Campus Life  

UBC Okanagan's new Master of Design builds leadership potential

A photo of two women discussing a project in front of a computer monitor

Dr. Megan Smith and Sessional Lecturer Gao Yujie discuss their work on an installation in UBC Okanagan's Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies.

The newly formed Master of Design degree at UBC Okanagan is a first for professional master's degrees in Canada, and it's now accepting applications.

UBCO's Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, School of Engineering and Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences created the interdisciplinary program to help answer vital questions affecting the planet.

"We are excited that we can work on designing solutions to wicked problems in British Columbia and beyond," Program Director Megan Smith says. "The program blends critical engineering, art and design disciplines to get hands-on and dig deep into resolving issues while training in entrepreneurship."

The Master of Design degree is a full-time, 12-month professional graduate-level program intended to help students build design solutions for global challenges. The program blends critical design thinking, creative practice and engineering principles within a culture of innovation, creativity and social and sustainable entrepreneurship.

Courses focus on community-based creative approaches to project design as well as the conceptualization and preparation for prototyping and presentation of projects. The program is experiential by design, and students will learn through workshops, seminars, lectures, hands-on experiences, studio time and ongoing mentorship.

"There is a growing trend that challenges are becoming more complicated, and the solutions for these challenges need to be more creative and innovative," explains Assistant Professor of Engineering Alon Eisenstein, who teaches in the program.

"It allows professionals from the arts, communications, engineering and tech communities to collaborate as a cohort in an interdisciplinary project-focused program that creates solutions for society, both local and global."

Smith notes that the research tackles big questions and problems. "I design immersive experiences that allow the public to experience satellite data and infrastructure in new ways. I have worked on exposing human elements within large computational infrastructures and have designed virtual reality hardware for public safety training," she says.

"I believe that by working across art, engineering and computer science, we can discover new solutions to major problems affecting the world. In particular, we need to rapidly develop solutions to mitigate the impact of climate change. We have to play a role in that effort."

During the program, students will develop a project by onboarding an extensive resource of applicable skills, learning from experts and receiving first-hand experience and feedback on their work as they progress through production cycles.

The need for human-centred design and having the user at the centre of the process using design principles is becoming more in demand. Eisenstein adds that collaboratively solving problems in a team and finding solutions through working with other disciplines expands understanding and fuels growth.

"This concept of working together across disciplines is the real value and the core benefit of this program," he says.

The first cohort is to begin study in May 2024. Interested applicants can email [email protected] to receive updates on the program.

For more information about the MDEs program, visit masterdesign.ok.ubc.ca.

The post UBC Okanagan’s new Master of Design builds leadership potential appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

Horticulture pilot project providing new skills to Okanagan farm workers

Person smiling on a tractor

Semi-retired and looking for a new challenge, South Okanagan resident Bob Atkinson turned to farming five years ago and now counts hundreds of nectarine, peach and cherry trees on his orchard at Debeck Farms.

Atkinson was among close to 20 Okanagan farm workers and owners that were the first to complete the Horticulture Upskill Program at Okanagan College, a pilot program designed to provide expanded skills and tangible learning to agricultural workers employed by the tree fruit and wine grape industries. 

“There was a wealth of information in the course and the instructors were very keen and enthusiastic about sharing information and they were also very patient,” said Atkinson. “There was a lot of practical experience as well as academic learning and ways to improve your skills. Everyone enjoyed it and hopefully it helps improve the product that is delivered on the farm.” 

On Nov. 28, Okanagan College is hosting OC Cultivates, a panel discussion hosted by CBC’s Sarah Penton and including experts from the food, wine and tourism sectors discussing the future of the industries.

Two cohorts of English-speaking participants completed the program this fall and another group of Spanish-speaking workers are set to begin the program with a Spanish translator in February 2024. The program was designed for farm workers who are employed in B.C.’s tree fruit and wine industries, providing the employees with baseline skills in several areas of the farming industry. 

“The Horticulture Upskill Program is preparing domestic and foreign workers to make an immediate impact in supporting the families and people working hard in B.C.’s orchards and vineyards,” said Pam Alexis, B.C. Minister of Agriculture and Food. “By partnering with Okanagan College, we’re increasing the number of skilled farm workers in B.C. which will benefit our communities and local economies.” 

