Campus Life  

College honours Kathy Butler with Distinguished Service Award

Kathy Butler

The first executive director of the Okanagan College Foundation, Kathy Butler, will be recognized with the Distinguished Service Award.

“Kathy left a legacy of growth and development and a significant record of fundraising at the College,” says Neil Fassina, President Okanagan College.

“Under her guidance, and with the support of a team of dedicated volunteers and staff, she helped thousands of students achieve their education and career goals. Her leadership supported the college’s evolution in modern development practices, demonstrating a commitment to excellence and making a positive impact on our communities.”

The award recognizes past employees who have given outstanding service to Okanagan College, who share and support its mission, vision and values, and are active within and outside the College community.

Butler played an integral role in the growth of the Okanagan College Foundation’s endowment. During her tenure, 11,272 awards worth more than $12 million were disbursed to students. She also led the largest college capital campaign in B.C., raising $9 million for Kelowna’s Trades Complex – nearly doubling the $5 million goal.

“Fund development is more than the raising of money; it is the building of long-term relationships and a community of support that elevates the college and furthers access and opportunities for students. I have been in a privileged role to facilitate that happening and am deeply honoured with this recognition.”

After completing a Bachelor of Arts from UBC, Butler began her path to fundraising and donor relations soon after by working with Kelowna General Hospital Foundation.

She entered the post-secondary sector during a critical juncture, as OUC split into two organizations: Okanagan College and UBCO. Butler steered the Foundation through the complex time, establishing the organizational and fund structure to serve OC for years to come while stewarding donor relations.

In 2016, she conducted original research on the state of post-secondary fundraising in Canada, earning her a Master of Arts degree in Philanthropy and Development from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. She has held Certified Fund Raising Executive designation since 1993.

She retired from OC in 2018 and joined Global Philanthropic Canada as a Senior Consultant. She remains active in the community, serving as a director for the Child Advocacy Centre in Kelowna, and as Assistant Governor of Rotary District 5060.

She has received numerous other awards, including the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education in 2019.

Butler joins seven other past recipients of the Distinguished Service Award: Dr. Jayne Brooks (2020), Heather Banham (2019), Rick Gee (2016), John Lent (2014), Catherine Williams (2012), Gary Dickinson (2011) and Lynda Wilson (2010).

Butler will receive the Distinguished Service Award at an upcoming Convocation ceremony in June.

For details about the Distinguished Service Award or to learn about past recipients, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/distinguishedservice.

Car crash couldn’t keep OC apprentice from winning B.C. gold

Joey Bruno

It takes a lot to throw Joey Bruno off his game. 

The third-year apprentice in the Auto Body and Collision Technician training at Okanagan College was on his way to a Skills Provincials competition on April 22 when the car he was riding in rear-ended another vehicle.

“I knew our car was a write-off, but I also knew I could fix it,” said Bruno. 

By sheer coincidence, he was heading to the Skills Automotive Collision Repair provincial competition, where he set to compete. Bruno arrived late and tried to put the car out of his mind. “I was more concerned about the competition,” he recalls. “I wanted to go in, finish, and think about the accident later.”

Skills Canada helps prepare British Columbia’s youth for the highly skilled economy through competitions like the one Joey participated in. The competition was eight hours of skill and knowledge testing stations. Each station evaluated Joey’s abilities to weld, complete precise vehicle structure dimension measurements, and preform plastics and sheet metal repairs. Joey excelled through each timed task with confidence. 

“Joey looked fatigued, but he kept on going. He’s a very determined person,” says Andreas Roth, OC’s Collision Repair Instructor.

Bruno completed his assignments, saw nobody else had finished and that some had even quit. That’s when he realized he was going to come out on top.

Bruno is working at Craftsman Collision Repair in Abbotsford, B.C. He credits OC with his success, praising the facilities and quality of instruction. Roth, who was Bruno’s coach at the provincials, came to OC as a student in 2014 and also won medals at provincial and national skills competitions before becoming an instructor.

