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Campus Life  

UBC study finds health isn’t the only issue with bacteria growth

UBC research has shown that fungal growth significantly affects the physical and mechanical properties of moisture-exposed drywall.

UBC research has shown that fungal growth significantly affects the physical and mechanical properties of moisture-exposed drywall.

Microbes are degrading infrastructure, compounding health implications

Microorganisms growing inside aging buildings and infrastructure are more than just a health issue, according to new research from UBC Okanagan.

The research, coming from the School of Engineering and biology department, examined the impact of fungal mould growth and associated microbes within structures on university campuses. The study focuses on the observed biodeteriorative capabilities of indoor fungi upon gypsum board material (drywall) and how it affects a building’s age and room functionality.

Assistant Professor Sepideh Pakpour says fungal growth significantly affected the physical (weight loss) and mechanical (tensile strength) properties of moisture-exposed gypsum board samples. In some cases, tensile strength and weight of some boards decreased by more than 80 per cent.

And she notes the issue of fungal growth, intensified by climate change, is two-fold.

“Increasing flooding and rainfall related to climate change is aiding fungi to grow more rapidly, causing degradation of the mechanical properties of buildings and infrastructure,” she says. “Not only are the fungi breaking down the integrity of our buildings, but their proliferation is increasing health hazards for the people who live and work in these buildings.”

The researchers also looked at other factors that can impact microbial growth including temperature, humidity, dustiness and occupancy levels—the more people, the quicker it can grow

According to the study, drywall experienced a significant effect on its mechanical properties when microbes were present. If the microbes were bolstered by moisture, the drywall’s ability to withstand breakage when under tension dropped 20 per cent. Older buildings, on average, exhibited higher concentrations and types of fungi in the air, leading to higher mould coverage and biodeterioration on the drywall.

“Our findings would suggest a critical need towards multi-criteria design and optimization of next-generation healthy buildings,” explains Pakpour. “Furthermore, we hope this study will enable engineers, architects and builders to develop optimal designs for highly microbial-resistant building materials that will decrease long-term economic losses and occupant health concerns.”

The inter-disciplinary research was overseen by UBCO Biology Professor John Klironomos, Professor Abbas Milani, director of the School of Engineering’s Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute, and Pakpour, who supervised the microbial and material degradation analyses conducted by their doctoral student Negin Kazemian.

The researchers plan on turning their attention next to the exposure levels of airborne microorganisms and possible remedies.

The latest study, partially funded by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada grant, was published in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed, open-access scientific journal.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

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

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.



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UBC doctoral student wins gold

Rob Shaw, doctoral student in UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Health and Social Development.

Rob Shaw, doctoral student in UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Health and Social Development.

Rob Shaw earns Canada’s first podium finish in Parapan American singles wheelchair tennis

UBC's Rob Shaw served up victory for Canada at the recent Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru.

Shaw is the first-ever Parapan American Quad-tennis champion and the first Canadian tennis player to a win a singles medal at a multi-sport games.

“This is definitely the biggest win so far of my career if you consider the magnitude of the stage and the number of fans in the crowd," says Shaw a doctoral student in UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Health and Social Development.

He adds that he’s had bigger emotional wins, but as far as a complete package, winning a gold medal is as big as it gets.

Rob Shaw is the first-ever Parapan American Quad-tennis champion and the first Canadian tennis player to a win a singles medal at a multi-sport games.

Rob Shaw is the first-ever Parapan American Quad-tennis champion and the first Canadian tennis player to a win a singles medal at a multi-sport games.

Shaw came to UBC Okanagan in 2016 as a doctoral student in professor Kathleen Martin Ginis’ spinal cord injury research group. Their work focuses on improving the health and well-being of the 85,000 Canadians living with spinal cord injury. In particular, Shaw is investigating the impact of peer mentorship for people with spinal cord injury in both hospital and community settings.

“I have experienced firsthand the benefits of peer mentorship as both a mentee and mentor,” he says. “This personal knowledge drives my passion for investigating how to maximize the effectiveness of this service.”

Martin Ginis, a professor with the Faculty of Medicine and the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, says Shaw is an outstanding student-athlete and a recognized leader within the spinal cord injury community and beyond.

