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Campus Life  

Scholarship smooths road ahead for Okanagan College transfer student

Okanagan College Media Release

After being out of school for years, Blake Lewis is now well on his way to a career in the classroom, thanks to a spark of inspiration at Okanagan College and a boost from the Irving K. Barber Scholarship Society.  

“It is a huge help in moving to a new city and community, and I don’t have to worry about the financial aspect,” Lewis says.

The Shuswap native had been working in pest control for years, but always felt the desire to explore his options. Attending professional training at Okanagan College’s Salmon Arm campus inspired him to take action.

“I was hesitant about going back to school as a mature student. It was a big change, but ultimately, everyone at the Salmon Arm campus made it really easy for me,” he says. “I really enjoyed it, and have been trying to convince others to give it a go, too.”

He completed his Associate of Arts degree before transferring to Thompson Rivers University for this fall, in pursuit of a career in education. Lewis says the transition to university has been smooth academically and financially.

“College is a stepping stone on the path to success,” Lewis says. “For me, the scholarship also reinforced that the hard work I had invested into my education was paying off. It was a tough decision to go back to school, but this scholarship really showed me that the hard work was coming back to me.”

Lewis is one of 27 students from Okanagan College who received a $5,000 award from the Irving K. Barber Scholarship Society, which are awarded annually to undergraduate students who have completed at least one year at a public post-secondary institution in B.C. and are transferring to another degree-granting institution to complete their studies.

This year, Okanagan College had the highest number of students in the province to receive the transfer scholarships in pursuit of educational studies.

“Ike Barber’s legacy of supporting students to fulfill their goals through post-secondary education in the province grows every year,” says Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College. “We’re deeply grateful to the Irving K. Barber Society for this continued investment in students at Okanagan College and so many other institutions. These scholarships create flexibility, mobility, and for many students, a life-changing opportunity to carry on their education.”

Scholarship funds come from the returns on a $15 million endowment established by the province in 2006. The fund is named after philanthropist Irving K. Barber who had a long history of supporting public education and research projects in British Columbia before his death in 2012. This year, the fund supported 171 transfer scholarships in the province, totalling $855,000.

Okanagan College student recipients for 2018 are: Martina Nenasheff (Armstrong); Cristian Kwasnek (Coldstream); Ashley Stocker (Kaleden); Annaka Wojciechowska (Kelowna); Carson Mintram (Kelowna); Cora Withers (Kelowna); Gabrielle Mendler (Kelowna); Garrett Kehler (Kelowna); Hayden Hanson-Street (Kelowna); Jenna Swett (Kelowna); Joshua Clark (Kelowna); Marissa Meyer (Kelowna); Marissa Pineau (Kelowna); Morgan Mathison (Kelowna); Muhammas-Bilal Madani (Kelowna); Quinn Krahn (Kelowna); Ross St. George (Kelowna); Bailey Hillman (Keremeos); Jamie Long (Keremeos); Melissa Fenton (Peachland); Julia Hudson (Penticton); Austin Phillips (Salmon Arm); Blake Lewis (Salmon Arm); Caitlan Gau (Sicamous); Sandra Johnson (Sorrento); Samantha Theobald (Trail); and Shelby Krywonos (Vernon).

To find out more information about the Ike Barber Transfer Scholarships, visit www.ikbbc.ca.

 



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UBC, Okanagan College open time capsule

Items tucked away 25 years ago unveiled at ceremony

Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton and UBC Okanagan’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Deborah Buszard remove items from Okanagan University College time capsule.

The past came alive at a special ceremony at UBC Okanagan yesterday.

A time capsule, complete with dozens of items tucked away 25 years ago by staff at Okanagan University College (OUC), was opened and its contents revealed. On Wednesday, Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton and UBC Okanagan’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Deborah Buszard watched as the time capsule’s sealed lid was removed.

In 1993, the north campus of OUC, which is now UBC’s Okanagan campus, opened during a two-day weekend. During the opening celebrations, the capsule was sealed and then placed in the campus library. It sat undisturbed, with the only instructions being to open it in 2018.

“We at UBC owe tremendous thanks to the women and men of Okanagan University College for creating this campus, and to Okanagan College before that for establishing a post-secondary education system throughout the region,” said Buszard. “We continue to build on a very great thing. The collaborative relationship we have with Okanagan College is important to UBC Okanagan, and it is important for us to reflect on the foundation of our two institutions.”

