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Campus Life  

UBCO student receives gift of a lifetime from younger sibling

Brothers, Adrian, right, and Quinn Van de Mosselaer took dramatically different paths leading to them joining the School of Nursing as first-year students. The Shuswap Nation brothers, who live together, take a break outside Kelowna General Hospital after a clinical session.

Brothers, Adrian, right, and Quinn Van de Mosselaer took dramatically different paths leading to them joining the School of Nursing as first-year students. The Shuswap Nation brothers, who live together, take a break outside Kelowna General Hospital after a clinical session.

Transition from hockey enforcer to nurse, inspired by Christmas gift

Most gifts from a younger sibling are rarely memorable. But for Christmas 2019, Adrian Van de Mosselaer received a present from his brother that would change his life.

The older Van de Mosselaer was trying to find a path after his professional hockey career wrapped up. While he had toyed with the idea of returning to school for many years, something kept him from taking that important step to actually register for classes. On an annual basis, he checked in with UBC Okanagan’s Aboriginal Programs and Services (APS) staff to discuss the Aboriginal access studies program. But it always ended there.

It was Quinn Van de Mosselaer, eight years Adrian’s junior, who bought his older brother high school textbooks for upgrading that Christmas and created a path for Adrian to enrol in Okanagan College courses. Those books, once cracked open, led to a spot in UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing.

“I would always question myself but I hit a tipping point when my brother bought me the books and said, ‘That’s it, time to go to school,’” says 30-year-old Adrian. “I never thought I’d be relying on him to stand up and do that.”

Adrian embraced learning—partially to show his little brother he could do it — and partially to thank Quinn for believing in him.

“When I got that first good grade back, I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “I earned 100 per cent on a biology test. It was so good to know I could do the work. I was beyond grateful. Pure happiness.”

Thanks to a gift from his brother, Adrian Van de Mosselaer changed careers from hockey enforcer to nursing student.

Thanks to a gift from his brother, Adrian Van de Mosselaer changed careers from hockey enforcer to nursing student.

Through a twist of fate, Quinn, although starting his post-secondary journey earlier, is now in the first-year nursing program with Adrian. Those books, he says, might go down as the best Christmas present he’s ever bought and the Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band members are now study buddies.

“I know my brother pretty well. I know he was procrastinating. I knew if I bought him the books, it would push him to do it. And once he puts his mind to something, he can do it,” says Quinn who was initially tracking towards a science degree.

“When we first applied, we didn’t think both of us would get into the nursing program. But it’s been good being in the same program as my brother. We live at home and it helps being so close with someone in the same program.”

For Adrian, taking part in the clinical studies at Kelowna General Hospital is a long way from his first career path as a professional hockey player. He started his junior career with the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings before moving on to playing three aggressive years with the East Coast Hockey League’s team Ontario Reign, based in California. His role leaned more towards keeping the opposition honest and sticking up for his teammates.

“I wanted to be that heart-and-soul kind of guy. My teammates knew I would stand up for them in any situation. Except maybe in a shootout,” recalls Adrian with a laugh.

When professional players try to take their game to the next level, this gritty play often generates attrition on both benches. It was when teammates were taken off the ice due to injury that Adrian’s interest in healing initially sparked.

“When guys got hurt, I was curious about what was happening in the training room. I was curious on how they got put back together,” he says. “I ended up suffering a head and neck injury and that made me re-evaluate what I was doing. How much of this could I really sustain?

“Then my cousin sat down and chatted with me about school. It stirred that curiosity within me,” he says. “But my self-doubt was huge.”

Making the transition from pro hockey life to full-time student was paved with second guessing his own abilities. Negative previous experiences in school, and fear of the unknown, held him back.

Now, he wonders what took him so long.

“The best advice I have for people is to be patient with yourself. Don’t hold yourself to any thoughts of not being capable. You have to let go of who you think you are and the limits on what you think you can do,” he adds. “What stuck in my head is that I wanted to help people to heal.”

After getting his nursing prerequisites in order, Adrian applied to UBCO’s nursing program. He was successful and he and credits the APS staff for supporting his journey.