“I am absolutely thrilled for Rob,” she says. “He is truly a difference-maker—on the court, in our lab, and in the community. We are cheering him all the way.”

Shaw is the highest-ranked member of the Canadian wheelchair tennis team, ranking ninth in the world and is the reigning four-time national quad singles champion. In addition to completing his doctoral degree, Shaw has his sights set on qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

“I’m just really happy to be part of the massive tennis movement in Canada,” says Shaw. “There’s a really big tennis wave going through the country right now and it’s just nice to contribute a little ripple.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

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

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca



UBC hosts Faith, Community and Culture conference

Event moved to Canada due to actions of ‘populist politicians’

On the verge of having an international conference on religion cancelled due to political turmoil, UBC Professor Francisco Peña stepped in and is bringing the event to Kelowna.

Peña, who teaches in UBCO’s department of languages and world literatures, says the Faith, Community and Culture conference will include Jewish, Christian and Islamic perspectives, dating from the ancient period to the present.

“This conference seeks to promote the scholarship of religion from multi-faith perspectives, which is timely as populist politicians across the world use religion to promote political self-interest,” says Peña.

The multi-day event, September 9 to 11, is in partnership with the International Council for Middle East Studies (ICMES) an academic think tank in Washington, D.C. The ICMES board of directors consists primarily of Middle East scholars and has a goal to educate people about various aspects of Middle East culture and politics.

“This conference is about religious pluralism in a time of separatism and will focus on human faith in a context when people are weaponizing faith for political gain,” Peña adds.

The first Faith, Community and Culture Conference took place in 2016 in Spain when the ICMES collaborated with the Three Cultures of the Mediterranean Foundation. That foundation, based in Spain, promotes dialogue, peace and coexistence among Mediterranean peoples.

Peña explains the 2019 conference was set to take place in Washington, D.C., However, the current restrictions in the United States have made entry visas into the country impossible for some association members including Islamologist Gonzalez Ferrín and Syrian journalist Alaa Ebrahim. Spain, an alternate location, was rejected after the Popular Party won in the regional elections of Andalusia in 2018, restricting activities of the Three Cultures of the Mediterranean Foundation.

“When members of the group witnessed the increased limitations due to the new Congress in Spain, we became determined to host the meeting here,” explains Peña. “And for the organizers and participants, this opportunity offered by UBC, is an undoubted oasis of freedom for professorship, research and thought.”

The conference is open to the public and people can participate in sessions that include presentations, discussion and debate by distinguished Canadian, American, European and Middle East experts in numerous fields. Taking place at the Four Points Sheraton, 5505 Airport Way, the event is supported by the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, the Office of the Provost and Vice-President Academic.

“The opportunity for UBC to host researchers who specialize in the study of religion and the Middle East could not be missed,” says Peña. “Hosting this conference also demonstrates a sense of university freedom that unfortunately is no longer a general trend in societies that today inhabit much of what we call the developed world.”

Contact Francisco Peña at [email protected] or Ange-Aimes Quesnel at [email protected] for more information or the schedule details of this event.

The program schedule is available at: fccs.ok.ubc.ca/2019/08/22/faith-community-and-culture-conference

About UBC's Okanagan campus

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

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.





UBC Okanagan awarded $1.5M to develop high-performance body armour

Research will combine new textile technologies and comfort testing to provide lighter, safer protective gear

The age-old technique of dressing in layers is a tried and tested way to protect from the elements. Now thanks to $1.5 million in new funding for UBC’s Okanagan campus, researchers are pushing the practice to new limits by creating a high-tech body armour solution with multiple layers of protection against diverse threats.

“Layers are great for regulating body heat, protecting us from inclement weather and helping us to survive in extreme conditions,” says Keith Culver, director of UBC’s Survive and Thrive Applied Research (STAR) initiative, which is supporting the network of researchers who will be working together over the next three years. “The idea is to design and integrate some of the most advanced fabrics and materials into garments that are comfortable, practical and can even stop a bullet.”

