Faculty in the VIU Earth Science department are creating geology teaching kits to give school teachers and students an introduction to Earth Science.

As people walk upon the Earth, not many take the time to really notice what’s under their feet or realize just how vital sand, gravel and rocks are in today’s society. 

 “Rocks and sediments underlie everything we build on, walk on, or grow food on. Yet, few people realize how vital those types of materials are and how much of our daily activities interact with geology. The stability of building and the availability of water in wells also depend on geological materials. The paint in your house and the circuits in your cell phone all contain materials sourced from minerals and rocks,” says Dr. Jerome Lesemann, Vancouver Island University (VIU) Professor of Earth Sciences.

Earth Science is a multi-disciplinary science focused on understanding Earth’s history, which in turn enables a better understanding of the origins of Earth’s resources and the sustainable use of these resources.

“Many people know of a segment of Earth Science known as ‘Geology’, which is the study of rocks, minerals, weathering and erosion. However, ‘Earth Science’ is a term used to encompass the study of all systems that interact on Earth: climate, oceans, biological interactions, fossils, earthquakes, etc,” says Lesemann. 

 The VIU Earth Science Department hopes to spark the curiosity of school teachers and students in Nanaimo about Earth Science and inspire the next generation of scientists in this field.  They are developing mobile rock and mineral teaching kits that can be used in course curriculum at schools throughout School District 68 and other districts upon request.

 “We receive a lot of requests from local teachers for geological materials to support their course instruction,” says Lesemann. “They told us that better access to teaching materials would make the integration of Earth Science in their classroom activities more feasible, relevant, and interesting.”

 The department received a $10,000 grant from the Canadian Geological Foundation to create eight to 10 kits, complete with teaching activities, rocks, minerals and fossil samples.  

 Lesemann says they hope that sparking an interest in Earth Science at a younger age will encourage more students to pursue this field in post-secondary education.

 “Earth Science is a gateway discipline that integrates chemistry, physics, engineering, geography and computing. It is also a discipline that requires a lot of creative thinking and complex problem solving. Because it is so multi-disciplinary, Earth Science provides a useful and relevant perspective on many current and future environmental challenges,” says Lesemann. “Canada’s mining industry is one of the largest in the world. We need highly trained Earth Scientists for their unique perspective and for the sustainability of the Canadian workforce.”

 VIU possesses an extensive specimen and resource collection that will be used as a major initial source of samples for the school kits.  The collections are being supplemented with geologically relevant local samples to increase awareness and understanding of Earth Science in the Nanaimo Lowlands region of Vancouver Island.

 VIU Earth Science students and faculty will hit the beaches around Nanaimo this August in search of the perfect Igneous, Sedimentary, Metamorphic and fossil specimens to put into the mobile kits.

Creatively advocating change through art

Dr. Amanda Wager becomes VIU’s new Canada Research Chair in Community Research in Art, Culture and Education Photo: Vancouver Island University

Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) new Canada Research Chair hopes to create a space for emerging youth leaders to connect and invoke change in their community. 

VIU Faculty of Education Professor Dr. Amanda Wager’s new appointment as Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Community Research in Art, Culture and Education will provide her with the opportunity to create a collaborative and creative youth-led community research initiative.  

While working as an elementary school teacher in Chicago, Illinois, Wager became aware of the lack of art represented in the curriculum and how students’ culture wasn’t considered in the classroom. Her students were of Mexican-American decent and most spoke Spanish as their primary language, but all their exams were tested in English and were not culturally responsive. 

“It didn’t seem fair to not incorporate this cultural knowledge into the classroom,” says Wager. “That sparked my desire to teach using the arts and build upon the knowledge of students, their families and communities.”

Wager’s dedication for change led her to create the Urban Community Action Centre for the Arts, which will be run by and for youth in the community – including VIU undergraduate and graduate students – and will facilitate cross-cultural relationships with Indigenous, non-Indigenous and international communities.

“How do you get people of very different cultures, beliefs and insights to collectively come together and advocate for change?” asks Wager. “What is their mutual connection? Art is where the connection is.”

Wager plans to spend the first year of her five-year Canada Research Chair term building relationships in the community and developing the program. The subsequent years will focus on implementing the program in the community with a group of 10 to 20 youth leading the initiative. 

“I am hoping to find space at the Nanaimo VIU campus to hold the program, so youth can get exposure to the university and possibly begin envisioning a future here,” she says.

“Wager is recognized as one of Canada’s emerging research leaders in her area. Her innovative research program will create tremendous opportunities for a range of community partners in the region, our students and faculty,” says Dr. Nicole Vaugeois, Associate Vice-President of VIU’s Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity office. “We are thrilled that she chose VIU to execute her research program.”

 The program uses creative processes to build relationships within a collective group of youth and the team will determine a cause to research and advocate for. Wager will support the youth leaders on how to become researchers and facilitate the program, though the ideas and delivery of the process will be completely youth-led.

“Historically, youth have been a driving force for social change,” says Wager. “By empowering our youth in the community to advocate for what matters to them and giving them avenues to express themselves creatively, we are building capacity for the leaders of our future.”

Birthing – a new perspective on women's health

Dr. Whitney Wood joins VIU as the new CRC in the Historical Dimensions of Women’s Health.
Vancouver Island University photo

By Rae-Anne Guenther
Vancouver Island University

0717 – Delving into the historical roots of childbirth experiences, VIU’s new Canada Research Chair hopes to improve women’s encounters with the health-care system during this critical time.

Home birth, water birth or hospital birth; medicated or unmedicated; doctor or midwife – the ways in which women give birth and perceive a “good” childbirth have vastly changed over time; however, women have always sought to exercise some control over the childbirth experience. Dr. Whitney Wood has long been interested in how women experience birth and are treated during labour. Wood will be sharing her knowledge and expertise on the history of childbirth and women’s experiences of labour pain in the 19th and 20th centuries as VIU’s new Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in the Historical Dimensions of Women’s Health. She will also be teaching as a professor in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

“Arts and Humanities is proud to have the opportunity to host Dr. Wood, an emerging but already proven scholar in the Historical Dimensions of Women’s Health. We hope to provide her with many opportunities for collaboration with her colleagues community partners,” says Marni Stanley, VIU Faculty of Arts and Humanities Acting Dean.

Wood first became interested in the history of childbirth while taking a history of medicine class during her undergrad at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

 “I learned about the history of Twilight Sleep – a form of anesthesia given to labouring mothers during the first decades of the 20th century, and I became instantly curious as to why this type of delivery had gained such popularity,” she recalls. 

Wood continued to explore her curiosity about childbirth and labour pain during her PhD studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo and with her first book, which is currently under contract with McGill-Queen’s University Press.

She is the editor for Canadian and histories of medicine and reproduction content at NOTCHES: (re)marks on the history of sexuality, an international collaborative blog that aims to bring the history of sexuality to wide public audiences. Wood is also the English-language book review editor for the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History, the flagship journal for Canadian historians of medicine. Wood is looking forward to building on these experiences at VIU.

“I am excited to collaborate with researchers across faculties, especially the editorial team of Gender & History, a leading international journal housed right here on campus,” says Wood.

The Gender & History editorial team includes Cheryl Krasnick Warsh, a renowned historian of gender, medicine and popular culture in 19th and 20th century North America, and VIU’s first Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada

During her first five-year term as Canada Research Chair, Wood will focus on three main projects that explore the history of women’s pain in modern Canada. She hopes to expand on her post-doctoral research on natural childbirth on Vancouver Island, Canada and around the world from the mid-to-late 20th century. 

Wood also plans to work on a collaborative project exploring gendered experiences of medical violence (including childbirth trauma), and to host a conference at VIU exploring these themes. Finally, Wood plans to begin “a new project exploring the history of women’s pain across the life cycle,” she says. 

“I’m interested in researching women’s pain in girlhood, menstrual pain, sexual pain, and how gender shapes attitudes towards pain in old age.”

In each of these three areas, Wood looks forward to involving VIU students in her research projects. 

By examining the historical roots of women’s modern childbirth experiences and contemporary perceptions of women’s health, Wood hopes to provide context and support for public health and policy efforts that aim to improve women’s encounters with the Canadian health-care system. 

“Women still face a number of barriers in accessing quality medical care and women’s pain, in particular, is widely underrecognized and undertreated,” she says. “By learning from our past, I hope we can address and correct ongoing inequities in women’s health to ultimately provide all women with better health care.”

Community says goodbye to VIU's Dr. Ralph Nilson

Dr. Ralph Nilson

By Jenn McGarrigle
External Communications Advisor
Vancouver Island University

0628 - “It’s been an incredible privilege to be here, and I look forward to watching the continued growth of this institution.”

Dr. Ralph Nilson may be retiring as President and Vice-Chancellor of Vancouver Island University (VIU) at the end of June, but he will not be forgotten. His last month at the helm has been full of tearful goodbyes, heartfelt speeches, thoughtful awards, gifts bestowed and tribute events.

 At a farewell event for VIU employees last month, Board of Governors Chair Makenzie Leine announced that the new Centre for Health and Science would bear Nilson’s name. The building is VIU’s most complex construction project to date and one Nilson stayed on for an extra half-term to help complete.

“This project would not have been possible without the vision, tenacity and tireless efforts of our fearless president, who secured the support from government and other funders to make the Dr. Ralph Nilson Centre for Health and Science a reality,” Leine explained at the event. 

During Nilson’s final convocation ceremony on Friday, June 21, he received the University’s first President Emeritus designation for outstanding accomplishments, effective leadership and his “relentless focus on accessibility and excellence,” Manley McLachlan, Board of Governors Vice-Chair, announced near the end of the ceremony.

The Ralph and Suzanne Nilson Celebration Gala on Monday, June 24 was an opportunity for community members to say farewell – and contribute to the Nilsons’ legacy fund to support non-traditional and marginalized learners. The fund is nearing $125,000, including a generous contribution of $100,000 from the Nilsons, and people wishing to support it can do so by visiting VIU’s Donors page.

William Litchfield, Associate Vice-President of University Relations, said Nilson leaves behind an enduring legacy as a social justice leader who sincerely wishes to see all students thrive through access to post-secondary education. 

“Dr. Nilson’s impact on VIU and the entire region can only be described as transformational,” said Litchfield. “Under his leadership, VIU has achieved university accreditation, implemented a bicameral governance model, constructed more than $130 million in new infrastructure, expanded program delivery, enhanced access to education, and implemented programs that have developed VIU’s national reputation for social justice.”

Ruby Barclay, a Child and Youth Care alumna, is one of the students whose life was changed by VIU’s decision – spearheaded by Nilson – to become the first institution in BC to allow former youth in care to study tuition-free. Speaking at the gala, she explained that while studying at VIU, she discovered a gap in services provided to students in the program. Encouraged by Nilson and other senior leaders, she created a peer support navigator position to fill that gap. 


“You taught me not only that I matter here, but I belong here, and I can help others belong as well,” she said. “Great leaders are invested – they listen and they take action. You taught me what it is like to be invested in the future.”

Chancellor Louise Mandell thanked Nilson for making “poverty less hereditary.”

“Thank you for being the force that pushes the boundaries of opportunity, showing the power of opening doors for one another,” she said.

Nilson’s successor, Dr. Deborah Saucier, an accomplished neuroscientist, experienced administrator and dedicated educator, starts a five-year term as President and Vice-Chancellor on July 4, 2019.

VIU design student earns spot at Worldskills competition

VIU Graphic Design student Joe Thoong’s hours and hours of practice have paid off with a spot on Team Canada for the 2019 WorldSkills competition in Kazan, Russia. Vancouver Island University photo

By Jenn McGarrigle
Vancouver Island University

0607 - Joe Thoong, a second-year VIU Graphic Design student, is heading to Russia in August to compete in WorldSkills Kazan 2019 with Team Canada.

“Best in the World” is a title he hopes to earn this summer. Following a three-day competition in Halifax last week, Thoong earned a spot on WorldSkills Team Canada 2019, and he heads to Kazan, Russia, August 22-27 to compete against top contenders from across the world. 

“This is something I’ve wanted for years, and for it to actually happen feels surreal at this point,” says Thoong.

To qualify, he had to first win the 2018 Skills Canada National Competition last year (every second year is a qualifying year for the world competition), then return to nationals again at the end of May to participate in a special qualifying competition. To prepare, Thoong has been training five days a week for the past year.