Once accustomed to being cheered from the sidelines for acting as a hockey enforcer, Adrian is now aware he has a new team of supporters fully behind him. And he has no intention of letting them down.

“Being a student is beyond exciting. The patience and understanding I received from APS Student Advisor Kelly Fosbery and the team helped me along to UBCO. I know the team is rooting for me the whole way.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—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 in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca



UBCO honours four outstanding researchers of the year

Virtual ceremony celebrates social and technological innovation

It is award season, and not just in the entertainment industry.

Last Thursday at a special virtual ceremony, UBC Okanagan researchers were honoured for their innovative and groundbreaking work.

At the ceremony, Dr. Phil Barker, UBCO’s vice-principal and associate vice-president of research and innovation, announced the campus’s four researchers of the year. The awards recognize those who have made a significant contribution to research in the areas of natural sciences and engineering, social sciences and humanities, and health. A graduate student is also honoured annually at this event.

The research highlighted — from wireless technology to psychedelic-drug assisted therapy to diabetes research and tackling social inequalities — demonstrates the breadth of impact UBCO researchers are having locally, nationally and internationally, says Dr. Barker.

“This is one of my favourite times of the year, when I have the pleasure of acknowledging some of our star researchers and highlighting their contributions,” he says. “UBC’s Okanagan campus is one of the most rapidly expanding campuses in Canada and we continue to attract top-notch scholars and researchers.”

Natural Sciences and Engineering Researcher of the year: Dr. Julian Cheng

This year, Dr. Julian Cheng was named the natural sciences and engineering researcher of the year. Dr. Cheng is an expert in digital communications and signal processing.

He has many patents and has recently invented an indoor optical wireless location technique that improves receiver accuracy and will allow precise control of robot movement. His research also includes an intra-body communication device using wireless technology that will benefit health-care systems.

Health Research of the Year: Dr. Jonathan Little

When it comes to health research, Dr. Jonathan Little has been investigating improved treatments and possible prevention of Type 2 diabetes.

Much of his work revolves around the impact of healthy eating and exercise to stave off metabolic disease. He works with several partner organizations to improve the lives of people living with chronic illness and disease. Dr. Little also leads the Airborne Disease Transmission Research Cluster, a cross-campus research team that aims to lessen the airborne transmission of COVID-19 and other airborne illnesses.

Social Sciences and Humanities Research of the Year: Dr. Eric Li

Dr. Eric Li, the winner of the social sciences and humanities award, is an expert on social trends and a champion for the underdog.

His research focuses on interdisciplinary collaborations with non-profit organizations and local government to improve social inequities. His overreaching goal is to improve the lives of everyday people around the world. Through his community-based research, he has made an impact on food insecurity, poverty, urban densification and rural community building in our region.

Graduate Student Research of the Year: Michelle St. Pierre

Doctoral student Michelle St. Pierre has been honoured for her work in substance use and mental health, with a focus on cannabis and psychedelic use and harm reduction.

She has made significant research breakthroughs in how people cope with pain and pain sensitivity. As a founder of the UBC Okanagan chapter of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, St. Pierre has received international media attention for her research on cannabinoid-based analgesics and is a national expert on cannabis policy.

“The purpose of these awards is to highlight and honour the research excellence that makes UBC a top 40 global university,” adds Dr. Barker. “I am impressed with the calibre of all our researchers and am very proud of this year’s recipients. I look forward to their future successes.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—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 in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca



UBCO researcher examines therapeutic use of psychedelic drugs

Psychology student motivated by novel treatments to reduce violence and pain

Michelle St. Pierre has been named UBC Okanagan’s student researcher of the year. A student in psychology studying under Dr. Zach Walsh in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, St. Pierre completed an honours thesis and her master’s at the Okanagan campus before beginning her doctoral work.

Her research has made international headlines and, as the founder of UBC Okanagan’s chapter of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, St. Pierre is hoping to change the conversation when it comes to the therapeutic use of what are considered illicit drugs.