The research network working to develop these new Comfort-Optimized Materials For Operational Resilience, Thermal-transport and Survivability (COMFORTS) aims to create a futuristic new body armour solution by combining an intelligent, moisture-wicking base layer that has insulating properties with a layer of lightweight, ballistic-resistant material using cross-linker technology. It will also integrate a water, dust and gas repellent outer layer and will be equipped with comfort sensors to monitor the wearer’s response to extreme conditions.

COMFORTS Illustration

“Although the basic idea seems simple, binding all these different materials and technologies together into a smart armour solution that is durable, reliable and comfortable is incredibly complex,” says Kevin Golovin, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UBCO and principal investigator of the COMFORTS research network. “We’re putting into practice years of research and expertise in materials science to turn the concept into reality.”

The COMFORTS network is a collaboration between the University of British Columbia, the University of Alberta and the University of Victoria and is supported by a number of industrial partners. The network has received a $1.5M contribution agreement from the Department of National Defence through its Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program, designed to support innovation in defence and security.

“The safety and security threats faced by our military are ever-changing,” says Culver. “Hazards extend beyond security threats from foreign forces to natural disasters now occurring more frequently than ever before. Almost every year we’re seeing natural disasters, forest fires and floods that put not just ordinary Canadians at risk but also the personnel that respond directly to those threats. Our goal is to better protect those who put their lives on the line to protect the rest of us.”

While the initial COMFORTS technologies developed will be for defence and security applications, Culver says the potential extends well beyond the military.

“Imagine a garment that could keep its users comfortable and safe as they explore the tundra of the Canadian arctic, fight a raging forest fire or respond to a corrosive chemical spill,” says Culver. “I imagine everyone from first responders to soldiers to extreme athletes being impacted by this kind of innovation in protective clothing.”

The research will be ongoing with eight projects planned over the next three years. Some of the protective materials testing will take place at UBC’s STAR Impact Research Facility (SIRF), located just north of UBC’s Okanagan campus. The ballistic and blast simulation facility is the only one of its kind in Canada—it supports research and testing of ballistic and blast-resistant armour, ceramic and other composite materials, as well as helmets and other protective gear.

“I anticipate we will see some exciting new, field-tested technologies developed within the next few years,” says Culver. “I look forward to seeing where this collaboration will lead us.”

To learn more about the COMFORTS project, visit: ok.ubc.ca/okanagan-stories/textile-tech

Engineering Assoc. Prof. Kevin Golovin chats with Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr in the STAR Hub at UBC Okanagan. Golovin is principal investigator of the COMFORTS research network, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Alberta, University of Victoria and industry partners.

Engineering Asst. Prof. Kevin Golovin chats with Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr in the STAR Hub at UBC Okanagan. Golovin is principal investigator of the COMFORTS research network, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Alberta, University of Victoria and industry partners.

UBC Expert Q&A

Western Canada primed to be defense and security research hotspot

World-class vineyards and sunny lakeside resorts have long been the reputation for BC’s Okanagan Valley. That reputation has expanded with Kelowna’s growth as a tech hub, according to Professor Keith Culver, director of UBC’s Survive and Thrive Research (STAR) initiative, but core expertise in defense and security research has also been rapidly expanding since UBC launched the STAR initiative five years ago.

Culver is a professor, legal theorist, self-described convener and coach with proven expertise assembling multi-disciplinary research teams working at the vanguard of innovation. One of these teams, led by Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Kevin Golovin, was recently awarded a $1.5 million contract by the Department of National Defense to develop next-generation, high-performance body armour that increases the safety and comfort of Canadian soldiers.

What is UBC’s STAR initiative?

UBC STAR is a group of researchers and partners working together to solve human performance challenges. We know that solving complex problems requires a multi-disciplinary approach, so we build teams with specialized expertise from across both our campuses and other Western Canadian universities. Then we blend that expertise with the know-how and production capabilities of private and public sector partners to put solutions into practice. Above all, STAR helps university researchers and partners to work together in new, more productive ways.

You recently received considerable new funding from the Department of National Defence. Can you tell us about that research?