Bruno is now looking forward to competing at the Skills Canada competition in Vancouver on May 25, but first he wants to repair the car he was riding in at the time of the accident.

To find out more about OC’s Collision Repair programs, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/collisionrepair.

OC students amplify e-commerce studies with help of Shopify

Aerial image of the Kelowna campus with Okanagan Lake in the background

Now a multi-trillion dollar a year industry, there is a lot more to e-commerce than just clicking a button to “add to cart.”

Okanagan College Business students got an inside look on how e-commerce works during BUAD 335 Open Learning Project, which brought practical experience into the classroom.

Using an applied learning approach, Business Professor Pam Nelson integrated Shopify into the class curriculum, incorporating their state-of-the-art technology into real-world applications. Shopify gave OC students the opportunity to create their own online stores: building corporate brands, designing websites, developing product catalogues and creating online content.

“The students love it. All feedback has been extremely positive,” says Nelson.

Tina Langedyk, one of 39 students who took the class, describes it as practical and fun.

“We got a lot of useful knowledge we can put on a resume,” she says, noting her team was surprised to discover the e-commerce store they’d created worked so well.

“I think this is a tool I can use in the real world,” says Katelyn Trudel, a fellow third-year student. “Now I understand how to make a website look good.”

“Our students seemed to thrive in designing and creating their own online stores from scratch,” says Professor Glen Coulthard, who said students reported finding a lot of value in Shopify’s online learning resources. “Most of them found the experience very enjoyable and personally satisfying.”

Leah Dagg, a Shopify Open Learning Specialist, says students are even given access to real online stores and can make actual sales if they have a product they want to sell. The company hopes some students may end up working for, or with, Shopify.

“We are currently piloting a program where Open Learning students become partners of Shopify, as store builders,” says Dagg. “A couple of great students from Okanagan College have participated in our initial focus groups and pilot program.”

After successfully completing the program students received a ‘digital badge’ certifying they met Shopify’s criteria. Nelson says the fictional businesses could lead to students creating real businesses if they continue on the e-commerce path.

To learn more about Business studies at Okanagan College, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/business.

Explore study options at College info sessions


Labour markets ebb and flow, but education will always serve you.

B.C.’s Labour Market Outlook indicates that, of the one million expected job openings between 2021-2031, approximately 77 per cent will require some level of post-secondary education or training.

That’s why Okanagan College is hosting a series of information sessions this month, to encourage those who might be considering post-secondary education to explore their options now.

“People of all ages are considering their options for a post-COVID world, and increasingly training or credentials are required. Education gives people more options,” says Inga Wheeler, Associate Registrar for Okanagan College.

“Info sessions at Okanagan College give people the chance to discover program options, meet faculty and instructors, as well as learn about the supports available to students. It is a perfect opportunity to explore what’s next.”  

The schedule of sessions in Kelowna include:

  • May 10 – Arts: meet faculty and sit in on panel discussions about critical issues facing the world today like social justice, what a post-COVID world looks like, global society, and identity and community in the digital age.
  • May 11 – Business and Office Administration: learn about the advantages of completing a business degree, diploma or certificate at OC.
  • May 17 – Science and Engineering Technologies: STEM fields of study are growing in demand – learn about the countless opportunities available for careers while meeting faculty and touring labs.

Representatives from OC’s Indigenous Services, Financial Aid and Awards, and Accessibility Services will be on hand to provide information on how they support students through their academic journey.

Sessions run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Kelowna campus, 1000 KLO Rd., in the E Building (Science and Engineering Technologies sessions will be in the E and C buildings). Future students can apply for admission to any OC program for free during the info sessions. Parents and friends are welcome. Free parking, snacks and refreshments are available.

For details about Kelowna, Salmon Arm and virtual info sessions, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/infosessions. For questions or those who can’t make the sessions, people are invited to contact [email protected] to get in touch with someone at OC who will help.

