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VIU magazine


Vancouver Island University’s

inside out course offers empowerment and growth

through connections and the written word, changing students and inmates in ways no one could predict

 Active Aging

 Cultural Connections

 EcoTourism

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editors’ note IT’S DEFINITELY FALL ON THE WEST COAST OF CANADA! As we write this, the leaves are turning shades of orange, red and yellow and the skies have opened up with a fall downpour. With that in mind it seems an opportune time to curl up with VIU’s new magazine and delve into the stories we’ve put together for this issue — many of them reflecting back on the out-of-the-box learning and research our students and faculty are doing. One of our favourite stories in this issue is about the Aboriginal Ecotourism Training Program (page 16), which finds Indigenous youth hiking, swimming and paddling around Vancouver Island while learning all about BC’s bountiful and booming tourism industry. We’ve also included an article that takes an in-depth look at an issue that impacts all of us — our aging population (page 12). Faculty in VIU’s Centre for Healthy Aging, as well as alumna Laura Booi, are addressing important aging issues and you’ll see how they are making aging a positive process for everyone — our elderly and their caregivers. After all — it happens to most of us!

Then there’s the inspiring story of a powerful new course that is changing the lives of criminology students and their partners in learning — inmates at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre — in dramatic and unexpected ways (page 26). Along with these features and a few others are the usual sections — the VIU Spotlight with a snapshot of what’s happening at the university, our back page Q&A (this time it’s a humourous interview with award-winning author and VIU professor Susan Juby) and our Alumni News, where you can find out what your former classmates are up to. This issue is chock-full, but with the weather the way it is, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a cup of tea and while a way a few hours with uplifting, inspiring and thought-provoking stories. We hope you enjoy them! Stay warm, Janina, Jenn and Dave

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When there’s a will, there’s a way. Support a future VIU student with a gift in your will, or a donation directed to awards and bursaries. Contact Susie Caswell with VIU Advancement at 250.740.6216 to learn how your gift can change lives. Brittany Palmer VIU grad 2016, Bachelor of Arts in Criminology VIU Youth in Care Tuition Waiver and VIU student bursary recipient


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inside viu magazine | fall/winter 2016

6 12

VIU Spotlight Well-Aged — the Vibrant Process of Active Aging

16 20 22

Adventures in Ecotourism


Inside-Out Program Transforms


Going Virtual:

32 34 39

Creating Cultural Connections

Happy Silver Anniversary, VIU BA VIU Professor Uncovers the Mystery of “Rock Snot”

Students Lives

VIU’s Mobile Simulators

Alumni News Q&A with VIU’s Susan Juby

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VIU spotlight VIU Series Engages Canadians in the Challenging Process of Reconciliation

IT BEGAN with the launch of the nationally recognized Witness Blanket art installation and will continue into 2017. VIU is honoured to be supporting Reconciliation Road: Join the Journey with VIU, a series of events and activities that support the process and meet the challenge of reconciliation between Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. When Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its report in 2015 there was a clear call to action for educational institutions to take the lead in addressing the challenge of reconciliation. For many

years VIU has been on that path — one of the University’s fundamental values is to build positive reciprocal relationships with First Nations communities and create a supportive and culturally relevant environment for Indigenous students. Reconciliation Road is one more step on this ongoing journey. The goal of the series is to engage Canadians in numerous events and conversations to focus on the challenge of reconciliation, why it’s important and how they can get involved. Some of the key events in the series included a concert with Buffy Sainte-Marie in partnership with the Port Theatre; a Special



University Relations

Sheila Warren

Vancouver Island University Volume 2 / Issue 1 / Fall/Winter 2016-2017 VIU Magazine is published in the spring and fall by VIU’s University Relations department and is distributed free of charge to alumni and friends. All material is copyright ©2016, Vancouver Island University, University Relations and may be reprinted only with written permission. Opinions expressed in the magazine do not necessarily reflect the views of Vancouver Island University. The VIU community acknowledges and thanks the Tla’Amin, Qualicum, Snaw Naw As, Snuneymuxw, Quw’utsun, Halalt, Penelakut, Lyackson, Chemainus and Lake Cowichan First Nations on whose traditional lands we teach, learn, research, live 6 VIU Magazine and share knowledge.

Meeting of Convocation to confer an Honorary Degree on Buffy Sainte-Marie; the second annual Indigenous Speaker Series in partnership with the Laurier Institution and CBC Radio One’s Ideas; and Testify which pairs lawyers and artists to create conversations around the theme of reconciliation. As well as these key events, numerous other activities are taking place, including Coast Salish Protocol Sessions and workshops on Conversations Toward Reconciliation and Healing. VIU welcomes the community to join us — a full list of activities is available on the Reconciliation Road website at

MANAGING EDITORS Janina Stajic Manager, Communications and Public Engagement

COVER DESIGN University Relations We welcome letters to the editor. Editor, VIU Magazine

David Forrester

University Relations

Manager, Advancement & Alumni Relations

900 Fifth Street, Nanaimo, BC V9R 5S5

EDITOR & WRITERS Janina Stajic, Jenn McGarrigle, Dane Gibson, Glenn Drexhage CONTRIBUTORS Michael Chouinard, John Gardiner, Sheila Warren, Leah Laurie, Tashii Paddle School, Dane Gibson, Jenn McGarrigle Canadian Publications Mail Agreement #40063601

VIU Cowichan Building Turns Five

expand its programming — the number of students attending classes there has increased by 17% over the past five years — and demonstrated sustainable practices in the community.

FIVE YEARS AGO, Vancouver Island University entered a new era of educational opportunities in the Cowichan Valley with the opening of a new, LEED Gold-certified building to replace the collection of buildings that made up the former campus. The $29-million, 4,131 m2 building provides a wide range of academic, applied, career, technical, vocational and developmental programs. The new campus allowed the University to

VIU has been providing educational services to the Cowichan Valley since 1973 and as services expanded — by the late 1990s more than 20 different locations were needed to house additional programs — the need for a new facility became very apparent. To celebrate the five-year milestone, the campus hosted public tours on Sept. 10 — the same day as the Cowichan Intercultural Society’s One World Celebration, which happened on grounds adjacent to the campus. The milestone was also marked by a fundraising campaign that raised $50,000 to equip the science lab on campus to offer more science education in the Cowichan Valley.

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Women’s Volleyball Team Takes Gold Medals at National Championship THE MARINERS WOMEN’S Volleyball team proved its mettle at nationals this year, beating the No. 1-ranked Elans de Garneau 3 — 1 in the finals to take home the hardware. In a hard-fought battle, VIU won the first two sets, then Garneau took the third before the Mariners won the decisive fourth set. That's not all the Mariners won at the 2016 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s National Championships, which took place in Charlottetown, PEI, in March. Tylar Turnbull received the Most Valuable Player award for the championship; Megan Rosenlund and Chantal Cummings were selected as First Team All-Stars and Mikayla Wagner was a Second Team All-Star.

Students put MBA Program on the Map

STUDENTS IN VANCOUVER ISLAND University’s Masters of Business Administration (MBA) Society are making a name for their program and giving University facilities a bit more coverage at the same time by hosting both the provincial and national MBA Games this year. From October 21-23, 2016, over 100 business students from across BC came to Nanaimo for the provincial MBA Games. Then in January 2017 the Society is expecting 600-800 students from across Canada for the nationals. 8 VIU Magazine

The events help boost awareness of the quality of the MBA program at VIU, and showcase both the City of Nanaimo and Vancouver Island as well, says Omar Karim, Chairman of the MBA Games and an alumnus of VIU’s MBA program. “It’s the largest gathering of MBA students across the province and across Canada and we get to host both of them!” he says. “We’re building a network of MBA students to leverage opportunities and support one another.”

Last October, the Society hosted the provincials and won, then went to nationals and garnered fourth place overall. Shortly after, the winner, McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business, offered the rights to host the national games to other institutions and VIU won the bidding process. Karim figures VIU won because the bid highlighted the West Coast experience — up until now, the MBA Games have mostly been hosted in the Toronto area. Visit for more details.

Biosphere Reserve Celebrates Second Anniversary

LIKE MANY GOOD THINGS, the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI) started small and has got bigger as word about the organization’s work spread. Two years ago, the Institute consisted of just three people: a research director, research coordinator and one work-op student. This past summer, the VIU-connected research group received enough funding to add another six full-time undergraduate students to the team.

Established in 2014 to help fulfill the research, education and outreach mandate of the UNESCO-designated Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region (MABR), MABRRI has created extensive research opportunities for VIU students, engaged the public through educational events, and raised the profile of one of the most diverse and ecologically significant places on

Vancouver Island. VIU Provost and Vice-President Academic Dr. David Witty, the current Director of the MABR, helped set up the supports for MABRRI to succeed including dedicating offices on the Nanaimo campus, facilitating partnerships in the region and championing the student research and public outreach work the group is involved with. Research projects in 2016 included wetland mapping in the Regional District of Nanaimo, monitoring the water quality of fresh water lakes in the MABR and creating a mobile app that will allow users to contribute to a collaborative mapping database containing information and photos of the region’s flora and fauna. So what does a student-focused, community-based participatory research organization do to celebrate this success? They throw a party of course! Researchers served up burgers, wild salmon, cake and lemonade at the “Biosphere BBQ,” held at Rathtrevor Beach. Visit for more details.