Lately, her research has focused on the use of psychedelic drugs. She explains how they have an important and legitimate role to play when it comes to curbing intimate partner violence and helping other people deal with pain management.

For decades, psychedelic drugs have been vilified in the media and by society. But your current research explores the potential of psychedelic therapies. Will research like yours change the tide of misconception?

It’s been amazing to see how public perception of psychedelics has evolved in the short time since I began researching them in 2015 as an undergraduate student. Our research was some of the first to show that, unlike other substances such as alcohol, psychedelic use was associated with a lower prevalence of domestic violence. This finding went against the war on drugs propaganda, which vilifies psychedelics and classifies them as harmful substances with little to no medical benefit.

Fast forward six years and societal acceptance of psychedelics seem to be outpacing research. It’s an exciting time to begin a research career with the landscape becoming more accepting. I plan on continuing to challenge the assumptions we have by conducting rigorous research on the legitimate effects of psychedelic use in humans.

Your earlier research examined the use of cannabis and the relationship with acute pain. What were your findings?

Yes, my master’s thesis examined pain tolerance in people who frequently use cannabis compared to those who don’t. Unlike with opioid medications, my study didn’t see an increase in pain sensitivity among those regularly using cannabis. This is good news for folks who are already using cannabis to treat their pain.

These findings ended up generating more questions for me around the mechanism of the pain-relieving effects of cannabis. I designed a study to build on these results, but it was put on hold due to COVID-19. I’m looking forward to exploring the relationship between cannabis and pain in the coming years.

Psychedelic drugs are considered non-addictive. Is that why they might be considered helpful for treating individuals with chronic conditions?

Psychedelics have an extremely low risk of toxicity and a sort-of built-in anti-addiction mechanism due to the rapid tolerance that humans develop from repeated dosing of what we call “classic psychedelics” including magic mushrooms, acid and ayahuasca.

In contrast to widely used prescription medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac, the therapeutic effects of psychedelics appear to manifest from very few doses used in conjunction with talk therapy. Prior research has largely focused on a few doses over several weeks.

Additionally, our lab is conducting one of the largest “micro-dosing” studies to date, which uses a sub-perceptual dose of psychedelics. But even with this near-daily dosing, we don’t see similar physical dependence as we might with something like an opioid.

Regardless of scientific research, there are still barriers and access issues when it comes to the use of psychedelics for therapy. Can you see this changing in the near future?

Absolutely — it’s happening right in front of my eyes! Due to the illegal status of psychedelics for the last 30-plus years, these therapies have been more accessible to people with privilege. I feel that one of the most critical issues moving forward is ensuring that psychedelic-assisted therapy is accessible for all people. The use of psychedelics for healing has its origins in Indigenous knowledge. As psychedelic-assisted therapies proliferate we can’t lose sight of where these remedies come from.

UBC Okanagan’s 2021 student researcher of the year Michelle St. Pierre.

UBC Okanagan’s 2021 student researcher of the year Michelle St. Pierre.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—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 in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca



UBCO hosts seventh annual Indigenous Art residency

Site/ation, a laser etching on satin ribbon with wax, created by Tania Willard.

Site/ation, a laser etching on satin ribbon with wax, created by Tania Willard.

Month-long program offers courses, lectures, art shows and creative opportunities

UBC Okanagan’s Indigenous Art Intensive gathers artists, curators, writers, students and scholars to engage in contemporary ideas and dialogue rooted in Indigenous contemporary art. Since 2014 the intensive has been offered at UBC Okanagan, located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan Nation.

This year’s online Indigenous Art Intensive broadly engages the theme Site/ation, explains Tania Willard, assistant professor of visual arts in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies. Participants will discuss ideas and ways to connect to place through Indigenous territoriality — to be grounded in land, voice and language, and reconnect to nurturing traditions and beyond.

The intensive also features a series of world-renowned speakers, a variety of related undergraduate and graduate credit courses including English, Indigenous studies, sound art, creative writing, and performance and studio arts.