OC Alumnus cycles for charity in solo ride across Mexico

Nick Pelletier

Nick Pelletier didn’t spend his recent trip to Mexico relaxing on the beach.

The Okanagan College Business Alumnus pedaled solo across Mexico in a 51-day trek, stopping at points with the highest and lowest elevation in the country, while raising awareness and funds for charity.

The journey, which began in February, benefited charity: water, an organization that provides clean and safe drinking water to those without access.

Pelletier, an ultra-endurance athlete and extreme adventurer, is no stranger to epic endeavors and likes to combine his efforts with a cause he cares about.

In 2019, Pelletier cycled across the continental United States raising funds for Pencils of Promise, an organization committed to building schools and providing education opportunities to children. Along with a multitude of other athletic endeavours, he has also attempted to swim the length of Okanagan Lake on two occasions.

“I always like to tie in a social venture, in this case charity: water,” says Pelletier. “While at OC, I took Kyleen Myrah’s social entrepreneurship business class. She showed us the social side of not-for-profit businesses and how they function. In many cases, it is the people who make it happen – donors and volunteers who contribute in various ways.

“Charity: water was part of a project we did in class, so I knew about the program and had read a book about the organization. I admired the goals of this charity and thought that fundraising for it was a good way to achieve a goal of mine and help others.”

Financial support has poured in from the local community, as well as Pelletier’s hometown of Calgary, AB.

“It’s crazy to see that my decision to do this trip has led to so many donations that will help people in need,” says Pelletier.

Planned with COVID-19 regulations and testing in mind, Pelletier chose Mexico for his cycling trek to help keep logistics to a minimum. Mexico is a big enough country to complete this kind of trek without having to cross multiple borders and deal with COVID testing while on the bike.

From there, route planning took shape as Pelletier looked for the furthest points within the country and stops of interest along the way. Starting in Cabo San Lucas, winding down to the lowest elevation, Laguna Salada, up to the highest point, Pico de Orizaba, then continuing to Cancún in the south of the country.

All told, the journey covered 5,879 km, which Pelletier completed in 317 hours of active riding time, spanning 51 days. What he didn’t count on was the time he would spend fixing his bike.

“The varied road surfaces of Mexico threw me some surprises,” says Pelletier. “During my ride across America in 2019, I had one flat tire. But on this trip, I had over 70 flats.”

Despite the challenges of keeping his bike in working order, Pelletier was able to keep himself motivated.

“When I undertake a challenge like this, I try to stay goal motivated and process oriented,” says Pelletier. “My goals were clear, raising money for the charity and completing the trip. I stayed process oriented by waking up and focusing on what I needed to do that day.”

Despite the hard days on a self-supported solo trip, stopping wasn’t an option for Pelletier.  

“You won’t always have the motivation,” says Pelletier. “But you can have the discipline to keep moving forward. The toughest part of each day for me were the first 50 km. But as the day would progress, I’d get a boost seeing those numbers add up. Keeping a sense of humour also helps.”

See Pelletier’s sense of humour as he documents the adventures of his daily rides with a video diary. Find his weekly updates from the trip online, along with an opportunity to contribute to his fundraising efforts.

Conference to discuss outdoor learning in Early Childhood Education programs

Early Childhood Educator working with children

How does being outdoors help children’s cognitive and social development?  

The involvement of outdoor pedagogy in college programs will be discussed during a virtual conference on May 16, that will bring together Early Childhood Education (ECE) instructors and outdoor play experts from across the country. 

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 Outdoor Pedagogy: Change Makers from Diverse Perspectives.   

“We are so excited to bring together college ECE instructors all across the country to participate in this second annual 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.” 

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. Rebecca Isbell, an internationally renowned speaker and author of several books including Creativity and the Arts for Young Children and?Nurturing Creativity: An Essential Mindset for Young Children’s Learning. Isbell is known for celebrating the positive influences that educators, researchers and early learning professionals have on children during their critical years of development. 