Community Steps Up to Revitalize Malaspina Theatre MALASPINA THEATRE is ready for the next act. For generations the theatre has hosted thousands of community and student performances, rehearsals and events. But all those events generated wear and tear on the much-loved theatre. So, earlier this year, VIU launched the Encore campaign to raise the money needed to replace theatre seats, upgrade technology and freshen up the lobby area. The community responded and theatre seats now bear the names of almost 200 donors eager to have the mid-size theatre continue its important role in the community. A standing ovation to all Encore supporters! Malaspina Theatre has an exciting lineup of events planned for the 2016-17 season. Visit for more details and to sign up to receive event news and updates. 2 0 1 6 FA L L / W I N T E R


Students Called to King Arthur Court

A YEAR-LONG VIU Centre for Community Outreach and Care project will see Child and Youth Care (CYC) students working on quality of life issues raised by residents of a Harewood housing complex. VIU’s Centre for Community Outreach and Care is focused on

providing practical child and familyfocused learning experiences for CYC students by working with the Harewood community, where the University’s main campus is located. The project under development between the Centre and King Arthur Court will give four CYC students

unique and challenging experiential learning experiences – the kind they will be able to draw on when they transition to a career in the community wellness field. “From our perspective it was simple. King Arthur Court is VIU’s neighbour and we help our neighbours,” said Ashleigh Martinflatt, Coordinator of the Centre for Community Outreach and Care. “With the help of our community partners and our Child and Youth Care students, we are going to do what we can to bring the suggestions that came from the people who live there to life and at the same time provide exceptional practicum work experiences for our students.”

Portal Magazine Celebrates 25 Years FOR A QUARTER OF A CENTURY, Portal magazine has celebrated the short fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, art, photography, scripts and interviews produced by Vancouver Island University students. To celebrate this momentous milestone, the fourth-year creative writing class charged with producing it each year added silver to the print version of the magazine, giving the glossy publication an extra shimmer; uploaded digital versions from the past 25 years; and threw a launch party at the Dorchester Hotel in April. The party featured a talk by renowned editor/author Douglas Gibson (who has worked with highprofile authors such as Alice Munro and Michael Ondaatje), contributor readings, a slideshow and music.

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First published in 1991 as a blackand-white, 64-page pamphlet, Portal is now a 96-page, full-colour literary magazine that is available in print and online. It is student-funded and published nationally. “I would say it’s a calling card for the University, and a fairly polished one at that – it does justice to the work of students and everyone who works on it,” says Joy Gugeler, Professor of Creative Writing and Journalism. The 2016 edition features interviews with award-winning poet George Elliott Clarke and Douglas Gibson; graduate testimonials; a feature on how the BC magazine industry has changed over the past quarter century; book reviews and 25 works of fiction, poetry and non-fiction to engage, excite and

LORIN MEDLEY maps George Elliott Clarke’s “Lit’ry but Bumptious” Africadia. DANIELLE CUNNINGHAM follows Douglas Gibson’s guide to editing CanLit. AARON MORIN turns the page on 25 years of bc literary magazines. COURTNEY POOLE builds buzz for “The Apiarist’s Daughter.” STEPHANIE CRAWFORD plunges beneath winter’s “Salt-white Sea.”

inspire you. Visit to view the issue.

Queen Elizabeth Scholars Study in Belize

NINE VANCOUVER Island University students — three undergraduates and six master’s degree students — got the chance to research sustainable economic activities in Belize this year as part of the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships program. The program aims to activate a dynamic community of young global

leaders across Canada and the Commonwealth to create lasting impacts both at home and abroad through cross-cultural exchanges encompassing international education, discovery and inquiry, and professional experiences. Participants join a global community of scholars to share knowledge, exchange ideas and collaborate on meaningful initiatives.

Over the next two years, 31 of these scholarships will be awarded to VIU and Belizean scholars to participate in the Building Resilience in Coastal Communities project. Through this project scholars will undertake research, project work and internships in collaboration with community partners in Belize and on Vancouver Island. The aim is to support each community’s capacity to foster sustainable economic activities, manage water, produce sustainable aquatic and agricultural foods, manage protected areas and parks, and respond to climate change. The first round of scholars was announced in February, which included nine VIU students going to Belize and five Belizean QE graduates, who arrived at VIU in September to start their graduate studies.

New Partnership at VIU Powell River Campus Takes Off A UNIQUE, two-year program at VIU Powell River is set to take flight in February 2017, thanks to a partnership between VIU, Eton College Canada and School District 47. This innovative partnership will allow students to earn both Eton College’s Travel, Tourism & Flight Attendant Preparation Diploma and VIU’s Tourism Studies Diploma. During the first year of this new program, students will take a seven-week language and cultural immersion course through VIU before entering Eton’s Travel, Tourism & Flight Attendant program. In year two,

students complete VIU’s Tourism Studies Diploma, which will be delivered by VIU Powell River. School District 47 will administer

the tuition for both programs and manage the homestay program for students. “The partnership enables VIU Powell River to offer a double diploma, which we haven’t been able to do before,” says Dr. Greg Cran, Campus Administrator. “Our goal is to make the Powell River region an educational destination, as Powell River has a wealth of essentially untapped physical and cultural assets that gives it strong potential as an educational destination.” Visit for more information.

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the vibrant process of

active aging BY GLENN DREXHAGE

VIU is busy establishing itself as a hub of excellence in healthy, active aging. From a new graduate diploma to dementia research and advocacy work carried out by an alum, VIU’s efforts and impact are helping address the many issues presented by a society that’s getting older.

LOUISE STERN IS ON A MISSION. “We have to stop looking at older people as a homogenous group that has the same needs, desires, resources, services and experiences,” says Stern, a social work professor at Vancouver Island University (VIU). “They’re all going to be completely different. And yet when we think of older people, we still tend to think of them as sweet little ladies, drinking tea.” 12 VIU Magazine

It’s never easy to stifle stereotypes. But aging impacts us all – and a nuanced approach that addresses the rich diversity of older populations, along with the care and services they require, is crucial.

_________________________ Another noteworthy feature is an emphasis on active aging — that is, looking at aging as a vibrant process rather than a pathology.

_________________________ Enter VIU, which is busy establishing itself as a hub of excellence in healthy, active aging. From a new graduate diploma to dementia research and advocacy work carried out by an alum, VIU’s efforts and impact are helping address the many issues presented by a society that’s getting older.

On the Rise In mid-Vancouver Island’s Qualicum region, for example, the population aged 75 and older is expected to surge by 104 per cent between 2015 and 2035, according to BC Stats. That compares with an expected increase in the overall population of about 20 per cent. Aging is hardly isolated to the Island. Indeed, it’s projected that there will be more seniors than children in Canada by 2017 – a milestone, according to Statistics Canada. Meanwhile, populations are aging in “nearly all countries,” and the number of those aged 60 and over is expected to more than double by 2050, states the World Population Ageing 2013 report from the United Nations. This trend also presents some daunting health care challenges, such as a predicted rise in cases of dementia – a complex disease that takes many forms, the most prevalent being Alzheimer’s.

In 2011, there were 747,000 Canadians living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias – amounting to almost 15 per cent of Canadians 65 and older, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada. If nothing changes, that figure will grow to 1.4 million by 2031. The associated price tag is staggering. As of 2016, health-system and out-of-pocket caregiver costs in Canada are estimated to be $10.4 billion annually, according to the Alzheimer’s Society. That’s expected to reach $16.6 billion by 2031 – a 60 per cent increase.

Interdisciplinary Approach VIU’s Graduate Diploma in Gerontology, a 16-month offering that begins in January 2017, will train students to work with today’s seniors to address their varying needs: physical, social, cognitive and spiritual. “We live in an area with many older adults,” says Stern, who heads up the new program. “I think VIU should be a centre of practice, research and community connections for professionals working with older adults – and for older adults themselves.” Stern highlights the diploma’s interdisciplinary approach as one of its many unique aspects. While the program will be led by the Faculty of Health and Human Services, it combines VIU expertise from various

areas, ranging from nursing to tourism and recreation management. The goal is to train students in many different roles to support a wide range of needs for an aging population. This could include traditional positions, such as nurses and physical/ occupational therapists, along with other specialists such as dietitians and social workers. Business people, too, can benefit. “If you’re providing services on the Island, you’re going to be providing services to older people,” says Stern. “So how do you best serve older people, and have an understanding of their experiences – what they need and what they want?”

Active and Inclusive Another noteworthy feature is an emphasis on active aging – that is, looking at aging as a vibrant process rather than a pathology, and ensuring that many different viewpoints and perspectives are included in the conversation.

_________________________ The unique needs of other groups – such as LGBTQ seniors – will also be explored.

_________________________ “People over the age of 60, like the rest of Canadians, are a pretty diverse group,” says Stern. “There are multiple identities and cultural groups that we want to bring to light.” For example, Aboriginal Elders associated with VIU will contribute their perspectives and knowledge to the program. “Many Elders have dealt with trauma in their past – they may be survivors of residential schools,” says Stern. “So their points of view and lived experiences are something that needs 2 0 1 6 FA L L / W I N T E R

Louise Stern, social work professor at Vancouver Island University (VIU).


to be considered when understanding how best to support them.” The unique needs of other groups – such as LGBTQ seniors – will also be explored. “I think that’s fantastic,” says Dr. Marilyn Malone, Island Health’s Medical Director for Seniors Health. “That’s a very inclusive and modern approach to what the world needs now. With the aging demographic worldwide, it behooves us as a society to pay attention to understanding older people who are our neighbours but may be different from us.”

Dedicated to Dementia Research Laura Booi, a VIU graduate who has dedicated her academic career to dementia research, echoes this view. “We need many more people who are doing gerontology research and are educated about these issues,” she says.

_________________________ “That’s a very inclusive and modern approach to what the world needs now. With the aging demographic worldwide, it behooves us as a society to pay attention to understanding older people who are our neighbours but may be different from us.”

