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Campus Life  

Valley First invests in early learning

Lunch and snack time at the Little Learners Academy will be a little bit easier, thanks to a donation from Valley First.

Valley First, a division of First West Credit Union, is donating $5,000 to the new child care centre located at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus. The gift supports a kitchen space located in one of the centre’s four age-specific spaces.

Valley First early learning

“Hunger is our signature cause at Valley First and along with that we also support food security, which includes access to healthy food for all,” says Susan Ewanick, President of Valley First.

“Along with understanding nutrition, instilling a joy for eating is important to children’s health and well-being for their whole lives. It’s this alignment with our values that compelled us to support the kitchen at Little Learners Academy.”

“Valley First has been a long-time supporter of Okanagan College, and we’re very grateful for their gift to our child care centre campaign,” says Kathy Butler, Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director.

“The kitchen is already being put to good use, with the children easily getting their lunches from the refrigerator for snacks and lunchtime.”

Little Learner’s Academy officially opened in September 2017 to help address the need for more child-care spaces in Penticton. With a priority on providing child care for students and staff at the college, 25 per cent of the children currently at the centre are connected to Okanagan College. The remaining spaces are children from Penticton and the surrounding communities.  

The child care centre is made possible by a $500,000 investment by the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development and support from donors. For more information and ways to support the Bright from the Start Campaign please visit okanagan.bc.ca/give.

Little Learners was also recently recognized as one of Canada’s most sustainable new buildings. To learn more click here.

 



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Indigenous Wood Carving returns to Kelowna campus this fall

Master carver and artist Darren McKenzie is once again setting up shop at Okanagan College with the goal of ingraining in students his passion for carving while also sharing his Indigenous knowledge and culture.

Carver Darren McKenzie

Beginners flocked to McKenzie's initial classes offered this spring, and the course is back and expanded by popular demand with sessions starting on Oct. 12.

"The first three sections went really well. All the classes were full, and we had a lot of positive feedback, suggestions on how to improve and a lot of students have said they wanted to come back and do more,” says McKenzie.

Indigenous Wood Carving will include basic carving techniques for those just starting out, as well as more challenging projects that may also include self-study.

"Once you learn to carve, then the sky's the limit. If a student has an idea for what they want to do, then I am happy to walk them through it," he says. "There's no need to have previous artistic knowledge or Indigenous carving experience."

The new Indigenous Wood Carving course will feature more power tools, shortcuts and secret tricks of the art form, as McKenzie walks students through a full project to completion.

"Normally I prep everything because it saves time. People expect to show up and start carving. But with this course, I'm going to show them more about layout, take them through the journey the long way, from start to finish," he explains.

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, McKenzie is a Cree Métis artist who first embraced art in high school under the mentorship of well-known Prairie artist, Wilf Perreault. He developed skills as an illustrator and painter, and then studied commercial art in college, Indian Art History at the University of Regina, followed by illustration and sculpture at the Ontario College of Art. McKenzie moved to Vancouver where he began learning to carve wood under Salish artist Gerry Sheena in 1993, before attending the Gitanmaax School of Northwest Coast Indian Art and Design. It was at the Hazelton, B.C., school where he completed an intensive and culturally engrossing four-year apprenticeship under master carver Ken Mowatt.

The student has now become the master, and one keen to share his art form. McKenzie wants to ensure the course is inclusive to all – whether they have carving skills or not, or are new to Indigenous culture and knowledge. "It gets more voices out there and more people involved," he says.

The course runs two weekends in October on Friday nights and during the day on Saturdays and Sundays, from Oct. 12 - 28. Space is limited. Information is available at okanagan.bc.ca/indigenouscarving.

 



CHBA invests in the Okanagan’s greenest child care centre

A group of construction industry leaders are the latest to step up to support the Okanagan’s greenest child care centre.

CHBA donates to Penticton Child Care Centre

The Canadian Home Builders' Association (CHBA) South Okanagan is helping build up the Okanagan College Foundation’s fundraising efforts with a $5,000 gift to Little Learners Academy on the Penticton campus of Okanagan College.

“The College is a wonderful asset to the community in providing skills and training that benefit our local workforce,” says Sarah Taylor, Executive Officer of CHBA South Okanagan.  “We are really proud to be a part of the growth and expansion of the campus over the years.”

In addition to this contribution, CHBA South Okanagan also played a role in the last expansion of the Penticton campus with a gift to the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence, which opened in 2011.

Seeing the benefit the Centre of Excellence has had on the community, as well the impact of the student awards CHBA South Okanagan supports, motivated the non-profit organization to invest in the most recent campus project.

