Campus Life - Kamloops  

Research photos worth 1,000 words

What does research look like?

As an open-access research university, Thompson Rivers University students and faculty have long been engaged in research. Whether that research involves rattlesnakes, cattle or community groups, data is collected and analyzed, and the results are used to make research-informed decisions.

But we don’t often get the chance to see research as it’s happening, so we launched the Worth 1,000 Words Research in Pictures contest to encourage faculty and student researchers to submit images that illustrate the research process.

Taking first place and winning a $500 prize is Sarah Bayliff’s image, Cutting Through the Fog:

Cutting Through the Fog by Sarah Bayliff: The rising sun burns through the early morning fog above a TRU agricultural research site.
Cutting Through the Fog by Sarah Bayliff: The rising sun burns through the early morning fog above a TRU agricultural research site. This research site is used to examine the use of mowing to increase plant productivity and soil carbon of perennial cropping systems. The square plots seen in the photo are each cut at a different mowing height, ranging from 0 to 30 cm in 5 cm increments. The goal of this study is to determine which cutting height will stimulate the highest levels of aboveground and belowground plant production. Plant productivity is positively correlated with carbon sequestration. Therefore, increasing the productivity of agricultural fields has potential to increase sustainability as atmospheric carbon is sequestered within soil and plant material. Better understanding how mowing affects plant and soil characteristics will allow for land to be managed for optimum productivity and environmental sustainability.

The contest was adjudicated by TRU faculty members Donald Lawrence and Bruce Martin, as well as Emily Hope, education and public programs director for the Kamloops Art Gallery.

What the judges appreciated most about this year’s images is how well the photos and the captions work together to explain the research.

“The photos are compelling and the research is clearly articulated,” says Hope.

Of Bayliff’s winning photograph, the judges remarked at how perfectly the image and caption work together to assist the viewer in understanding the research, and in putting them there in the field.

In second place and taking home a $250 prize, the judges selected Nancy Van Wagoner’s Chondrite Normalized, which Martin described as “compelling, striking… an image that draws you in completely.”

Chondrite Normalized by Nancy Van Wagoner.
Chondrite Normalized by Nancy Van Wagoner: About 50 million years ago, Kamloops was surrounded by volcanoes. The purpose of our research is to determine the causes of this volcanic activity, how volcanism evolved in space and time, and whether it influenced past climates. One way of working out where the magmas originated from is to compare the geochemistry of the volcanic rocks with a type of meteor called a chondrite (chondrite normalized). The image is of a chondritic meteor magnified 100 times (field of view is 2 mm). The graph tells us about the composition of the mantle and how it was melted to produce the Kamloops magmas. I was taken by the way the graph follows the curve of the crystals.

We also asked our community to weigh in on their favourite submissions for the People’s Choice Award and a final $100 prize. Chloe Howarth took home first place in this category with her mesmerizing Snake Eyes photo:

Snake Eyes by Chloe Howarth: A large male western rattlesnake tongue-flicks to "taste" the air.
Snake Eyes by Chloe Howarth: A large male western rattlesnake tongue-flicks to “taste” the air, allowing him to detect the scents of predators and prey (and field biologists!). This beautiful gold-eyed snake was seen basking outside of his overwintering den near Osoyoos, BC, on one of the last warm days of fall. He was observed during a den survey conducted as part of an ongoing mark-recapture effort in the region. After his photo was taken, he was captured (following wildlife permits and animal care approved protocols), tagged, measured, and weighed, before being released to continue enjoying the late-season sun!

People’s Choice Top 5

  1. Snake Eyes by Chloe Howarth
  2. Cutting Through the Fog by Sarah Bayliff
  3. Utilizing Traditional Indigenous Knowledge for Ecosystem Repair by Brandon Williams
  4. Wet and Wild Research: Using irrigation to increase soil carbon by Sarah Bayliff
  5. Snake Timeshare by Chloe Howarth

Business insights from TRU’s Entrepreneur-in-residence

Adam Miron Billion Dollar Start-Up

By Jordin Wilkinson, student ambassador

Adam Miron, entrepreneur, TRU alumni and recent Learn with Leaders speaker, shared his experiences starting businesses with TRU students. Here are four key takeaways from the session.

Adam Miron, serial entrepreneur, TRU Entrepreneur-in-Residence and co-author of Billion Dollar Start-Up

Failure is part of success

In the world of entrepreneurship, people often focus on the successes rather than the 20 mistakes it took to get there. Instant success is rare, and there are many mistakes that will happen before a triumph. Miron spoke to the power of learning from your mistakes, using it to shape your next attempt, and “just keep pitching.”

You have to be all in

There is a big difference between exploring an idea and fully committing to it. This begins with raising money for the business. The process of acquiring capital can signal to investors that you are committed to your business and willing to take the steps to make it work. Once your business is rolling, you cannot start exploring other ideas until your existing business is sustainable. Miron told students to, “focus on what you’re supposed to do and have faith in it.”

Is your business working?

Once your business is off the ground, and you are fully invested, how do you know if it is working? Here, Miron emphasized the importance of looking beyond traditional financial goals and focusing on your personal targets. This involves asking yourself what the strategic imperatives you need to hit are to ensure your business is going in the right direction; and what are the main things you need to accomplish this year or in the next six months?  To hit your goals, you have to a strategy to get there.

Hire people who will move the box

When asked about the qualities Miron wants in team members, he spoke to the importance of finding people willing to pitch in outside of their day-to-day tasks. If there is a box in the corner of the office, many people will ignore the box as it is not their responsibility. Miron looks for people who, without being asked, will move the box and figure out what to do with it. Additionally, he said, seek out people who will put their time and energy toward building the business properly. Often in start-ups, people will throw themselves into producing content or a product without doing the proper research required, which can waste time and send the team back to the starting point.