_________________________ When Booi began at VIU, she was interested in studying schizophrenia; she switched her focus to dementia after living with her grandfather in Edmonton for a summer. “I thought it was interesting how sometimes he was treated differently than I was,” she says. Her grandfather had significant hearing loss – a condition that can lead onlookers to mistake the condition

as dementia. Booi recalls an instance when her grandfather was ignored by employees at a bank, aside from a teller who knew him. “This took me aback, because how could my favourite human be invisible?” she says.

Young Leaders in Dementia, a network for young professionals working to find creative solutions to support the millions of people who will be directly or indirectly influenced by this disease in coming decades.

Booi graduated with a BA in Psychology from VIU in 2009; since then, she’s gained her MA in Health Psychology from the University of British Columbia and is now completing her PhD in Gerontology from Simon Fraser University. Her dissertation research is focused on improving long-term, institutional care for persons with dementia, and bettering the working conditions of their caregivers.

Closer to home, Booi has

In part, this includes drawing attention to the fact that aging and dementia are women’s issues (women are two to three times more likely to develop dementia). “That’s why it’s so important that more money goes into research,” Booi says. “There’s not enough research looking at why women get dementia more often than men.” In addition, she aims to work with care aides to create supportive employer guidelines (the majority of nursing home employees are also women). When she graduates with her doctorate, hopefully by spring 2017, she’ll be one of the only people in Western Canada to hold such a title. Her efforts have led her to serve as a co-founding member of the World

_________________________ helped spearhead an initiative to make her hometown of Qualicum Beach a leading “dementia-friendly community” in Canada – one that acknowledges the issue and addresses it in meaningful ways.

_________________________ Closer to home, Booi has helped spearhead an initiative to make her hometown of Qualicum Beach a leading “dementia-friendly community” in Canada – one that acknowledges the issue and addresses it in meaningful ways. In January 2016, the town council passed a motion to pursue this goal, and Booi is working closely with the town in an advisory role. Moving forward, steps include educating search and rescue workers and other frontline responders (such as police and paramedics) about dementia and how to deal with it. Another effort involves developing a “dementia-friendly community” label to be featured in storefronts, signalling that local businesses are educated about the issue and aware of the population’s needs. While Booi notes that there’s no “one size fits all” model for creating such communities, she stresses the importance of being open-minded and understanding. As she says, “Education and awareness reduce the stigma and fear surrounding dementia.”


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VIU graduate, Laura Booi

music and memory Comforting, calming and boosting interaction for seniors with dementia


this fall at the University of Alberta – was joined by

Breault has brought the healing power of music to local

a handful of other VIU students studying nursing, social

seniors living with dementia.

work and physical education.

Last year, Breault – a VIU psychology graduate – became

At Nanaimo Travellers Lodge, she witnessed the project’s

involved with an initiative called Music and Memory.

impact on seniors. “The music really opened them up –

This project’s beginnings were informed by a non-profit

it became a path to social interaction again,” she says.

of the same name ( It launched in

“It gave me hope that there is something that can help

2013, thanks to the efforts of VIU psychology professor

ease some of the symptoms of dementia.”

Rachel Cooper and some of her students.

Breault and her colleagues volunteered for the program

Music and Memory involves creating playlists of favourite

for a semester. Music and Memory has continued at

songs for local care home residents, who listen to the

Nanaimo Travellers Lodge since then, and the facility

music on iPods. The songs can trigger poignant and

is now looking for more volunteers.

comforting memories, calm listeners and boost interaction.

“It’s such a simple activity, but it clearly benefits the

Breault became involved with Music and Memory because of her grandmother, who lived with Alzheimer’s and passed away a few years ago. In the spring of 2015, she helped introduce the project to the Nanaimo Travellers Lodge, an elder care facility. Breault – who began her Master’s in Occupational Therapy

residents – they all love it,” says Carolina Ponsford, the Lodge’s Program Manager. For more information, visit and go to the “How you can help” tab. VIU’s Rachel Cooper can be contacted at


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Vancouver Island University partners with Heiltsuk Tribal Council and North Island College to offer a unique, innovative, community-based Aboriginal Ecotourism Training Program that aims to improve learning outcomes for First Nations students.

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SOMETIMES, LEARNING takes place better outside. Take Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Aboriginal Ecotourism Training Program, a joint venture between VIU, North Island College and Heiltsuk Tribal Council in Bella Bella, for example. This innovative program provides relevant, hands-on training to First Nations students in communities that are successfully operating Aboriginal

_________________________ “By combining Elders teachings and cultural learnings with technical training we have a better chance of empowering our Indigenous students.”

_________________________ ecotourism businesses already. Once finished, students have experienced ecotourism for themselves and are more prepared to start these types of businesses in their own communities, supporting not only themselves and their families, but also improving the economic outlook of their First Nation. The program, funded by a Ministry of Advanced Education grant, is delivered in a unique, communitybased format where students travel to different regions participating in ecotourism activities once a month for seven months. This gives them the opportunity to learn about the industry and experience a variety of different ecotourism activities that these communities are involved in, giving students some insight into what might work in their own communities. They also complete a two-month internship with a tourism-focused business. The model allows students to return to their home communities in between sessions, which are about 6-10 days in duration. While “in class,” students visit with local Elders as well as tourism operators.

This is the unique part of the program, as it bridges the technical skills aspects with local knowledge and Indigenous world views in what Frank Brown, the program’s Indigenous Heritage and Ecotourism Advisor from Heiltsuk Nation, calls “a powerful formula for a unique and transformative experience.” “By combining Elders teachings and cultural learnings with technical training we have a better chance of empowering our Indigenous students,” says Pam Botterill, VIU’s Aboriginal Outreach Coordinator. “Through this approach, our students are able to see how the skills they are learning fit within their culture and within their Nation. They see that these skills are relevant to their Indigenous ways of knowing and being and this has encouraged students to blossom and become much more engaged in their learning. I don’t think anyone else is doing anything like it.” Many of the students are from remote areas and have not had a chance to travel or experience ecotourism businesses before, says Botterill. “We take them to areas where tourism is happening,” she says. “Many of these students would never have had an opportunity to do these types of activities before, and it’s hard to open an ecotourism business if you’ve never experienced it. It’s critical that the learning is taking place in the places ecotourism is happening — it would not have the impact or success rate it does if these students came to campus to learn in a traditional classroom setting.” For Kathy Brown, the program’s Community Coordinator from Heiltsuk Nation, the program affirms students’ life experiences as well as introduces them to university-level education. The program targets students from undereducated, underemployed

backgrounds, ensuring students who traditionally have not accessed any form of post-secondary education are reached. “It introduces university courses to young people who always dreamt of going to university,” she says. “There’s a disconnect between First Nations communities and post-secondary institutions — many Indigenous students don’t feel welcome or comfortable in that environment as they don’t see themselves or their culture reflected there. The link between

_________________________ “Many of these students would never have had an opportunity to do these types of activities before, and it’s hard to open an ecotourism business if you’ve never experienced it.”

_________________________ the two for this program is myself and Frank, and how we collaborate on the field delivery of the program with approaches that inspire and support Indigenous learners.” Dr. Sharon Hobenshield, VIU’s Director of Aboriginal Education, said the program’s success is based on its 2 0 1 6 FA L L / W I N T E R


unique partnerships, where community and the University share their traditions and teachings collectively. “It is this reciprocal exchange that makes the program work — the students learn from VIU; and VIU learns from the students and the community as to what type of approaches to learning will best support the students and in turn their Nation,” she says. “Everyone is learning and gaining knowledge and experience. This is what reconciliation looks like.” Students complete 13 courses throughout the nine-month program, which include offerings from both VIU and NIC as well as industry credentials, including First Host,

of Vancouver Island in a way she never had the chance to before. More importantly, the program is driving Adams-Charleson, the community health representative for Hesquiaht First Nation, which is near Tofino on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, to change her life and the lives of those around her. By experiencing the natural beauty of other parts of the Island and trying out various ecotourism activities, she has a renewed sense of pride in what her own community has to offer and a better understanding of the importance of recreational activities in supporting healthy lifestyles. This new understanding spurred her to seek grant money to buy standup paddleboards and a kayak for her community, and she also organized some wellness days and grief and loss workshops. “This program has pushed me to do more things for my community, my people and my family,” says Adams-Charleson. Her goal is to one day open her own tourism business with her husband in Hot Springs Cove, offering water taxi and whale watching services.

Wilderness First Aid, Restricted Operator for VHF Radio Operations and Paddle Canada certifications. Upon completion, students receive VIU’s Certificate in Adventure Tourism and Recreation. They will also have completed about 65 per cent of the requirements for NIC’s Adventure Guiding Certificate.

The Student Experience From a six-hour kayak trip to an island near Tofino, to a stroll along the Alert Bay waterfront, to enjoying a spectacular sunset on a Quadra Island beach, Jeannine Adams-Charleson is experiencing the natural beauty 18 VIU Magazine

“To access funds, we’ll need experience and education,” says Adams-Charleson. “The program will help me with both.” Evangeline Clifton finds the program effective because they talk about different aspects of the tourism industry in a classroom setting, then experience it for themselves and talk to those running these types of businesses. Clifton, from Heiltsuk Nation, relocated to Nanaimo two years ago to take advantage of increased opportunities for her children. Her experiences in the ecotourism program have helped her see that further education is a viable option for her. After her summer

internship with Tourism Nanaimo, Clifton started a Bachelor of Tourism Management degree in September, with the end goal of helping to further progress the tourism industry in Bella Bella. “I see the economic benefits of ecotourism and where [Heiltsuk Nation] is located on the coast, it’s just an amazing place for it,”

_________________________ “This program has pushed me to do more things for my community, my people and my family.”

_________________________ she says. “We need jobs up there and while there is a tourism industry there already, it just isn’t developed in a way that contributes to the community as a whole.”