“We are thankful for the support from CHBA South Okanagan, who not only see the value in the work of the College but also understand and support our sustainability goals,” says Eric Corneau, Okanagan College Regional Dean, South Okanagan-Similkameen.

As the first Passive House child care centre in Canada, Little Learners has already received accolades for its achievements in sustainable construction techniques (including making a list of the greenest new buildings in Canada for 2018), something Taylor sees as a bigger trend industry-wide.

“In the near future, we’ll be hearing a lot more about energy efficient techniques and how to take better care of the environment in the way we construct buildings,” she explains. “The design and construction of Little Learners embraces those concepts in a way that is truly ahead of its time.”

Two CHBA South Okanagan members have also been involved with the new child care centre from the start. Landform Architecture was the architect and Ritchie Custom Homes was the contractor.

For more information on the innovative centre, or to contribute to the Bright from the Start - Building for the Future campaign, visit okanagan.bc.ca/give.





Partnership fuels new training for trades and technology teachers

A new collaboration between Okanagan College and Brock University is opening doors for those looking to teach trades and technology.
TTTE partnershipThe Trades and Technology Teacher Education (TTTE) program will come online this September. The program will offer existing high school teachers a means to specialize in trades and technology, while also giving tradespeople and technology professionals a chance to add instructional training to their toolkit.
  
“The beauty of the TTTE program is that it opens up convenient pathways to teaching trades and technology for people from many different backgrounds,” notes Steve Moores, Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship at Okanagan College.
  
The program is comprised of online courses in communications, digital media, educational pedagogies, curriculum design and evaluation, conflict management, math for trades and technology, electronics, robotics, drafting and design. Summer sessions at the College’s Kelowna campus will help students gain practical shop experience, safety training, and knowledge of applied pedagogies.

Each student’s path through the program will depend on their previous education and training.

Secondary school teachers can complete the TTTE Certificate and qualify to teach carpentry, electrical, metalwork, heavy mechanics, power mechanics, auto mechanics, robotics, electronics, drafting and design.

Tradespersons with a Red Seal and industry experience can complete the TTTE Diploma and apply to instruct trades programs in their industry. Okanagan College will accept the TTTE Diploma as qualifying training for OC trades instructors with a Red Seal and industry experience.

Students pursuing the TTTE Certificate will enroll with the College, while those looking to complete the Diploma will register with both OC and Brock University. Students who complete the Diploma may then apply the credits toward the three-year online Brock University Bachelor of Education in Adult Education.

“We’re excited to work with Okanagan College,” says Robert McGray, Associate Professor and Program Director of the Adult Education programs in Brock University’s Faculty of Education. “We share OC’s commitment to equipping educators with the skills and knowledge they need, whether they’re new educators of adults or experienced teachers in high schools.”

Providing students entering the program from different fields with just the right blend of instructional and hands-on trades training was one of the challenges of bringing the TTTE program to life. Collaboration proved to be the solution.

“We wanted to ensure students could access training that is convenient for their lives and busy schedules – hence the online component – while also making sure those students get the hands-on skills they’ll need to be successful teaching a wide array of tools, techniques and technologies,” explains Moores. “Tapping into Brock University’s adult education teacher training curriculum provided the perfect means to augment the trades and technology training students will receive in person at OC.”

The TTTE program isn’t just for those looking to teach adults. A pending partnership between the College and UBC Okanagan School of Education is also expected to create a new pathway for students looking to teach trades and technology at the high school level. The College consulted with school districts in the region both to gauge the need for the training, as well as identify the means of delivery that would work best for teachers. Local educators are already showing interest in the program.

“We’re seeing applications and fielding questions from students from a variety of different backgrounds and industries – including a number of local secondary school teachers,” explains Sara Cousins, the program’s administrator. “We’re looking forward to working with them all and our hope is that the program will provide a new and welcome means of professional development for teachers and tradespeople alike.” More information about the program is available at okanagan.bc.ca/ttte.

 



Reducing the fear of being too happy

Study proves people are able to control their own happiness

A UBC researcher has helped establish that, even for people who have a fear of happiness, brief positive psychology interventions embedded within university courses can enhance well-being.

Holli-Anne Passmore, a PhD candidate in psychology at UBC’s Okanagan campus, does research on well-being and personal happiness. There are conflicting views on the value of happiness, and a person’s culture or religion can significantly affect how personal happiness is understood.

Collaborating with international colleagues, Passmore recently examined the effects of a positive psychology intervention (PPI) study at the culturally diverse Canadian University of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. More than 270 students, from 39 different countries, participated in the study and 78 per cent of them were Muslim. For half of the students, the Happiness 101 program was added to the regular curriculum of an Introduction to Psychology course.