“For me, this included school, homework, work, reading books and monthly practice sessions,” he says. “I’d often end up recording 30-40 hours of training per week.”

 Skills Canada, founded in 1989 to promote skilled trades and technology careers among Canadian youth, hosts the only national multi-trade and technology event of its kind for both high school and post-secondary students and apprentices across the country. Regional and provincial competitions are held across the country to select the students who participate in nationals. Every second year, national winners move on to a competition that qualifies them to join Team Canada for the WorldSkills competition.

This is Thoong’s fourth year competing in Skills Canada competitions – he started in Grade 11.

“I think at the beginning, I hated to lose, and for the first two years, I won silver but not gold. The idea of coming back and redeeming myself was always satisfying,” he says. “But now I think it’s becoming a lot more about craft and pushing myself. I want to keep getting better and learning more.”

Thoong had help from his coach, VIU Graphic Design Professor Nancy Pagé, as well as others in the department.

“Nancy has volunteered hours and days of her free time to help me train and I can’t thank her enough,” he says. “None of this could have been done without her.”

“It’s been a pleasure working with Joe,” says Pagé. “He works hard and has made the training easy for me. Knowing the level of skill required to be on Team Canada, this win is a true testament to his abilities. I’m very proud of him and excited to see what happens in Russia.”

Thoong says for the WorldSkills competition, his goal is to achieve a medallion of excellence, which a competitor needs to win at least 700 out of a possible 800 points, if not a placement on the podium, to win. Aside from training this summer, he’s also taken on an internship with a design studio in Victoria.

“Skills competitions have taught me how to focus, work quickly and efficiently, and a lot of technical skills, but I’ve also learned a lot of life lessons such as sacrifice, the feeling of defeat, and how to focus on today,” he says. “It’s made me a better designer, but also a better person.”

Emma Gillis

Bachelor of Arts in Child, Youth Care alum
Emma Gillis hopes to continue research

By Rae-Anne Guenther,
VIU Communications officer

Supporting the rights and well-being of children, youth and families has always been a passion for Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care alum Emma Gillis.

“What drew me to the CYC program at VIU was that it is focused on relational and experiential learning,” she says.

Gillis received that hands-on learning experience through the Centre for Community Outreach and Care (CCOC), a third-year practicum placement for CYC students. The CCOC works with local Nanaimo stakeholders to identify community needs and engage in child- and family-focused activities. 

Over the past two years, Gillis had the opportunity to research and analyze how children, youth and families within the community have been impacted by the opioid epidemic. The focus of her practicum was coordinating a series of community-based dialogues exploring the impact of the opioid crisis on children, youth and families. The other component of the project was to create a children’s group for those affected by the opioid poisoning epidemic. 

“This project has had a tremendous impact on the community, bringing together a wide range of community members, service providers, and young people impacted by the epidemic, honouring and valuing the lived and living experiences of community members,” says Gillis. “It was truly a great experience working alongside the community and discovering the immense strength our community holds. 

VIU Professor Stephen Javorski says Gillis’s passion for her community and for the opioid crisis project led her to continue developing the project during her fourth year of study.

“Gillis’s work embodies the intended purpose of the outreach centre – to provide meaningful learning opportunities for students while helping to provide support to community members,” he says. “It has been a pleasure working with Emma during her studies at VIU and I wish her the best as she starts the next chapter of her academic career.”

Throughout her time at VIU, Gillis’s passion for supporting children and families has only deepened. Her experiences through the CYC have helped broaden her understanding of the many inequities people in the community face on a daily basis. 

“It has allowed me to not only recognize but truly value the internal strengths and resiliencies each of these families hold,” says Gillis. “The program has provided me the opportunity to gain a deeper sense of self, recognizing my own strengths, limitations and privileges and how they all relate to and interact with the work I intend to engage in.”

Gillis starts a Master of Arts in Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria this fall, and hopes to continue engaging in community-based research that bridges the gap between people accessing services and those providing the services.

VIU grad sets her sights on protecting the environment

Kimberley Barrett
VIU photo

Biology graduate Kimberley Barrett isn’t going to medical school like she originally planned five years ago when she started her degree at Vancouver Island University (VIU). Partway into her journey she discovered helping animals and the environment is what she is most passionate about.

“I grew up wanting to go to medical school after seeing what doctors were able to do for my sister who suffered from a congenital heart defect,” says Barrett, who is graduating this June with Bachelor of Science in Biology.

Within a day of being born her sister had to have open heart surgery and there were complications. She suffered a stroke partway through and continued to deal with long-term ramifications for years after that. 

“It was one thing after another and constant surgeries,” says Barrett. “There were more doctors, physiotherapists and many other medical professionals over the years who were able to do so much for her. My sister is a healthy young girl now and you wouldn’t know that she had such a hard time.”

Inspired by her sister’s recovery, when Barrett graduated from Alberni District Secondary School with a VIU President’s entrance scholarship she began taking science courses that would lead her to into the field of medicine.

“Biology was a stepping stone into some kind of a medical program for me,” says Barrett. “But then I started seeing all the amazing research that is done here and hearing about all of the incredible opportunities available to students, and I started thinking science wasn’t something happening in an ivory tower somewhere, it was happening here and it was something I could do. 

While at VIU, Barrett has been studying the genetic diversity of wild and captive Vancouver Island marmots–the most endangered mammal in Canada.  It involved using DNA extracted from hair or skin samples and investigating how much variation there is among more than 80 individual marmots. The research is aimed at providing insight into the genetic diversity left in the species to assist current conservation efforts. Specifically to avoid inbreeding of the captive marmots as more inbreeding increases the likelihood of the species extinction.

In her final year, Barrett won a VIU REACH award for her Biology 491 independent research project and was also awarded a competitive Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA) from the Natural Sciences and Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to work in the VIU lab to expand her research.  

“I was really excited when Kim first approached me about research opportunities,” says Dr. Jamie Gorrell, VIU Biology Professor. “She was so enthusiastic and dove into the research. I pointed her in the right direction and she figured it out on her own.”

Barrett will start a Master’s of Science degree at the University of Alberta this September, where she will study cougar populations across Alberta using genetic techniques.

“I’m not ready to stop learning about ecology and there is so much more I want to know. I see the value of doing environmental research bearing in mind the effects of climate change and that more species are going to become extinct,” says Barrett. “I have time to pursue a master’s degree and do some really cool science. If at the end of two years I want to go into medicine, I still have time to do that too.”

VIU training program helps turn ideas into business startups

The first graduates of the CETP program proudly show off their business portfolios. Photo: Vancouver Island University

0508 - Vancouver Island University’s new Co-operative Entrepreneur Training Program (CETP) supports people with disabilities to achieve their dreams with the knowledge and tools to start their entrepreneurial journey.

Jolene Trigg, one of first students participating in the CETP, says her disability presented her with an opportunity to create a unique mobile yoga company. 

Shortly after completing her yoga certification in Greece, Trigg fell and broke her tailbone. This is the incident which she recalls the insidious onset of her later diagnosed a Post Trauma Vision Syndrome diagnosis, which is caused by trauma to the brain. Her dreams of teaching yoga were suddenly put on hold.

“I went from being a capable body to being crippled. I thought I would never be able to do what I was destined to do,” she says. “This program has shown me that I am capable of reaching my dreams no matter what challenges or adversity I have faced.”

With the encouragement and knowledge from VIU faculty and her classmates, Trigg was able to change her mindset of what being a yoga instructor meant.

“I had to change my perception of what a capable body is in order to continue my own practice,” she says. “I realized that everyone can do yoga regardless of physical limitations. So, I designed my business, All Bodies Capable (ABC) Yoga, to meet people where they are and focus on postures, breathing and conscious connection.”

The new program emerged from VIU Instructor Tanya Assaf’s realization that some of her students in the Workplace Essential Skills and Training Program (WEST), which supports people with disabilities gain workplace skills, needed another avenue to seek meaningful employment. 

“She saw students with some incredible skills and talents who could really benefit from owning their own business,” says Linda McCandless.

The CETP program is for students with a cognitive or developmental disability who have a desire to put into action a viable business idea.

“We interview students prior to acceptance into the program to see if they would be a good fit and to discuss their business aspirations,” says McCandless. “We give students the knowledge and confidence to be able to launch their business by the end of the program.” 

The small class developed close connections with each other that sparked a strong collaboration effort in the classroom. For example, Matt Allers, who aims to start his own web design company, Analytical Web Design, offered to help his peers Natalie Parfitt and Cheri Devost design their company websites.

Devost decided to combine her passion for supporting the elderly and making people feel beautiful by opening a mobile spa business, Wellness on Wheels. She offers massage and nail services to people in their homes. 

Jada Morison’s business helps children and adults learn sign language, and over time she would like to work as a sign language interpreter. “My mom helped me with coming up with a name for my business – Hear for You,” says Morison. She says her classmates supported her in promoting her business and helped with the research for her business plan. “It was a real collaborative effort from all of us.” 

Parfitt, who is a WEST program graduate and already has experience working as a dog walker, decided to take the program to develop her skills further and grow her business. “It’s been a great opportunity to grow my connections in the community,” she says. Parfitt owns Dogs Dig Daycare, a dog walking and sitting service.

The CETP puts a strong emphasis on building connections with other businesses in the community. After completing their marketing and communication courses, the students are matched with a business mentor to complete a three-week internship. 

“This is really key for the success of any entrepreneur – to have those community connections and learn from other successful business owners on how to put your passion into practice,” says McCandless.

Applications for the September 2019 intake are now being accepted.


Sustainable seafood ambassador to get degree from VIU

Chef Ned Bell

0430 - A man who has impacted the way thousands of chefs and individuals around the world buy and consume seafood will be honoured by VIU.

Ned Bell is an award-winning chef advocate, keynote speaker, educator and founder of Chefs for Oceans, an organization that raises awareness and advocates for responsible seafood choices.He launched this organization with an 8,700 km bike ride across Canada in 2014, staging dozens of awareness building events along the way. Bell’s commitment to seafood stewardship has only continued to grow ever since.

“Every second breath we take comes from the one ocean we share covering two-thirds of our Blue Planet,” says Bell. “I don’t know that there is a more important conversation than the health of this extraordinary body of water that we know so little about. We cannot grow anything on land without healthy oceans, our weather is directly linked to its health, and our lakes and rivers across the planet feed into the oceans.” 

Bell will be recognized for the exceptional leadership he has demonstrated in the sustainable seafood area with an Honorary Doctor of Technology at Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) June 21 Convocation Ceremony.

Bell is passionate about creating globally inspired dishes crafted using locally grown ingredients, with an emphasis on sustainable seafood. His ability to excite, inspire and educate individuals and industry professionals wanting to make a broader commitment to sustainable seafood has made him a much sought-after chef, speaker and change-maker. Bell effectively combines his love of great ingredients, culinary skills and infectious enthusiasm with a passion for elevating the conversation of this crucial environmental issue.

“VIU has a world-class culinary arts program with a solid international reputation and strong links to the ocean and the bounties it produces,” says Dr. Don Noakes, VIU Dean of Science & Technology. “Chefs like Ned Bell play an important role in not only feeding the public but also in educating people about healthy choices and sustainable choices for the food we grow and harvest.”

“With more than 35 per cent of the world’s fish stocks overexploited and another 55 per cent of the fish stocks fully exploited, it is important that we choose our seafood wisely in order to protect endangered fish and shellfish stocks while producing food for a world’s population predicted to increase to nearly 10 billion people by 2050,” adds Noakes. 

Bell has worked in some of the country’s finest restaurants in Niagara, Toronto, Calgary, Kelowna and Vancouver, where he is currently the Culinary Director at the prestigious Vancouver Club. He has earned many accolades and awards including receiving Food Service & Hospitality magazine’s Pinnacle Award for Chef of the Year in 2015 and the SeaWeb Seafood Summit Global Champion Award in 2017.

As Executive Chef for Ocean Wise, a Vancouver-based conservation program with a global reach, Bell continues to make an impact through educational, advocacy and culinary experiences with his peers around the world.

“This is a food conversation, a human conversation, affecting every person on this planet. Whether you live close to the coast or far away from it, you impact the world’s five oceans and seven seas every day of your life,” says Bell.

 A father of three sons, Bell has dedicated himself to inspiring and educating people to become part of the solution for healthier oceans for today’s children and all the generations to come. 

