materials to be "printed" on a slide) to place proteins, growth-influencing biological molecules and simple cells in various combinations on top of a gel-like substance known as hydrogel.

Kim then looked at which combinations influenced the transition of a simple cell into a more complex cell used in heart-valve growth. He found there were specific patterns of proteins and molecules that promoted growth.

“We’re confident this process can be used for other types of tissue, so we are currently in the process of building a microarray in the Okanagan so we can continue testing,” he says.
Kim conducted the study along with UBC researcher Zongjie Wang, ETH Zurich researcher Blaise Calpe and Prof. Ali Khademhosseini of Harvard’s Medical School. The research was recently published in the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering (onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/bit.25905/full).

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UBC researchers determine vineyards adversely affect soil quality

Biologists from UBC’s Okanagan campus are digging under vineyards to see if the Okanagan’s grape industry is affecting soil quality.

The team of researchers spent the better part of three years studying soil samples from more than 15 vineyards throughout the valley.

Associate Professor Miranda Hart, PhD candidate Taylor Holland and Agriculture Canada research scientist Pat Bowen looked at soils in vineyards and neighbouring natural—or uncultivated—habitats. With samples from both areas, the scientists compared the bacterial and fungal communities between habitats, trying to determine what’s happening to the soil under the wine-producing grapes.

Miranda-Hart

UBC Associate Professor Miranda Hart

They determined there was a definite difference in soil communities between the natural valley soil and the vineyard soil.

“Soil biodiversity may be an important part of terroir, which is everything to a grape grower, so they have a vested interest in ensuring we preserve soil biodiversity,” says Hart “This baseline study shows us that BC wine growing regions are different in terms of the organisms that live in the soil."

All agricultural activity will affect the soil, some more than others, Hart explains. But in order to know how the soil is being changed, researchers wanted to compare samples with natural, uncultivated areas alongside processed areas.

“We have to take care of the microbes in the soil,” she says. “The biodiversity of soil microbes is essential if we are to feed our growing population.”

While Hart points out there is a limited understanding of how agriculture practices change soil biodiversity, it is important to understand what the soil would be like if left in its natural state, so growers are aware of how they may be changing it.

The samples they tested showed that bacterial and fungal communities responded differently to viticulture: bacteria had a higher biodiversity in vineyards, compared to fungi which had higher biodiversity in unmanaged areas.

These results indicate that viticulture practices influence key environmental factors that control soil microbial communities and possibly affect nutrient availability and other services provided by natural soil communities, says Holland. Microbes are big part of the soil for grape growers; what happens underground can influence the vine growth and fruit development and downstream wine assets, he explains.

“Improved knowledge of how management choices affect microbial communities and their influences on crop performance would benefit the design of efficient and sustainable production systems,” Holland adds. “As we move towards more natural practices, hopefully we can reduce these differences.”

Bowen, who works at the Summerland research centre, says knowing what’s happening in the soil is a vital part of agriculture for several reasons.

“Microbial communities also play an important role in stabilizing vineyard ecosystems which can reduce the need for pesticides and other resource inputs,” Bowen adds.
Hart’s research, funded by an NSERC Discovery Grant, and other funds provided by the BC Wine Grape Council and Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, was recently published in Applied Soil Ecology (sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0929139315301451).

Find out more about Hart's research at: ourstories.ok.ubc.ca/stories/miranda-hart

UBC PhD candidate Taylor Holland has spent the better part of three years studying soil samples from vineyards throughout the Okanagan.

UBC PhD candidate Taylor Holland has spent the better part of three years studying soil samples from vineyards throughout the Okanagan.



Avcorp Industries and UBC agree to pursue innovative partnership

Avcorp CEO Peter George (right) discusses the new Learning Factory partnership with UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor Deborah Buszard and Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains (left).

Avcorp CEO Peter George (right) discusses the new Learning Factory partnership with UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor Deborah Buszard and Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains (left).

Avcorp Industries and the University of British Columbia have agreed to explore the establishment of a Learning Factory for Advanced Composites at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

The two parties, represented by Avcorp CEO Peter George and UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Deborah Buszard, signed an MOU today at the Farnborough International Airshow in the United Kingdom.

“Avcorp Industries is committed to exploring the establishment of an aerospace industry-first Learning Factory in a way which will push the boundaries of advanced composite manufacturing as well as provide a platform for a new level of research and training in British Columbia,” says Peter George, CEO of the Avcorp Industries Group. “We are looking forward to working with the UBC-based Composites Research Network in an initial focus on aerospace applications of composite materials and optimized manufacturing processes.”

Avcorp Industries is a leading supplier of integrated composite and metallic aerostructures, based in Delta, BC.

“BC’s economic success is due in part to our diversified economy—and this MOU will lead to the exploration of innovative opportunities for Kelowna and area,” says Norm Letnick, MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country. “Congratulations to Avcorp Industries and UBC on this important partnership, which will provide great training opportunities for students as well.”

“Composite manufacturing is a growth industry,” says Stephen Fuhr, MP for Kelowna-Lake Country. “This Learning Factory concept provides a solid opportunity for employment, education and innovation. It would also further solidify Kelowna-Lake Country as one of Canada’s premier aerospace clusters.”

The Learning Factory will integrate industrial production with learning and research and provide UBC students and faculty with new opportunities for research, knowledge translation, and hands-on experiential learning. The Learning Factory will also provide technical and skills training opportunities for students from partner institutions, such as Okanagan College.

Through the development of a composites research and production facility at the UBC Okanagan Innovation Precinct, as well as an integrated digital simulation facility at UBC’s Vancouver campus, the Learning Factory will provide Avcorp Industries enhanced ability to evaluate and improve manufacturing efficiency.

“UBC is committed to bold new types of partnerships that create unique research, learning, and job creation opportunities,” says Buszard. “We are excited to take our discussions with Avcorp to the next level. We see this project as key to our ambition to help transform and diversify the regional resource economy to one that is driven by innovation.”

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