Farm workers enrolled in the pilot program receive training in areas including first aid, tractor repair, small engine repair, forklift operation and pesticide management. The courses are available to anyone employed in the B.C. tree fruit or wine grape industries and are held at OC’s Kelowna campus. Courses are scheduled in the afternoon, evening and on weekends, allowing workers to take the month-long training while continuing to work. 

“This program is elevating individual expertise and cultivating a more robust and skilled workforce in the Okanagan,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills. “As the first of its kind program in B.C., Okanagan College is leading the way in agricultural education and are fostering a thriving and resilient future for the Okanagan and its agricultural industry."

In February, the provincial government announced a $44.8M investment at OC to fund the construction of a new Centre for Food, Wine and Tourism at the Kelowna campus. The new building will be home to OC's Okanagan Chef School, and programming aligned to regional food, beverage and hospitality sectors.

“At Okanagan College we are continually working with communities and with industries that need support to upskill and reskill workers,” said Neil Fassina, OC President. “Here in the Okanagan, the tree fruit and wine grape sector relies on their workers to have the expertise and training required, and this pilot Horticulture Upskill Program is one way our College helps support both the industry and local communities.”

The Horticulture Upskill Program is the first of its kind to be offered at a post-secondary institution in B.C. and was a designed with input from the Tree Fruit Industry Stabilization Plan to help the industry access and retain qualified domestic and foreign workers.  

Once the third group of students has completed its program early next year, the pilot program will be reviewed and more details will be provided about further intakes.

Mural at Okanagan College honours residential school survivors

painted mural with blue background, orange flowers, a young boy, and a woman and baby

A large mural that honours residential school survivors has been unveiled at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus, designed and painted by Syilx artist Sheldon Pierre Louis.

Titled su?kncut’s prayers, the acrylic latex mural measures 10 feet tall by 21 feet wide and raises awareness about the legacy and impacts of the residential school system. The mural was officially unveiled Nov. 24 with a special ceremony at OC’s Kelowna campus.

“The mural signifies Okanagan College’s lasting commitment to advancing truth and reconciliation at our campuses,” says Rhea Dupuis, Director of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation at the College. “As a post-secondary institution, it’s important to remember that the impact of the Residential School system continues to this day, and this mural serves to remind us of that.”

Students, employees and visitors to the Health Sciences Centre will find the new mural on the first floor, which is also home to nearby Early Childhood Education classrooms and the Four Food Chiefs sculpture created by Clint George in 2021.

“With the location of this mural being near the Early Childhood Education classrooms at Okanagan College, I wanted to take the opportunity to bring awareness to educators about the legacy of the residential school system,” says Syilx artist Sheldon Pierre Louis.

On the mural are nsyilxcen words “k?u swi? nu? mtx?,” which roughly translate to “we are beautiful.”

“This is a reminder to our children that they are beautiful, and it is a reminder to our residential school survivors that they are beautiful,” adds Louis.

Also depicted on the mural are orange flowers and a woman with a child. The flowers represent the children who never made it home from residential school. Representing a motherly spirit or ancestor, the woman looks over those children and the young boy: a representation of the future – the breaking of cycles.

Okanagan College is grateful to community donors for their financial support of this mural, including Kelly Rockvam and her daughter Sianna, and the KiraGoodFund.

A member of Bonaparte First Nation and a Registered Nurse with Okanagan Skin Care Centre, Rockvam felt inspired after touring the College’s new Health Sciences Centre, compelling her to donate to the Our Students, Your Health campaign.

“If I can support the community in a small way, because it’s been good to me, that’s a total win-win,” says Rockvam. “Seeing our culture celebrated is very meaningful, and I’m hoping it will inspire more inclusivity in education and health care.”

“Okanagan College is committed to being an active participant in reconciliation and decolonialization,” said Juliette Cunningham, board chair, Okanagan College. “This mural makes our commitment visible and will be a reminder to students, staff and community members of our collective responsibility to residential school survivors and their families. It’s fitting that this is outside of the Kira Goodwin Early Childhood Education Classroom. Our Board of Governors is deeply grateful to the donors who both share and are supportive of our efforts to weave Indigenous perspectives into all aspects of college life at OC.”

The KiraGoodFund contributed to the mural, in honour of the memory of Kira Goodwin, a passionate NICU Registered Nurse, who believed that all children matter.  

To learn more about the mural, please visit okanagan.bc.ca/sukncuts-prayers.