“Mother Nature still gives us wild fish, it isn’t our right to take it all, and two billion of us rely on it for our daily source of protein,” says Bell.



VIU to honour Haida Elders for preserving native languages

The nine Haida Elders who make up SHIP, as well as program coordinator Kevin Borserio (back row, left). Photo courtesy of Skidegate Haida Immersion Program.


0429 - When a culture loses its language, an irreparable connection to the essence of a people is gone. One way to kill a Nation is to kill their language. The architects of the Canadian Indian Residential School System understood this, which is why they forcibly forbade their young charges from speaking their own language. The result of losing this linguistic diversity is a tragic loss to Canada of the wisdom, complexity and true understanding contained in the richness of Indigenous languages and cultures.

However, a dedicated and passionate group of Haida Elders, a generation who lived through residential schools, have spent the last 21 years ensuring this is not the case for the Haida people. In 1998, they created the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program (SHIP), designed to preserve and revitalize HlGaagilda Xaayda Kil, the Skidegate dialect of the Haida language.  

Since SHIP began, despite illness and other challenges, the Elders have gathered five days a week, 10 months a year to remember and to record their previously oral language for this and future generations. 

Vancouver Island University (VIU) is honoured to recognize their remarkable work with Honorary Doctor of Laws degrees to all nine Elders. Their names are Gaayinguuhlas (Roy Jones), YangK’aalas (Grace Jones), Ildagwaay (Bea Harley), Taalgyaa’adad (Betty Richardson), Jiixa (Gladys Vandal) Sing.giduu (Laura Jormanainen), SGaanajaadsk’yaagaxiigangs (Kathleen Hans), Niis Waan (Harvey Williams) and GwaaGanad (Diane Brown). Together, they comprise the Skidegate Haida Language Authority. They will receive their awards during VIU’s afternoon convocation ceremony on Monday, June 3 starting at 2:30 pm.

With an average age of 84, these “language professors” represent about half of all fluent HlGaagilda Xaayda Kil speakers. Their contribution is an avalanche of language preservation including translating and producing more than 200 CD-ROMs; developing an app with 2,000 words and 500 phrases available to anyone with an Internet connection; writing “The Glossary” which contains more than 26,000 Haida words; translation of 14 Haida Readers; creating a variety of educational resources including 130 lesson plans and 80 children’s books; and much more. With justice in their souls, they support the Haida title case, including a Haida Place Names Mapping Project with more than 2,200 Haida place names. All this, in addition to the lives they touch daily, as Elders, giving because they can, through teaching and role modelling.  

SHIP played an important role in the making of an award-winning, feature-length movie filmed in the Haida language: SGaawaay K’uuna – The Edge of the Knife

“This nomination for nine Haida Elders receiving Honorary Doctor of Laws Degrees has its genesis in the VIU Faculty of Education,” said Les Malbon, VIU Sport, Health and Physical Education Professor. “The faculty humbly pays respect and tribute to the Elders’ engagement and ways of being, knowing and understanding. Faculty members recognize that they can learn at a deep and transformative level from these living libraries and pass this learning on to their students. These nine Haida Elder wisdom keepers are completing the Great Work (magnus opus) of their lives. They have brought forth a body of work from the core of their being that captures the richness of language and culture and showcased it to the world. The Great Work is resurgent, regenerative, transformative and is a gift for all future generations.” 

“It is fitting that SHIP be recognized by VIU during the United Nations Year of Indigenous Languages,” said VIU Chancellor Louise Mandell. “This year we seek healing, from the violent disruption and interruption of language transmission and recovery of humanity’s linguistic heritage. Indigenous languages are disappearing around the world at unprecedented rates, with Canada one of the worst examples. We are overwhelmed with admiration and inspiration, and celebrate SHIP’s love and lasting legacy.” 

Biographies of SHIP Elders:

Ildagwaay (Beatrice Harley) is the eldest woman and clan mother of the K’aadas Ga KiiGawaay, also known as the Raven-Wolf clan of T’aanuu. She was born on November 17, 1928 in Skidegate to Louise and George Price. She eloped with husband, Kenneth Harley, a sailor in the merchant navy, to Prince Rupert so her husband could immigrate and they married on February 7, 1949. They have two daughters – Barbara and Margaret. She has been with SHIP since the beginning. She taught at the Haida Heritage Centre and the Skidegate Health Centre and now mentors students. She is a fluent speaker and teacher of Xaayda Kil. 

Taalgyaa’adad (Betty Richardson) was born to Rosalind and Fred Russ on May 11, 1935 in Skidegate. She and her family lived with her paternal grandmother until she was 13. Her grandmother spoke fluent Xaayda Kil. Her mother attended residential school for eight years. Taalgyaa’adad married Miles Richardson, Chief Cheexial (a hereditary Chief of the Haida Nation) in 1954. They have six children and 13 grandchildren. She is an Eagle from the Ts’aahl clan. She owned and operated her own travel agency from 1978- 1995. She started teaching at SHIP in 2000. She is a fluent Xaayda Kil speaker and now teaches four-and five-year-olds in the nursery school. 

Jiixa (Gladys Vandal) is from the Eagle Clan of Skidegate, Gidins Naa’yuuaans XaaydaGaay (Big House People). Her parents were Kathleen Young Hans and Isaac Hans. She is a fluentXaayda Kil speaker and has taught at SHIP for 21 years. She has great passion for Haida language and culture and is currently mentoring a few students.

SGaanajaadskyaagaxiigangs (Kathleen Clara Hans) goes by the nickname Golie and was born July 13, 1933 at her mother’s house in Skidegate. Her clan is Skidegate Gidins, known as the Naa’yuuaans XaaydaGaay (Big House People). She is an Eagle and her clan’s crests are the two-headed raven, ‘waasGuu (sea wolf monster), killer whale, grizzly, sculpin, halibut, and ts’aamus (supernatural, transforming, living log). She recalls her mother telling her they come from the killer whale. She worked as a Haida Watchman in Hotsprings for 25 years, protecting the village sites during the summer. She has taught Xaayda Kil for 38 years and has been with SHIP since the beginning.  

Niis Waan (Harvey Williams) was born on May 13, 1932 in Skidegate to Fred and Eva Williams. He belongs to the Gaagyals KiiGawaay, also known as the Skedans clan, and given the name Niis Waan by Susan Williams, his maternal nanaay (grandmother). His maternal chinaay (grandfather) was John Williams. He is a fluent Xaayda Kil speaker and has taught at SHIP since the beginning. He would like more conversation in Haida lessons, believes immersion is the most effective way to learn and encourages students not to get discouraged over mistakes. 

Sing.giduu (Laura Jormanainen) is a member of the Skedans clan and was born January 28, 1936 in Skidegate. She is a fluent Xaayda Kil speaker who has been teaching at Sk’aadGa Naay Elementary School since 1992 and has been with SHIP for 10 years. She has three grandsons, one great granddaughter and one great grandson. She also has two brothers, one sister and two daughters.

GwaaGanad (Diane Brown) is an educator, healer and nanaay (grandmother). She is a language and knowledge holder of the Ts’aahl Eagle clan of the Haida Nation. GwaaGanad has lived her whole life on the land and waters of Haida Gwaii gathering food, and learning and practicing Haida medicine. She is the youngest first language speaker of Xaayda Kil and served her Elders and community as the first Community Health Representative in Skidegate from 1970-1998. She has dedicated her life to protecting her people, culture and the Earth. In 1985, along with many other Haida people, she was arrested for blocking logging on Lyell Island. The area is now protected as the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. Since 1986, GwaaGanad has been a member of the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth. She is a founding member of SHIP and has founded many groups in the protection and growth of the Haida culture. She is a retired professor at the University of Northern British Columbia. She has two children and four grandchildren. She continues to live in Skidegate with her soulmate, Ganxwad Dullskin Brown where they gather food, spend time with grandchildren and speak and teach Haida. 

Yang K’aalas (Grace Velma Jones) was born in Skidegate on January 6, 1929. She is what was referred to as a silent speaker – as a child she spoke Xaayda Kil even though it was forbidden at school. Joining SHIP allowed Yang K’aalas to use her knowledge of the Haida language to contribute to the preservation of her language and culture. She married Gaayinguuhlas (Roy Jones), who is also a SHIP Elder, on December 1, 1948 and the two just celebrated 70 years of marriage. They have spent much of their lives together traveling and as they travel they developXaayda Kil words and phrases that have not previously existed for what they see and experience. Yang K’aalas is a fluent Xaayda Kil speaker and teacher. At 90 years of age, she still lives at home and visits Gaayinguuhlas in the hospital. Together, they have two adopted children, five grandchildren and six great grandchildren. One of their children is Cheexial Taaiixou (Chief Roy S Jones Jr.). 

Gaayinguuhlas (Roy Charles Jones) was born in Lagoon Bay, Haida Gwaii on August 3, 1924. He grew up in Haida Gwaii and fished with his father starting at the age of 12. He spent his life as a commercial fisherman. Although he only possessed a Grade 6 education, he was very successful in the fishing industry. While he worked as a fisherman, he took every opportunity to teach Xaayda Kil and used the language with other Haida fishermen to protect good fishing areas. In 1970, he and his wife, Yang K’aalas, began a fishery that continues today. He cultivated great relationships up and down the west coast with many fishing families and spent years volunteering for basketball games at home and away, including the All Native Basketball Tournament in Prince Rupert, BC. Gaayinguuhlas is a fluent Xaayda Kil speaker and taught whenever he could. He became involved with SHIP to preserve and revitalize the language. In October, 2018, he suffered a stroke and heart attack. He is now in hospital, but even from his bed continues his work with students.

Photo Caption: The nine Haida Elders who make up SHIP, as well as program coordinator Kevin Borserio (back row, left). Photo Credit: Skidegate Haida Immersion Program.

VIU develops revenue-generating Trust

Janet Bonaguro is Executive Director of the VIU Initiatives Trust, which began active operations in early 2019.
Vancouver Island University photo

Vancouver Island University (VIU) has created a business entity that will allow it to participate in the economy in ways that VIU isn’t able to do on its own.

Following in the footsteps of several other post-secondary institutions across British Columbia, VIU has created a trust to engage in revenue-generating initiatives for the benefit of VIU and the VIU Foundation.

Created in 2018, the VIU Initiatives Trust (the Trust) began active operations in 2019. A trust is an arrangement where a trustee (in this case the VIU Initiatives Corporation, a corporation created solely for the purpose of managing this Trust) is given the right to hold and manage assets within the trust on behalf of its beneficiaries.

“The Trust is a natural step in the evolution of an institution that wants to harness the strengths of the region,” says VIU President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Ralph Nilson. “It gives us an opportunity to do things we aren’t able to currently do to enhance business ventures in the area and take advantage of the incredible strengths and capabilities we have at VIU. The values and strengths of VIU will be enhanced by a trust that feeds resources into the institution,” she says.

The Trust provides a much-needed legal structure to attract equity partners and commercial lenders to further build out income-generating business opportunities and infrastructure in support of educational delivery. Its separate corporate structure limits VIU’s potential liability and business risk, says Executive Director Janet Bonaguro.

“The Trust intends to significantly contribute to the economic viability of the region, in ways that align with VIU’s values, and enhance the campus community through developments that best integrate the region with VIU.”

VIU’s small property base means the Trust will be exploring a broader range of initiatives than many other university trusts, which focus on property development. Trust initiatives aim to generate revenue for VIU and the VIU Foundation to better pursue their mandates. Initiatives may include property development, campus services, entrepreneurial business ventures or investing in other businesses.

“One key benefit of the Trust structure is that it can move at the speed of business,” explains Bonaguro. “Partnering with the Trust provides the opportunity to leverage VIU’s strengths, assets and resources, with all Trust benefits accruing back to VIU.”

Bonaguro says the Trust is currently in the process of building relationships within the communities VIU serves and developing its strategic plan.

“We encourage everyone to watch our website for information on initiatives and reach out to us to explore potential partnership opportunities,” she says. “We’re very interested in collaborating with other regional industries for mutual benefit.” To learn more, visit VIU Initiatives Trust.

VIU announces Queen Elizabeth Scholarship recipients

Five Vancouver Island University students will have the opportunity to make a difference internationally this spring thanks to the Canadian Queen Elizabeth ll Diamond Jubilee Scholarship (QES) program. 