A team of researchers from UBC, the University of Alberta and the University of Victoria have established a research network to invent and test new materials for the protection of humans operating in extreme environments – in this case, soldiers doing their jobs on foot. Assistant Professor Kevin Golovin of UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering is leading the network with support from UBC STAR. The network brings together three leading Western Canadian universities to work together with industry to develop new technologies for the defence and security sector.

The network is developing several kinds of protective materials and hazard sensors for use in protective armour for soldiers and first responders. The name of the network captures its focus nicely: Comfort-Optimized Materials For Operational Resilience, Thermal-transport and Survivabilty (COMFORTS). Researchers in engineering, chemistry and other disciplines are developing new textile technologies and smart armour solutions that will be rigorously tested for thermal resistance to increase soldier comfort. We’re fortunate to be working with a great group of companies ready to turn our research into solutions ready for use. We’ll help to solve the challenges facing Canadian first responders and soldiers while enabling Canadian companies to sell those solutions to international markets.

What does the safety and security landscape look like in Western Canada?

I think there’s a perception out there that this kind of research is only happening in places like Halifax, Toronto or Waterloo. Western Canadian expertise is sometimes overlooked by Ottawa and Toronto, but there’s incredible expertise and cutting-edge research happening here in the west, and we are fortunate to have a strong private sector partner community that understands safety and security problems in military contexts, and in forestry, mining and wildfire and flood response. Our understanding of hazardous environments gives us a head start in putting technologies and strategies to work safely in extreme conditions, and we’re coming to realize that our creative solutions can both help Canadians and others around the world.

Why do companies want to work with UBC STAR and its Western Canadian partners?

We have great researchers and great facilities – our blast simulator and ballistics range are second to none – but we offer much more than expertise and equipment. UBC STAR is fundamentally about making the most of collaboration. We work together with our partners to understand the nature of problems and what could contribute to a solution. We readily draw on expertise from multiple universities and firms to assemble the right team. And we know that we are in the middle of a great living lab for testing solutions –with rural and urban areas of varying sizes, climates and terrains. We’re situated in an ideal place to work through technology development, while identifying the strategies and standards needed to put innovative technology to good use.

How do you expect this sector to develop over the next decade?

I see a boom coming in this sector. In Canada, and around the world, we are witnessing a rise in natural disasters that put first responders and others at risk, and our research can help improve their safety. At the same time, we are seeing a rise in global political tensions calling for Canadian military deployment in peacekeeping and other support roles. Our military needs help protecting its members so they can do their jobs in dangerous places. And, of course, when we develop protective materials for first responders and soldiers, the same solutions can be easily adapted for use in sport and health – such as protecting children playing contact sports or our aging population from slip and fall injuries. I think I speak for everyone involved in this research when I say that it’s incredibly rewarding to see how solutions found addressing one question often have far broader benefits for Canadians in every walk of life.

To learn more about STAR, visit: star.ubc.ca

About UBC's Okanagan campus

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

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca



Growth continues to be the trend at UBC Okanagan

UBC President Santa Ono plays his cello as part of his welcome to the more than 2,300 new-to-UBCO students at Tuesday’s Create celebration.

UBC President Santa Ono plays his cello as part of his welcome to the more than 2,300 new-to-UBCO students at Tuesday’s Create celebration.

Campus welcomes incoming class of more than 2,500 students

As UBCO welcomes the incoming class of 2019, it’s obvious the student population continues to grow.

UBC Okanagan’s Deputy Registrar Fred Vogt says, while numbers will change right through September, the campus is welcoming its largest first-year class of 2,347 students. Most of these new-to-UBC students are fresh out of high school, but some—like some of the 133 students enrolled in the School of Education—have transferred from other institutions.

“Every year the enrolment at UBC Okanagan has been increasing, as has our energy, diversity and positive impact on the Okanagan region,” says Vogt. “I believe that every year more people from across Canada and beyond are becoming aware that we offer a world-class education in a dynamic setting in one of the most beautiful locations that can be found anywhere.”

UBC Okanagan opened its doors to students in 2005. At that time, there were 3,500 students and 12 buildings. Today, there are 44 buildings, with two new student residences currently under construction. The growth has been remarkable says Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Deborah Buszard.