“Indigenous contemporary art is a driving force of culture, exhibition and enriched programming,” says Willard, who is director of the intensive. “Our annual program brings together leaders, communities, students and scholars for deep conversations about the ways in which we learn through creative practice and contribute to wider communities.”

The month-long intensive has hosted many celebrities, such as the late performance artist legend James Luna and established leaders in Canadian contemporary art like Rebecca Belmore, Lori Blondeau and Adrian Stimson. In recent years, up to 25 artists and 200 students have participated in the intensive, sharing unique experiences like readings on the beach of Okanagan Lake, harvesting local berries, artistic exhibitions and an Indigenous hip-hop show in downtown Kelowna.

Taking place in May and June, the intensive will be online and feature artists creating new works and sharing those with UBCO students during class time. Exhibitions will include a showing in the FINA Gallery at UBCO and one in a unique mobile Indigenous art gallery at the Rotary Centre for the Arts (RCA). These are in partnership with the RCA and the Thompson Okanagan Tourist Association.

Panels, artist talks and keynotes will delve into curatorial practice, decolonial aesthetics, land-based teachings, practices and performance. All of these sessions will be available to the public online via live stream and recorded videos.

This year’s artists include Scott Benesiinaabandan, Roxanne Charles, Camille Georgeson-Usher, Maureen Gruben, Suzanne Kite, Peter Morin, Christine Howard Sandoval, Kristabelle Stewart and Madeline Terbasket. Live-streamed keynote addresses will feature Leanne Betamasosake Simpson, Jolene Rickard and Bonaventure Ndikung.

For more information on the events and artists, visit: fccs.ok.ubc.ca/indigenous-art-intensive

Events, programming and artist take-overs will also be featured on Instagram at: instagram.com/indigenous_art_ubco

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—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 in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca



UBCO cardiovascular researcher urges women to listen to their hearts

Atrial fibrillation is the most commonly diagnosed arrhythmia in the world. Despite that, many women do not understand the pre-diagnosis symptoms and tend to ignore them.

Atrial fibrillation is the most commonly diagnosed arrhythmia in the world. Despite that, many women do not understand the pre-diagnosis symptoms and tend to ignore them.

Ignoring medical symptoms can lead to stroke, dementia, early death

A UBC Okanagan researcher is urging people to learn and then heed the symptoms of atrial fibrillation (AF). Especially women.

Dr. Ryan Wilson, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Nursing, says AF is the most commonly diagnosed arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) in the world. Despite that, he says many people do not understand the pre-diagnosis symptoms and tend to ignore them.

In fact, 77 per cent of the women in his most recent study had experienced symptoms for more than a year before receiving a diagnosis.

While working in a hospital emergency department (ED), Dr. Wilson noted that many patients came in with AF symptoms that included, but were not limited to, shortness of breath, feeling of butterflies (fluttering) in the chest, dizziness or general fatigue. Many women also experienced gastrointestinal distress or diarrhea. When diagnosed they admitted complete surprise — even though they had been experiencing the symptoms for a considerable time.

One in four strokes are AF related, he says. However, when people with AF suffer a stroke, their outcomes are generally worse than people who have suffered a stroke for other reasons.

“I would see so many patients in the ED who had just suffered a stroke but they had never been diagnosed with AF. I wanted to get a sense of their experience before diagnoses: what did they do before they were diagnosed, how they made their decisions, how they perceived their symptoms and ultimately, how they responded.”

Even though his study group was small, what he learned was distressing.

“Ten women, in comparison to only three men, experienced symptoms greater than one year,” says Dr. Wilson. “What’s really alarming is they also had more significant severity and frequency of their symptoms than men—yet they experience the longest amount of time between onset of symptoms and diagnosis.”

What really troubles Dr. Wilson are the reasons a diagnosis is delayed in women.

Many doubted their symptoms were serious, he says. They discounted them because they were tired, stressed, thought they related to other existing medical conditions, or even something they had eaten. Most women also had caregiving responsibilities that took precedence over their own health, and they chose to self-manage their symptoms by sitting, lying down, or breathing deeply until they stopped.

What’s more alarming, however, is that if women mentioned their symptoms to their family doctor, many said they simply felt dismissed.