UBCO researchers show it's possible to step up activity, "snack" more at work

A photo of UBCO employees walking a set of stairs

Short bursts of exercise known as exercise snacks could help make workplaces become healthier environments.

Getting up from the desk, taking a walk around the block or using the stairs instead of the elevator can go a long way in helping the health of sedentary workers, according to new research from UBC Okanagan.

A team of UBCO researchers recently published a study looking at the feasibility of short bursts of exercise--known as exercise snacks--performed in the workplace. The paper suggests if exercise snacks became as routine as sitting, virtual or in-person meetings and water cooler breaks, the workplace could become a healthier environment.

"Sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity are two key factors that have been independently linked to premature morbidity and mortality," says the study's lead author, Dr. Matthew Stork. "Moving more throughout the work day may not only improve physical health but also has the potential to positively impact mental health and work productivity."

But a full day at work, combined with any household duties such as dinner preparation and helping the kids with homework, leaves little time for full-time employees to get 30 minutes of cardio exercise. That's where the idea of exercise snacks comes in.

Exercise snacks are a modern convention, and previous studies by Dr. Jonathan Little, Professor in UBCO's Faculty of Health and Social Development, have demonstrated that repeated short bouts of this style of exercise can help people get fitter.

This newest research, published recently in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, says exercise snacks, along with health improvements, could easily and enjoyably be integrated into the workplace, says Dr. Alexis Marcotte-Chénard, who worked on this research as a visiting scholar from the Université de Sherbrooke.

"We know traditionally prescribed moderate-intensity exercise may be impractical for many office employees who are unfit and short on time," says Dr. Marcotte-Chénard. "The main objective of this study was to determine people's receptivity to completing exercise snacks in a real-world workplace setting and evaluate a person's psychological responses to two types of stairclimbing activity."

The researchers recruited participants at UBC's Okanagan campus, and the stairclimbing exercise was completed across five different buildings on campus--the participants’ natural working environment. The study compared two options of exercise: high-intensity interval training (HIIT), performed as three bouts of about 60 stairs (three flights) within a structured five- to six-minute HIIT session, and exercise snacks, consisting of three isolated bouts of about 60 stairs performed sporadically throughout the work day.

"We wanted to determine which option the participants found to be more pleasurable, enjoyable and practical for completion in their natural work environment," says Dr. Marcotte-Chénard. "Participants tried both options while supervised by the researchers, and then were free to try either option unsupervised in their workplace for one week."

Results showed that 71 per cent of participants preferred completing exercise snacks, compared to stair-climbing HIIT. There was also a lower perceived rating of exertion during the exercise snacks. Whether they preferred HIIT or exercise snacks, all participants noted high post-exercise enjoyment and self-efficacy towards both types of workplace exercise.

"There has been a lack of research to assess the psychological and affective response to exercise snacks, which is a major gap because these are known to be important predictors of exercise participation," adds Dr. Stork.

"This study addressed this key knowledge gap by examining the psychological responses to exercise snacks. To our knowledge, this was the first study assessing the acute psychological responses to exercise snacks in a workplace setting. The findings are encouraging because they indicate that exercise snacks, simply climbing three flights of stairs three times per day, might be an attractive way to increase physical activity and fitness in the workplace."

This new study helps build the foundation for future research on the potential health benefits of exercise snacks in the real world. Drs. Little and Marcotte-Chénard continue the research in the Exercise Metabolism and Inflammation Lab at UBC Okanagan.

The post UBCO researchers show it's possible to step up activity, “snack” more at work appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

OC Cultivates event fosters local food, wine and tourism businesses

Collage of images showing wine, chefs, mountains and highlighting food, wine and tourism activities.

New event series kick-off hosts panel of local experts, facilitated by CBC’s Sarah Penton

You’ve heard of the iconic Okanagan Champagne powder or our four-season playgrounds, but did you know the Okanagan is also leading the way in innovation in food and beverage and tourism?

A new Okanagan College event series, OC Cultivates, aims to celebrate and explore Okanagan’s unique and exciting food, beverage and tourism industries with a kick-off event featuring local experts and a panel discussion hosted by CBC Radio West host, Sarah Penton.

The first OC Cultivates will feature a dynamic panel of industry leaders, including wine, spirits and beverage makers, hospitality leaders, tourism experts and more to explore the unique characteristics of the Okanagan’s food and beverage businesses.