“UBC Okanagan’s extraordinary growth is a true testament to the unique experience offered at this campus,” says Buszard. “UBC consistently ranks among the top six public universities in North America. At the Okanagan campus, we deliver a globally recognized education within a tight-knit, inclusive community that empowers our students.”

In fact, she says, the total student population on campus is now well over 10,755 students. That’s including a total of 2,199 international students, 811 of whom are new to campus this year, with 684 taking first-year programs and 127 in graduate programs. Currently, there are more than 1,099 students working towards their master’s degree or doctorate at UBCO.

The student population has increased 8.3 per cent since last year, indicating the need for the new student residences and classroom space.

“It’s been incredible to witness the growth of the campus since we were graciously welcomed to Syilx Okanagan territory in 2005,” she adds. “The close engagement of Okanagan communities has fostered many impactful research collaborations and opportunities for experiential learning, enhancing the student experience while driving innovation and socio-economic development in our region.”

UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa Ono welcomed the graduating class of 2023 to campus yesterday, announcing a continuation of the Blue and Gold Campaign, which met its target of $100,000,000 a year ahead of schedule. And he gave the students some parting advice, before playing Don’t Stop Believing on his cello.

“I chose that song because its title is so true. Don’t stop believing in yourself. You can do it,” he told the packed gymnasium. “But remember, balance is the key. Yes, study hard, but also take the time to socialize and to relax. University is a great opportunity to expand your horizons, to try new things. Whatever you do, try to get outside of your comfort zone—for example—as I mentioned, I’m about to perform on a cello in front of all of you. This is outside of my comfort zone to perform in public, but I’ll do it again today in front of you all because getting outside your comfort zone is the only way to gain new experiences and to grow.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

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

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca



UBC doubles fundraising target to help more students realize potential

UBCO students Catherine Fleck-Vidal and Mykela White hold up a banner as President Santa Ono announces the $100,000,000 fundraising campaign has been met a year earlier than planned.

UBCO students Catherine Fleck-Vidal and Mykela White hold up a banner as President Santa Ono announces the $100,000,000 fundraising campaign has been met a year earlier than planned.

Blue & Gold Campaign goal reached ahead of schedule, raised to $200 million

Today UBC announced the extension of its Blue & Gold Campaign for Students, doubling the target to $200 million by 2022.

It was less than two years ago, in November 2017, when UBC set an ambitious fundraising target of $100 million in three years to ensure more promising students had the financial help to access life-changing education and enhance the student experience. Two years on, the campaign hit this bold goal through the generosity and support of its donors, said UBC President and Vice-Chancellor Santa Ono.

More than 6,500 students across both UBC campuses received donor-funded support last year alone—thanks, in part, he said, to the 15,820 donors who have contributed to the campaign including The Jim Pattison Foundation, Djavad Mowafaghian Foundation and The Charles E. Fipke Foundation.

“We’re very encouraged by and grateful for the amount of support we’ve seen for our students,” said Ono, while speaking at Create, UBCO’s student welcome session Tuesday. “Students are at the heart of what we do. Ultimately, we want to ensure that more students get access to the best possible education without overwhelming financial concerns. Our Blue & Gold Campaign for Students goes a long way to help achieve this and demonstrates the positive impact donor support has on our community.”

“We hope that by extending the campaign, more people are inspired to support a larger number of students who can drive lasting and meaningful change and create a better world,” he added.

The Blue & Gold Campaign is the largest fundraising campaign for students in UBC’s 104-year history. It supports a range of student awards, including fellowships, scholarships, bursaries and experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students at the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses. Areas of emphasis include awards that support students in need, students from under-represented communities, leadership-based academic awards and awards for graduate students.

For information about the Blue & Gold Campaign for Students, visit: support.ubc.ca/blueandgold

For Blue & Gold donor stories, visit:  support.ubc.ca/category/donor-stories

Blue & Gold recipients

Dominica Patterson, a fourth-year UBCO student in international relations who has just graduated, is an example of a student who has benefited from the Blue & Gold campaign. A Blue & Gold bursary helped support her dream of going to the United Nations as a conference delegate to further her interest in international relations. On track to pursue a career in this field, Dominica is turning thought into action by volunteering closer to home, supporting migrant workers who are experiencing hardship in the Okanagan valley.