Ecotourism Outlook Dave Pinel, Ccoordinator of the Adventure Guiding Programs in NIC’s Tourism and Hospitality Department, and co-owner of West Coast Expeditions, an Aboriginal ecotourism business, says there are plenty of job opportunities for program graduates. “There’s a growing desire to see tourism develop and a strong demand for Aboriginal tourism products in particular,” he says. “There’s more demand for Aboriginal people to work in the sector than there are people ready for that work.” Rob Ferguson, a VIU Recreation and Tourism instructor, believes the program will successfully prepare students for work in this field because it immerses them in both the cultural and technical skills aspects of the industry, and helps them build connections. “The experience is from breakfast to bedtime,” he says. “Every conversation is meaningful; every interaction

is relevant. And the fact that they’re spending all this time together means we’re creating a network of emerging professionals because they’re making connections with each other through this experience.”

The provincial government has provided funding for two deliveries of the certificate program. VIU and partners are exploring ways to continue the program, and perhaps take it elsewhere in the province, says Botterill. “It’s clear this model

is having a deep and real impact on these students which will in turn impact their ability to create economic opportunities for themselves and their communities.” For more details, contact Botterill at


Roots of the Aboriginal Ecotourism Training Program The Aboriginal Ecotourism Training Program was made possible by a history of partnerships and collaborations between Vancouver Island University (VIU), Heiltsuk Tribal Council (HTC) and North Island College (NIC).

January 2010

VIU signs a partnership agreement with NIC that includes increased collaborative programming, seamless transfer arrangements and greater opportunities for collaborative research initiatives and faculty professional development.

August 2011 A protocol agreement is signed between VIU and HTC. Spring 2013 HTC asks VIU to run a community-based Event Management Certificate program in

their community. The First Nation was preparing to receive more than 5,000 Tribal Journey visitors to the small community of Bella Bella.

Summer 2014 VIU participates in the Tribal Journey 2014 event, paddling from Nanaimo to Bella Bella. Fall 2014 Funding is made available for a pilot version of the Aboriginal Ecotourism Training Program,

which the three partners ran together in 2014.

March 2015 The Ministry of Advanced Education announces funding for community-based programs for Aboriginal students. The three partners teamed up again to propose the full certificate program.

January 2016 The first 14 students from 10 different First Nations on the Island and West Coast start the program. They travelled to seven communities – Quadra Island, Nanaimo, Courtenay, Alert Bay, Tofino/Ucluelet, Cowichan and Powell River.

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Twenty-five years of broadening minds: The Bachelor of Arts at VIU BY GLENN DREXHAGE

Happy Silver Anniversary, VIU BA! Twenty-five years ago, Malaspina College offered its first Bachelor of Arts program (Liberal Studies) in partnership with the University of Victoria. In 1996, the institution — which had then become Malaspina University-College — began offering homegrown BA degrees in a range of subjects. Today, as Vancouver Island University, we celebrate a quarter century of our arts degrees by profiling four of the University’s graduates. Read on to find out how BAs changed their livelihoods — and their lives.

Sean Broderick BA (with Distinction), 1999, Major — Liberal Studies to a Master’s of Educational Leadership with Distinction (the latter was accompanied by a Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal, given for the highest grade point average at VIU’s graduate level).

Sean Broderick is a VIU vet. The 46-year-old education professional first attended the school in 1996, when it was called Malaspina University-College. Over the years, he’s earned several credentials from the institution, ranging from a diploma 20 VIU Magazine

Broderick, a Nanaimo resident who has been based in Nunavut since 2009 (he’s currently working there as a high school program consultant), credits his wide-ranging BA as having a big impact on his career. “From a professional perspective, it’s a huge benefit as an educator to have a broad understanding across the disciplines,” he says. “It expands your instructional capacity and informs your world

view, which benefits your students and yourself.” For example, he proudly notes that his Liberal Studies teachers included scientists, a philosopher and a psychologist. “It opens your eyes and your mind to multiple perspectives and opinions,” he says. A true lifelong learner, Broderick is currently enrolled in VIU’s Online Teaching and Learning Graduate Diploma program. “I’m very proud of the education I’ve received, and I’m very proud to be an alumni of the institution,” he says. “I’m just waiting for them to offer a doctorate.”


Paula Amos BA, 2000, Major — First Nations Studies Every day, Paula Amos calls on the skills that she learned while earning her Bachelor of Arts degree at Vancouver Island University (VIU). As Director, Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives for Aboriginal Tourism BC (AtBC), Amos looks to bridge opportunities between the Aboriginal and mainstream tourism industries. Her bachelor’s degree, which focused on First Nations Studies and Business Management, has been pivotal to her professional success. “It’s proven to be an excellent combination,” says Amos. “My degree has given me the analytic and leadership skills

needed to foster strong relationships with communities and government agencies. It also taught me the art of collaboration, capacity building and teamwork.” The talents she acquired have also helped her lead projects. “At VIU, I learned how to take an idea and create the vision of how that idea can be achieved,” Amos says. Her degree was instrumental in terms of landing a dream job with ATBC 12 years ago. “The continued development of the Aboriginal cultural tourism industry presents many economic opportunities, and it’s

also a key driver of cultural pride,” says Amos, who was born and raised in Vancouver Island’s Nuu-chah-nulth territory. “It’s wonderful to use my education, background, knowledge and experience to give back to First Nations communities in a meaningful way. I’d definitely recommend a VIU degree for anyone seeking a high-quality and relevant BA experience.”


Olivia Mongard Lyle BA (with Distinction), 2004 Double Major — Liberal Studies, Anthropology

Some motherly intuition led Olivia Mongard Lyle to VIU — and ultimately, to her BA. “My mom encouraged me to attend and take some first-year anthropology and Liberal Studies classes,” she recalls. “She could see right from the get-go that this would

be a good fit for me – and she was right!”

the Cook Islands, where the group studied Polynesian culture.

A couple of life-changing excursions also encouraged Mongard Lyle, 34, to pursue her subjects of choice as a double major.

Mongard Lyle went on to receive her master’s degree from Royal Roads, and now works as a Communications Specialist at Coastal Community Credit Union.

In 2002, she spent five glorious weeks in Florence, Italy with about 20 students from Malaspina UniversityCollege as part of a Liberal Studies Abroad field school. Their focus, fittingly, was the Renaissance. Two years later, she embarked on a “valuable, memorable and amazing” field school trip with anthropology classmates to New Zealand and

Daniela Zuzunaga BA (with Distinction), 2015, Major — Sociology Sometimes, things just work out. When Daniela Zuzunaga first came to VIU in 2007 as an international student, she studied biology. But the subject wasn’t a good fit — and after taking some time off, Zuzunaga decided to take some sociology courses, inspired in part by her volunteer experience at the non-profit Haven Society and elsewhere. “My fate was sealed,” says Zuzunaga, whose hometown is Arequipa, Peru. “I like learning how society works. Discrimination, oppression, poverty

— sociology gave me the opportunity to explore my interests in a legitimate way.” Zuzunaga, 26, earned her BA in 2015. She’s now pursuing her Master’s in Sociology at the University of Victoria, and she’s also the recent recipient of a scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Highlights from her time at VIU include a 17-day field school trip

As a VIU Ask an Alum Ambassador, she’s keen to highlight the broad and transferable benefits that a BA provides. “The specialties that you learn are secondary to the core skills that apply across the board,” she says. “Those are skills that every employer is looking for.”


to London, England with VIU classmates in Sociology and English. Another noteworthy experience involved conducting research on an after-school project based in the Nanaimo community of Harewood. Today, she lauds the value of a BA. “I believe that education is a good choice for anyone,” says Zuzunaga. “And VIU allows you to try things out without being intimidating. You can talk to your prof about something that you’re having a hard time understanding. There are lots of options to explore.”


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rock snot BY DANE GIBSON


on the topic. It wasn’t until 1993 that he came face-to-face with the mystery that would define his professional life. Seemingly out of nowhere mucus-like, thick gelatinous mats of yellowish -brown algae were found clinging to rocks on the river bottoms of some of

Vancouver Island’s most pristine rivers. Sometimes stretching for kilometers, it wasn’t long before the algae known as Didymo, short for Didymosphenia geminata, got the moniker it would be more commonly identified by – “rock snot”.

“I was working in Saskatchewan in 1993 when a friend of mine called from Nanaimo and told me huge algae blooms were happening in some very remote rivers on Vancouver Island. He asked if I could come out to take a look because they had never seen anything like it,” said Bothwell. The first recorded bloom occurred in the Heber River near the Vancouver Island community of Gold River. With the support of Environment Canada and the BC Government’s Ministry of Environment, Bothwell arrived and found himself conducting extensive field/laboratory testing in several Vancouver Island rivers as well as exploring historical data records to try and figure out what was causing the phenomenon. “I studied it for a couple of years and realized I couldn’t figure it out. Here I was a world authority on river algal blooms and my final report basically concluded something is happening

and I don’t know what it is,” said Bothwell. “I left the field of periphyton ecology and many years passed without rock snot crossing my mind. It was a problem I couldn’t solve so I had to forget about it.”

_________________________ “Blooms were occurring all over the world now, but why did this start happening on Vancouver Island over ten years previously? What was so special about this place?”