•    When: Tuesday, Nov. 28
•    Time: Networking reception 6 – 7 p.m., Panel discussion 7- 8:30 p.m. 
•    Where: OC’s Kelowna campus, Student Services (“S”) building – lobby and theatre
•    Cost: The event is free to attend, but pre-registration is required for entry. Register for tickets online at okanagan.bc.ca/oc-cultivates
“Our connection to industry is what allows us to create programming to support the needs of the communities across the Okanagan Valley,” said OC President Neil Fassina. “To be able to bring experts from food, beverage and tourism to Okanagan College and have this event will be an incredible gathering of minds. As a region and a community, we all have an opportunity to be part of this transformation.” 

Panel experts joining in the discussion include: Kyle Nixon, President of the Nixon Hospitality Group; Binny Gill of Farming Karma Fruit; Tyler Dyck: CEO of Okanagan Spirits Distillery; David Paterson, General Manager and Winemaker at Tantalus Vineyards; Lisanne Ballantyne, CEO and President of Tourism Kelowna and OC School of Business professor, and Ruth Wigman, Former “Top Chef” Canada, and Executive Chef at Infusions Restaurant at OC. 

“This is going to be an amazing evening to be a part of and I look forward to the discussion with so many talented people across the food, beverage and tourism sector,” said Tyler Dyck. “Our business takes inspiration from what is unique about the valley and I’m looking forward to the benefits that will come from sharing wisdom and ideas across this group.” 

Okanagan College’s own EnactusOC will be at the event reception before the panel, sharing about their experiences launching the successful Unusually Good Apple Juice and pouring samples of their new hard cider. 

The evening will include a reception before the panel, with a handful of tasting tables from beverage makers around the Okanagan. 

UBC Okanagan appoints Willard inaugural gallery director

A photo of Assistant Professor Tania Willard

Assistant Professor Tania Willard is the inaugural Director of the UBC Okanagan art gallery, to be installed in the new UBCO Downtown building set to open in 2027. Photo credit: Billie Jean Gabriel

UBC has appointed accomplished artist and curator Tania Willard as the first-ever Director of the UBC Okanagan Gallery.

Under Willard's direction, the UBCO art gallery will become the region's first university gallery with a specific focus on decolonial and inclusive practices, says Dr. Bryce Traister, Dean of the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies.

"With our commitment to engaging with and being a leader for our local arts community, we are excited about the addition of this position to the gallery," says Dr. Traister. "With Tania's background as an artist and curator, we are confident she will move the gallery forward in a positive way."

Willard, an accomplished curator, artist and Assistant Professor, is also the Director of UBCO's Indigenous Art Intensive. The intensive is an annual program that gathers students, artists, curators, writers and scholars together to discuss contemporary ideas and discourse rooted in Indigenous art-making.

Part of her work at the gallery will include growing financial support and programming for the gallery while maintaining the vision of an experimental space that embraces decolonial and inclusive practices for diverse publics. Willard brings her specific practice in Indigenous contemporary art as well as a broad scope of practice and networks to the position, adds Dr. Traister.

Reflected in the gallery mandate is a commitment to increase the representation of Syilx artists in the permanent collection, and following UBC Okanagan Gallery curator Dr. Stacey Koosel's curatorial leadership, Willard will contribute to that vision and direction of a new purpose-built gallery in the new UBCO building in downtown Kelowna.

Willard, who has worked with every scale of an art institution across the country and internationally, says she looks forward to joining the gallery team. Together they envision inclusive approaches, grounded in Syilx territories, that can encompass a broad area of interest, both in the local communities as well as online and digitally.

She notes she is strongly committed to increasing the representation of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour artists in UBCO's permanent art collection as reflected in the gallery mandate.

"My goal is to manage the collection across campus and outdoors, and also provide fresh programming and unique opportunities for UBC Okanagan students and regional communities to learn directly from the gallery, its exhibitions and programming," says Willard. "I see a growing future for the influence of a new university gallery as part of the region's exciting network for arts and culture in the city."

The post UBC Okanagan appoints Willard inaugural gallery director appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

Grasslands key to burrowing owl expansion amid climate change, UBC Okanagan study finds

A burrowing owl keeps an alert eye on anything that moves around its burrow.

Recent UBCO research explored burrowing owls in the Okanagan and how they’re adapting to climate change. Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash.