“There was a lot more anger among several of the women because they had been told nothing was wrong by their health-care provider,” says Dr. Wilson. “To be repeatedly told there is nothing wrong, and then later find yourself in the emergency room with AF, was incredibly frustrating for these women. More needs to be done to support gender-sensitive ways to promote an early diagnosis regardless of gender.”

Dr. Wilson reports that none of the men in his study were upset about their interactions with their health-care providers, mostly because they were immediately sent for diagnostic tests.

“But a delay in diagnosis is not just in this study,” he cautions. “Women generally wait longer than men for diagnosis with many ailments. Sadly, with AF and other critical illnesses, the longer a person waits, the shorter time there is to receive treatments. Statistically, women end up with a worse quality of life.”

Dr. Wilson, who is currently working on specific strategies to help people manage AF, admits the condition is often hard to diagnose because some of the symptoms are vague. Ideally, he would like people to be as knowledgeable about AF as they are about the symptoms and risks of stroke and heart attacks. As the population is living longer, the number of people with AF continues to increase. In fact, about 15 per cent of people over the age of 80 will be diagnosed with the condition.

“People know what to do for other cardiovascular diseases, it’s not the same with AF,” he adds. “And while the timeline may not be as essential as a stroke for diagnosis and care, there is still a substantial risk of life-limiting effects such as stroke, heart failure and dementia. Reason enough, I hope, for people to seek out that diagnosis.”

Dr. Wilson’s study was recently published in the Western Journal of Nursing Research.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—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 in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca



UBCO researcher uses geology to help astronomers find habitable planets

UBCO’s Brendan Dyck is using his geology expertise about planet formation to help identify other planets that might support life. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

UBCO’s Brendan Dyck is using his geology expertise about planet formation to help identify other planets that might support life. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

Findings will help better identify Earth-like planets that could sustain life

Astronomers have identified more than 4,000, and counting, confirmed exoplanets — planets orbiting stars other than the sun — but only a fraction have the potential to sustain life.

Now, new research from UBC’s Okanagan campus is using the geology of early planet formation to help identify those that may be capable of supporting life.

“The discovery of any planet is pretty exciting, but almost everyone wants to know if there are smaller Earth-like planets with iron cores,” says Dr. Brendan Dyck, assistant professor of geology in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science and lead author on the study.

“We typically hope to find these planets in the so-called ‘goldilocks’ or habitable zone, where they are the right distance from their stars to support liquid water on their surfaces.”

Dr. Dyck says that while locating planets in the habitable zone is a great way to sort through the thousands of candidate planets, it’s not quite enough to say whether that planet is truly habitable.

“Just because a rocky planet can have liquid water doesn’t mean it does,” he explains. “Take a look right in our own solar system. Mars is also within the habitable zone and although it once supported liquid water, it has long since dried up.”

That, according to Dr. Dyck, is where geology and the formation of these rocky planets may play a key role in narrowing down the search. His research was recently published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

“Our findings show that if we know the amount of iron present in a planet’s mantle, we can predict how thick its crust will be and, in turn, whether liquid water and an atmosphere may be present,” he says. “It’s a more precise way of identifying potential new Earth-like worlds than relying on their position in the habitable zone alone.”

Dr. Dyck explains that within any given planetary system, the smaller rocky planets all have one thing in common — they all have the same proportion of iron as the star they orbit. What differentiates them, he says, is how much of that iron is contained in the mantle versus the core.

“As the planet forms, those with a larger core will form thinner crusts, whereas those with smaller cores form thicker iron-rich crusts like Mars.”

The thickness of the planetary crust will then dictate whether the planet can support plate tectonics and how much water and atmosphere may be present, key ingredients for life as we know it.

“While a planet’s orbit may lie within the habitable zone, its early formation history might ultimately render it inhabitable,” says Dr. Dyck. “The good news is that with a foundation in geology, we can work out whether a planet will support surface water before planning future space missions.”

Later this year, in a joint project with NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will launch. Dr. Dyck describes this as the golden opportunity to put his findings to good use.