_________________________ Bothwell says the algae blooms are a concern to governments because the blooms have an impact on the environment including river habitats, water flows and fish spawning grounds. The blooms are also despised by anglers who spend a lot of money to fish unspoiled, remote river systems. In 2004 Bothwell received a call from a colleague in New Zealand. They were

dealing with an infestation of Didymo and needed help. “My friend from New Zealand is on the phone saying ‘Rock snot is taking over several rivers on the South Island of New Zealand, it’s a disaster — you have to help us!” said Bothwell. “As he’s talking I’m thinking to myself, ‘Oh boy, here we go again.’” Bothwell spent two years working with a team of biologists in New Zealand to develop a strategy for the New Zealand government to deal with Didymo. Their report concluded, among other things, that Didymo, previously unknown in New Zealand, was likely introduced to the country on felt-soled waders used by anglers who came from all over the world to fish. Because of their work the New Zealand government banned the use of felt-soled waders in the country. But even after finishing his work in New Zealand, reports of rock snot blooms taking over rivers around the world continued to increase.

Seemingly out of nowhere mucus-like thick gelatinous mats of yellowish-brown algae were found clinging to rocks on the river bottoms.

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Bothwell spoke about the issue in places as diverse as Chile and New Hampshire, yet he knew ground zero was Vancouver Island and it got him thinking that something other than movement by fishermen had to be happening. “I started questioning if introduction by anglers could be causing all of this and decided it couldn’t be. I began thinking of the Heber River as the smoking gun,” said Bothwell. “Blooms were occurring all over the world now, but why did this start happening on Vancouver Island over ten years previously? What was so special about this place?” He refocused his attention and with the help of VIU Department of Chemistry student researchers, they began looking for anything unusual that might have affected the Heber around the time of the first recorded blooms. They combed through fishing license data and historical records, but it was reports from the BC Ministry of Forests that eventually led to solving the mystery. Donovan Lynch is currently the Science Operations Manager for the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo but 15 years ago, the VIU chemistry graduate started work with Bothwell on a number of projects, including rock snot. Bothwell offered him a job when he was still a VIU student and it led to him working at Environment Canada for eight years. “I was keenly interested in the rock snot story because I was an avid fly fisher and did a lot of hiking into remote places. During that time we

were finding rock snot in areas you just wouldn’t expect,” said Lynch. “We had sent out papers saying it appeared to be transferred by hip waders and yet we kept seeing it in rivers that weren’t being fished. A lot of the work we did back then led Max onto a different path.” The forestry reports they uncovered showed that in the 1980s the BC government started one of the largest forest fertilization program in the world. They used helicopters to drop more than 1 million kilograms of urea fertilizer on forests to increase tree production. The data showed some of the first drops occurred in the Heber River watershed. Bothwell now had a solid event he could focus on. After running experiments and looking at water quality data from that time Bothwell focused in on phosphorus levels in the Heber and was shocked by what he found. Instead of phosphorus levels rising in the rivers due to the fertilizer drops, it actually dropped to next to nothing. “When they started fertilizing the forests it stimulated not just tree growth but all soil microbial activity. The forest floor is a huge network of microorganisms and it was taking up the phosphorus that would usually run into the river,” said Bothwell. “We could finally show that the aggressive growth of rock snot is caused by ultra-low phosphorus conditions, something that was very hard to accept. We all knew that adding more nutrients, especially

phosphorus, to a river system always equals more algae and here I came face-to-face with the exact opposite of that. It was unbelievable.” Bothwell’s discovery brought a new understanding of how and why rock snot behaves the way it does. It’s now suspected that the microscopic algae naturally resides in all rivers and climate change-associated environmental changes trigger the exponential growth that causes the blooms. Bothwell’s hypothesis is that climatic warming of landscapes increases the level of biological activity on land and decreases the amount of phosphorus entering rivers, causing conditions similar to the effect of adding urea fertilizer. Add to that increasing levels of nitrogen from fossil fuel use and you get the perfect conditions for the blooms to occur.

_________________________ “To me, it feels like I solved my professional life’s greatest mystery. Discovering the connection between low phosphorus and rock snot was an amazing ‘aha’ moment,”

_________________________ Dr. Bothwell is retiring this year having rewritten the scientific understanding of the causes of Didymo blooms, but he won’t be settling in to a life of leisure. He will maintain an office at VIU’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Department to support research projects, conduct lectures and provide assistance to VIU’s International Centre for Sturgeon Studies. “To me, it feels like I solved my professional life’s greatest mystery. Discovering the connection between low phosphorus and rock snot was an amazing ‘aha’ moment,” said Bothwell. “Now I look forward to working with VIU students who will be going off to find their own great mysteries to solve.”


24 VIU Magazine

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inside Vancouver Island University’s


26 VIU Magazine


course transforms the lives of VIU students and inmates

Many people on the outside may believe an inmate’s story is one of violence, addiction, even hate. This profoundly negative story is one inmates have heard countless times, even seen reflected in the eyes of those they talk to about the fact they ‘did time’. But, that story doesn’t include other chapters that tell about an inmate’s goals, aspirations or triumphs. It doesn’t include the story of the profound love they have for their families. Or how sometimes it’s just one bad decision, one wrong choice, that led them down a path that ended in jail time. It also doesn’t include the story of their hope for redemption and of finding a new path — or how a powerful course being taught by two Vancouver Island University Criminology professors is transforming that hope into reality.*

That course is called Inside-Out and it’s based on a simple concept — pair inmates with university students and challenge them to learn about marginalization, stigmatization and diversity within a safe, supportive environment. Founded almost 20 years ago at the Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the program came to Canada in 2011. When VIU Criminology professor Joanne Falvai heard about it at a conference she knew right away it was something she wanted to do at VIU. “In our third and fourth year Criminology courses, we take the students to the Nanaimo Correctional Centre for three hours. Even that minimal amount of time has an impact on them. I couldn’t imagine what would happen if we paired our Criminology students with inmates for an entire semester.” With support from VIU and a generous grant from the Vancouver Foundation,

Falvai and her fellow Criminology professor, Elizabeth McLin, went through the complex process of creating an Inside-Out program for VIU students and the inmates at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre (NCC). Thanks to their efforts on January 4, 2016, 30 nervous students, 15 from the ‘inside’ and 15 from the ‘outside’ — gathered together in a large room at NCC.

A New Story Fast forward a month and picture a 30-something man dressed in a red prison jumpsuit. He’s at NCC after a decision took him down the path of addiction, which took him down the path of getting in trouble with the law, which led into a jail cell. That’s part of the story; here’s the other part. This inmate is deep in thought, engrossed in a book called North of Normal, by Cea Sunrise Person. While he’s reading, he’s jotting down

notes in a small book, so he’s prepared for the deep discussion he’s going to have in a few hours with his classmates. Another part of this story? He’s just made the decision to forgo his parole — to stay in jail — so he can complete this course that is literally changing his life — empowering him to take a very different path than the one that led him to NCC. This student is Ian Derosier. He’s one of the thirty students who took part in VIU’s pilot Inside-0ut program. The fact that he decided to forgo his parole is the most powerful endorsement of the program’s potential to radically change people’s lives. The most transformative part of the program for Ian was reading texts about people who were just like him – who hadn’t had a good start in life, who didn’t have support, good role models, a positive educational experience, and who had made 2 0 1 6 FA L L / W I N T E R


“Many of the books we read were about stigmatization and exclusion. I went through my own form of being excluded in society because of the choices I was making. Reading these text and discussing them with the other students made me realize I too could change what is going to happen to me.”

_________________________ “There is a crisis going on – you hear so many heart-breaking stories of police brutality which I think stems from lack of empathy. A course like this would go a long way in addressing this.”

_________________________ Ian was released on parole in June 2017 and is now focused on changing his story to one that will take him back to Nanaimo but this time to VIU as a student. His hope is he can use his education and life experiences to support others to make positive change in their own lives. “I’m determined to pursue a degree in social work. Because of this course I know I can do it. I’ve seen others who didn’t have that support and who are now back in jail.”

Shifting Perspectives The course has not only changed the lives of Inside students like Ian. Outside students are also being profoundly impacted. Some have become champions for the program; others are re-evaluating career paths which before seemed like a sure thing. 28 VIU Magazine

One of those Outside students is Rebecca Ehlert who is going into her fourth year of the Bachelor of Arts program with a Major in Criminology. Until she was chosen to be an Inside-Out student, she had planned to eventually pursue a law degree. “There are no words that can describe what happened to us while in this program,” she says.

This was huge and I saw it as reform in the simplest and most powerful terms.” Falvai agrees, sharing a story about one of the Inside students being handed back his first paper which received an A-. “He got choked up,” recalls Falvai. “He got very emotional because it was the first time in his life he had not had a negative experience at school.

One of the most impactful parts was realizing that there is very little difference between her and the Inside students. “I have a relatively chequered past. I’ve done stuff that exactly mirrored what many of the inmates had done – stuff that had put them into those red jumpsuits and given them a criminal record. I realized then that there was literally the thinnest of lines between the path I was on and what they were going through. This realization took my breath away – it was almost terrifying.” It also made Rebecca reconsider her own story. Law school no longer seemed like the obvious next move. As the class progressed and she could see the impact it was having on the inmates and on her fellow VIU students, she began to reconsider her options. “I want to be part of something like this course — something that gives people hope and the idea that their lives could be so much more than what they are,” she says. “There are always going to be people who are tough on crime and the story of this class isn’t going to change their minds. But it’s changed mine. To deter people from crime you have to give them a purpose. I saw how this course gave that to the Inside students — they achieved something they never thought possible and because of this realized they had the power to change their life story.


decisions that led them to some dark places. The life-changing part? Reading about how despite all the very real challenges they faced, they were able to reach deep inside of themselves and make change.

Suddenly someone was telling him he wasn’t an inmate, but instead he was just as capable, intelligent, and knowledgeable as the university students sitting beside him. It was the first time in a long time someone had demonstrated his value went far deeper than his surface story. It was an incredible moment.” McLin believes one of the most profound parts of the program is that it gives the Inside students an opportunity to feel normal for the first time since they’ve arrived at the correctional facility. “They suddenly see that they are really not that different from the university students. In fact, they can see that they are university students. And that kind of shift in perspective has a huge impact on their ability to also shift their life’s path.”