“Fear of happiness is a real thing. Others worry about the fragility of happiness,” Passmore says. “In some cultures, a person may not want to be too happy or believe that if they outwardly strive for happiness, they may tempt fate or create social disharmony. They may also believe that any happiness enjoyed will only be fleeting. Valuing happiness is not universally shared.”

“There are a lot of students who live with the underlying sentiment that happiness is beyond their control,” says Passmore. “They truly believe happiness is mainly controlled by specific events, or a religious deity or a being, or other circumstances.”

Passmore says participants learned to use positive psychology interventions—analytically validated and focused activities designed to increase the frequency of positive emotions and experiences. PPIs can help with anxiety, depression, somatic complaints, optimism, relationships, hopelessness, and the ability to deal with stress and trauma, she adds.

The researchers measured different aspects of the students’ well-being at the beginning and end of the semester, and three months later. Compared to students who were not exposed to the positive psychology interventions, students who had the PPI program added to the usual course content reported higher levels of well-being at the end of the semester. Additionally, says Passmore, fear of happiness decreased and the belief that happiness is fragile was also reduced. The boost in well-being and the decreases in beliefs regarding fear and fragility of happiness were still evident three months after the course.

“It’s important to validate the effectiveness of PPIs cross-culturally,” Passmore says. “This is the first study that we’re aware of, which shows you can manipulate beliefs in the fear and fragility of happiness. While no difference in religiosity was evident between the two groups at post-intervention, our participants came to the understanding that they do have some control over their own happiness.”

The study was published recently in the Journal of Happiness Studies.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

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



Local recycling renewed with applied research

How do you count crushed cans crammed into a cube?

An applied research project by Okanagan College could crack open a solution to the tongue-twisting challenge and offer serious savings for the recycling industry for years to come.

recycling applied research

Interior Recycling contacted Okanagan College last year, seeking local expertise to solve an expensive inventory problem. Currently, the Vernon recycling facility measures the quantity of aluminum cans that it processes based on weight; however, owner Jay Aarsen estimates this method comes with a significant margin of error.

"Auditing loads and can counts is a challenge, because we work on a ratio that factors so many cans per pound. But there's a big variation in that because of the liquids inside, and in winter, it would be heavy when the liquid froze. The only way to audit a load would be to count it by hand, which would be very time consuming," Aarsen explains.

Factor in the 12 to 14 million cans travelling through the depot's doors each year, and that ratio significantly impacts the company’s bottom line.

Luke Skulmoski, an OC trades instructor and licensed electrician, obtained a Canadian Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Engage Grant to research, design, develop and install a system for counting aluminum cans more accurately.

He researched whether other sorting or counting machines existed, and found examples in Switzerland and California that use a spinning motion to separate and count cans. The specifications for that technology, however, were far too large to fit in the Interior Recycling's building.

"We had to design something that functioned and fit within this building," says Skulmoski.

Working alongside welding instructor Sean Jarvis, Skulmoski designed a customized hopper that uses an agitator to help funnel cans down through 21 metal chutes. Adjacent to each chute is a photo sensor that signals a computer each time a can falls. When the computer’s count reaches a specific number of cans, the conveyor stops momentarily, allowing the hopper to release the counted cans into a condenser. From there, “biscuits” of compressed aluminum emerge, each having equal numbers of cans, regardless of weight.

"This could make our plant run more efficiently because we could put people into more skilled labour, in terms of maintaining the counting machine, versus just counting the cans. Being able to audit everything versus spot-check will be great," says Aarsen.

Students were also brought onto the applied research project. Curtis Alwood, a first-year Electrician Pre-Apprenticeship student in Kelowna, researched options for counting technologies and helped wire the components. Maximillian Dannert, who completed his Welder Foundation Certificate this spring, assisted with designing, welding, and fabricating the hopper and its frame.

"This gives students hands-on experience working with a client, facing real deadlines on a real project. Plus they get paid," says Skulmoski.

The prototype was affixed to the existing conveyor system, taking four days to custom fabricate and install. The applied research team also had to ensure the counting machine could quickly and easily convert back to the old weight-based system, in case something happens with the prototype, adding another layer of complexity to the project.

"Applied research projects like this bring the community and academia together, and that doesn't happen very often. From start to finish we were able to offer this partner a solution in just six months, whereas with other larger institutions it could take years," Skulmoski explains, adding that the end result could save the bottle depot tens of thousands of dollars per year.

"That amount of money is huge for a small business, and it means they could hire more people. This type of project helps our students learn, but also supports our community, too."