As the world grapples with the pressing challenges of climate change, new research from UBC Okanagan emphasizes the critical role of grasslands in sustaining biodiversity, particularly for migrating species like the burrowing owl.

A recent study from Dr. Lilian P. Sales, a postdoctoral fellow working with Dr. Lael Parrott in UBCO's Earth, Environmental and Geographic Sciences department, explored the burrowing owl and how it's adapting to climate change. The iconic species might see its habitat expand toward northern latitudes due to changing climates; however, this expansion is contingent on the availability of its primary habitat, native grasslands.

"A key motivation for this is the preservation of the Okanagan grasslands," says Dr. Sales. "Despite its low abundance, the burrowing owl is often used as a symbol for grassland preservation and serves as a cultural icon linking the land, its people and conservation efforts."

The burrowing owl depends on grassland environments for nesting and breeding. The study, employing ecological niche models coupled with climate and soil data, projected that under specific high-emission climate change scenarios, the burrowing owl could expand its range three to 10-fold toward northern regions. However, nearly half of these newly suitable environments might lack grassland coverage, predominantly due to human activities like agriculture and urbanization.

This deficiency might hinder the establishment of breeding populations for the owl. Such discoveries underline the urgent need to prioritize the conservation of grasslands across western North America.

"Not only could these grasslands offer sanctuary to the burrowing owl, but they could also serve as pivotal habitats for many other species migrating from the south," says Dr. Sales.

The researchers strongly advise that any land-use plans for the future should integrate strategies for protecting grassland habitats, which are well adapted to the conditions of our changing climate. Such foresight will ensure that these areas can be practical tools for regional climate adaptation and biodiversity preservation.

"In the Okanagan, conservation areas such as the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected Area and the proposed South Okanagan Similkameen National Park Reserve are critical parts of a strategy for ensuring our landscape can be resilient to climate change," says Dr. Parrott. "As a climate adaptation strategy, local governments should strive to protect a connected network of grasslands and open habitats from Osoyoos to Vernon."

A focused approach towards safeguarding grasslands, intertwined with targeted conservation initiatives for species like the burrowing owl and burrow-digging mammals, can potentially maintain the diversity of these unique ecosystems in our changing climate.

"While it's tempting to label the burrowing owl as a climate change indicator, we lack sufficient data to do so confidently," Dr. Sales says. "However, we can predict range expansions for grassland-dependent species, and they will need natural cover to thrive."

Dr. Sales says she was especially invested in the research because it connected her with the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC. The group was instrumental in helping the UBCO researchers give their work real-world context.

The research offers a broader perspective on biodiversity conservation, says Dr. Sales. Landscape management should evolve as species move and adjust their geographic ranges in response to changing climates. Holding onto historical species lists as benchmarks for ecosystem health might become obsolete given the rapid ecological changes expected this century, she says.

"Adopting a forward-thinking approach to conservation might be the key to safeguarding global biodiversity in an ever-changing world," says Dr. Sales.

The study appears in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

The post Grasslands key to burrowing owl expansion amid climate change, UBC Okanagan study finds appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

UBCO researchers spread the message that Type 2 diabetes remission is achievable

A photo of Amy, a Remission Possible participant

Not only did Remission Possible participant Amy significantly improve her blood sugar levels, but she also lost weight and started feeling better physically and mentally.

A team of UBC Okanagan researchers recently won an award for a social media campaign that helps showcase research findings showing that Type 2 diabetes remission is possible.

More than 90 per cent of the diabetes diagnoses in Canada are Type 2--when a person's body does not make enough insulin and the body becomes insulin resistant, leading to risese in blood sugar levels and the body not creating the energy it needs for proper functioning.

Today is World Diabetes Day and UBCO researchers Dr. Jonathan Little, a Professor in the Faculty of Health and Social Development, and Dr. Barbara Oliveira, a Research Coordinator with the School of Health and Exercise Sciences and the Centre For Chronic Disease Prevention and Management, want people to know that diet and exercise changes can help control Type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Little talks about Remission Possible, the award they won and new hope for many people with Type 2 diabetes.

Can you explain the T2 Spark Innovation Challenge?

The T2D Spark Innovation Challenge was a recent contest that provided a platform for students, researchers, health-care providers, innovators and people living with or affected by Type 2 diabetes. Participants had an opportunity to pitch, in front of a panel of judges in a Dragon's Den style format, creative ideas that could help with Type 2 diabetes prevention, management, and remission.