The course has made an indelible impact — two Inside students are planning to pursue post-secondary opportunities; two more are considering following in their footstep. Another former Inside student wants to support youth involved in gangs; and one is planning to write his own memoir inspired by the books he read in the program. Outside student Kevin Wong also experienced a shift in perspective, so much so he is now a champion for the program. A Bachelor of Arts student with a Major in Criminology when he took the course, he planned to go into policing. He still plans on doing that – but because of this program he is going to be approaching his career with an entirely different attitude. “Having the opportunity to interact with real people who have endured addiction, violence, abuse, neglect and poverty has been a transformative experience,” says Kevin. “Not only have I developed a greater sense of empathy towards these individuals, but I have begun to truly care for the welfare of the Inside students and I feel a genuine interest in seeing that they succeed upon their release.”

_________________________ He’s just made the decision to forgo his parole — to stay in jail — so he can complete this course that is literally changing his life.

_________________________ Rather than seeing the stereotypes – the single story – Kevin, like Rebecca, began to see that, he had more in common with the Inside students than he did differences. And that perspective is one that Kevin believes everyone — particularly

Sometimes it’s just one bad decision, one wrong choice that led them down a path that ended in jail time.

those going into law enforcement — should have.

like this would go a long way in addressing this.”

“After taking this course I have much more empathy towards people who are incarcerated. I know there is much more to their story and that really it’s not that different from mine. This became clear in the class as the dichotomy between student and inmate ceased to exist and we all became students with one collective goal in mind — to learn.”

In January 2017, thirty new students will take their seats in the next Inside-Out program. Likely they will be feeling as nervous as the first cohort. If the impact of the pilot program is anything to go by, at the end of the first class they will have an inkling that they should be feeling thankful that they’ve been given the opportunity to take their seats next to people who will, over the next four months, play a role in sharing an experience that will transform their life stories and that none of them will ever forget. For more information contact

Kevin believes this course will make him a better more successful police officer as he now has much more empathy for those who are incarcerated. “There is a crisis going on — you hear so many heart-breaking stories of police brutality which I think stems from lack of empathy. A course

* Inspired by the reflections of Kevin Wong, Inside-Out student from January — March 2016


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Going Virtual VIU's Mobile Simulators Take Heavy Equipment into the 21st Century

Vancouver Island University’s new mobile


simulator units are changing the way education is delivered in its Heavy Equipment Operator Foundation program.

as two truck-and-trailer units to transport them wherever they are needed, expanding access to training.


or most students, playing video games during class leads to lower marks, but for students using VIU’s heavy equipment simulators, becoming a master of the joystick can lead to career success. Last year, the University received $1 million from the federal government’s Western Economic Diversification Program to purchase eight heavy equipment/forestry simulators, as well 30 VIU Magazine

“The whole purpose of the simulators is to be innovative in our training,” says Paul Mottershead, Associate Dean of Trades and Applied Technology. “It allows us to reach out into remote communities, particularly First Nations communities that would not normally have any access to university or college. We also want to work with our industry partners to take the training to them. It’s really about creating opportunities for young people to enter the forestry and heavy equipment operation sectors.”

WHAT THEY DO The simulators replicate the interiors of different pieces of forestry and heavy equipment machinery, including a grader, dozer, excavator, wheel loader and rock truck, and forestry-specific machinery such as a feller-buncher, heel-boom log loader and dangle-head forestry processor. Students stepping into the simulator seats will find the controls exactly as they are on the real machines. The large screens project 360-degree views of customizable, virtual landscapes, and the seats are on sophisticated motion platforms that move the operators around as they drive over rough terrain or pick up heavy objects. For example, on the excavator simulator, if a student drops the bucket too hard on the ground, the machine lifts just the way it would in a real machine.

“On simulators, you can practice cutting that same tree or digging that same ditch over and over without serious consequences until you get it perfect and are comfortable before going on a real machine,” says Marc Schaufelbuhl, a graduate of VIU’s Heavy Equipment Operator (HEO) program. “There is no substitute for running a real machine, but simulators are as close as you can get.”

THE FUTURE OF HEAVY EQUIPMENT OPERATING The Truck Loggers Association anticipates 4,700 job openings between now and 2022 in BC’s coastal forestry industry – about half of the current workforce – due mainly to retirements. VIU hopes to help fill this need by taking the training to forestry companies and remote communities such as Quatsino First Nation. Students would learn theory for four weeks and then spend a week practicing on the simulators. The simulators can also be brought into public schools to get students excited about careers in the heavy equipment/forestry industries.

Kevin Levins, an Instructor in VIU’s HEO program, says the companies have done an incredible job of mimicking the real machines. “I had previously considered the value of simulators for training operators somewhat limited, when compared to the actual machines and the complexity of running and operating real ones,” he says. “I was pleasantly surprised with the realistic feel of the motion platforms and how well they replicate operating a piece of heavy equipment.” Instructors can design the learning

environment to replicate real sites students may be visiting during their training. The machines even help instructors prepare student reports – providing information on each student’s progress. This is an important aspect, as an instructor supervising five students on real machines would be unable to note everything students did incorrectly, says Instructor Brandon Lindsay. “It gives us the chance to stand beside the student and have a proper conversation while they are operating, which is difficult to do on the real machines,” he says. Industry is also interested in the potential of VIU’s new simulators. John Prachnau, owner of Nanoose based Antler Creek Logging, sees the simulators as a good way to screen potential trainees for aptitude and save companies money in machine

repair and training costs. “They are a great way for trainees to get familiar with the controls before jumping into a real machine, which should greatly reduce machine damage,” he says. “The simulators should also reduce the time that an operator has to spend in the cab with the trainee, which will in turn reduce training costs.” Another benefit of the simulators is they can be taken into remote communities to provide training to students who might be unable to come to VIU campuses for training. James Redford, Director of Lands and Resources for Quatsino First Nation, which has two forestry-related business operations, including Quatern, a limited partnership with Western Forest Products, says

_________________________ “On simulators, you can practice cutting that same tree or digging that same ditch over and over without serious consequences until you get it perfect and are comfortable before going on a real machine.”

_________________________ there is interest among members of the small community to gain technical skills and certification. “The mobile training labs will provide a level of access to training that was previously unavailable to the community,” he says. “The training in turn will open up job opportunities for our community members.”


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Creating Cultural Connections: VIU’s Homestay Program Brings the World to Nanaimo


Every year, hundreds of Nanaimo families host an international student or two through Vancouver Island University’s Homestay program. The program immerses students in local culture, and in return, host families are exposed to other cultures, customs and perspectives. Here’s a glimpse of what happens at the homes of three different host families.

Jacinthe Laramee Everything about Jacinthe Laramee’s house, from the spotless, tastefully decorated rooms that look like they belong in a House & Home photo shoot, to the mouthwatering smells coming from her kitchen, give the impression that you have just 32 VIU Magazine

stepped into a high-class bed and breakfast operation. But her guests aren’t tourists – they are students in VIU’s Homestay program. Mayuko Kishida, 19, from Nara, Japan, is taking ESL and Hospitality and

Tourism classes, and Austina Xiaoting, 21, from Shandong Province in China, is finishing her accounting degree. Jacinthe fills plates with scrambled eggs, spinach-stuffed sausage, homemade hash browns and rustic bread. As they dig in, Mayuko and Austina, who were all smiles when they greeted me at the door but very quiet at first, start to open up about life in Jacinthe’s home. “When I come home, there’s hot food on the table and somebody waiting for you,” says Austina. “We are a family here. What’s nice about homestay is that you learn the culture and you feel

Is Homestay for You? safe – you know there’s someone there to help you if you get in trouble.” “[Jacinthe] has a lot of life experiences that she’s shared with me, which has helped me adjust to life here,” adds Mayuko. “She’s helped me find new things I want to try, both in Canada and Japan.” Jacinthe says she gets just as much out of the arrangement as the students. She learns about and experiences other cultures, and appreciates the conversations that develop around the dinner table. “We share a lot, we always have something to talk about,” says Jacinthe, who has been hosting students for five years, many of whom she still keeps in touch with. “It enriches your life. It’s hard when they leave, because a bond develops.”

The Ashtons Miranda Ashton likes learning about other cultures, as does her husband, Ryan, and her three children – Luke, Carter and Vaughn. “I want my kids to be confident and accept all cultures,” says Miranda. “We always love it when our students first get here – that’s when they share so much of their culture because they don’t have anything else to share yet. I also like advocating about Canada and showcasing our community.” Jack Wang, 16, from Beijing, who is studying at VIU’s High School, and Atsushi Yamanaka, 19, an ESL student from Tokyo, Japan – are enjoying the learning opportunities that come when living with a Canadian family. “Miranda makes us speak English when we are home, which helps us learn,” says Atsushi.

Wang, an only child, is also experiencing life with brothers for the first time. “It’s an important experience in my life,” he says. “I’m not used to getting asked so many questions!”

Miranda says the whole family often has long discussions about the different views cultures have on various subjects. “We’ve had a few funny things happen, too,” she adds. “One time, one of our students threw away an entire case of blueberry waffles because he thought they were mouldy!”

The Mwilas Hyacinth and Victor Mwila, originally from Jamaica and Zambia, and their 16-year-old son Philip, who was born in Canada, were surprised to discover many similarities between the cultures in their home countries and their students’ way of doing things. “I have learned a lot from my Chinese students,” says Hyacinth. “The culture is so similar to what I grew up with in the Caribbean. We figure everything out at the dinner table.” Hyacinth has learned how to use chopsticks properly, and she teaches students about Western eating habits – for example, how slurping soup is considered rude here. Both Charlie Xu, 18, from Rizhao, China, and Satoshi Kanomata, 20, from Saitama, Japan, have found Canadian culture easier to navigate with the help of the Mwilas.