“As a student, finding the balance between earning a living and doing well academically is difficult,” said Patterson. “You always feel like you’re making a choice between working extra shifts and getting a really good grade. I was lucky to receive the bursary. I got to learn things that I never would have otherwise. I’m ready to go and make a difference in the world.”

Joban Bal is another example of the positive impact of the Blue & Gold Campaign. Bal is a recent biology graduate who is now embarking on a career in medicine through UBC’s Faculty of Medicine. During his time at UBC, Bal founded the One Blood For Life Foundation in response to the growing need for blood and stem cell donations from a younger and more ethnically diverse population.

“[Donor funding] gave me the opportunity to focus on academics and my community work. I am able to explore my passions and make a contribution to a better world. But more than that – the idea that someone is investing in me and the direction I’m taking, it makes me that much more driven,” said Bal.

Hannah Le Bouder is a second-year behavioural neuroscience student and Presidential Scholar with dreams of eventually pursuing a career in medical research. She grew up in the rural town of Bella Coola, BC. During her time at high school, Le Bouder began a peer counselling group for youth to learn how to provide emotional support and a safe inclusive space for peers who needed it, including survivors of childhood trauma. She was one of eight students in her graduating class.

“Receiving this award made me realize the incredible generosity and humanity behind it. I am humbled and fuelled with a greater desire to make every cent worth it—by making the most of my education and striving to be the best student I can.”

UBCO Heat mascot Scorch waves to the crowd as President Santa Ono announces the Blue & Gold campaign target has been raised to $200,000,000.

UBCO Heat mascot Scorch waves to the crowd as President Santa Ono announces the Blue & Gold campaign target has been raised to $200,000,000.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

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

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca



End of summer social celebrates co-op students and employers

Okanagan College Media Release

Coop Student of the Year 2019For fourth-year Okanagan College student Connor McCormack, the past eight months spent at accounting firm MNP have affirmed his career choice in more ways than one. So much so that his time in the downtown Kelowna office earned him Okanagan College’s Co-op Student of the Year award recently.

MNP, known for its accounting and business consulting, took McCormack on as a co-op student earlier this year. As part of his Bachelor of Business Administration degree, he opted for a semester of applied learning with the goal of gaining tangible experience in his field. Time spent at MNP meant he could expand his skills and learn more about the industry.

“My co-op experience 100 per cent confirmed that accounting is for me,” he says. “Not only did it solidify the career choices I’m planning to make, but it also gave me valuable insight into the lifestyle and what to expect from the work life balance and routine.”

McCormack was one of many students and employers celebrated at the End of Summer Social, put on by the Student, Graduate and Co-op Employment Centre. Employer of the Year was awarded to the Regional District of the North Okanagan (RDNO).

Both the Student of the Year and Employer of the Year recipients are elected: students nominate their employer and employers nominate students. The basis for nomination consists of those who have gone above and beyond, done outstanding work in their field and fueled a successful and welcoming environment.

Working at MNP, McCormack faced a steep learning curve, but quickly applied a methodical approach to his work. With a foundation of knowledge from classes in financial accounting, management and marketing taken at the College, he gained ground quickly. He learned the ins and outs of corporate files, tax returns, and letter drafting for clients all while being coached by MNP’s on-site performance coaches.

Winning the award came as a “bit of a shock,” says Connor.

“It means a lot to me to win this award. It instills a lot of confidence in my abilities that my efforts were recognized.”

Faye Craven, MNP’s Human Capital Coordinator says that “Connor exceeded all expectations with outstanding performance both technically and in soft skills.”

RDNO has employed Okanagan College students for many years and consistently delivers a supportive environment to explore and address environmental issues that relate to their career aspirations.Coop Employer of the Year 2019

“We value our partnership with Okanagan College,” says Stephen Banmen, RDNO’s General Manager of Finance. “We have subsequently hired a number of our co-op students based on their performance, work ethic and quality education and will continue to do so in the future.”

For students, co-op presents them with a unique opportunity to step outside the classroom and experience work from a relevant perspective. For employers, the gain can be exponential in training young employees, bringing fresh insight to a workplace and potentially hiring students once their term is over.