 



Researchers examine success of quit smoking app

Study concludes Crush the Crave has potential, but needs tweaking

With the trend of an app for just about everything these days, a team of researchers from several universities, examined the success of a mobile app designed to help young adults quit smoking.

UBC Professor Joan Bottorff, director of UBC Okanagan’s Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention, says while there are more than 500 mobile-based programs to help people quit smoking, little is known about the role these apps play in the overall smoking cessation picture.

Crush the Crave is an evidence-based app that has quitting strategies built into it to help avoid succumbing to smoke cravings, explains Bruce Baskerville, one of the app’s developers and a senior research associate with the University of Waterloo.

An earlier study of its effectiveness, led by Baskerville and funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, involved a randomized controlled trial to determine whether it helped young adults, aged 19 to 29, quit smoking.

Bottorff, a professor in UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing, says while the app worked for some study participants, it didn’t have the results the researchers were hoping for.

“At the end of the day, results showed that the app was feasible for delivering cessation support but was no better than the paper-based self-help guide that participants in the control group were given,” says Bottorff. “It still helped and it’s another alternative method to support smoking cessation. We need different ways to reach people and this is another tool in the toolbox.”

PhD student Laura Struik is a lead author on the study.

PhD student Laura Struik is a lead author on the study.

Under the supervision of Bottorff, PhD student Laura Struik completed a qualitative study, investigating young adults’ experiences with using Crush the Crave.

Young adults make up the largest number of people who smoke in Canada. While the national average is 14.6 per cent, Struik says that 19 per cent of people aged 20 to 35 smoke.

“One of the greatest benefits of this app is the great reach potential it has,” says Struik. “The target audience is young adults, and that age group’s use of smartphones is ubiquitous, giving this specific app huge potential. So it is important to understand what worked and didn’t from the perspective of users, to guide future improvements.”

For example, Struik notes that one of the main criticisms was that the social media space in the app led users to protect their identity, largely due to its public status.

“While support for connections with other users was wanted, the way it was offered in the app did not align with young adults’ desire to avoid stigmatization and judgement related to their smoking.”

On a positive note, Struik found that the tracking features in the app proved to be one of the strongest aspects. She also says users appreciated the way the app displayed the health benefits of quitting on the body.

“These benefits were tailored to each individual and displayed via statistics, such as percentage of lung health improved,” Struik says. “Because the impacts of smoking are otherwise invisible, users valued this feature, saying it helped them better understand the connection between smoking and health at their age.”

The innovative approach Struik used in this study provides a new way to share understanding and capitalize on effective platforms that support smoking cessation. The qualitative study was published recently in JMIR mHealth uHealth.

“Regardless of whether these apps remain or not, the effective mechanisms in the app, such as documentation and visibility of quitting benefits, will likely hold their value for this population,” Struik says. “This study contributes to understanding what features have the most promising potential for mobilizing quitting smoking and then helping developers scale up these interventions.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

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



College opens new Trades Training Centre in Vernon

A class of Plumbing and Piping Foundation trades students were the first to step through the doors of the newly completed Trades Training Centre at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus at 7 a.m. this morning. A few hours later, they helped to officially open the space where they will hone their trade. oc vernon trades opening blog

Stephen Fuhr, Member of Parliament for Kelowna - Lake Country and The Hon. Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training joined Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton and other College officials, donors, industry and community members, students and alumni in a ribbon cutting ceremony at noon today, August 7, followed by a BBQ for students and guests. 

The new 1,250 square-metre (13,450 square-foot) centre will accommodate about 150 students per year in Carpentry, Welding, Electrical, Plumbing and Piping, and Women in Trades programs.

The Province of B.C. provided $2.88 million and the Government of Canada provided $2.66 million toward the $6.2 million total project cost. The Okanagan College Foundation has raised nearly $1 million to cover the $673,000 capital construction cost, as well as provide support for students and programming. 

 



New study discovers gene that makes lavender smell sweet

Lavender is known for its purple colour and pleasant aroma.

Lavender is known for its purple colour and pleasant aroma.

UBC Okanagan researchers say discovery could lead to better smelling lavender

For many, summer isn’t complete without fields of purple and the sweet smell of lavender. Valued especially for its pleasant aroma, a new study from UBC’s Okanagan campus has discovered the gene that gives lavender its iconic smell and researchers hope that one day it might lead to a super-smelling plant.

Lavender essential oil contains many different types of compounds, but one in particular—S-linalool—is responsible for giving the plant a well-known sweet aroma.

“There are many desirable compounds within the flowering body of lavender that produce its essential oil, each controlled by a host of different genes,” says Soheil Mahmoud, associate professor of biology at UBC Okanagan and study lead author. “Scientists have been trying to identify and sequence the gene responsible for the oil’s sweet smell for years, especially given its obvious application in the cosmetic industry.”