JOINING VIU’S HOMESTAY PROGRAM MAY BE RIGHT FOR YOU IF YOU: > Are willing to spend time with the students and include them in family activities. > Are located in the central Nanaimo area within three blocks of a frequently used bus stop and not more than 45 minutes travel time by public transit to VIU. > Speak English as the primary language in the home and are willing to speak only English when hosting students. > Can provide a Criminal Record Check to host minors and vulnerable people, for everyone living in your home who is aged 18 and older, every three years. > Are able and willing to consider hosting both males and females. For more details, visit:

Homestay Opportunities Every year, between 750 and 1,100 new students from more than 85 different countries around the world are placed with Nanaimo families. Andrea Blakeman, Housing Manager, calls Homestay “an adventure.” “You have a lot of, ‘Wow, I never thought about doing it that way’ moments,” she says. “You learn a lot from each other, and often build lasting friendships.”


“We talk lots about the life and culture every day when we have dinner, it’s been really helpful,” says Charlie.

2 0 1 6 FA L L / W I N T E R


Art by Heather Wall (Welding Certificate Level C ’13)

Alumni News 2000s

Edwin Johnston (Hairdressing Certificate ’87), Co-owner of the Cutting Room Creative Salon in Nanaimo with his wife Fiona and a Global Ambassador for KMS California hair products, is living a jet-setting lifestyle these days. He travels the globe presenting at industry shows, working on ad campaigns, creating education programs and directing the hair trends at fashion week in LA, Sydney and NYC. Edwin, a 14-time Contessa Winner (Canadian Hairstylist Awards) and two-time NAHA (North American Hairstyling Awards) winner, also won a VIU Distinguished Alumni Award in 2005. 34 VIU Magazine

Ro Davies (Bachelor of Tourism Management ’00 and Diploma in Recreation Administration ’97) and his wife Addie welcomed their first baby boy, Hunter, on July 31, 2016. Ro is the Sales Manager at the Whistler Golf Club. RO DAVIES


Angela Billingsley (Cook Training Certificate ’00) has launched a new business in Edmonton, Alberta, called Urban Pierogies with friend and colleague Magdalena Celejowska. Angela and Magdalena combined their experience, skills and education to create innovative flavour pairings for pierogi lovers. Check out their story at

Paris Gaudet (Human Services Worker Diploma ’01 and Social Service Worker Certificate ’00) is the Executive Director of Innovation Island, a regional tech organization based in Nanaimo. When she’s not helping tech entrepreneurs make their businesses awesome, Paris can be found running

along the streets and trails of Nanaimo or creating amazing, plant-based recipes. On the bucket list for 2017: run her first 50-km ultramarathon and book a trip to Thailand. Paris is also running for the Liberal party in the 2017 provincial election.



Carley Duckmanton (Bachelor of Tourism Management ’02) has turned her education into a tourism-based “job” reality. As an Indigenous Engagement Officer with Parks Canada’s Indigenous Affairs Branch, she liaises with Parks Canada team members working with Indigenous peoples, communities and groups to support and grow Indigenous programming, storytelling and tourism initiatives in Canada’s heritage places (parks and national historic sites). One of the highlights of her current position, which she’s held since 2014, was presenting on behalf of Parks Canada to nearly 350 leaders, entrepreneurs and representatives


Two standout VIU students from different generations recently shared the same accolade: they were both honoured with the BC Community Achievement Award. Launched in 2003, this award is given to those who have made a significant contribution to their community, either as a volunteer or in the course of their work. Don Hubbard’s VIU connection dates to 1965, when he took a heavy equipment course at what was then called the Vocational Training School. After a career in construction that included roles with Hub City Paving, the Warren Materials Group and Lafarge Canada, Hubbard returned to VIU in 2009 to study anthropology – a calling rooted in his fascination with dinosaurs. Hubbard has put his degree on hold due to other competing priorities, but he plans to complete it soon. Today, he sits on the boards of the VIU Foundation and The High School at VIU, is the Chair of Island Health, and helps with fundraising initiatives for the Haven Society. Hubbard’s past volunteer efforts include the Rotary Club and Ducks Unlimited Canada. He’s also the president of Hubbard Consulting Ltd., a mining and construction advisory firm.


Meanwhile, George Anderson (Bachelor of Arts ’15, Major in Criminology) credits VIU with giving him the skills needed to succeed at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, where he’s currently studying – and playing in York’s Wind Symphony. Anderson has also contributed greatly to his community. At 20, he was one of the youngest people ever elected to Nanaimo City Council, where he served for three years (roles included Chair of Transportation and a Director of the Regional District of Nanaimo). Anderson has served as the Director of the Nanaimo-Ladysmith Schools Foundation and a Trustee for the Nanaimo Addiction Foundation. He has volunteered for organizations including Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Vancouver Island, the Salvation Army and the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society. Last but not least, Anderson was a valedictorian for VIU and John Barsby Secondary School. Congratulations Don and George!


of the Indigenous tourism industry from around the world at the 4th annual International Aboriginal Tourism Conference in Quebec in 2015.

Olivia Lyle (Bachelor of Arts ‘04 Double Major in Anthropology & Liberal Studies) recently received a Making Waves award from the BC Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators. The award is given to up-and-comers in the communications field who have distinguished themselves through their work. Olivia is also a past IABC Gold Quill award winner. Mandy Lawson (Bachelor of Arts ’06 Major in Psychology, Minor in Business

Administration) has made a fulfilling career out of training yoga teachers around the world. She started down her new path in 2010 after moving to Costa Rica, where she became a yoga teacher and met and started a family with her husband, Johanne. Mandy is now the Training Director and a Trainer for Kidding Around Yoga, an organization that provides yoga teacher training around the world, focused on teaching people how to share the amazing benefits of yoga with children. This year, she’s leading training sessions in Costa Rica, Canada, Argentina and Mexico City. Visit for more details.



Val McKinnon (Bachelor of Tourism Management ’09 and Diploma in Recreation and Sport Management ’08) has embarked on a new business venture with two other partners, Nano Clow and Ryan Anderson. Vancouver Style Guys was founded in 2015 with the objective of aiding men with styling tips, lifestyle products and fashion forecasts. It has been highlighted by Vancity Startup Hub as an up-and-coming business. Check out for a little local inspiration. Erin MacDonald (Bachelor of Business Administration ’09) recently opened her own full-service creative firm in Nanaimo, offering expertise in communications, marketing, graphic design, web design and photography. Erin has recently reconnected with VIU by joining the Alumni Board as a 2 0 1 6 FA L L / W I N T E R


Skott Taylor (Fine Arts – Theatre) studied at VIU for two years before continuing his theatre studies at Concordia University, specializing in Theatre for Development and the work of Augusto Boal. Skott is the Director at New Seed Creative Consulting in Hong Kong, a company he founded in Beijing in 2011 that focuses on company culture consulting with unique, arts-based activation techniques.

2010s Sára Molčan (Bachelor of Arts ’11 Major in English and Certificate in Hairdressing ’07) has developed a cult following on social media in recent months. The Vancouver artist has thousands of people addicted to watching videos of her mixing paint in her #100daysofpaintmixing project. Fans say watching her mix paint is “soothing” and “satisfying.” See for yourself by following Sara on Instagram: @sarajmolcan. 36 VIU Magazine

Danielle Zowty (Nail Technology Certificate ’11) is proudly displaying her VIU credentials in her new north Nanaimo business, Nailed It!, which provides nail esthetician services.

Alexis Deighton MacIntyre (Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies ’12) is not only studying at Cambridge University but is also the recipient of the Canada Cambridge Scholarship, which provides full tuition and living costs to a Canadian student pursuing a master’s degree. After graduating from VIU, Alexis made her way to Ontario,

where she became a research assistant with Western University’s Brain and Mind Institute in the Neuroscience & Music Lab. She’s continuing her study of the cognitive science of music at Cambridge and hopes to continue research she helped with at Western in investigating rhythm and temporal processing.


For Allan Knapp (Forest Resource Technology Diploma ’11), the hands-on training he received at VIU was the starting point to a variety of interesting jobs in the forestry industry and a successful logger sports career that saw him win two Logger Sports Canadian championship titles for novice choker race in 2014 and novice double-buck in 2015. After working in the industry for a year, he enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Forestry (BSF) transfer program at VIU and finished his education at the University of British Columbia with a BSF in Forest Resource Management in 2015. Allan works as a forest planner for a contractor in various locations across coastal BC.



Sarah Bromley (Internet Production Diploma ’09 and Internet Production Certificate ’07), her husband Clayton Bromley (University Studies), and their son Darwin welcomed a new addition to their family, Ada Elora Bromley, on July 13. Sarah works for Array Web + Creative as the Technical Director. She also volunteers her time teaching Ladies Learning Code and Kids Learning Code classes.