“One of the goals of the JWST is to investigate the chemical properties of extra-solar planetary systems,” says Dr. Dyck. “It will be able to measure the amount of iron present in these alien worlds and give us a good idea of what their surfaces may look like and may even offer a hint as to whether they’re home to life.”

“We’re on the brink of making huge strides in better understanding the countless planets around us and in discovering how unique the Earth may or may not be. It may still be some time before we know whether any of these strange new worlds contain new life or even new civilizations, but it’s an exciting time to be part of that exploration.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—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 in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca



UBC Okanagan marks Asian Heritage Month with virtual events

Asian Heritage Month graphic. Artwork by Meg Yamamoto.

Artwork by Meg Yamamoto.

Activities aim to foster a greater understanding of Asian cultures and communities

At this difficult time for communities, UBC Okanagan and its community partners are marking Asian Heritage month this May as a moment for coming together.

“Asian Heritage Month comes to us amidst significant adversities: the unprecedented rise of anti-Asian racism, the shadow of the unrelenting pandemic, the humanitarian crises in Asia and so on,” says Ananya Mukherjee Reed, provost and vice-president academic at UBC Okanagan. “And yet, even in the face of such daunting realities, we see communities coming together, raising their voices and offering support to one another, within and across borders. It is truly inspiring.”

In that spirit of coming together, this is the first time UBC Okanagan is hosting the Asian Heritage Month initiative. Throughout May, the university will feature invited artists and performers, virtual tours in collaboration with the Kelowna Museums Society, and presentations by students and faculty on Asian language, identity and heritage.

“Many people are surprised when they hear that Kelowna once had a Chinatown and they have an appetite to learn more,” says Linda Digby, executive director of the Kelowna Museums Society. “Our virtual tours offer a rare glimpse into this important chapter of community history, experienced through the perspective of East Asian university students today.”

Tony Yu, a fourth-year student in the UBCO’s performing arts program, says local artists are looking forward to sharing their work with the community.

“In this first-ever Asian Heritage Month event, there are 10 artists involved that will showcase different mediums of art,” he says. “The event gives Asian artists of Kelowna an excellent platform to promote their art as well as express their personal stories to a much wider audience.”

The community is invited — and encouraged — to attend the series of virtual events and learn and reflect together.

Upcoming events

May 6

Opening Event: Join Canada’s former Parliamentary Poet Laureate Fred Wah for a poetry reading, followed by a reading of Stories of Care — stories of Filipino care workers and the impact of the pandemic on them, including stories of employment, unemployment, family, grief, healing, community and resilience. Elder Larry Grant, who is of mixed Chinese and Musqueam ancestry will open the event.

May 12

Chinese Voices of the Okanagan: A Showcase. This event discusses linguistic diversity amongst members of the Chinese community in Kelowna — including those who trace their heritage to mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau — and showcases a website featuring community folksongs and folk stories. The event enhances understanding of the complexity of heritage languages and identities in the Chinese-Canadian diaspora, and to foster connections between UBC Okanagan students and community members.

May 13

The Story of Bhangra: Gurdeep Pandher, an internationally renowned artist based in the Yukon, will narrate the story of Bhangra, a popular dance form with deep connections to the land and people of Punjab, India. Born into a farming family in the village of Siahar in Punjab, Pandher brings together artists from all backgrounds to promote inclusivity and diversity. Pandher’s works have been published by many international art and media organizations including BBC News, CBC and The Globe and Mail. Pandher’s presentation will be followed by a Q&A session.

May 20

Rediscovering Chinatown: Rediscover the history of Kelowna’s Chinatown and the cultural forces that drove its creation on a virtual tour of the Okanagan Heritage Museum. UBC Okanagan students and museum staff will help tell this story in English, Cantonese and Mandarin.

May 26

UBC Okanagan Artists Showcase: An event featuring the work of UBC Okanagan students and faculty in performance, creative writing, media and visual arts while they negotiate the complexities of Asian experiences, identities and heritages. A discussion and Q&A session will follow.