“The QES gives our students the opportunity to collaborate with international partners on pressing issues facing coastal communities around the world,” says Jennifer Sills, VIU’s Education Abroad Manager. “These experiences give students the awareness of how their actions impact other parts of the world. We are all global citizens.” 

So far, 21 VIU graduate and undergraduate students, and seven Belizean graduate students have participated in the cross-cultural exchange and experiential learning program, which provides financial support so students can collaborate on innovative solutions to the pressing issues facing coastal communities in Canada and around the world. An additional five VIU undergraduate students have been awarded the scholarship funding for 2019 and three international graduate students will be joining VIU in September 2019.

“Through this scholarship program we are also able to host incoming international students from Belize and Tanzania at a graduate program level for full master’s degrees,” says Sills. “This allows us to develop and share research, innovation and best practices in community resilience and sustainability that can be applied both in the Vancouver Island area and in our partner communities in Belize and Tanzania through reciprocal exchange of ideas and knowledge between our scholars.”  

 The QES program is managed through a unique partnership between Universities Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation, Community Foundations of Canada and Canadian universities. Since 2017, VIU undergraduate and graduate students have participated in three-month international internships that focus on the theme of Building Resilience in Coastal Communities. 

The VIU QES recipients will be starting their internships abroad in May.   

Charlynn Jelier, Global Studies

Charlynn Jelier

Charlynn Jelier, a Global Studies student, will travel to Tanzania to work as a Sustainable Livelihood Development Officer, assisting Cultural Tourism Enterprises (CTE) to develop sustainable livelihood strategies for local communities in coastal areas involved in tourism. CTE’s are enterprises focused on traveler’s engagement with a country or region’s culture. 

Rose Williams, Global Studies and Political Studies

Rose Williams

Rose Williams, who is double majoring in Global Studies and Political Studies, will be working as an Ecotourism Officer with the Women Entrepreneurship Program in Matara, Sri Lanka. The goal of the WEP is to increase the income of self-employed women through business development and micro-financing. Williams will be busy researching tourism needs and opportunities as well as training staff on environmental sustainability. 

“I look forward to gaining experience working within an NGO and alongside local communities,” she says. “I’m excited and humbled for this opportunity, both to apply my knowledge and learn from WEP.”

Erin Normandeau, Tourism Management

Erin Normandeau

Erin Normandeau, a Tourism Management student, is excited to be working with the Tanzania Tourist Board as a Social Network and Marketing Officer. With a deep-rooted interest in tourism, she is looking forward to exploring responsible tourism growth in Arusha, Tanzania. 

“As more people are travelling now than ever before, knowledge of responsible tourism products has become increasingly more important. By expanding the awareness of CTE products, I hope to support an overall goal of promoting sustainable tourism initiatives to encourage a responsible consumption of tourism products,” says Normandeau. 

Alex Harte, Geography

Alex Harte

Alex Harte, a Geography student, is applying his passion for community development to work as a Water Sanitation and Management Officer in Matara, Sri Lanka. 

“I will be working with the Women’s Entrepreneurship Program to address water sanitation, helping develop workshops, monitor water sanitation, write reports, implement strategies for water conservation, provide support and advice for increasing water conservation capacity, and ensuring that women and youth are well-represented and included in our activities,” says Harte. “I am excited to learn about how communities around the world are addressing their own challenges with the resources that they have.”

Jeffrey Fontaine, Geography

Jeffrey Fontaine

Geography student Jeffrey Fontaine is looking forward to applying his unique perspective and knowledge from growing up in the small coastal community of Tofino to his work with the Tanzania Tourist Board as an Environmental Conservation Advisor. He will be assisting in the development of eco-friendly development models for local communities and businesses.

Saucier named president and vice-chancellor of VIU

Dr. Deborah Saucier

0301 - Dr. Deborah Saucier has been appointed president and vice-chancellor of Vancouver Island University, beginning in July.

Dr. Saucier is an accomplished neuroscientist, dedicated educator and university administrator with a deep commitment to Indigenous education and reconciliation. Originally from Saskatoon with Métis heritage and connections to Vancouver Island through both her education and her family, Saucier comes to VIU from MacEwan University in Edmonton, where she has served as president since 2017.

VIU Board Chair Makenzie Leine says Saucier was selected through an extensive, international presidential search process involving consultation with VIU’s internal and external communities, and was recommended by a Presidential Search Advisory Committee comprised of student, faculty, staff, board and senior administrative representatives.

Saucier says she was drawn to VIU by its commitment to student success, teaching quality, supporting a healthy workplace, as well as its proven commitment and track record of serving coastal and Indigenous communities. She is also excited to bring her advocacy work related to encouraging more women to enter careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to VIU.

“I am so excited to be part of the unique ways that VIU is transforming the communities of coastal British Columbia – allowing people to realize their dreams without having to leave their homes,” says Saucier. “I identify strongly with the values that VIU brings to these conversations and look forward to the ways in which we can do even more in the future.”

Saucier spent many of her formative years on Vancouver Island. After completing an International Baccalaureate diploma at the Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific (1985), Canada’s United World College in Metchosin, BC, she went on to the University of Victoria where she completed bachelor’s (1988) and master’s (1990) degrees in psychology.

With a PhD in psychology (1995) from Western University in London, Ontario, Saucier's academic career includes time as a professor of psychology at the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan, and later as chair of the department of neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge where she also served as a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in behavioural neuroscience, with a specialty in spatial cognition. Between 2011 and 2017, Saucier was dean of science and later provost and vice-president, academic at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) in Oshawa, Ontario.

As MacEwan University’s president, Saucier has made student success, employee engagement and implementing the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission top priorities for an institution that serves as Edmonton’s downtown university. For more details, see Saucier's curriculum vitae.

VIU Chancellor Louise Mandell notes Saucier’s experience combined with her knowledge of Indigenous peoples, culture and ways of knowing are the right fit for the VIU presidency.

“With great respect and excitement, I welcome VIU’s next President, a brilliant Indigenous woman whose values are congruent with VIU’s Indigenous commitment,” says Mandell. “Her leadership combines optimism and kindness – qualities important to VIU’s continued success as a regional university making social and cultural changes through transforming the communities we serve.”

Saucier is married to Chai Duncan, a curator and contemporary artist, and they have an 11-year-old daughter. They will relocate to Vancouver Island this summer.

“My family and I are delighted to be able to come back to Vancouver Island in this role,” adds Saucier. “Not only did I complete high school in Metchosin, but both my husband and I completed our undergraduate education at the University of Victoria. Returning to the Island feels like the closure of a long journey. For my daughter, she is delighted to be able to spend time with her extended family, who are located throughout the Island, exploring the places that I did when I was 10 years old.”

Saucier will succeed Dr. Ralph Nilson, who has served as president of both VIU and its predecessor institution, Malaspina University-College, since 2007 and will complete his final term on June 30, 2019.

“We are deeply grateful to Dr. Nilson for his incredible dedication, commitment and passion for our students and our community during the past 12 and a half years,” says Leine. “He has left an incredible legacy not only for VIU, but also for Vancouver Island, BC and Canada, and we look forward to his continuing involvement and contributions in the future.”

Dental hygiene students brighten children's smiles

VIU Students Brighten Children’s Smiles at Healthy Kids Dental Day.
Vancouver Island University photo

VIU’s Dental Hygiene and Child and Youth Care students team up to provide free teeth cleanings for low income families.

0226 - “If the children walk away with a smile on their face, we know we’ve done a good job,” says Connor Edwards, a fourth-year student in Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Child and Youth Care (CYC) program. 

The CYC and Dental Hygiene programs have teamed up to organize the Healthy Kids Dental Clinic – a free or by-donation dental check-up service for low-income families. 

“We started three years ago after having community discussions on how we can better serve families in the area,” says Teri Derksen, VIU CYC Professor. 

Healthy Kids is a community initiative created by the CYC’s Centre for Community Outreach and Care, which focuses on social justice-inspired activities to support children and families in the Harewood area. Third-year students advertise the program by reaching out to schools and through social media and coordinate appointments, while the dental hygiene students perform the dental work for the children. 

 “Routine dental care isn’t financially accessible to everyone – especially for families without extended health-care plans – so having this service at the university is invaluable to us,” says a mother of three children accessing the clinic, who asked to remain anonymous. “The students take the time to get the kids comfortable and make it really fun for them.” 

The clinic operates on a scheduled Saturday every year and sees about 30 children throughout the day. Dr. Alex Chen volunteers as the in-house dentist and 18 dental hygiene students in both first and second year provide teeth cleanings, X-rays and oral hygiene training to patients. 

“This is a great opportunity for us to practice our dental skills while working with younger patients,” says Jaime Wagner, second-year Dental Hygiene student. “Our main focus is to make this a fun, memorable experience for the children so they continue to take care of their oral health throughout their life. 

For details on the next Healthy Kids Dental Clinic, families are encouraged to email or check out the VIU Dental Hygiene Program Facebook page.

The Dental Hygiene program provides teeth cleaning services to the public at a low-cost throughout the school year as well at their dental clinic.



VIU students Brandon James Mason, Candace Boland and Misha Zvekic are enjoying the new facilities at the Nanaimo Campus. Imagine VIU is a campaign to help equip and complete these new buildings and support the students benefitting from the new spaces.
Vancouver Island University photo

VIU launches campaign to help complete
new buildings and support students

Imagine VIU is a campaign to equip and complete the three new facilities at the Nanaimo Campus – the Centre for Health and Science; the Marine, Automotive and Trades Complex; and District Geo-Exchange Energy System – and support the students who will be learning in these new facilities.

0214 - Three exciting new projects are expanding opportunities available to students at Vancouver Island University’s Nanaimo Campus.

Thanks to funding from the federal and provincial governments, the Centre for Health and Science; an expanded and renovated Automotive, Marine and Trades Complex; and a District Geo-Exchange Energy System are increasing opportunities in key programs and introducing an innovative green technology on campus.

While students and employees are now enjoying these improved training and classroom spaces, VIU is seeking support to complete and equip the spaces with the tools and technologies students need. The institution is also seeking gifts to support the students learning in these new facilities. 

“The buildings are open, but we need help now to complete these learning spaces in order to give students the opportunity to train in fully equipped classrooms, laboratories and workspaces,” says Dr. Erik Krogh, a VIU Chemistry Professor and co-director of the Applied Environmental Research Laboratories. “With the help of donors and supporters, we can work at a higher level of excellence, contribute to real-world solutions to real-world problems that affect people in our community.”

Imagine VIU – one of the most ambitious campaign the mid-Island region has ever seen – aims to ensure students receive the highest-quality education and skills training available in a setting that reflects what students would find in the workplace.

Watch: Students and faculty describe the impact of the new spaces

“This is an opportunity to give VIU students – the future workforce – the best education possible,” says Brandon James Mason, a student in the Motorcycle and Marine Technician program. “Students in these programs are the future employees that will work in the hospitals and in the automotive shops. I hope people see this as an investment that will later get their car on the road or keep their children healthy.”

For Candace Boland, a fourth-year Nursing student, the new spaces mean getting her training close to home – and close to the region in which she plans to continue living and working.

“Students who would otherwise leave the Island are going to get a quality education here, locally,” she says. “It means we’ll be meeting the needs for getting more nurses into the community and that’s important.”

 Misha Zvekic is excited about the opportunities the Centre for Health and Science building is going to open up for her. The building includes state-of-the-art chemistry labs that allow VIU to begin offering a Chemistry major program and a nursing simulation centre designed to replicate real-world hospital and clinical settings. 

“I’m hopefully going to be one of the first, if not the first, Chemistry graduates at VIU,” says the third-year Bachelor of Science student. “My favourite thing about the new space is the new space because there’s so much of it now that we didn’t have before. It’s going to provide that opportunity for so many more people and we’re not going to be fighting for equipment or fighting for space, it’s going to be this beautiful symbiosis of people working together. I’m so excited.”

 With a fundraising goal of $5.5 million, Imagine VIU invites the community to make a gift to support the education students receive in these important new facilities. Donations can go towards supporting the capital campaign in general, or be targeted at student bursaries, awards and scholarships.

Thanks to generous supporters, the campaign has raised 80% of the $5.5-million goal.

“We’re in the home stretch now – help us ensure our students receive the best education possible,” says William Litchfield, VIU Foundation Chief Advancement Officer.