The conference is made possible by the Lawson Foundation supporting 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 childcare programs. 

You can register for the conference online at https://www.okanagan.bc.ca/learning-and-applied-research/ece-conference#register

OC student to attend prestigious astroparticle physics summer school

Divyesh Dagia

The sky is the limit for Okanagan College physics student Divyesh Dagia, who is set to attend the Canadian Astroparticle Physics Summer School (CAPSS) this May.

The intensive week-long session is designed for astronomy, physics and engineering undergraduates and will introduce them to the current topics in the field of astroparticle physics at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., and virtually at SNOLAB. Only 20 students from across Canada are invited to attend the session each year.

Dagia, who will complete an Associate of Science Degree at OC this month, learned about the summer session after his professor shared the opportunity with the class. With the encouragement of a classmate, he applied for the session.

“The day I learned I was accepted into CAPSS was the best for me,” says Dagia. “From the classes I have taken at OC, I know that the seminar sessions are the ones that I get most excited about. With the CAPSS program, I am looking forward to learning what other researchers and professors are working on, as well as meeting students who have similar interests.”

Dagia, an international student from Dubai, attended his first year at OC while living at home. COVID-19 travel restrictions may have put a damper on Dagia’s ability to attend courses on campus, but he was a diligent student.

“Despite being 11 hours ahead during his first year of studies, he attended lectures in the middle of the night,” says Kevin Douglas, Chair of the Physics and Astronomy department. “Once on campus in Kelowna, he has been an eager and enthusiastic student. The summer school opportunity is the perfect meshing of some of his interests.”

“Choosing OC, I knew I would be coming to a smaller school and that was compelling for me,” says Dagia. “There really is a one-to-one interaction that takes place between students and instructors, particularly as you move into second year classes.

“Sometimes learning the concepts behind the sciences can be challenging and that is when a smaller class size can be helpful. For example, on Pi Day (March 14) in my Calculus 4 class, we ate pie and reviewed concepts. Everyone wants to help you succeed.”

Science studies at OC feature a range of university subjects, from Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics, to Data Science, Kinesiology and Oenology and Viticulture. There are a variety of credentials available, including the Associate of Science Degree – which offers students the ability to transfer directly to third year in any B.C. post-secondary institution.

“At OC, we match up our offerings with the courses students need to pursue their education goals,” says Douglas. “We strive to blend those classes with exposure to research opportunities whenever possible. We want to show students what is out there in the sciences. You can go just about anywhere with your degree.”

Okanagan College proudly presents the Gold Medal Banquet fundraiser

Culinary Team BC

Fundraising has never been so tasty. Okanagan College is partnering with Culinary Team B.C. and Junior Culinary Team Canada to present a banquet worthy of a gold medal, to raise funds for the teams to compete at the Culinary World Cup in Luxembourg this coming November.  

 Culinary Team BC will be cooking its community catering menu during a special fundraising dinner hosted at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus on May 27. OC Culinary Arts students will assist the provincial and junior teams as they prepare this world-class dinner.   

“Welcoming these extremely talented chefs into our kitchens is such an amazing learning experience for our students, and we are excited to invite the community to be a part of it,” says Cari Jahns, Manager of Culinary and Pastry Arts. “We are also happy to support and celebrate the team members who are OC Culinary Arts alumni.” 

Both teams feature familiar OC faces. Provincial team member Chris Braun is an OC alumnus who graduated in 2006. He recently guided the sold-out Student Chef Dinner Series event at Infusions restaurant. Braun joined the Culinary Team B.C. in November 2020 after receiving gold in Canada’s Great Kitchen Party for the Okanagan. Junior Culinary Team Canada member Simon Dufresne also completed the Culinary Arts program at OC in 2020.   

Each Culinary Team B.C. member will be paired with an OC Culinary Arts student throughout the timed practice. OC students will also be working with the members of the Junior Culinary Team Canada team in the design, preparation and assembly of the reception canapés.    