Along with newspapers, ball caps, t-shirts, and a penny collection from 1993 all the way back to 1963 (the year OUC began as the BC Vocational School), the time capsule also contained a number of college recruiting video tapes and brochures, a Kelowna bus schedule, a calendar, key chains, mugs and two wrapped presents. One present is for the 2018 board chair and the second is for whomever the board chair will be in 2043—when a new time capsule will be opened.  

Hamilton laughed about the changes in technology over the past decades and waved a number of VHS tapes and a CD as they were revealed. He too noted the unique history post-secondary education has in the Okanagan and the collaboration between OC and UBC Okanagan.

“It’s a relationship we value deeply, one built on the sharing of knowledge, ideas and expertise,” he said. “When I think about the ever expanding number of students and alumni of both institutions, and what they will accomplish in the decades to come, the combined potential of their accomplishments is too vast to even consider.

“But when we look back in another 25 years, those individuals and their work, along with all of you and your accomplishments will be the real testament to what has been accomplished on this campus and by our two remarkable institutions.”

A number of OC staff and faculty were on hand for the unveiling, including UBC alumnus and former OUC president Bill Bowering. Tiffany Thesen-Yee, daughter of the late Wayne Thesen who sealed the time capsule in 1993, also helped reveal its belongings.

“People like Wayne were builders of the campus and important contributors to life at OUC and at UBC Okanagan in our early days,” added Buszard. “His family established the Wayne Thesen Memorial Bursary to help visual arts students, because Wayne had a special regard for visual arts and was the person who handled hanging of all the artwork for the Visual Arts year-end exhibition each year.”

Both campuses will take turns displaying the contents of the time capsule until 2020—that marks the 15th anniversary of the 2005 “key ceremony”, an event that established the new Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan. At that time, the capsule will be re-dedicated and legacy items from OUC and UBC Okanagan will be added before it is again sealed for future generations.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.



Submissions welcome for UBC Okanagan’s annual fiction competition

Authors encouraged to put pen to paper and get creative

Budding writers are urged to submit their entries for the annual Okanagan Short Story Contest.

Now running for 21 years, the short story contest has a long tradition of introducing new and emerging writers to the Okanagan community. The competition is open to fiction writers in the Southern Interior of British Columbia: east of Hope, west of the Alberta border, north of the US border and south of Williams Lake.

The Okanagan Short Story Contest is organized by UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Creative and Critical studies (FCCS). Prize sponsors include the Kelowna Capital News, the Central Okanagan Foundation and the Amber Webb-Bowerman Memorial Foundation.

Dania Tomlinson, lecturer with UBC Okanagan's Creative Writing Program and previous contest winner, will have the task of selecting the best new short stories.

“Competitions like the Okanagan Short Story Contest are where most writers get their start,” Tomlinson says. “In fact, this competition in particular holds a special place in my heart and winning the contest in 2016 marked the beginning of my professional writing career. It’s so important for writers, both new and veteran, to send their work out.”

All original entries must be between 1,000 and 4,000 words and writers are welcome to submit as many entries as they choose. There is a $15 entry fee for each story, but no charge for high school students. All proceeds go towards the FCCS Creative Writing scholarships at UBC Okanagan.

“Besides strong characterization, what I value most in short fiction is cohesion: when a variety of aspects—imagery, voice and structure—parallel or answer to one another without it feeling contrived,” says Tomlinson. “A story that accomplishes cohesion creates its own symbolism, its own logic.”

The deadline to submit stories is Jan 31.

Winners will be announced in March at a public event where short-listed authors will be invited to read from their work.

The first-place author will win $1,000, second-place will receive $400 and third-place will receive $200. Top high school student will also win a $200 prize.

For a full list of contest details and rules, visit okstorycontest.org.



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Giant tortoise provides insights into longevity and age-related disease

Even after death, Lonesome George's genome provides clues to longer life

Lonesome George was the famed last representative of a giant tortoise species once found on the Galapagos island of Pinta. Image credit: Mark Putney

Ever since Darwin’s first steps on the Galapagos Islands, understanding the adaptations that offer the giant tortoise its extended lifespan has been a tantalizing scientific pursuit.

And now, new research by an international team including researchers from UBC’s Okanagan campus has used the DNA from one famous giant tortoise to uncover the genes that are associated with their longevity. The discovery provides clues to better understand aging in humans and may help preserve the species, says Michael Russello, study co-author and biology professor at UBC Okanagan.

“Giant tortoises are among the longest living vertebrate animals and have become an interesting model for studying longevity and age related-disease,” says Russello. “Even though they’re one of few animals that can live longer than 100 years, there has been surprisingly little research into the giant tortoise genome.”

