Student found her passion through VIU’s MBA Program and is making a difference in her community

VIU Master of Business Administration alum Tasha Brooks was joined at her Convocation ceremony in January by her internship supervisor, VIU Cowichan Academic Administrator Warren Weir. She hopes to return to VIU as a professor after she finishes grad school.

Ten years ago, Tasha Brooks found herself begging Santa Claus for a C+ in accounting so she could continue in Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Bachelor of Business Administration program.

Fast forward to today, and Brooks has just finished her dual Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in International Management degree from VIU, during which she played an important role in advancing Indigenous education initiatives at the University. She’s now getting ready to start her Doctorate of Business Administration with the help of a $16,000 scholarship from the Royal Bank of Canada’s Aboriginal Student Awards Program.

What happened in between has been “nothing short of amazing,” says the quiet, self-assured 33-year-old, who plans to continue the research she started in her MBA internship as first a PhD student and then a university professor. 

Business was not Brooks’s favourite subject in high school. Instead, she wanted to go into esthetics. After working in a salon for a short time, she quickly realized that a career in that field wasn’t for her.

 “My parents suggested I do a business program instead,” remembers Brooks. “I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do – just what I didn’t want to do.”

Brooks turned to VIU for answers. The first year of her BBA degree was one of the hardest years of her life.

“I locked myself in my room for six hours a day, studying accounting,” she remembers. “By Christmas, I was considering my career options for when I dropped out. Irrationally, I went to the mall to see Santa that year and said to him, ‘If I get a C+ in accounting, I will never ask for anything again!’”

Brooks got a B- and pressed on, completing first her BBA in 2011 and then returning in 2015 to do her master’s. In between the two degrees, she got a job as a post-secondary advisor for Cowichan Tribes, through which she helped people access education. The role also helped her develop a deep connection with her Indigenous roots, as her mother is from Cowichan Tribes.  During this time, she also developed an interest in economic development, completing the Technician Aboriginal Economic Developer certificate from the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers (Cando).

These experiences led to an internship opportunity during the final year of her MBA that steered her on her current course. Brooks went to the University’s Cowichan Campus – where she had sent many students during her time as post-secondary advisor – to investigate ways to make the campus even more relevant and welcoming for Indigenous learners. A $2,000 National Indigenous Economic Education Fund scholarship helped sustain her through the 16-week internship.

For the internship, Brooks interviewed faculty at the Cowichan Campus and moderated group discussions about how to better support Indigenous learners at the campus. She wrote up her findings and recommendations in a report that Campus Academic Administrator Warren Weir, who was also her internship supervisor, will use to inform a strategic education plan for the campus. 

“We endeavour to ensure that the Indigenous voice is reflected in everything we do, in a good way, which is critical to the Indigenous commitment highlighted in VIU’s 2017 Academic Plan update,” says Weir. “Through a series of campus-based focus groups and interviews, Tasha was open to listening and hearing what people thought we could do better, and she acknowledged that people were committed to making a difference in this regard. Her work at the campus was transformative for not only the people she spoke with, but also for herself. 

Brooks was blown away by how open faculty and staff were with her, and some common visions emerged, including the desire for a gathering place specifically for Indigenous students on campus, similar to the one on the Nanaimo Campus.

“Everybody was very welcoming and eager to share information. The ideas just kept on rolling out,” she says. 

The position required Brooks to delve into the history of Indigenous education, a major piece of which was the residential school system. She also attended the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples’ 20th anniversary conference in Winnipeg to further her understanding of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s recommendations for educational institutions.

“It was definitely a test of my limitations – I was dealing with some heavy subject matter and managing my own workload and schedule, so I had to learn those skills quickly,” says Brooks. “I had a good support system throughout, from my teachers, who sat with me until I understood and truly wanted me to succeed, to my mom, who was there to pick me up and keep me going every time I said I was quitting.”

At graduate school, Brooks is interested in studying the social impacts of increased access to education, and hopes to conduct research that will benefit Cowichan Tribes and Indigenous people as we move to build capacity. Her end goal is to become a professor at VIU.

 “I’d like to focus on Indigenous business education,” she says. “I feel like this place is where I can make a difference and do more for my community.”

Donors to Cottle Lake Park being recognized

Walkers enjoying Linley Valley Cottle Lake Park can now see the names of the people who helped to preserve it.

Mayor Bill McKay announced a council decision this week to have contributor signs at park entrances at Rock City and Burma roads that will recognize almost 1,000 donors who gave to the park more than a decade ago.