The problem is that the genetic instructions that produce the sweet compound have been poorly understood. Mahmoud explains that the gene, which is responsible for a protein that synthesizes the valuable compound, is rarely expressed and produces only very small quantities of the sweet molecule. That has made it difficult to isolate and study.

But Mahmoud and his team were able to overcome the challenge by sequencing an RNA copy of the gene—a temporary blueprint that gets copied and released into a cell as it gets turned into a functioning protein. From there, they were able to sequence the gene and model its function.

“Now that we have the gene sequence and understand how it works, the next step is to engineer a version of the gene that produces even more of the valuable S-linalool,” says Mahmoud. “Lavender essential oils rich in S-linalool are extremely expensive, so a super sweet-smelling lavender plant would certainly be appealing to the cosmetic and fragrance industries.”

“It’s exciting to find the mechanism that gives one of my favourite plants its wonderful smell.”

The research was published in the journal Planta with funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

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



Four new Board members for Okanagan College

The four people joining Okanagan College’s Board of Governors may be fresh to the role, but they are familiar names in the region.

David Porteous, Juliette Cunningham, Shelly Cook and Tina Lee have each been appointed to the College’s Board by the provincial government for one-year terms that began at the end of July.

“I’m looking forward to Juliette, Tina, Shelley and David starting their work with the Board,” says Okanagan College Board of Governors’ chair Chris Derickson. “I know their experience will yield insights and perspectives valuable for our Board.”

Lee is an experienced communications and strategy professional from Penticton whose human rights and development work has spanned six continents and has ranged from influencing United Nations activity to developing municipal community engagement processes.

Cunningham is a current City of Vernon Councillor, Vice-Chair of the Regional District of the North Okanagan, Vice-Chair of the Okanagan Basin Water Board as well as a business owner. She also has an extensive history of working with non-profit Boards such as the Women’s Centre, Junction Literacy, People Place, Museum and the Early Years Council.

Porteous is an employee group benefits consultant and writes for a quarterly senior’s magazine on health and benefits issues. He co-founded McIver-Porteous Insurance Services Ltd. In the 1980s and was president of Working Enterprises Insurance Services Ltd. He also started Canadian Administrative Underwriting Services Inc. and Working Enterprises Consulting & Benefits Services Ltd.

Cook is an Okanagan College alumnus and has more than 20 years’ experience working with disadvantaged populations in institutional and community-based settings in BC and Ontario. She has a Master’s Degree in Human and Social Development from the University of Victoria and is currently completing her PhD in Community, Culture and Global Studies at the University of British Columbia - Okanagan. Before pursuing her doctoral studies, Cook was Executive Director of John Howard Society in Kelowna for 11 years. In 2017, Cook received a national award for innovation and urban sustainability (Dr. Alex Aylett Scholarship) related to her community-based research efforts. She was the candidate for the BC NDP- Kelowna-West in the 2017 General Election and the 2018 By-election.

Cunningham and Lee each hold a Bachelor of Arts degree from Simon Fraser University.

“I am very familiar with the contribution Okanagan College makes to the community and the region,” says Cunningham. “I am eager to work with Chris, the other board members and administration to ensure its continued success and development.”

“I’ve watched Okanagan College develop its profile in the South Okanagan and Similkameen, and I am excited to learn more about the institution and bring my talents to the Board table,” says Lee.

Porteous shares the others’ interest in the contribution Board members can make to OC’s success: “This is an organization that is very clearly connected and supportive of the communities it serves,” he notes. “Governance is an integral and important part of any public post-secondary institution and I am honored to have been selected to serve in this role.”

“People and organizations in this region identify with Okanagan College,” says Cook. “There are so many proud alumni and so many positive partnerships associated with the College that I know being a member of the Board of Governors will be a rewarding experience.”

Provincially-appointed Board members whose term ends July 31 are Connie Denesiuk (who served six years and was Board Chair from 2016 to early 2018) and Joe Maciel (who was appointed in 2014). Vernon’s Riminder Gakhal completed her 16-month term with the Board at the end of 2017. Board Vice-Chair Gloria Morgan has been reappointed to July 31, 2019.

Other appointed members of the Board include Charity Gerbrandt and Robert McGowan. Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton and Education Council Chair Christopher Newitt are also members of the Board. In addition, there are two student members, a faculty representative and a support staff representative, all elected by their respective constituencies.

shelley cook web
Shelley Cook

Juliette Cunningham

Juliette Cunningham

Tina Lee
Tina Lee


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