The event was sponsored by the BC Diabetes Research Network, Interior Health and UBC Okanagan's Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management Centre, along with private partners. Our team won $15,000 for our story-telling and social media campaign Remission Possible.

What is Remission Possible?

There is emerging scientific evidence that Type 2 diabetes can be put into remission and this provides new hope for people because it indicates their condition may not be chronic and progressive and they may be able to control their blood sugar and come off medication with specific changes to diet and exercise.

Harnessing the power of character and story--from people with lived experience of Type 2 diabetes remission--our team created an inspiring social media campaign to spread the word that remission is possible.

The campaign shares the real-life journeys of people who have achieved Type 2 diabetes remission. With social media advertising, we are able to promote these stories to reach thousands of British Columbians, spreading the word that Type 2 diabetes remission is possible.

The campaign provides evidence-based information, a toolkit with tips on remission and a letter they can bring to their health-care provider.

What are some of the stories from your participants?

Working with documentary filmmaker Damien Gillis, Remission Possible tells the inspiring journeys of JJ, Theresa, Chris and Amy.

JJ was enrolled in one of our UBCO clinical trials to achieve remission by following a low-calorie diet. Theresa worked with her doctor to follow a low-carb diet, engaged in time-restricted eating and started taking post-dinner walks. Chris learned how to follow a ketogenic diet and became an avid hiker and rock climber. Meanwhile, Amy started exercising and worked with a dietitian on a sustainable eating plan.

All of the participants explained in their videos how remission gave them hope that they could manage their condition and that remission was a journey, not a destination. Each story was unique but one commonality was that a supportive health-care provider--a doctor, registered dietitian or pharmacist--was key.

And what were the results? Is this typical?

Each individual has their own inspiring pathway. Amy, for example, noticed her blood sugars were going too high, with an A1C at 11.1 per cent--higher than the 6.5 per cent threshold for diabetes diagnoses. She worked with a dietitian to change her diet and got active by incorporating tennis and dragon boat racing into her routine. Her A1C numbers came down to 5.6 per cent--which is in the normoglycemic range--and she doesn't have to take any medications.

Amy also lost some weight and started feeling healthy again. She highlights how important it is to respect your body and accept "pauses or small missteps" along the ongoing journey of Type 2 diabetes remission.

What direction do you see your research going in the future?

Through the power of story and social media, we wish to connect with broader audiences nationally and internationally to demonstrate the value and hope that Type 2 remission can bring to patients.

We would also like to integrate health-care provider-based remission programs and empower interested patients to take the next step in their health journey.

To learn more, or share a success story, look for Remission Possible stories on social media, at facebook.com/T2Dremission or learn more at: diabetesremission.ca

The post UBCO researchers spread the message that Type 2 diabetes remission is achievable appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

New ECE offerings at Okanagan College responding to workforce demands

Photo of Karen Block

Working as an Early Childhood Education (ECE) assistant for the past 20 years has provided Penticton’s Karen Block with a rewarding career helping children learn, grow and play. 

Block took the opportunity to enhance her career and learn additional skills through the new ECE Certificate program at Okanagan College. The program offers students flexibility to attend classes and upskill, while continuing to work in their field.

“Because my classes are offered in a hybrid format, it has been possible for me to continue working during the first semester of the program,” said Block whose program features online and in-person learning.  

Okanagan College is expanding opportunities for ECE training across the Okanagan Valley, offering a new hybrid delivery model along with additional intakes for the ECE diploma program, an online ECE infant toddler program for those already working in the field, and a diploma program designed for workers looking to upskill.  

“Providing people with flexible learning options is critical to responding to real employment needs within key sectors, including early childhood education,” said Okanagan College President Neil Fassina. “Okanagan College is working with partners across the region to make it more possible for people to take steps toward their professional goals, and at the same time to strengthen the workforce through education, training and professional development.” 

Coinciding with the B.C. Government’s announcement last month of increased wages for early childhood educators, the expanded ECE programs offer people considering this career path added incentive to enroll at OC. 

“Through the StrongerBC: Future Ready Action Plan, we’re making it easier for more people to become ECEs by creating more early childhood education student spaces and streamlining pathways for internationally trained ECEs,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills. “Okanagan College’s new ECE program and expanded opportunities are encouraging more people to further their education while addressing the demand for trained ECEs in the region.”