VIU researchers exploring importance of snow

Dr. Bill Floyd holding an unmanned aerial vehicle.
VIU photo

Vancouver Island University (VIU) researchers are taking a deeper look at snow packs in unique alpine forested watersheds on northern Vancouver Island, with the aim of using drone technology to fill a science knowledge gap on stream flows. 

VIU Geography adjunct professor Dr. Bill Floyd is a Research Hydrologist with the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and Leader of the Coastal Hydrology & Climate Change Research Lab operated out of VIU. He has been studying snow patterns and the effects of forest harvesting and climate change on stream flow in the Russell Creek Experimental Watershed north of Campbell River for many years. 

“Most people don’t give a second thought to the snow way up in the mountains, but it is critical to water supply, to fish and our forest ecosystems, and to our economy,” says Floyd.

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) provided a NSERC Undergrad Student Research Award to VIU Geography student Trevor Dickinson to assist Floyd with the research.

“We haven’t measured snow very well as the technology hasn’t been advanced enough – until now,” says Floyd. “We can use emerging technology to do a better job and hopefully make more resilient decisions related to how it affects water supply.”

“We want to develop new methods for mapping snow depths with drones in treed, alpine and mountain environments,” adds Dickinson.

Dickinson has spent the last two winters with the Coastal Hydrology and Climate Change Research Lab helping maintain eight high-elevation weather stations and two stream gauges in the watershed.

The first two weather station and stream gauges were established by the BC Ministry of Forests in the watershed in 1992 to assess the effects of forest harvesting and road building on transport of sediment into the Robson Bight ecological reserve. 

“In 2005 the observation network expanded to monitor snow across the watershed and study how different winds and temperatures affect the rate at which snow melts,” adds Dickinson.

This data is now being used as a guideline to assess how forests recover after they are harvested, such as comparing how the accumulation and melt differ to pre-harvest levels. In addition, snow data from this area is being used to assess the potential impacts of climate change on water supply.

Current methods of snow density measurement are labour or capital intensive, requiring taking a core sample that has been manually pounded into snow up to five meters in depth and then weighing it, with surveys repeated usually every two weeks to a month. Other methods include installing a weather station to take hourly measurements. The challenge with these methods is the scale these point measurements to estimate just how much snow there is in large watersheds at high elevations in both treed and open environments. 

“You are lucky if you get 10 of those manual measurements in an hour over an area of 100 m2, so it isn’t very effective at describing snow over large, complicated watersheds,” says Floyd.

Floyd hopes by using the drones they will be able to expand their ability to measure snow depth, and measure it in a more accurate way over tens of hectares at a time. Drone technology combined with existing remote sensing measurements will provide an unprecedented amount of data to estimate the volume of water stored in the snowpack.

“How we do that is by flying a double grid, back and forth with a camera angle of 70 or 80 degrees then overlap of 70 or 80 per cent,” explains Dickinson. “The drone takes numerous pictures at different angles, from which we can create a 3D model using software to tie all the photos together.”

Drone mapping is conducted both in the summer and winter months to estimate snow depth by subtracting the surfaces of the 3D models. The researchers will use that information in conjunction with data from the core samples and weather stations to estimate density and evaluate water storage.

“We can essentially go from having a rough estimate of how much water is stored as snow over a given area, to a very accurate calculation, probably to within 5-10 per cent,” says Floyd.

So far, the research team has collected data from one pilot season in sub-alpine park land environments comprised of clusters of trees and open areas. This work was done in collaboration with the Geospatial Team at the Hakai Institute and Dr. Brian Menounos, Geography Professor from the University of Northern British Columbia. The method developed from the pilot season will be applied at Russell Creek Experimental Watershed during the winter of 2019.

There is also potential to apply the drone-based technology elsewhere in the BC provincial snow survey program, which monitors sites across the province. The scientific data can be used to help with flood and avalanche forecasting.

“This project is an excellent example of collaboration between multiple organizations, which leverages the strengths of each institution and provides opportunities for students to learn and apply the results to help solve both current and future problems,” says Floyd.

GoCamper developed by Shane Strom and business partner.

Shane Strom, alumnus of the month at VIU

Entrepreneur Shane Strom


Shane Strom’s entrepreneurial journey began when he enrolled in the Bachelor of Hospitality and Management program at Vancouver Island University (VIU). Shortly after graduating in 2015, Strom created his first start-up, GoCampers, with business partner, Scott Mitchell. GoCampers has converted basic cargo vans and transformed them into stylish and functional mobile hotels for travellers to tour Vancouver Island. 

What was the inspiration behind GoCampers?

We wanted to make a Vancouver Island company that supports local businesses. Our campers are for people looking for a unique, non-traditional camping excursion, or for those who just want to pick up their suitcase and go. It’s camping made easy. When people book with us, we make recommendations for places to visit or how long you should stay to explore an area so it takes the hassle of planning their trip.  

How did your education at VIU prepare you to start up your first business? 

I had taken an entrepreneurship course where we were learned the steps of developing a business from idea to actualizing it – writing a business plan, financial plan and designing a brand image. When I applied for funding for GoCampers, I was able to use the knowledge from that course to write up a proposal. We were successful with our application. If I hadn’t gone through the VIU program, I would not have had the confidence to even write that application and go for it. 

Do you think post-secondary education is necessary for entrepreneurs? 

Having a post-secondary education definitely gives entrepreneurs a massive jumpstart with their ambitions. It gives you the concepts and knowledge you would otherwise be stumbling around to find out yourself, which could take a lot of time and self-motivation. Most importantly, my education at VIU gave me the confidence to bring my ideas into the world.  

What was a highlight of your time at VIU?

The most memorable moments at VIU were spent jamming with my friends in the Jazz program.  I met a lot of great musicians at the university, and I furthered my music career because of them. I even wrote the music for a video we made for the campervans. 

What does the future hold for you?

I am hoping once we expand GoCampers that we can begin looking for more business opportunities. Scott and I are always looking for new projects to continually challenge our entrepreneurial skills. 

Global Citizens Week explores sustainability in action

WHAT: VIU’s Global Citizens Week will explore sustainability in action through campus events, visiting speakers and classroom dialogues.

WHO: Vancouver Island University students and employees

WHEN: Monday – Saturday, February 4 – 9, 2019  

WHEREVancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Nanaimo Campus

 Vancouver Island University (VIU) hosts Global Citizens Week every year to explore issues of global development at home and abroad. This year’s theme is Sustainability in Action. The week-long event will explore a range of topics such as global health, climate change, human rights, political engagement, migration, science and technology, social justice, media and more. Join us in celebrating the work of VIU students and employees who are making a positive change in their communities and around the globe. 


The Kick-Off: Global VIU showcase on Monday, February 4 between 11:30 am and 1 pm in the Upper Cafeteria (Building 300). This exhibition-style event will showcase the many projects being undertaken by VIU faculty, staff and students on issues of global development and social justice – both at home and abroad. This includes international cooperation projects, on-campus sustainability initiatives, refugee sponsorship activities (VIU-WUSC), and much more.

The Vancouver chapter of the Shoe Project of immigrant women who will be sharing their stories of travelling to Canada through the lens of a pair of shoes. VIU, Literacy Nanaimo and the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society are planning on creating a Nanaimo chapter of the Shoe Project. Read full story here. The performance will take place at the Malaspina Theatre between 2:30 pm and 4 pm.


Everybody’s In! Indoor Field Day: Creating an Inclusive Community Through Fun and Friendship will be hosting in the Upper Cafeteria between 11:30 am and 1 pm. This activity-based event will provide opportunities for students, staff and community members to build connections, with the goal of fostering a sense of belonging. The event will feature a unique indoor soccer tournament, Zumba dance lessons, cultural games and activities, food and musical guests. 


Winners of VIU’s prestigious Queen Elizabeth Scholarships will be announced on Thursday, February 7 from 2:30 pm – 4pm at the Royal Arbutus Room (above the Upper Cafeteria). The QES scholarship supports VIU students pursue international internships and assist six international students from partner countries to pursue graduate studies and research at VIU – growing VIU’s network of scholars working on issues facing coastal communities.


Global Perspectives on Housing – a special panel of international experts on housing and homelessness – will take place on Friday, February 8 between 10:00am and 11:30am.


Immigrant women's stories through a pair of shoes

Sharing stories through a pair of shoes opens up the discussion of immigration and connectedness Photo/The Shoe Project

0129 - On the first day of school, a girl noticed all the students in the courtyard were crying. As her father kissed her goodbye, she realized this would be the last time she would see him – and so, she became another girl crying in the school yard.

As she walked into the classroom, a teacher gave her a pair of plastic shoes to wear with her uniform. The shoes symbolized the start of her education, but also the separation from her family. 

“Whenever someone is leaving their home, they are leaving something behind. They are making sacrifices,” says Imogene Lim, Vancouver Island University (VIU) Anthropology professor and Human Rights and International Solidarity Chair for VIU’s Faculty Association (VIUFA). “Shoes accompany us on all of our journeys. They are part of our story.”

The girl’s story of her plastic shoes is one memoir created from the Shoe Project. The project is a writing and performance workshop where immigrant and refugee women tell their stories of their arrival to Canada through a pair of shoes. Created by novelist Katherine Govier, the Shoe Project is now in its sixth year – with workshops in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver 

“I attended the Vancouver performance and thought we need to bring this to Nanaimo,” says Lim.

Together, Vancouver Island University (VIU), Literacy Nanaimo and the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society (CVIMS) are aiming to establish a Nanaimo chapter. To kick-start the initiative, VIU is hosting a performance from the Vancouver chapter of the Shoe Project on Monday, February 4th at 2:30pm – 4pm at the Malaspina Theatre as part of the university’s celebration of Global Citizens Week

“It is an incredible opportunity for women to come together, in a safe space, to learn and share their stories with each other and with the community,” says Jennifer Fowler, CVIMS Executive Director.

“By providing this training, participants will improve their literacy, presentation skills and their confidence to become more involved in our community,” says Samantha Letourneau, Literacy Nanaimo Executive Director. Literacy Nanaimo will be offering two writing workshops in mid-February – an emerging writers group for people aged 15-30 with author and creative writing professor Greg Brown and a professional writers group facilitated by local author Julie Chadwick.

The Shoe Project workshop will be instructed by a local Canadian novelist and VIU theatre professors. The free, 10-week workshop will give immigrant women the opportunity to share their stories through a public performance at the end of the course. 

“Sharing your story and feeling heard is a powerful thing,” says Lim. “By these women presenting their stories, they are putting a real face to who an immigrant is – and hopefully, this will create more empathy and understanding in our community,” says Lim. “With the exception of the Indigenous people, we are all immigrants. Who recalls what it took for their family to get here?”

The February 4 performance is one of more than 30 Global Citizen Week events taking place on VIU’s Nanaimo and Cowichan Campuses from February 4-9. For more information, please contact

VIU to award doctorate to lawyer Marvin Storrow

Marvin Storrow will be honoured with a Doctor of Laws from Vancouver Island University on February 1.
Photo from University of British Columbia

0123 - Marvin Storrow believes that even though something is law doesn’t always mean it is just or right. An accomplished lawyer with 55 years experience, Storrow has challenged the law numerous times, and due to his determination and courage he has steered the course of legal history in Canada. 

Storrow’s legal contribution toward getting formal recognition of Indigenous rights and title through the courts is one reason Vancouver Island University is awarding him an honorary Doctor of Laws during the morning convocation ceremony on February 1, 2019.   

“I don’t mind challenging the law, because that is how it develops and grows,” says Storrow.

 Storrow has been involved in both civil and criminal cases, including approximately 40 appearances before the Supreme Court of Canada. His expertise covers many areas, but Indigenous law is where his efforts have been the most influential. 

 “I realized early on in my life there were people in our Canadian community that were not treated equally and I thought that was wrong,” he says. “It needs to be just and equal to all and it wasn’t always that way.”

 Born in east Vancouver in 1934, community and sport activities played an important role in Storrow’s upbringing. It was on the playing field where he became friends with a number of Indigenous athlete and discovered the injustices Indigenous people faced under the Indian Act. For example, women were denied status if they married a non-Indigenous man, residential schools were introduced, and Indigenous peoples were not allowed to vote.