To help identify the genes that give the giant tortoise its extended lifespan, the researchers compared the complete DNA sequence from two long-lived giant tortoises. They used samples from Lonesome George--the famed last representative of a species once found on the Galapagos island of Pinta--and from another giant tortoise species found on the Aldabra atoll, a coral island in the Indian Ocean.

By comparing the giant tortoise genomes with those from other species, including humans, they found interesting variation within genes linked to DNA repair, immune response, and cancer suppression not possessed by shorter-lived vertebrates. None of those genomic variants had been previously associated with aging, offering new avenues for further study.

While individual tortoises have remarkable longevity, Russello says the Galapagos giant tortoises do not, with all living species considered threatened or endangered. He says the results of their study could provide clues into the biological processes and adaptations that gave rise to giant tortoises in the first place, while helping to better protect these animals on the verge of disappearing altogether.

“Lonesome George was a very interesting character in his own right, embodying the plight of endangered species until his death in 2012,” says Russello. “While he inspired many while he was alive, his legacy now lives on through a story written in his DNA.”

The study was published last week Nature Ecology & Evolution.



Okanagan College students win big with accessible tourism pitch

Okanagan College Media Release

The Winning Pitch Nov. 2018A junior team of four Okanagan College School of Business students have captured the regional title at The Winning Pitch competition for their innovative concept to expand accessible tourism opportunities in the Thompson Okanagan.

The Winning Pitch is a post-secondary student case competition presented by go2HR, British Columbia’s tourism human resources association. The competition was held at the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Summit in Osoyoos on Nov. 14 and tasked teams to develop an idea of a new tourism service that supports the development of accessible tourism opportunities in the province.

Second-year students Bryan Cresswell, Celina Matte, Emily Pilon and Zackery Plaxton made up the junior team entered by Okanagan College. They presented to a packed audience of local tourism stakeholders and judges on their winning idea, AccessFest – a seasonally inspired series of festivals for those with accessibility requirements.

“Tourism opportunities can be limited for people with accessibility requirements and a lot of regions in B.C. are actively working to improve on that,” says Pilon. “Our proposed festival focuses on highlighting regional aspects of B.C. specifically for those with accessibility requirements and the whole concept contributes to B.C.’s Accessibility Strategy to become a truly inclusive province by 2024.”

The team’s pitch focused on four seasonal festivals in four different locations across B.C. Opportunities to spotlight everything from fully accessible restaurants and hotels to ski resorts and wineries were part of the pitch. Each festival would also feature the various areas’ unique aspects of culture and tourism to develop unique visitor experiences that are more accessible and inclusive.

The junior team was joined on the podium by fellow students from Okanagan College.

OC’s senior team, consisting of Brittany Hemmerling, Nathan Ziebart, Jacob Pushor and Brett Loeppky, came in second after a close vote. Thompson Rivers University teams placed in third and fourth. Both College teams were coached by Okanagan School of Business Professors Blair Baldwin and Alan Rice.

“Both the junior and senior teams’ pitches were well received by the judges and Alan and I are very proud of their hard work and ambition,” says Baldwin. “This is the first time the students from the junior team have worked together and they found an immediate team chemistry. Each student comes from different specialty areas – marketing, finance and accounting – and they each brought something unique to the team.”

The competition required students to build a full business plan and seek feedback from real community stakeholders.

“After speaking with a few tourism stakeholders across the region, we found that what was really missing was a key driver that could influence the industry and create demand,” says Cresswell. “We started to think about an event that could be held regionally and could be scalable to a provincial level and that’s what sparked on the idea of AccessFest. After we developed the idea, we brought it back to those stakeholders and we were blown away with their support and desire to turn this idea into a reality.”

The team will now go on to represent the Thompson Okanagan region at the provincial finals, facing off against four other regional winners from across the province – but not before one last twist. All regional winners will be handed an extra challenge in January that teams will need to account for and build into their presentations at the provincial championship.

“The twist could be so many things so it’s hard to try to predict our challenge,” explains Pilon. “We’ve done our work and we’re actively preparing for provincials. Once we hear what the twist is, we’re going to further develop our concept and start building it into our plan.”

The provincial challenge takes place in February at the 2019 BC Tourism Industry Conference in Vancouver and teams will present to a panel of judges and an audience of more than 1,000 conference attendees.