The upper lakeview trail will also be renamed Paterson Way, in honour of Bill and Joan Paterson, who McKay said donated $100,000 — the largest community contribution and one that motivated many other small community donations over two years to ensure the purchase of the park. The renaming of the area is a fitting recognition of their very generous contribution, he said.


New VIU summer camp helps transition to university

VIU alumnus Morgan Mowatt, Elder-in-Residence Gary Manson and program co-ordinator Troy Barnes are looking forward to welcoming Indigenous youth to VIU for a summer camp this August.

Making the switch from living at home to living on campus for school can be a challenge, which is why a new VIU summer camp wants to prepare Indigenous students thinking about post-secondary education far in advance.

The Thuy'she'num Tu Smun'eem summer camp, running from Aug. 11 to 14 at VIU's Nanaimo campus, wants to help any Indigenous students from Grades 8 to 12 dip their toes into university waters before diving head first into their studies in a few years.

Program coordinator and recent VIU graduate Troy Barnes told NanaimoNewsNOW the idea for the summer camp came from the uncomfortable experience he and other coordinators shared when they first left their homes.

Nanaimo News NOW

VIU offers new graduate-level business program for people with no formal business education

From left to right: David Iremadze, Director of Graduate Business Studies; Dave Twynam, former dean of the Faculty of Management; Glynis Steen, Dean of the Faculty of Trades and Applied Technology; and Tracy Gillis, Accounting Professor, have all had a hand in developing the new Graduate Certificate in Business program.

0713 - A new graduate-level program at Vancouver Island University (VIU) aims to give people with no formal business education the information they need to run a business effectively.  

The Graduate Certificate in Business is a one-year, three-semester program that provides students with the foundational skills they need to start up their own businesses or move into management positions. The program will also accommodate working professionals who want to pursue it in a part-time format. Applications open on October 1, 2017, for the first intake date of September 2018.

“It’s for people who did their undergraduate degree in something other than business who are moving into management roles, such as arts, humanities or social sciences graduates, or people with their Red Seal who want to start up their own business, like an automotive shop or bakery,” says Tracy Gillis, a VIU Accounting Professor and program lead. “A cutting-edge feature of this program is the direct pathway for Red Seal holders. As far as I know, there isn’t anything like it in BC.”

The program is uniquely designed to boost student success. There is no GPA requirement to enter; instead the first semester includes coursework that introduces students to academics at a university level, as well as foundational courses in marketing, management and strategy, and effective business research and communications. Gillis says this gives students new to university-level academics a much greater chance of succeeding in the program.

“We are setting them up for success by starting off with the tools they will need to complete the rest of the program,” she says. “It gives them a chance to get their feet on the ground and wrap their heads around the expectations at this level. We ensure people know the basics before they have to apply it.”

 The program is something Glynis Steen, Dean of the Faculty of Trades and Applied Technology has been pushing for. She worked with Gillis, providing feedback during development of the program.

“We are always searching for more opportunities to open up further education for our students,” she says. “Many graduates of our programs go on to operate their own businesses, or work their way up to the management level of a business. Yet while they leave here with a strong foundation in the trades or applied technology field they are in, what they lack is that knowledge of business accounting, management and marketing that this program will teach them.”

This is the second opportunity VIU has opened up recently for trades students who want to pursue further education at the University. Last March, the Senate approved a new option that gives Red Seal holders a block of 60 transfer credits to use towards an undergraduate program. 

Another desirable feature of the Graduate Certificate in Business is the option to ladder into other programs if students want to pursue more advanced studies in business and management. Students who complete the certificate program with a minimum of a C+ average can apply to complete a Graduate Diploma in either International Trade Management or Project Management. Students who finish with a B average or better and have at least one year of professional experience earn admission to the Master of Business Administration program. Students who complete an undergraduate degree in business or commerce who have a C+ average also have the option to go straight into either of the Graduate Diploma programs for further business education. 

 Bruce Condie, director, International Marketing, Recruitment and Business Development, says the certificate program – and especially the opportunity to continue on with a specialized diploma – is an attractive option for international students who want specialized post-graduate training.


“It’s a great enhancement, providing another alternative for international students to achieve higher education,” he says. “VIU already has a well-established, reputable business program, and this addition solidifies our reputation as an education destination.”  

Specialized business training is of great interest to many international students. While VIU has a Master of Business Administration program, sometimes students don’t meet the requirements needed to get into the master’s program, such as the work experience requirement, so the certificate fills that gap, says Condie. Plus, the specialties offered in the diploma portion are different than VIU’s MBA program, he adds.

VIU plans to offer two intake dates for the program, in September and January. For more information, click here.