 When Storrow attended UBC in the 1960s, he recalls that there were only two Indigenous students on campus. Under the Indian Act, Indigenous peoples who received a university degree or became a doctor, clergyman or lawyer lost their band status. At one point, they couldn’t even have their own representation in court, including hiring lawyers.

In the mid-1970s, Storrow became acquainted with Delbert Guerin, then chief of the Musqueam Indian Band. The Musqueam held more than 400 acres of reserve land overlooking the Fraser River in Vancouver, of which 162 prime acres went to the Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in an unfair lease agreement deal for the band. Guerin searched for five years to find a lawyer who would take the case on. Storrow saw an injustice demanding to be rectified. The rest is legal history. The landmark R. v. Guerin Supreme Court of Canada decision ruled in the Musqueam’s favour and established the federal government’s fiduciary duty to Indigenous peoples specifically in regards to reserve lands. The case has been cited in approximately 500 court cases both in Canada and in other countries.  

 Following the Guerin case, Storrow won several other impactful cases, including R. v. Sparrow, the first case to address the constitutional rights of Indigenous peoples under Section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982; Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, concerning the nature and scope of constitutionally protected Aboriginal title; and R. v. Gladstone, the only case to recognize Indigenous commercial fishing rights. Three of his cases have been ranked by Canadian legal scholars as among the top 15 most important cases in legal history. 

 “It would be fair to say that the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was made possible at least in part due to the ground-breaking achievement that Storrow accomplished in gaining general legal acceptance of Aboriginal rights and title in Canada over the past several decades,” says Anna Fung, Past President of the Law Society of BC.

 Storrow’s determination and work ethic extend to his extensive volunteer work. He is an avid supporter of Legal Aid BC, and at one point, Storrow was told he had worked on one-seventh of all legal aid cases in the province that year. 

 “I don’t think a good justice system is only available to those who can afford it; those who can’t should still be able to use it,” he says.

 Storrow is a life bencher of the Law Society of British Columbia, an honorary director for the Justice Institute of BC, a director of the British Columbia International Commercial Arbitration Centre and a trustee of the British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. 

 Many attributes that contributed to Storrow’s success as a lawyer, such as courage, determination and judgement, have also shaped him into an exceptional sportsman. He was instrumental in securing the bid for Vancouver to host the 2010 Olympics, and is currently a Director for Tennis BC. 

 Not only has Storrow made significant changes in legal system of Canada, but he has supported the career paths of many of his peers by always being willing to share his knowledge and perspective with them.

“Storrow has led by example, with humility, with pragmatism and with his characteristic heartwarming and mischievous humour,” says Justice Maria Morellato. “He has taught many of us the profound importance of courage, integrity, hard work, tenacity and compassion in our respective places of responsibility.” 

VIU wins award for work with aboriginal communities

Vancouver Island University receives the 2018 Perry Shawana Award in recognition for its commitment to Indigenous education and inclusion. Photo courtesy BC Aboriginal Child Care Society

0123 - Vancouver Island University continues to be a leader in supporting Indigenous learners and building relationships within community, and was recently recognized for its efforts with the 2018 Perry Shawana Award from the BC Aboriginal Child Care Society (BCACCS).

“VIU was chosen for its long history of working closely with local Aboriginal communities and agencies to provide education and services that enhance the learning experiences and opportunities for Aboriginal students in First Nation Studies, Child and Youth Care, and Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) as well as Aboriginal students attending other courses and programs across the campuses,” says Karen Isaac, BCACCS Executive Director.

For the first time in its thirteen-year history, the Perry Shawana Award was given to an institution. VIU shared the award with long-time Aboriginal child advocate Mabel Louie, one of the founding members of the BC Aboriginal Care Society.  

The Perry Shawana Award is usually presented to an individual who, through volunteerism, advocacy, policy-making, or research, has contributed to and advanced the notion of the need for safe, nurturing, and high-quality child care and early learning services for BC’s Indigenous children.   

“Being the first institution to receive this award acknowledges the amazing work VIU has been doing,” says Sheila Grieve, VIU Chair for Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) and Educational Assistant Community Support (EACS). “We don’t just do things that we think will help Indigenous people, we truly try to listen to their voices and work collectively to discover what is needed to move forward in a positive way.”

This proactive approach has led to the creation of positive initiatives at the University – many which are now being mirrored by other institutions across Canada.

 In September 2017, VIU celebrated the launch of EleV, the $22.5 million innovative learning partnership with the Mastercard Foundation and Rideau Hall Foundation, which creates opportunities for Indigenous learners.   

“We are excited to welcome indigenous students to pursue their educational dreams and aspirations at Vancouver Island University,” says VIU President and Vice-Chancellor Ralph Nilson. “The indigenous communities we serve have helped us understand how we can support success for their students engaging in their educational journey at VIU.”

 Two of the many ways VIU offers supports to Indigenous learners is through the Community Cousins mentorship program and by providing a safe space for students at Shq’apthut - A Gathering Place.

 The University has ten Elders available throughout the three campuses – Nanaimo, Cowichan and Powell River – who provide insight and wisdom to decision-making and policies. 

 “Our Elders are an integral part of our VIU community. Their positions are full faculty positions and we deeply value their knowledge and contribution to our institution,” says Grieve. 

 Grieve emphasizes that these policies and initiatives would not be possible without the collaboration and insight from the Elders and Indigenous community partners who help guide VIU in its efforts to be inclusive and supportive of Indigenous peoples. 

Vancouver Island University (VIU) receives the 2018 Perry Shawana Award in recognition for its commitment to Indigenous education and inclusion. 

VIU awards honorary degree in social isolation and connectedness

Kim Samuel, a world leader in social isolation issues, will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters at VIU’s afternoon Convocation ceremony on February 1, 2019. Photo courtesty Kim Samuel

0118 - Kim Samuel, a world leader in the movement for social connectedness will receive a Doctor of Letters at VIU’s February 1 Convocation ceremony.

 “There is no other, the other is only ever us,” is the underlying theme in Kim Samuel’s work about connectedness and acknowledging humanity and our entitlement to be treated with love and respect.

Kim Samuel, Founder of the Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness (SCSC), is unwavering in her advocacy for human rights and inclusive policy change. Her life’s work has focused on the power of social connectedness to build community and overcome social isolation on a local and global scale. 

Samuel’s undertakings and contributions toward overcoming isolation to improve lives is being recognized by Vancouver Island University (VIU) at the afternoon Convocation ceremony on February 1, 2019, where she will be awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters. 

 The issue of social isolation first appeared to Samuel in 1997, when her father suffered a sudden brain injury. She came to understand social isolation, which accompanied her father’s recovery, as the feeling of sitting alone at the bottom of the well. She also witnessed how he continued to show resilience and strength in overcoming his isolation. 

“If you are socially isolated, you feel like you don’t belong, you feel like you are less than,” says Samuel. “You can feel as though you are an ‘other.’ We marginalize people who are different than ourselves and label them as others.  But it is not because of their diversity or uniqueness, it is because some part of society judges them somehow being less than human.” 

Another seminal moment for Samuel was when she met Nelson Mandela in 2002, who described to her how he never felt isolated while imprisoned on Robben Island during the fight against Apartheid in South Africa, because they were all brothers working together with a common purpose. He was never alone. For Samuel that was the beginning of a profound shift in her observations about the power of community in transcending isolation.

Samuel’s work examines how issues such as class, gender, race and environmental destruction can isolate people and communities. “We see more than ever that the people living in marginalized communities around the world have a lower capacity to prepare for and cope with extreme weather and climate-related events, furthering their risk of exacerbated isolation,” she says. 

She has also worked on measurable components of multi-dimensional poverty which underscores the importance of social connectedness to upholding human dignity and human rights globally.

In 2014 and 2016, Samuel convened the Global Symposium on Overcoming Isolation and Deepening Social Connectedness, bringing together more than 100 thought leaders to collaborate and build pathways to belonging. The next Global Symposium will take place in October 2019. 

Samuel is a Professor of Practice at the Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID) at McGill University. In 2016, Kim designed and delivered the first academic course in the emerging field of social connectedness and taught another cohort in 2017.  

That opportunity was another pivotal moment in her life’s work. “When I went to McGill, I planned to deliver this course and design it so it could be taught at any university in the world, but I didn’t expect that I would absolutely fall in love with teaching.”  

In 2017, she launched the Social Connectedness Fellowship program, which offers recent graduates the opportunity to carry out research related to social isolation and connectedness.

The Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness, a non-profit organization she established in 2018, works with partners around the world to overcome social isolation and build belonging through research, programming and learning initiatives.

“Ms. Samuel, more than anyone, understands the powerful and impactful role that education plays as a driver of social progress and economic prosperity,” says Robin McLay, VIU Senior Advisor to the President.

Recognizing the power of place names

From left, Ashley Van Acken (MABR), Steve Adams (TimberWest), Carol Stuart (VIU), Geraldine Manson (Snuneymuxw FN, VIU), Pam Shaw (VIU), Chief Michael Recalma (Qualicum FN Government), Councillor Lawrence Mitchell (Snaw-naw-as FN Government), Graham Sakaki (VIU)
VIU Photo

 0118 - VIU’s Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI) takes steps towards understanding First Nations place names within the biosphere region. 

 Long before British Captain George Henry Richards named Mount Arrowsmith in the late 1800s, the largest mountain on southern Vancouver Island had many distinctive titles given to it, depending which side the 1,819 metre peak was viewed from. In 2000, the Arrowsmith moniker was used in the designation of the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region (MABR), a UNESCO recognized biosphere reserve.

The MABR is managed by a Roundtable of representatives from First Nations, local governments, stakeholders, and citizens, and the group is committed to taking action on a wide range of regional issues relating to sustainable development, education and conservation.  Included in this is the recognition and re-establishment of Indigenous place names that apply to features and places in the region. 

Roundtable members Dr. Pam Shaw, Director of VIU’s Master of Community Planning,  Geraldine Manson, VIU Elder–in-Residence, Office of Aboriginal Education, Ashley Van Acken, and Graham Sakaki, MABRRI Research & Community Engagement Coordinator  have been awarded a $47,000 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Indigenous Research Capacity and Reconciliation Connection Grant for the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region (MABR) project "Coast Salish Traditional Place Names: Reconciling a Colonial Past in the UNESCO-designated Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region." 

The project will engage with Elders, Knowledge Holders, the MABR Roundtable members, as well as the wider community, in conversations on place names and identity.

Sakaki, says as we move into the United Nation’s International Year of Indigenous languages 2019, the MABR and its affiliated research institute are committed to exploring place names within the biosphere region in respectful collaboration with Qualicum, Snaw-Naw-As, and Snuneymuxw First Nations.

“Through these partnerships, we are learning about the cultural diversity of names that apply to Mount Arrowsmith. Describing the mountain from the west coast of Vancouver Island, Indigenous communities called it Kulth-ka-choolth (meaning: jagged face). Here on the east coast, the Coast Salish refer to it as either A'alh'hume' or TS'xuliqw'.  

The research grant will fund step one of the project, updating and amending two MABR documents: Guiding Principles for Collaboration with First Nations and the MABR Roundtable Culture of Engagement. These two documents were formed together with Qualicum First Nation and Snaw-Naw-As First Nation in 2015. The MABR Roundtable members are interested in opening them up for further review and including the viewpoints of Snuneymuxw First Nation. 

Shaw adds, “This grant will facilitate the revision of the guiding principles and we will use these new protocols to guide our place naming project in the biosphere region.”   

“We can’t move ahead without recognizing the importance of language, it’s in our stories, in our songs, in our everyday speech,” says Manson.   “What we name our hills, our mountains, our rivers contains information about that place. As an oral society, the names chosen for physical sites, carry history, environmental understandings, information on was it a hunting or fishing village, natural knowledge and even directional guides for travelling the land. For instance, when speaking of Departure Bay, Snuneymuxw call it Stililup, which means deep waters. Using Indigenous names keeps all of that information alive.” 

The Coast Salish Traditional Place Names project is a partnership between all members of the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Roundtable. 

VIU researchers work on mapping system for Canada's north

Professors Brad Maguire (Left) and Jerome Lesemann (Right) in front of 70 million-year-old fossil. Keewatin Esker. Photo Vancouver Island University and J. Lesemann

A Vancouver Island University (VIU) research project aims to develop three-dimensional mapping methods to be used in reconstructing Canada’s glacial history.