 



OC profs’ approach to texts ease student costs

Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College professors are helping to turn a new page in the rising costs of post-secondary education, giving students free access to online textbooks.

An online solution to lower post-secondary students’ costs is spreading at Okanagan College. Open Educational Resources – also known as OER – are high-quality resources (notably in the form of open textbooks) that are available in digital formats and at a very low cost to print.

The latest provincial statistics show Okanagan College ranks sixth in the province for open textbook adoption. By fall 2018, the College reported 147 courses that have adopted open textbooks, helping 2,875 students to save $437,212 (those numbers are up from 95 courses using online texts, 1,673 students impacted and a savings of $248,522 only a year ago). Many professors have committed to continue using and expanding their use of online texts at each of the College’s campuses in Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon and Salmon Arm.

“It is fabulous to see initiatives like this become a reality,” says Andrew Hay, Okanagan College’s Vice President, Education. “Student success is of the utmost importance to Okanagan College and the combination of better student learning with reduced costs is most welcome.”

Okanagan School of Business Professor Michael Orwick is one of many professors at the College who has introduced online textbooks to his classes and he can already speak to the educational benefits.

“Generally, the first mid-term grades in the Intro to Marketing classes I teach average 57 to 61 per cent,” explains Orwick. “This year, my first mid-term just averaged 73 per cent and I heard from students who said they felt the annotated textbook was a major reason for improved scores.”

Orwick has supplemented the text he is using – Principles of Marketing – with his own notes that provide students with additional insights into the subject matter.

“The textbook change for this class alone means a savings of $6,000 and every student is guaranteed to be able to get the textbook,” says Orwick. “There are four sections of this class running this term, so that adds up to $24,000 in savings just for this course. Next semester there may be 12 sections running which amounts to $72,000.”

The savings fit with the Province’s and the College’s agenda, as well as the Okanagan College Students’ Union, which presented to the Select Standing Committee on Finances and Government on Sept. 27 about the very issue.

“The high cost of textbooks has become a serious obstacle to accessing post-secondary education in B.C.,” says Jennifer Meyer, 2017-18 OCSU Board Member. “Textbook prices rose by 82 per cent between 2002-12 and now typically cost more than $200 per book. For the many students and families already struggling to afford education and the cost of living, this unpredictable expense can be a huge burden, causing students to take on additional debt or work longer hours for their required books.”

OC student Andre Dominguez is enrolled in Orwick’s Marketing class and has experienced the financial help that comes with the advent of online textbooks.

“The e-textbook has been a real asset because I can access it anywhere I go, both on mobile or on my laptop, and the fact that it was free is extremely helpful,” says Dominguez. “Expenses accumulate for college and it takes a toll on your bank account which brings unwanted stress that affects your personal and academic life.”

Not only do e-texts bring serious savings they also offer a custom approach to teaching and learning. Professors can annotate the online texts, leaving detailed notes, highlights, comments and provide specialized information. Students can choose to access the text online or can choose to have it printed from the College’s bookstore.

“It’s such an incredible bonus that my textbook is annotated by my professor,” explains Dominguez. “There is more retention when reading and I know I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am and learning as much if it wasn’t annotated. If every teacher had annotated textbooks, it would help students out very much.”

 



Researchers develop tool for speedy diagnosis of bacterial infections

Mohammad Zarifi, an assistant professor at UBC Okanagan, shows his small biosensor that can be used to provides health care practitioners with a real-time diagnosis of a bacterial infection.

Mohammad Zarifi, an assistant professor at UBC Okanagan, shows his small biosensor that can be used to provides health care practitioners with a real-time diagnosis of a bacterial infection.

Inexpensive biosensor provides instant and accurate results

Using a small and inexpensive biosensor, researchers at UBC Okanagan, in collaboration with the University of Calgary, have built a diagnostic tool that provides health care practitioners almost instant diagnosis of a bacterial infection.

The tool is able to provide accurate and reliable results in real-time rather than the two-to-five days required for existing processes that test infections and antibiotic susceptibility.

“Advances in lab-on-a-chip microfluidic technology are allowing us to build smaller and more intricate devices that, in the medical research space, can provide more information for health care practitioners while requiring less invasive sampling from patients,” explains Mohammad Zarifi, an assistant professor at UBC Okanagan.

According to health care statistics from 2017, every hour of delay in antibiotic treatment increases mortality rates by nearly eight per cent due to infection complications in the bloodstream.