“We believe that supporting early childhood education is an investment in the future we all share. That’s why, in addition to the $6 per hour top up, ECEs with their Infant Toddler certificate are now eligible for an additional $2.000 per year,” added Grace Lore, Minister of State for Child Care. “Early childhood educators change the lives of children and their families - these new investments help up lift ECEs and ensure their important contributions are better compensated.”

The new ECE programs at Okanagan College include:

  • A new hybrid ECE Certificate program is accepting applications for people who can start the program in January 2024 in Salmon Arm and in Jan. 2025 in Penticton. 
  • ECE diploma programs are available with new intakes in Vernon, Kelowna and Salmon Arm in 2024.
  • For those with previous ECE training who are looking for new skills, the ECE Infant Toddler Certificate program has a new intake this January. The infant toddler program is offered online before in-person practicums are held at local childcare centres.
  • An ECE work integrated learning program offers an opportunity for those currently working between 15 to 25 hours in a childcare facility to continue working while studying for an ECE Diploma at Okanagan College. Interested students can express interest in applying for a seat in the January 2024 intake here.  

Kelowna student Shitaye Essa Birare graduated from the ECE Infant Toddler Certificate program, and said she’s benefited from the experience of her OC instructors who have been working in the industry for a number of years.  

“I wanted to further my education, and this was a very relevant and challenging course to take,” said Birare. “Within a year I had acquired such a depth of knowledge from people who had been in the field for over 20 years.”  

Okanagan College ECE programs prepare students to work with young children in a variety of inclusive early childhood environments such as daycares, preschools, infant/toddler centres and other early childhood initiatives that focus upon healthy early development. 

Find out more information about all of Okanagan College’s ECE programs at okanagan.bc.ca/ece

Submissions open for UBCO's annual Okanagan Short Story Contest

A photo of a fountain pen writing on black lined paper

Entries are open for UBCO's annual Okanagan Short Story Contest. Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.

The annual Okanagan Short Story Contest, which has been running since 1997, is now open for submissions from writers living in BC's southern interior.

The contest has a long tradition of introducing budding writers to the Okanagan community. Winners in previous years have gone on to publish with Penguin Random House, Arsenal Pulp Press and NeWest Press, as well as numerous national and international magazines and journals.

This competition, initiated by UBC Okanagan professors Nancy Holmes and John Lent, will this year be run by Creative Writing Lecturer and UBCO alumnus Andrea Routley, who says she is excited to oversee this competition.

"The perspectives and multiple knowledges of the diverse people of BC’s southern interior are important voices in Canada’s literary landscape, and I’m thrilled to be in a position to help draw attention to that,” she adds.

Local emerging writers are invited to submit their original writing for the chance to win several prizes, including a top prize of $1,000 along with a one-week retreat at The Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre in Kelowna. Second and third prizes are $400 and $200 respectively. This is the fifth year in a row the contest has been open to high school students and the top prize for that category is $200.

Submitted entries will be adjudicated by faculty from UBCO's creative writing program and celebrated Canadian author Shelley Wood.

Originally from Vancouver, Wood earned her undergraduate degree in English literature at McGill and her graduate degree in journalism at UBC. Her short stories and creative nonfiction have been published in Grain, Room, Causeway Lit, Canadian Notes & Queries, Phoebe, the Antigonish Review, The New Quarterly, Bath Flash Fiction, Freefall and the Saturday Evening Post. Her debut novel, The Quintland Sisters  was a Canadian bestseller. She divides her time between her home in Kelowna, and her work as a medical journalist and editorial director for the Cardiovascular Research Foundation in New York.

Entries for the Okanagan Short Story Contest are open to fiction writers in the southern interior of British Columbia--east of Hope, west of the Alberta border, north of the border to the United States and south of Williams Lake. 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 $20 entry fee for each story, but no charge for students in the high school category. Entries must be received by 11:59 pm on February 2, 2024.

All proceeds from the competition go towards the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies' creative writing scholarships at UBC Okanagan and towards supporting Indspire, an Indigenous organization that invests in the education of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

Winners of the short story contest will be announced next spring at a public event as part of the Creative Studies Spring Festival, and the finalists will be invited to read from their work.

For a full list of contest details and rules, visit: fccs.ok.ubc.ca/short-story

The post Submissions open for UBCO's annual Okanagan Short Story Contest appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

More Campus Life articles