A Vancouver Island University (VIU) research project will provide a unique opportunity to examine the glacial landscape of Canada’s North, leading to new mapping methods that will help people identify sources of sand, gravel or minerals. 

 Canada’s North is rich in natural resources and a major driver of economic growth in the region. Large mineral deposits could include diamonds, gold, silver, copper and other base metals. 

VIU Professors Dr. Jerome Lesemann (Earth Science Department) and Dr. Brad Maguire (Geography Department), with the help of Yiqing Luo, a VIU Master of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Applications student, are being funded by Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN - Earth Sciences Sector) to assist in the development of better remote predictive mapping (RPM) methods aiding exploration.

Mapping of surficial materials is an integral component of development in northern Canada. “Traditional methods of surficial mapping, employing aerial photographs and field verification, are both time-consuming and expensive,” says Maguire. 

Lesemann and Maguire’s research project aims to develop a methodology for computerized detection of the sediment components of eskers, ridges of gravel and sand which occur in formerly glaciated regions of northern Canada.   

“Eskers are ubiquitous glacial landforms, formed in ice tunnels made by water flowing under the ice sheets. The long-winding ridges of stratified sand and gravel are some of the most abundant and accessible sources of aggregates for infrastructure growth needed for road building in northern regions,” says Lesemann. “And they are prime sampling targets for commodities like diamonds.” 

Currently, RPM is a promising avenue of semi-automated mapping using widely available digital datasets like multispectral satellite imagery.  “However, there are gaps in the methodology,” says Lesemann. “Part of the problem is that the type of imagery used to date gives us information about spectral characteristics of the surface, which reflects mostly the type of material on the surface, like bedrock or sand and gravel. The imagery does not contain information about the three-dimensional shapes of landforms.” 

Using newly available digital terrain models, landforms like eskers can now be identified and mapped in great detail. The team is developing a methodology to automatically detect and map these landforms. The VIU project team proposes to develop an esker element detection methodology based on Deep Machine Learning (a form of Artificial Intelligence) supported by a Convoluted Neural Network (CNN). CNN uses computer algorithms to try and replicate complex cognitive processes of the human brain. 

“We will be using CNN to identify eskers from newly available, high-resolution digital elevation models (DEM) of the Canadian Arctic,” says Maguire.

Lesemann says the aim is to train a computer to recognize patterns, similar to the way our brain, through experience knows that when we look at a dog, we know it’s a dog and not a cat even though they share some similarities but also key differences.   

“The form and structure of eskers are complex and if we can teach a computer to learn what an esker looks like, we may then be able to identify other eskers automatically.”

“This approach is needed because there are millions of square kilometres of Canada where the landforms have not been mapped in sufficient detail to identify them properly,” adds Maguire.

The project is funded by a $35,000 research grant provided by the NRCAN Geo-Mapping for Energy and Minerals (GEM) program, a 12-year initiative to significantly advance and modernize geological knowledge in the North to support increased exploration of natural resources and inform decisions on land use and responsible resource development.   

“This is a significant Canadian undertaking with many partners, and it’s exciting for us to contribute to our understanding of past ice sheets and to the development of improved mapping methods,” says Lesemann.  

About the Research Team:

Jerome-Etienne Lesemann (PhD) is a Professor in the Earth Science Department at Vancouver Island University. He specializes in glacial and quaternary geology. He has experience in reconstructions of glacial history and glacial processes, mineral exploration in glaciated terrains, and remote sensing in the context of Remote Predictive Mapping in glaciated terrains of Canada. He has worked on glacial landscapes and sediments of all major paleo-ice sheets (Laurentide, Cordilleran, and Fennoscandian) and in modern glacial settings in Iceland and Greenland. An area of expertise deals with reconstructions of glacio-hydraulic processes and inferring deglacial dynamics from landforms such as tunnel valleys, meltwater corridors and eskers. 

Brad Maguire (PhD), is a Senior Instructor in the Masters in GIS Program at Vancouver Island University. He specializes in geomatics and the automated detection of landforms from digital terrain models. He has experience developing workflows and methodologies integrating Neural Networks and Terrain Modeling to extract key morphometric variables capable of characterizing glacial landforms such as drumlins and eskers.

Training for the next generation of nurses at VIU

Vancouver Island University’s Nursing program supports the local health-care industry by providing more than 70 new graduates each year.

Candace Boland always knew she wanted a career that helped people. As a fourth-year nursing student at Vancouver Island University, she is close to achieving that goal.

 “When I got started in the VIU Nursing program, I realized this felt right. This is where I am meant to be,” she says.

 Born and raised on the Island, Boland and her three boys call Cobble Hill their home. She says uprooting her family or moving away from them to pursue post-secondary school wasn’t an option.

 “If VIU didn’t offer the nursing program, that would have meant I wouldn’t have become a nurse,” she says.

 Although it is a long commute, Boland says it gets easier each year as practicums increase and classroom time decreases. She says her program strongly focuses on leadership and preparing her for the workforce. Guest speakers from hospitals inform students on the aspects of becoming part of a union and what to expect once you are employed. Instructors assist students on writing their resumes and evaluate their work as if they were the ones hiring them for the job.

 “They are doing a lot of work for us to get connected with the employers,” she says. “Nursing is in high-demand, and VIU is trying to support us in finding placements that would be the best match for us.”

 For Boland, the best match for her is working in community. Up until third year, she intended to become an Operating Room Nurse, but when she served her community practicum, her focus shifted.

 “I know I would make a great hospital nurse, but community is where I know I will do my best nursing,” she says.

 Boland job shadowed for a day with a First Nations Health Authority nurse, and witnessed parts of the Nanaimo community she hadn’t been aware of before. She also worked with Assertive Community Treatment (ACT), a team operated by Island Health that is focused on supporting vulnerable people in society. 

“I realized I want to work in a home community care office so I can care for people the way they want to be cared for,” she says.

 According to the latest Economic Impact Report of the institution, VIU supports over 17,000 jobs, with a lot of them being nurses. Each year, 72 students are accepted into the Nursing program. Last year alone, Island Health accepted 62 VIU Nursing graduates into their organization. Island Health works closely with VIU to prepare students for their future careers in the health-care industry.

“Hiring students who have studied in our communities is very important to us – it means we have the opportunity to connect with students and build relationships with them before they graduate,” says Dawn Nedzenski, Island Health’s Chief Nursing Officer.

This year, VIU officially opened its new Health and Science Centre – a facility that highlights the University’s commitment to providing innovative learning environments for students. The $40.9-million investment provides state-of-the art learning environments for students, including simulation hospital rooms.  

VIU is projecting investments of roughly $400 million in capital projects from 2017-2026, which will generate close to $850 million in additional sales and equivalent to creating 5,689 new jobs.

“In the simulation classrooms, students can experience what it is like in a real-life situation – administering medicine, getting feedback from the patient and reviewing electronic records,” says Nedzenski. “It helps students solidify their skills in the field because they have already experienced the situation in the classroom.”

Boland is excited to be graduating this year and begin her career in the health-care industry. “When you are a nurse, people come to you when they are at their worst and you help them get better. That makes me feel really good,” she says.

Vancouver Island University history class partners with Nanaimo Museum on local history exhibit

Students in a fourth-year History class got the unique opportunity to develop an exhibit for the Nanaimo Museum’s Community Gallery. From left to right: VIU student Josephine Kuhn; Chelsea Forseth, Nanaimo Museum’s Communications and Rental Co-ordinator; Jordan Johns, Nanaimo Museum’s Exhibit Technician; VIU History Professor Dr. Katharine Rollwagen; and VIU student Cheryl Wieler. Photo Vancouver Island University

Students in an upper-level History course at VIU have created an exhibit for Nanaimo Museum’s Community Gallery, on display from December 15, 2018 until February 15, 2019.


Students in an upper-level History course at Vancouver Island University (VIU) are combining the research skills they are learning in the classroom with a crash course in exhibit development.

VIU History Professor Dr. Katharine Rollwagen’s Public History class has teamed up with the Nanaimo Museum to create an exhibit for the museum’s Community Gallery on the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 and its impact on Nanaimo. Called The Forgotten Flu, the exhibit combines personal stories with historical facts about the Spanish Flu. The pandemic closed schools, theatres and churches; hospitals overflowed with the sick; and dozens of Nanaimo’s residents died in a matter of weeks.

“It affected almost everyone, either personally or socially,” says Rollwagen. “The Spanish Flu pandemic was a real-life example of how Nanaimo reacted to a public health crisis, but most people today have no idea what it is about. Around the world, the Spanish Flu killed more people than the First World War. But because it happened as the First World War was ending, in many places it was forgotten for a long time.”

Maggie Acorn, a fourth-year History student who wants to become a teacher, says the highlight of working on the exhibit was interacting with working professionals who use history in their careers. Students worked with Christine Meutzner, Manager of Nanaimo Community Archives, to find facts and stories for the exhibit, and staff at the Nanaimo Museum ran two workshops with students on exhibit development. 

“This project allowed me to discover history in a broader sense,” says Acorn. “It was no longer about dates and statistics – it was real people and places I was researching. Because it was a community-based project, we got to leave the classroom and the library to do hands-on research, working with different organizations and looking at artifacts. Everyone had their own individual piece of the puzzle, and when you put all the pieces together, we realized how much we’d done.”

This type of collaboration is a first for the Nanaimo Museum, says Curator Aimee Greenaway, who is a VIU alumna herself, and she was impressed by how well-supported the students were and how much planning the class put into ensuring the pieces came together.

 “For us, it’s the opportunity to expose students to career paths in local heritage that they may not have considered,” says Greenaway. “To be able to work directly with the students was a really great experience. We were able to share information about how we put together exhibits and some tricks of the trade to add to the research skills they are learning.”

Sarah Gilks displays a cheque for K.I.D.S. International Development Society for the total amount her community has raised for the organization.

VIU alumna leads women in social and economic innovation

Sarah Gilks has found investing in her education has helped her create financial success and create positive social change.

1212 - Sarah Gilks sits in front of an expansive ocean view in her Lantzville home, poised but relaxed with a broad, beaming smile. Brown curls cascade over defined shoulders, showing she clearly lives the values she coaches to the 1,400 women she leads in her lifestyle  program called Healthy Role Models,which she created to transform lives and build a healthy, full-of-possibilities community.

It’s been more than 20 years since she graduated from Vancouver Island University (VIU) with a diploma in Applied Business Technology, but she still credits her education there with laying the foundation on which she was able to build two businesses that provide her with high six-figure incomes annually.

As owner/operator of these businesses, Gilks is one of VIU’s alumni responsible for contributing over $400 million into the regional economy according to the latest Economic Impact Report of the institution. Gilks was born and raised in the region, went to school and employs many people through her own business.

She remembers one of her instructors telling them to “act as though you are already at your next level”, meaning to talk like, act like, learn like you are already working in your desired position.  I dressed in business clothes and kept the vision of where I wanted to be in the forefront of my mind.  In addition to all the skills I needed to succeed, my instructors taught me that if I wanted something more, I should start working towards that immediately.”

She worked hard, was at the top of her class, and when an employer approached instructors looking for someone to hire, Gilks’s name immediately came to mind.

“I was successful in obtaining a great job before I had even graduated, and they worked around my schedule so I could complete my schooling,” she says.

Gilks worked there for five years and eventually moved into a government job, which was exactly what she had been raised to do. “Work hard, get good grades, get a union job with a pension,” she says. She believes it was good advice. However, when her daughter was born, she found herself feeling unfulfilled and lonely.

“I took a five-year Care and Nurturing leave to look after my children and try to figure things out,” she explains.

It was during this time that her mindset started to change as she once again began investing in her education. Her new nutrition-focused business began taking off, and she realized the success of that business was in direct proportion to how much she was investing in growing as a person.  She started studying with Robin Sharma, a Canadian who is one of the world’s top leadership experts and authors. She became certified as a personal trainer and read and learned everything she could get her hands on from people like Jack Canfield, author of the Success Principles and many other books, and David Wood, a Business Leader, Author, Master Trainer and Coach.

With all this effort in learning, her business grew quickly and is now an organization with more than 230,000 members globally.

Gilks’s main focus, now called Healthy Role Models Inc., started in 2011 as an online workout program for 20 women. She quickly realized that her own desire for community was something other women also deeply needed. Gilks’s vision for Healthy Role Models became clear.