Co-op at Okanagan College is a mandatory part of the Food, Wine and Tourism programs, including the current Culinary Arts and Pastry Arts programs as well as the new Tourism Management Diploma program. It is optional for all other eligible programs, however, the Okanagan School of Business and Technology departments have the greatest number of participants. Since 2014, 531 students have successfully completed 929 co-op terms, with a near 100 per cent completion rate.
 

“We hope this event showed the value of taking part in a co-op, and that the time spent in a work-integrated learning environment is invaluable,” says Alison Beaumont of the College’s Student, Graduate and Co-op Employment office.

“These partnerships enable our students to enhance their education in ways that complement their time in the classroom. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

 



OC Speaker Series explores wild and wonderful facts of the world and beyond

Okanagan College Media Release

What does Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination sparked the First World War, have to do with the Okanagan?Franz Ferdinand Aug 2019

Why does the Milky Way have a spiral structure?

What does psychology teach us we should say to a friend in need?

The answers to these questions and more are only a free lecture away, at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus.

The OC Speaker Series returns this September, with a lineup of experts and authorities who will offer free presentations on a variety of topics, from the arts, software engineering, geology, historical preservation, ecological protection, to history and astronomy. Several Okanagan College instructors are also part of this fall’s lineup.

“Exceptional instructors choose the Penticton campus as home because of their passion for teaching and the opportunity to foster connections with students. Many professors are active in research infusing classroom lectures with innovation,” says Eric Corneau, Regional Dean South Okanagan Similkameen. “The Penticton campus has an active and inclusive learning environment, and the community is invited to fill the seats in pursuit of answers to today’s burning questions.”
The series includes:
  • Sept. 9 – The Arts: Elite Pursuit or Community Builder? by Rosemary Thomson from the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra
  • Sept. 16 – Formal Methods and Software Engineering for Deep Learning, by Dr. Youry Khmelevsky
  • Sept. 23 – Saying the Right Thing: What can the science of clinical counselling teach us about helping a friend through a difficult time? by Allan Clarke
  • Sept. 30 – Geology of the South Okanagan: A virtual field trip, by Dr. Todd Redding
  • Oct. 7 – Prospects for China-Taiwan Reunification, by Dr. Shao-Kang Chu
  • Oct. 21 – Reconnecting: Building Human Connection in a Technological Era, Part 2, by Stenya LeClair
  • Oct. 28 – What To Do When Old Meets The New? Historic Preservation the Italian Way, by Dr. Antonella De Michelis
  • Nov. 4 – screening of the film Artifishal: The Road to Extinction is Paved with Good Intentions
  • Nov. 18 – Franz Ferdinand and the Okanagan Connection, by Dr. Maurice Williams
  • Nov. 25 – Sockeye Salmon Reintroduction and Recovery in the Okanagan Basin, by Ryan Benson
  • Dec. 2 – The Spiral Structure of the Milky Way, by Dr. Trey V. Wenger

Talks are 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Lecture Theatre (PL 107) of the Ashnola Building. The Okanagan College Penticton campus is located at 583 Duncan Ave. Admission is by donation, with proceeds going to support students in need.

Event information is available at https://ocspeakersseries.weebly.com/
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Scotiabank investment in Non-Profit Centre of Excellence yields valuable online resources

Okanagan College Media Release

Scotiabank Centre NPE Aug 2019A partnership between Scotiabank and professors and students from Okanagan College’s School of Business has led to development of a series of free online courses that can help Canadian non-profit agencies with their professional development and training needs.

The Scotiabank Centre for Non-Profit Excellence, launched and supported with funding from Scotiabank and developed by Okanagan College faculty and students, has an online portal of research and training resources that are available to non-profit organizations and their staff and volunteers.

“This is the conclusion of five years of work, conducted by students and led by faculty, that began with a gap analysis of the training and education needs of the non-profit sector,” explains Business Professor and Faculty Researcher Dr. Sheilagh Seaton. “In short, we began by ascertaining what would be most beneficial for non-profits to aid their quest for improvements. Then we developed curriculum, and now we have put the courses online.”