Director for the 2016/17 term. She is also a past Director for the Canadian Public Relations Society Vancouver Island chapter and the Young Professionals of Nanaimo. Check out her new company at

Destiny Barker (Bachelor of Arts ’12; Criminology Diploma ’10; Applied Business Technology Certificate ’09) turned tragedy into opportunity after a car accident forced a career change, from legal administrative assistant to online business owner. She is the owner and operator of Lace N Pearls, an online bridal boutique specializing in wedding accessories, special occasion supplies and gifts. Check out her merch at Katie Durvin (Bachelor of Arts ’13 Major in Global Studies) pursued a Master of Arts in International Affairs at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) at Carleton University after graduating from VIU. While completing her research project studying sexual and reproductive health and rights in humanitarian emergencies, she worked as a co-op student in the Global Health Policy & Nutrition Division at Global Affairs Canada, which led to a permanent job as a Policy Analyst for Global Affairs Canada with the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Division. Dani (Danielle) Smith (Bachelor of Arts ’13 Major in Physical Education, Diploma in Physical Education ’10), a member of Team Canada’s national

Since graduating from VIU, Heather Wall (Welding Certificate Level C ’13) is using her graphic design, interpretive design and illustration skills with a ‘C’ class welding ticket to produce beautiful sculptures and functional art pieces. Every project is custommade — from sculptures and railings to doors and furniture, Heather is a master artist. Her business, Twisted Arc Designs Inc., can be found at Larissa Richards (Bachelor of Science ’13) is currently doing her PhD with the University of Victoria in Chemistry. Working in partnership with VIU’s

Matt Learner (Bachelor of Arts ’14) majored in History and Political Science at VIU and is completing his Master of Arts from Carleton University this year. His research focuses on Soviet nationality policy in Abkhazia, a region in the Caucasus, and he also conducted research in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and Tbilisi, Georgia. Gabrielle Bishop (Bachelor of Arts ’14 Major in Global Studies) was one of only five Canadian youth selected by the Young Diplomats of Canada to serve as a national delegate to the 2016 OECD Forum, which took place May 29 - June 2 in Paris. Gabrielle is also settling into her new Torontobased role as Manager of Programs, Partnerships and Communications for WEConnect International, a global non-profit organization connecting women-owned businesses with market opportunities. Past experiences include working with the Trade Section of the Mission of Canada to the European Union in Brussels and Investment Trade Policy Division of the Department of Global Affairs headquarters in Ottawa. This spring, she completed graduate studies at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, where she studied international development projects and planning. A Financial Advisor with Investors Group, Emeka Udeagha (Master of Business Administration ’14) and his team of five specialize in comprehensive financial planning for individuals and families on Vancouver Island and the mainland. He keeps busy by sitting on the Board of Directors for the Nanaimo Affordable Housing Society, is an Ambassador with the Nanaimo

Chamber of Commerce, a committee member with the BC Alzheimer’s Society (in collaboration with the Investors Group Walk for Memories), and a Rotary Club Member. Emeka winds down by travelling and spending time outdoors with his spouse, Ronitah. Ross Walker (Bachelor of Education ’15) won the BC amateur middleweight championship fight in his hometown. Held at Malaspina Theatre on June 4 against George Vourtsis of Gibsons, Ross’s boxing title win came while working as a Child and Youth Care Worker with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Vancouver Island. Shortly afterwards, Ross moved to La Loche, Saskatchewan, to take a teaching job. He hopes to start a boxing program for youth in that community. John Adeyinka (Information Technology & Applied Systems Diploma ’16), travelled a long way to attend VIU – he’s originally from Nigeria. He was looking for a practical course that offers hands-on training and choosing VIU’s program paid off – he already has a job as a programmer with Real Estate Webmasters in Nanaimo. John’s family members flew in from both Nigeria and Toronto to watch him cross the stage in June.



volleyball team, got her start as a student and varsity athlete at VIU. She attended her first selection camp with the National Team in 2012 after being scouted during the 2012 CCAA National Championships hosted by VIU in Nanaimo – the year she helped the Mariners win gold in the VIU gym! This September she will play in the professional Pro A League in Nancy, France, and then moving with the national team to Vancouver. She plans to pursue a career in naturopathic medicine.

Applied Environmental Research Laboratories (AERL), her research includes using a mass spectrometer in a mobile lab to make on-the-fly measurements of chemical contaminants in the air. She recently completed a six-week course at the Copenhagen School of Chemometrics with world renowned scientists in her field.

Haoran Fang (Culinary Arts Certificate ’16) came to VIU to learn more about French cuisine – the Culinary Institute of Vancouver Island is known as one of the best culinary schools in Canada. His hard work paid off with an internship at Restaurant Andre in Singapore, which made No. 32 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2016 list. After his internship, Haoran plans to work in 2 0 1 6 FA L L / W I N T E R


Jaime Howden (Certificate in Hairdressing ’16) graduated from VIU in June with a bit of silver to add to her kit. She received the Lieutenant Governor’s Silver Medal, which recognizes academic excellence and positive contributions to the university and community. Jaime is also one of VIU’s Youth in Care Tuition Waiver Program students, which supports students who have grown up in BC’s youth in care system by waiving tuition fees for their first certificate, diploma or degree program. Jaime, who has lived on her own since she turned 18, says the Tuition Waiver Program allowed her to focus on excelling in the classroom. She hopes to open her own salon one day.


Island restaurants for a while to get some more experience. He eventually hopes to open his own restaurant in Victoria or Nanaimo.

MERCY IN MADAGASCAR Ever since Monica Ciolfi (Bachelor of Science in Nursing ’11) graduated from VIU, she had her sights set on volunteering with Mercy Ships, a charity that uses ships as floating hospitals to deliver life-saving medical care to some of the world’s poorest people. “I’ve always felt that it’s our responsibility as people to look after one another,” she explains.

Dilbert Garcia (Practical Nursing Diploma ’16) immigrated to Canada just four years ago from the Philippines, and he’s already made significant contributions to both his community and his school. His academic achievements and community involvement were recognized in May when he was given the Mike Coleman Award for Citizenship and the George Paine Award recognizing a student’s academic achievement and potential as a member of society. Dilbert helped out with VIU Cowichan’s World VIU Days annual event last November, and he’s also volunteered with the Cowichan Intercultural Society and St. Edward’s Catholic Parish. 38 VIU Magazine

Her time with Mercy Ships has given Monica a renewed appreciation for the easy, affordable access to health care Canadians enjoy. “In Madagascar, the hospitals didn’t have running water. If you wanted your nurse to wear gloves while giving you care, you had to buy them for her.” But that wasn’t all Monica learned: “I also learned a lot about the culture in Madagascar, how to communicate with people who didn’t speak English, how to eat Malagasy food and how to feed lemurs.”

Deidre Tansey (Post-Degree Diploma in Business Studies ’16) returned to VIU as a mature student after raising her six children. During her career, she was fortunate to own a few small businesses, including a flower shop and dance studio. She also created a food blog called Just a Pinch of Ginger. Her passion for business and marketing brought her back to VIU to major in marketing. Deidre recently started a new business called Ampersand Media offering social media strategies for small businesses. A quote that she loves and lives by is, “Life of an entrepreneur: I wake up excited and terrified every day,” by Sarah Lacy.




Monica, who now works on Nanaimo Regional General Hospital’s third-floor post-operative care for general surgery unit, not only achieved that goal in 2015, but she returned in January 2016 for another three months. Both times, the ship was docked on the east coast of Madagascar. While there, she mostly cared for women receiving surgery for injuries sustained during difficult child births.


with Susan Juby

Susan Juby, a VIU Creative Writing professor, has had a good year. She won the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature prize for The Truth Commission, then the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour for Republic of Dirt. She also scooped the City of Nanaimo’s Excellence in Culture Award, won the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award – part of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards – for The Truth Commission, and she is the Whistler Writing Society’s Writer-in-Residence, which means she’s splitting her time between VIU and Whistler this fall. Despite how busy her year has been – did we mention she’s also working on a new book! – Susan set aside a bit of time to answer some of our most burning questions: First of all, can we start by saying how grateful we are that your initial career as an aspiring fashion designer was unsuccessful. You and my bank account and self-esteem are in agreement about that. When did you first start writing and why? I started writing stories as soon as I learned how to make sentences. I wrote because I loved reading. Being a writer seemed extremely important and glamorous. I still think it’s important. I may have been wrong about the glamorous part. How did it impact your career and life when your Alice trilogy was made into a TV series? That experience was gratifying on several levels. The producers, CTV and The Comedy Network were generous

with me and they hired talented, smart, funny people. I was given all the scripts to read and was invited to the set several times. I was even given a cameo. I played Customer #2 and made a hash of the role. There was also a nice payday, most of which I spent on a horse. My excuse was that I needed my own horse in order to research a new novel. Turns out, you should have a long-running, syndicated US network TV show before you go buying horses. Lesson learned. You often use humour to tackle hard themes in your novels. Why is humour in writing so important? Humour makes life bearable and can help us gain perspective on nearly any situation. Many of the writers I admire most are at once funny and deeply serious. Some, like P.G. Wodehouse, are confections of comic genius. When did you first discover you were funny? I’m funnier on the page than I am in person. Very disappointing for my dreams of becoming a stand-up. My first indication that I could make people laugh came when I started writing ridiculous emails to friends and they began to pass them around. That was all the encouragement I needed.

How did you end up in Nanaimo and working at VIU? When my husband, James, and I lived in Vancouver we often came to Nanaimo to visit my dad, Bill Juby, who taught in the English Department. We fell in love with Nanaimo and I set my sights on getting a teaching job at VIU. James teaches in the business program. What’s your favourite part about your job at VIU? The students are smart, engaged, enthusiastic and they come from all sorts of backgrounds. I’m also glad to work with the stellar staff and faculty at VIU. It’s a friendly and supportive place and I particularly like the fact that we’re able to get to know our students. That’s one of the benefits of teaching at a smaller school. Tell us a bit about what you’re working on right now. I’m at work on a comedic crime novel for adults. That’s all I can say about it right now, but I’m having a wonderful time writing and researching it. The Fashion Committee, set at the same fictional art high school as The Truth Commission, will be out next summer. To read the full interview, go to: 2 0 1 6 FA L L / W I N T E R


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2016 fall viu magazine  
2016 fall viu magazine