Zarifi, and his research group in the School of Engineering’s Microelectronics and Advanced Sensors Laboratory, tested their device by tracking the amount of bacteria present in a variety of samples under various scenarios. The scenarios resembled those encountered in clinical microbiological laboratories.

By sending a microwave signal through the sample, the device quickly and accurately analyzes and then generates a profile of existing bacteria.

The diagnostic tool not only provides a rapid, label-free and contactless diagnostic tool for clinical analysis but it also goes further, says Zarifi.

“The device is able to rapidly detect bacteria and in addition, it screens the interaction of that bacteria with antibiotics,” he adds. “The combined results give health care practitioners more information than they currently have available, helping them move forward to determine accurate treatments.”

This biosensor, explains Zarifi is a significant step forward in improving the complex antibiotic susceptibility testing workflow and provides a rapid and automated detection of bacteria as well as screening the bacteria proliferation in response to antibiotics.

The research was published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports with financial support from CMC Microsystems and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.



Health-care training in Vernon can kick-start new careers

Okanagan College Media Release

Health-care careers are calling, and Vernon residents considering change in the new year can dial in their options in early 2019.

An extra intake of Okanagan College’s Health Care Assistant program is scheduled for February, giving students in the North Okanagan direct access to training for one of the most in-demand positions in B.C.

“Now is a great time to become a health care assistant. The need for health care assistants within the Interior Health region is growing. There are many opportunities for individuals who have this training and one can choose to work in a team environment in long-term care or one-on-one with clients in home support. It is a great career choice for those who enjoy working closely with others, and those who like making a positive impact on the lives of others,” says Shalan Hundal, Health Care Assistant Recruitment and Marketing Project Lead, Interior Health.

The HCA program is also being offered as a dual credit opportunity with School District 22.

According to WorkBC, health care assistants have been identified as a priority occupation for the B.C. Ministry of Health. Average employment growth rates in this field are forecasted at 13 per cent to 2022, with no sign of slowing down. This demand is anticipated to increase even more after the Government of B.C. announced funding to increase staffing levels in residential care homes for seniors, which aims to fund more than 900 health care assistants by 2021.

“We’re hearing from our industry partners that employers in the Okanagan are desperate for health care assistants. Students will be making a living wage right out of school, in a profession that offers a variety of shifts, making it easy to find work that best fits their lives,” says Lisa Kraft, Associate Dean of Science Technology and Health for Okanagan College. “Most importantly, health care assistants find their work extremely rewarding. Graduates often tell us how much they appreciate the opportunity to have a significant impact on the quality of life for people in care.”

The College received $66,000 in one-time funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training to support delivery of the program in Vernon, which will also enhance access for residents of nearby Armstrong, Enderby, Salmon Arm and Sicamous.

An information night for people to learn more about the Health Care Assistant program and field will be held on Thursday, Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. in Room D343 of the Vernon campus, 7000 College Way. The six-month intensive program runs for 26 weeks starting on Feb. 4, 2019, and will feature four months of classroom instruction and two months of hands-on practicum for students to learn within the health-care environment.

Applications can be submitted online. For information, call 250-545-7291, ext. 2309 or visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/hca.

 



UBC Okanagan alumna clinches national research prize

UBC Okanagan alumna Emily Giroux was awarded the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation on November 27 in Ottawa

UBC Okanagan alumna Emily Giroux was awarded the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation on November 27 in Ottawa

Award presented for outstanding innovation for spinal cord injury research

UBC Okanagan alumna Emily Giroux was recognized on the national stage this week for her innovative work in helping to shape research priorities for those living with spinal cord injury (SCI).

Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada for business and academia, awarded Giroux a prestigious Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation for a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree.

Giroux’s research focuses on how to improve the quality of life for people living with spinal cord injuries. Her goal is to make sure the latest, and possibly game-changing research is put into practice as efficiently and quickly as possible.

“As researchers, we don’t necessarily live with SCI and may not fully understand all of the needs and priorities of this community,” says Giroux. “Our aim is to develop a method that would ensure the voices of people living with SCI are at the table when decisions around future research and implementation are being made.”

Giroux came to UBC Okanagan’s Applied Behaviour Change lab to work with Heather Gainforth, assistant professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences. Giroux says she was drawn to the idea of developing evidence-based solutions in equal partnership with the individuals they’re meant to benefit—a practice that Gainforth specializes in.

“I like to see how our research is making a difference, locally, nationally and internationally,” says Giroux. “The hope is that by engaging the end-users, the research will be used more effectively and in a timely manner.”