The launch of these research studies and learning resources was celebrated earlier this month at a launch that drew representatives of several non-profits to the College.

The training courses cover everything from fundraising to fraud, from project management to servant leadership.

Mike Greer, the Executive Director of Elevation Outdoors, was one of the people able to attend some of the early in-person training offered by the Scotiabank Centre for Non-Profit Excellence.

“Being able to hear from experienced professionals on wide range topics from strategic planning and project management to financial management, all at no cost and without having to travel out of town, is an amazing knowledge and capacity building opportunity for us and other non-profits in our community,” says Greer.

The development of courses and the research underpinning the curriculum also offered Okanagan College students a valuable work-integrated learning experience.

“It really helped me build some valuable personal skills,” says Carly Suddard. “It provided me a broader appreciation of the non-profit sector and all it entails, as well as the many viable career options.”

She worked on a project that focused on helping non-profits understand and implement impact reporting. It also proved a valuable networking experience. Through the project, she met the CEO of BrainTrust Canada, where she now works as marketing and events co-ordinator.

“Through our workshops and via client road testing we’ve ensured these online courses are addressing that skills gap that was the foundation of the program” explains Business Professor and Faculty Researcher Dr. Kyleen Myrah.

Scotiabank donated $200,000 in funding to support five years of the program, which offered several workshops for area non-profits.

“The value of that investment will be repaid many times over as non-profits can rely on the training resources that have been developed,” says Seaton. “I can’t give enough credit to Scotiabank, my fellow professors and the students involved. Their devotion to the Centre has produced something that should have national impact on the sustainability of the non-profit sector.”

And the appreciation is two-way:

“I found the work I did to be truly rewarding,” explains Maliki Suppin, one of the students involved with the project. “Applying the knowledge I have learned in the classroom to a tool that will help non-profit organizations has been a great way to gain hands-on experience. I was lucky enough to work with professors who guided me through this process. The experience I have gained during this project is invaluable and something I deeply appreciate.”

The nine courses are available online through www.okanagan.bc.ca/npc
. They are:
  • Collaboration and Collective Impact
  • Financial Management
  • Fraud
  • Impact Reporting
  • Project Management
  • Servant Leadership
  • Social Enterprise
  • Strategic Plan Implementation
  • Fundraising

 



Your next chapter Starts Here

Okanagan College Media Release

September marks the start of another school year at Okanagan College where over 2,000 students young and mature will begin a new chapter in their life.

Two years ago, that was Alli Macdonald, now an OC alumna who started her Bachelor of Science degree through the Associate of Science degree program.Alli Macdonald August 2019

“I was unsure of what program I wanted to go into until the end of Grade 12,” says Macdonald. “I decided I wanted to complete a degree in science, but I hadn’t taken any chemistry classes in high school and I soon realized I could not enroll in many of my first year classes without it.”

Okanagan College offers a supportive and nurturing environment for those who wish to advance their education, grow their professional development, find a new career path, or take upgrading courses through OC’s Adult Academic and Career Preparation program.

The tuition-free upgrading courses allow students to take high school classes they may not have taken or need a higher mark in. Luckily for Macdonald, she was able to take both Chemistry 11 and 12 while also taking some of her first year science courses.

“It was great because I didn’t feel like I had to take a year off to upgrade, I could do them both simultaneously,” adds Macdonald.

“I am planning on attending UBCO in order to complete my Bachelor of Science degree with a major in chemistry and plan to pursue a career in forensic science.”

According to the BC Council on Admissions and Transfer studies, 88 per cent of college students do better academically than their university counterparts by starting at a college and transferring to another institution to finish a degree.

“It’s so nice that I was able to begin my post-secondary education so close to home and the small class sizes really allowed for a sense of community within your program and the entire campus. I feel like it will make my transition to university much easier.”

Applications for fall 2020 and many winter 2021 programs open Oct. 1. There are still spaces in some programs that start this fall, and many programs offer January intakes.

The College recently launched a new tool to help students more easily explore programs starting soon at OC campuses. Would-be students can learn more at www.okanagan.bc.ca/starthere
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