Miron also emphasized the importance of having a support system. Starting a business is hard, and there will be setbacks, so you need a network of people who you can trust and who can help lead you in the right direction. The most important person will be your business partner. Miron stressed the importance of having a partner you trust. You should balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

The key message that Miron presented is that you need to know your priorities and how you will fulfill them. Find the intersection of what you’re good at, what you love, what will make you money and what the world needs and give it everything you have.

Five tips to engaging your online class

GCOTL student

When schools closed across the country last spring and classes abruptly transitioned to virtual learning, the TRU Open Learning (TRU-OL) team was well positioned to show teachers the ropes with the Graduate Certificate in Online Teaching and Learning (GCOTL).

Offered by Thompson Rivers University’s Faculty of Education and Social Work for K-12 teachers, post-secondary faculty and private sector educators, the five courses in this online certificate prepare instructors to design online teaching content and teach in an online environment.

Open Learning Faculty Member Keith Webster says that prior to the pandemic, his students were largely K-12 teachers preparing to teach in a range of situations: some fully online, but many in blended environments (a mixture of face-to-face and online) or using a few online modules to supplement their everyday face-to-face classes.

But when classrooms closed and teachers were required to generate fully-virtual content for their entire course loads on short notice, Webster observed his course discussions shift toward tackling current issues his students are encountering in their virtual classes—from engaging primary students with platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, to equity issues like access to technology and learning support at home. He says many who are new to doing all their teaching virtually are surprised at the amount of time it can take to develop quality online learning, so strategies to make the most of preparation time quickly became a key topic for discussion.

“It often comes down to breaking down the big problem into something smaller and easier to approach, and then figuring out how to reach those learning objectives,” Webster says. “Certificate students can also discuss their own experiences and challenges they are facing with others in their classes, and offer insights and suggestions.”

Webster passes along five tips to anyone facing the challenges of virtual teaching, and says they could just as easily be applied to face-to-face teaching:

  1. Start by identifying learning outcomes and then ask, what online activity will help your students achieve those outcomes?
  2. Produce your own media or adapt openly-shared media: it will be more effective for teaching and learning than professional content. Don’t worry about the last 10 percent of aesthetic quality professional (but less personalized) content delivers—your class will get more out of the same content you produce or source, and you can make your own updates when needed.
  3. Consider the best use of the tools you already have before looking for new solutions. Do you already know how to use a program that supports your activity, or can your IT team suggest something you already have available before looking for new platforms?
  4. Set an amount of time you’re willing to figure out a new technology before reaching out for support from peers, online tutorials or web searches. Set a 15-minute rule, for example, and don’t get trapped figuring out how to use a tool on your own.
  5. Cultivate a community you can work with in teaching online, of other professionals you know who are also working on the same challenges. Consult this network about new issues you’re facing and share solutions.

Students completing the full GCOTL program generally follow the recommended course order over subsequent fall, winter and summer terms, but many also take just one or a few of the certificate courses to focus on areas where they want to grow.

Classes are asynchronous, so students can review material on their own schedule. Assignments are due weekly, but Webster—who has taught high school himself—says the courses are designed to fit around teachers’ schedules, providing flexibility through things like long time frames for group participation and scheduling assignments around report-card writing and other busy times in the school year.

Online and blended learning continues to advance, and educators can prepare themselves to meet these challenges with the support of TRU-OL’s network of experienced instructional designers.

Teachers can apply to start the graduate certificate in Online Teaching and Learning program this fall until August 1, or register at any time for individual courses starting in May, September and January each year.

Learn more about TRU Faculty of Education and Social Work programs

Business leader shares tips for student entrepreneurs

James McCreath

By Gaurav Mishra, student ambassador

Apart from your education, what else positions you to win? This is something James McCreath, portfolio manager at BMO Nesbitt Burns and recent Learn with Leaders session speaker, asked students to think about. It’s not just about what you do in the classroom, but also the importance of activities outside the classroom.

McCreath, who received a TRU Distinguished Alumni Award for community service, shared his insights on the importance of resilience, an entrepreneurial mindset and extra-curricular activities with School of Business and Economics students. Here are the three things that stuck with me.

Stay resilient

Resilience is an important attribute that grows over time. In response to a student’s question about how to engage with the community when we are not on campus, McCreath responded that while things are more difficult during the pandemic, do things that excite you, try to learn new digital technologies and pursue opportunities to learn outside of class. Try to develop a positive outlook and take active steps to make this time fruitful. 

Cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset

A constant need to improve your skill set, learn from your mistakes and explore new ideas makes up an entrepreneurial mindset. McCreath recommended students develop this mindset during their time in school. Thinking about and exploring ideas that other people aren’t will strengthen your resume, he said.

“People who will hire you know that you and your peers all are proficient in the courses. It’s the unique aspect of what you are doing that allows you to win,” he said.

Get involved in extra-curricular activities

McCreath made one of his first business connections as a soccer coach. He recommends doing what you love outside of school and even when you’re unable to meet people in person, attend online events or other safe extra-curricular activities. Many jobs never get advertised, so it’s vital to network with people who can open doors for you.

“Always go and ask for help, people love to help at TRU,” said McCreath, adding that students shouldn’t be shy about booking a meeting with the dean. Students can also get involved in TRUSU clubs or contact Career and Experiential Learning to find work or volunteer opportunities.

The Learn with Leaders series, which was McCreath’s idea, has been a valuable way for students to connect one-on-one with business leaders this school year. Serial entrepreneur, author and TRU Entrepreneur-in-Residence Adam Miron will be our guest speaker at the final session this semester. Students can RSVP at the School of Business and Economics events page.

More Campus Life - Kamloops articles