The dinner will include four courses with wines generously provided by Mission Hill Family Estate. The reception starts at 5 p.m. with guests being seated at 5:45 p.m. for dinner.  

All proceeds from the event will support the provincial and junior teams as they head to Luxembourg in November. They will also be competing in the Culinary World Olympics in 2024. 

You can buy your tickets and view the menu on Eventbrite

Okanagan College welcomes new Associate Vice President College Relations

Jenn Goodwin, OC’s incoming Associate Vice President College Relations

Okanagan College will welcome a new member to its executive team as Jenn Goodwin assumes the role of Associate Vice President College Relations.

A seasoned communications professional, Goodwin most recently worked as Vice President, Communications and Culture at Interior Health.

“Okanagan College is recognized and respected within the region for its commitment to delivering education and training, as well as the relationships it has with employers, organizations and community groups,” said Goodwin. “I am inspired by Okanagan College’s vision for the future and am looking forward to playing a role in the years ahead.”

Before moving to Kelowna, Goodwin was Vice President, Community Partnerships at Providence Care, a hospital and health-care organization in Kingston, Ont. affiliated with Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College. Goodwin began her career as a radio and television journalist in northern B.C., the Yukon and Ontario, winning national recognition for radio news coverage of Indigenous issues and the resource sector.

She holds a Master’s in Environment and Business and Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation from the University of Waterloo and a Bachelor of Journalism and Political Science/Français from Carleton University. She is an Accredited Public Relations professional through the Canadian Public Relations Society.

“The search for an Associate Vice President generated interest from across the globe, and Okanagan College found an outstanding individual to fill the role within Kelowna, who has close ties with the B.C. Interior and the communities we serve,” says OC President Neil Fassina. “We are certain that Jennifer will quickly become a valued member of the executive team and Okanagan College community as well.”

Goodwin will officially join OC on May 24.

Annual applied research expo shines spotlight on inclusivity

Jesse Lipscombe

As society emerges from a post-pandemic world, now is the perfect time to get those creative juices going for innovation.

Okanagan College is set to host the Research Innovation Partnerships Expo (RIPE) on Tuesday, May 10 – a free event for community members, industry, educators, researchers and students to network and learn about the impact of applied research.

Presentations cover a range of topics, from podcasting and applied research innovation, supporting inclusive workplaces, microplastics in Okanagan lake, engaging in education with young-adult cannabis consumers, and culturally responsive wellness initiatives through virtual reality. 

“Collaboration is at the heart of all applied research, and RIPE offers Okanagan College an opportunity to showcase the innovation happening as a result of meaningful partnerships and relationships,” says Dr. Beverlie Dietze, OC’s Director of Learning and Applied Research.

This year’s theme for the virtual conference is “Imagining the Future,” and for keynote speaker Jesse Lipscombe, the future is inclusive.

Lipscombe is an actor, former athlete, activist and entrepreneur. He began his acting career at age 14 in the film, Children of the Dust, starring legendary actor Sidney Poitier. At 18, Lipscombe accepted a full athletic scholarship to Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he was a breakout track star. He continues to act while working in consulting, inspired by the #MakeItAwkward campaign he launched in 2016 to combat racism, misogyny, homophobia and hatred. In 2017, Lipscombe was the recipient of the Obsidian Award for Top Business Leader in Western Canada, as well as Community Man of the Year by Diversity Magazine.

Lipscombe will unpack his experiences in his keynote, entitled “Inclusive Innovation and the Creative Juice,” advocating for the need for a different and more inclusive lens at all stages of the creative process. His experience with innovation includes mobile games, film, television, table-top board games, music and novels, to name a few. Lipscombe will describe his process, the holes he has observed in the innovation landscape with respect to representation, as well as the secrets to unlocking the creative juices that are flowing in us all.

For details and to register, visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/ripe.

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