More information about these ongoing events, including how to register, are available at: provost.ok.ubc.ca/asian-heritage-month-2021

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—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 in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca



Starting in science at OC propel alumni to success

Jacqueline Barnett, OC Alumna

As the world continues to navigate life in a pandemic, it has become increasingly clear that science matters.

High school students approaching graduation and pondering their future, may be considering a career in this field, but knowing what area to specialize in can be a challenging decision with so many options.

Okanagan College alumna Jacqueline Barnett started her journey in sciences through the College’s Associate of Science degree program. She’s now chasing her dreams, following not just her head and her heart, but also her gut, as she works on a Ph.D. thesis with real-world application in the world seeking to know more about the gut-brain connection.

“Beginning at the college allowed me to remain close to home, which was essential to me as I wanted to be close to my ageing parents. More importantly, my time at OC allowed me to experience various scientific fields – I was able to determine which disciplines I enjoyed,” says Barnett.

Okanagan College makes it an easy transition into post-secondary by allowing students the option to start the first two years of their Science degree at an OC campus before transferring to a larger University. This also allows students to really delve into the sciences before declaring a major. Barnett started at the Vernon campus.

“Everyone always talks about the benefits of the small class sizes at OC, but it is such an incredible opportunity. I was able to form strong bonds with my peers and make friendships that persist to this day. I also got to know my teachers and learn more about their career paths which opened my eyes to many new opportunities within science I had never heard of or considered,” says Barnett.

“The skills and opportunities that I learned at OC gave me such an advantage in both my undergraduate and graduate student careers. I was able to walk into a research lab at UBC Okanagan (UBCO) after transferring from OC and say, yes, I’ve used a single-channel pipette before, and yes, I’ve used Qiagen kits before. That’s practically unheard of at the second-year level. That helped me get into a research lab as soon as I arrived at UBCO – which led to my receiving a summer research award, completing an undergraduate honours thesis and pursuing graduate studies.”

Barnett is now a Ph.D. Candidate at UBCO.

“My thesis examines the effects of the herbicide glyphosate on the gut microbiome and its impact on behaviour through the gut-brain-microbiome axis. I took all of those passions and interests I discovered at Okanagan College and tied them together in this fantastic research project,” says Barnett. “I can unequivocally state that I would not be where I am today if not for my time at the College.”

Barnett credits the fantastic instructors and professors that she has had over the years for her passion to continue learning.

“I hope to become a college instructor. I love the small class sizes and the ability to get to know each of my students and help them see their potential and find their place in science.”

Barnett received the Irving K. Barber Transfer Scholarship during her time at OC which helped make her transition to UBCO possible. The $5,000 award from the Irving K. Barber Scholarship Society, is 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.

“That was the first scholarship that I received that I was encouraged to apply for by one of my many influential instructors, Stacey Sakakibara,” says Barnett.

Stacey Sakakibara, Biology Chair

Stacey Sakakibara is a science professor and the Chair of Biology at OC, and is also an alumna of the Science program herself.

“I chose OC because it allowed me to stay local and transition to the rigor of first year science courses in a smaller setting. I did not know at the time that the decision would have such an impact on my career,” says Sakakibara.

“Taking first year science in Vernon challenged me to learn to critically think in a supportive environment that set me up for success when I transferred to university. While biology was the course that made me want to delve deeper and learn more, my calculus and physics courses really began to train me to think analytically and creatively. These were all benefits that came from starting at OC.”

Sakakibara went on to study a Masters of Science in Genetics at UBC Vancouver before becoming a research assistant at OUC and eventually becoming an instructor at the College.

“I had always been interested in teaching but I thought I would end up as an elementary school teacher. At the end of my first year, I had had such a profound experience that I remember thinking how amazing it would be to teach at the college level, but I never dreamed that I would ever return in that capacity. It wasn’t until I had finished my MSc and was working in research that I started to realize that a career in teaching at that level was possible.” 

For students considering a path within the sciences, Sakakibara will be hosting an Info Session on May 20 to answer questions about the Associate of Science degree program at OC. For more information on the session and the Associate of Science degree program, visit okangan.bc.ca/science.