To that end, Giroux and Gainforth secured a MITACS Accelerate Grant, which provides students with an opportunity to work in a non-academic environment. She began working with SCI Ontario, with the goal to connect with the SCI community by designing a survey tool using a system called the Delphi consensus method.

“The Delphi is a formal, systematic and reproducible method of arriving at consensus that has been previously used in other communities,” says Giroux. “But we were among the first to use it for decision-making in the SCI population.”

Consensus methods such as the Delphi put decisions in the hands of those who are most affected. Additionally, it allows for input from a large number of participants who are geographically dispersed.

Giroux’s survey was sent to more than 2,500 members of the SCI community, with 75 per cent of her responses coming from people with lived experience of an SCI. Her analysis and findings were presented to policymakers at SCI Ontario and Gainforth says they have already been used to shape that organization’s strategic plan for implementing SCI research into practice.

“Emily’s dedication to ensuring research is used in practice is impressive for someone so early in their career,” says Gainforth. “The method developed by Emily and colleagues is a major research achievement and sets forth a process for meaningful engagement of the SCI community in future research.”

Giroux’s success prompted Gainforth and SCI Ontario to nominate her for the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation in the master’s category.

“Emily is an outstanding person and researcher,” says Gainforth. “She possesses a rare combination of interpersonal and academic research skills that will ensure she makes a difference in the lives of people with SCI.”

Giroux received her award on November 27 at a ceremony in Ottawa, Ontario.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.



UBC study reveals how political leanings shape support for homeless

A homeless woman receiving help.

Stories, rather than statistics, unite Canadians on homelessness action

A new study by researchers at UBC and the University of Toronto has determined that people, regardless of their political stripes, will respond charitably to those experiencing homelessness if they learn about their personal stories.

Assistant Professor Carey Doberstein says people’s attitudes towards social welfare expenditures are explained by both their socio-political values and perceptions of deservingness. Doberstein, who teaches political science at UBC’s Okanagan campus, says there is a stark difference in the way conservatives see how much help the homeless should receive compared to those who lean to the political left.

However, his research has determined there is an independent effect of a shared sense of deservingness that cuts across the political spectrum.

Carey Doberstein, assistant professor of political science

Carey Doberstein, assistant professor of political science

For the research, Doberstein and Alison Smith, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, surveyed more than 1,500 Canadians. They created vignettes of five pairs of hypothetical homeless people. Each pair had randomly varying features including age, gender, ethnicity, length of time homeless, whether they were victimized and their estimated ‘cost’ to the system by virtue of being homeless (e.g. police services, hospital visits).

Respondents were tasked with dividing a pool of funds directed at housing and support services to those hypothetical people. Each survey respondent was also asked for their view on the role of government in society.

The experimental design of the survey allowed the researchers to isolate what primarily drives Canadians to support investments in housing and support services, Doberstein explains. Is it their political ideology or the story of the person experiencing homelessness?

“There is evidence that the respondents differentiated their investment patterns on the basis of trauma or victimization (how the hypothetical person became homeless) and their views on the role of government,” says Doberstein. “Specifically, conservatives and progressives agree on the need to support investments for those with severe mental illness.”

It’s a polarizing issue among Canadians, says Doberstein. His survey revealed that many conservative respondents believe the government spends too much money already, often stating stereotypes of laziness. On the other hand, progressive respondents expressed the belief that the government does not spend enough to tackle homelessness, which they tended to view as a high-priority problem.

But he also points out, governments of all political stripes—including the federal Conservative Party of Canada, the Alberta Progressive Conservative party, Vancouver’s progressive mayors and the federal Liberal Party of Canada—have enhanced investments to some degree towards addressing homelessness.

His study results directly challenge a major assumption among academics and activists in Canada that to appeal to conservative-leaning voters, we should appeal to them by framing homelessness investments as offering the potential to save money to the taxpayer in the long-run.

“We find no evidence for this,” he says. “In fact, the opposite. The more a person ‘costs’ the system from being homelessness, the less conservatives are willing to invest in that individual, even if that investment would save taxpayer resources in the long-term. Unless that person is described as suffering from mental illness. Then both progressives and conservatives tend to deem them as deserving.”

Doberstein says the research gives a clear indication that advocates and policymakers should stop emphasizing the potential cost savings associated with addressing homelessness as a way to generate public support to enhance investments for those chronically homeless. Instead, he suggests, they emphasize the stories of people and their unique experiences that led them to become homeless.

The study was recently published in the International Journal of Social Welfare.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.



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