OC professor Corinna Chong national winner of CBC Short Story Prize

English and Fine Arts Professor Corinna Chong enjoys a break in nature.

Corinna Chong has been named the winner of the 2021 CBC Short Story Prize, for her piece “Kids in Kindergarten.”

“I’m thrilled to receive this incredible honour,” said Chong. “I was so impressed by the other four shortlisted stories that to hear mine was chosen as the winner was a total shock.”

Writing by the Okanagan College professor has received renewed attention this week, after she was shortlisted in the prestigious competition. Her piece explores themes of pregnancy loss and the trials of conception, and how women often suffer silently because of the taboo nature of miscarriage.

Chong joined Okanagan College in 2011, teaching English and fine arts to students within the Writing and Publishing Diploma program. She received her MA in English and creative writing from the University of New Brunswick. Her first novel, Belinda's Rings, was published in 2013 by NeWest Press. Her reviews and short fiction have been published in magazines across Canada, including The Malahat Review, Room, Grain and The Humber Literary Review.

“This is a prestigious award, and Corinna is so deserving of this recognition. Corinna brings her expertise as a writer to all of her students as a College Professor in the Department of English, and our programming is all the stronger for it,” said Robert Huxtable, Dean of Arts and Foundational Programs at Okanagan College.

As the winner of the CBC Short Story Prize, Chong will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts in addition to a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts.

To read Chong’s piece, “Kids in Kindergarten,” visit the CBC Books webpage: https://www.cbc.ca/books/literaryprizes/kids-in-kindergarten-by-corinna-chong-1.5970419.

To read an interview about how Chong wrote the story, visit: https://www.cbc.ca/books/literaryprizes/how-corinna-chong-wrote-the-story-that-won-the-2021-cbc-short-story-prize-1.6004082.



Post-secondary partners seek to unite early childhood education instructors across Canada

Children Outdoor Play

Virtual conference will focus on outdoor pedagogy in college ECE programs

How does playing in the mud support children’s cognitive and social development? Why is outdoor play such a powerful conduit for learning? How can we advance curriculum to empower current and future early childhood educators (ECEs) to tap into it?

These and other questions will be explored during a unique virtual conference next month that will bring together ECE instructors and outdoor play experts from across the country.

On May 18, Okanagan College, in collaboration with Bow Valley College, Saskatchewan Polytechnic and New Brunswick Community College, and colleagues at the YMCA and the University of Fraser Valley will host a conference called Conversations about Outdoor Pedagogy in College ECE Programs.  

Attendees will have the opportunity to join workshops by leading ECE and outdoor play experts from across Canada. They will also have a chance to hear from guest speaker Dr. Peter Gray – an internationally renowned researcher in neuroendocrinology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and education.

Gray is a research professor at Boston College and author of Free to Learn (Basic Books) and Psychology (Worth Publishers, a college textbook now in its 8th edition). He holds a Ph.D. in biological sciences from Rockefeller University, and completed his undergraduate study at Columbia University. His current research and writing focus primarily on children's natural ways of learning and the life-long value of play. He is also a founding member of the non-profit Alliance for Self-Directed Education and a founding board member of the non-profit Let Grow.

The conference is made possible thanks to a major investment by the Lawson Foundation announced earlier this year that will support researchers from the four institutions in their innovative approach to advancing outdoor early learning and teaching nationally.

The conference is just one initiative in a three-year project which aims to demonstrate a model of outdoor pedagogy practices, teaching, learning and mentoring that will create a shift in curriculum in post-secondary ECE programs and in community early learning and child care programs.

“We are so excited to bring together college ECE instructors all across the country to participate in this first-of-its-kind conference aimed at collaboratively advancing outdoor pedagogy in College ECE programs,” says Dr. Beverlie Dietze, Director of Learning and Applied Research at Okanagan College and project lead on the Lawson Foundation supported research project. “We are eagerly looking forward to the ideas, discussions, resources and action this conference will generate.”

You can register for the conference online at www.okanagan.bc.ca/ECEConference.



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