She created a community of like-minded women who wanted to live their best lives, achieve their health and fitness goals, support each other, leave the gossip and negativity behind, give to worthy causes and develop an “unstoppable mindset.” 

The Healthy Role Models community has now grown into another global business in 10 countries that sells out twice a year with 1,400 women joining a three-month comprehensive journey to focus on their health and overall well-being. Members also take part in a positive community, which gives back and creates awareness for organizations like K.I.D.S International Development Society.   

“We have a dynamic team with so much experience that develops each journey, and I really believe the magic is in the community,” she says. “We now know that social connection is as predictive of how long you will live as smoking, obesity and high blood pressure.  Who you surround yourself with matters. Now we are seeing women build businesses and support each other in ways I never dreamed of. This happens because once a woman makes herself a priority and invests in self-care, she recognizes that her actions really do matter and make a difference, and that she is truly capable of whatever she puts her mind to.  Sometimes, it is the first time that she is connecting to what she desires for herself, for her family and for her life and really sees the possibility!”   

            Watch: Gilks describing the importance of being a life-long learner.

Gilks readily admits she did not wake up simply knowing how to build these businesses. It has developed over time as her education has deepened, and has included a lot of trial and error.

The most recent addition to her long list of credentials is becoming a Certified High Performance Coach through Brendon Burchard.  This coaching has been accredited as the highest level of coaching certification in the world.

“I have two children, one is a teenager and the other is going to be a teenager soon. My husband and I try to model life-long learning for them,” Gilks says. Her husband, Alec Watson, also a VIU alumnus, is currently working on his Masters in Digital Media at Harvard. “I hope they see what you can achieve if you do invest in yourself and your education. I tell them if you’re not learning, you’re not growing,” 

There are many stand-out moments for Gilks, looking back, but a few things rise quickly to the top of the list.

“I loved my time at VIU, but I didn’t live your typical university life – I was working full-time and going to school full-time. I’m proud of how I balanced life at such a young age. I love the HRM community and I am REALLY so proud of the “ripple effect” it has had, not just on the lives of people around us, but far reaching to Cambodia.  We have now raised more than $131,000 for K.I.D.S. and we look forward to many projects coming up in the future.”

VIU recreation prescription project gets youth moving

Donate gently used winter wear to help get youth active.
VIU Photo

VIU teams up with community partners to create a recreation program aimed at encouraging elementary school children to become more active and live healthier lifestyles. 

1210 - Breaking down barriers to recreation for elementary school children could contribute to healthier, more active adults.

Thanks to a $50,000 grant from Island Health, Vancouver Island University (VIU) has partnered with the City of Nanaimo Parks and Recreation and the Nanaimo Ladysmith School District to introduce Grade 5 students to more active lifestyles. The 16-week recreation program, called the Recreation Prescription Project, is offered in three elementary schools to over 100 students.

“We are targeting 10-year-olds as research shows this is the age children are still willing to try new things without fear of peer judgment or are too concerned with personal appearances,” says Joanne Schroeder, VIU’s M.A. Leisure Service Administrator. “We are trying to introduce students to leisure access before those factors start to influence them and it becomes more difficult to get them active.”

The project is grounded in five goals from the nationally recognized Framework for Recreation in Canada: Active Living, Inclusion and Access; Connecting People and Nature Supportive Environments; and Recreation Capacity. Students participate in the program for two hours per week each semester from October to March. They are going on nature walks, playing games to develop physical literacy, treasure hunting, ice skating, participating in sports, swimming, and exploring local parks and trails.

 “We are trying to show these students that you don’t have to be part of a program to feel good about being active. There are things within their control that they can access to still be healthy,” says Schroeder.

“For many students whom are participating in the project the only time that they are physically active is during school hours,” says Alyshia Coombs, Recreation Prescription Coordinator. “By allowing the students to have access to the activities such as swimming, walking to their local park, or talking about the importance of imagination and taking screen breaks, it encourages them to participate with their family and friends after school hours.”

VIU Nursing, Sport Health and Physical Activity Education (SHAPE), Tourism and Recreation, and Child and Youth Care students have teamed up to implement the program. The team is conducting a research report focusing on the students’ social, mental and physical well-being through pre-, mid- and post-health assessments, wellness surveys, and photography using photovoice. 

What the VIU students have discovered already is that many of the elementary school children are coming unprepared to participate in the recreation activities.

“They are seeing the real risk factors of these kids such as no proper rain gear or shoes,” says Schroeder.

The Recreation Prescription Project is challenging the public to “Shed Your Threads” by donating gently used water-resistant jackets, shoes, boots, sweaters and pants for students to use in the program and afterwards. Drop off locations are at Vancouver Island University in Building 210 Floor 4, Building 250 Floor 3, and Building 356 Room 266 until Friday, December 14th.

“If you don't have proper clothing or shoes that fit it can be extremely challenging to focus on the activities planned because all you are focused on his how your feet hurt, how they are wet or that your clothes don't fit or aren’t suitable to the activity,” says Coombs.

 “We hope these students will embrace being active which will later translate into them making healthy choices as adults,” says Schroeder.


VIU student investigates better urban preparedness

Master of Community Planning student Lainy Nowak is researching ways planning can help cities save lives and recover faster from natural disasters.
VIU Photo

Vancouver Island University Master of Community Planning student Lainy Nowak is investigating ways in which governments can plan cities to better withstand slow-moving environmental issues such as climate change and fast-moving natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis.

“We are seeing the effects of climate change worldwide. The frequency of severe weather events continues to increase, and we know that it’s only a matter of time before the West Coast experiences a large earthquake,” says Nowak. “My research explores how planning policies can help shape cities before an event happens. Creating an action plan for resilience will save lives, help cities recover faster and improve the well-being of communities and the people who live there.” 

Nowak was awarded a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship through VIU’s Building Resilience in Coastal Communities program to travel to Christchurch, New Zealand, this summer to work with the City’s Civil Defence and Emergency Management department. In February 2011, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck 10 kilometres southeast of Christchurch, causing nearly 200 deaths and a massive amount of damage to structures.  

“Even seven years later, you can see how much damage the earthquake caused – almost half of downtown is just rubble and old buildings waiting to be demolished,” says Nowak.

While there, she interviewed planning professionals, emergency management specialists and academics. Christchurch City Council is increasing the city’s level of preparedness for natural disasters, she says. For example, staff are looking at implementing a network of tsunami information boards and evacuation signs. Nowak helped out at community engagement events and contributed to awareness campaigns and materials that aim to educate the Christchurch population on how to be better prepared. 

“There was a tsunami warning two years ago and nobody knew what to do,” she says. “Now the City is asking people what they think they need to be better prepared.”

Out of what she heard and saw in Christchurch, two major themes emerged for Nowak – preparedness, or having the necessary infrastructure, supports and resources in place to ensure everybody knows what to do in the event of a major event; and community. 

“A widespread sense of community is a huge factor in the resilience of a city,” explains Nowak. “After the earthquake, the people of Christchurch banded together to help each other out. First responders and volunteers can’t help everybody; but if you have a group of people living around you that you’ve created connections with, you’re more likely to support each other and recover faster.”

Nowak’s thesis will include a mixture of land-use planning recommendations and examples of ways planning can foster better community connections, such as creating public spaces for neighbours to gather together. She was recently awarded a REACH award, given to students conducting their own original research by VIU’s Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity Office, to help with this work. 

She hopes to eventually present her findings at conferences, including the Planning Institute of BC’s annual conference, in an effort to share what she’s learned. After graduation, Nowak’s dream job would be to help create more resilient cities. 

“Lainy is a focused student who worked diligently with the City of Christchurch to create a project that is not only interesting, but also addresses a knowledge gap here and in New Zealand,” says Dr. Pam Shaw, Director of the Master of Community Planning Program and Nowak’s supervisor. “I look forward to the completion of this research, and to all the tremendous work that I know Lainy will contribute to the profession as her career unfolds.”


VIU’s Giving campaign aims to raise $250,000 for students

Second-year Automotive apprentice Thomas Flegel is one of the students benefitting from the Marine, Automotive and Trades Complex expansion project. One focus of VIU’s Giving Tuesday campaign this year is on completing and equipping the spaces with the tools students need. VIU Photo

1114 - Thomas Flegel was pleasantly surprised to return to Vancouver Island University (VIU) this fall to complete his second year of the Automotive apprenticeship program in a renovated and expanded building. 

“Everything in the Automotive building is designed to best reflect industry standards,” he says. “It’s more like a real dealership now, which means as students we are getting the best, most relevant training to prepare us for our careers in this industry.”

With the recent opening of the Marine, Automotive and Trades Complex project, which includes the Automotive expansion and redevelopment; and the Centre for Health and Science on VIU’s Nanaimo campus, students and employees are now enjoying improved training spaces. While the building exteriors are now finished, VIU is still seeking support to complete and equip the spaces with the tools students need.

During VIU’s fifth annual Giving Tuesday campaign on November 27, all friends of the University are invited to consider donating to the Foundation. VIU aims to raise $250,000 to support students.

“With rapid advances in the technology used by many industries, and a growing number of students studying in the new spaces, we are working hard to ensure they will be learning on leading-edge equipment in the new labs and training facilities,” says Dave Forrester, VIU Advancement Manager. “The excitement for our Giving Tuesday grows each year as it is a wonderful opportunity to make a contribution of any size that makes a direct impact on our students.”

Donations can be directed to support a scholarship, award or bursary, a particular faculty or program or any area that donors are passionate about. People can also direct their gift to the Inspiration Fund, which assists the areas of greatest need at the University.

Elijah Vesprey, a second-year Recreation and Tourism student, says his VIU scholarship meant that he didn’t have to work during his first year, which helped him with the transition from high school to university. 

 “I was able to focus on my grades and also joining different clubs and groups on campus to get to know the community here better,” he says. “I completely immersed myself in VIU, getting to know people, making friends and helping out at events, which all contributed to a really positive experience for my first year. Being able to participate so much in the community has led to other opportunities – for example, I am leading VIU’s Student Ambassador program this year.”

 Many student groups, departments, faculties and community groups are organizing special fundraising initiatives around Giving Tuesday. For example, VIU Mariners men’s basketball coach Matt Kuzminski is working with community partners to ensure his team gets every advantage they can on the court.

 “Community support has been a huge part of our student-athlete and overall program success,” he says. “The support of our community donors and sponsors helps our student-athletes focus on balancing the demands of their full-time studies with athletics. Their support allows us to profile our basketball program and the student-athletes we have at tournaments and events across Canada and in the United states.”

 Donations made on Giving Tuesday can have double the impact, as there are limited matching funds available to the campaign this year from the VIU Foundation, and 100% of every donation will go directly to the fund chosen by the donor.

 For more information, please visit Giving Tuesday or call Dave at 250-740-6214.

VIU gets grant to digitize history of exploration

Historical texts and maps of Canada’s journey to discovery will be digitized for the first time. /VIU photo

The narratives of Canada’s journey of exploration will be shared with the online world through the digitization of Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Special Collections archives.

VIU is one of 21 successful candidates from 213 applications to receive funding from Libraries and Archives Canada (LAC) and the National Heritage Digitization Strategy (NHDS) to digitize collections for the preservation of Canadian cultural heritage. Thanks to an anonymous million-dollar donation to the NHDS, the organization made a call out to memory institutions to support their digitization initiatives that are both of national importance and unique. VIU was successful in securing a $17,015 grant, with the remainder of the $65,000 project budget being made in-kind by the university.

“This funding will build upon our digitization and open access content production capacity and, more importantly, it offers the potential to deepen our existing relationships with Indigenous communities,” says Ben Hyman, Chief Librarian at VIU. 

The VIU Library will digitize 38 historic texts and six maps from its Special Collections – content that has never been digitized before. The collection features naval expeditions along the Northwest Passage, and carves out narratives of the journeys of what became Canada. What is missing from these texts is representation of Indigenous perspectives and contexts. 

“Indigenous voices are scarce in records of this kind – even when the subject is ‘ethnographies – Indigenous Peoples’, so in an effort to elevate Indigenous voices with respect to these narratives, VIU Library will invite Elders from local communities to be aware of and to reflect on selected works and passages,” says Hyman.

Reconstructing truths through collaboration with Indigenous community members may involve challenging – but necessary – conversations. The VIU Library hopes to engage with local Indigenous communities and reach out to other institutions to collaborate in these conversations. It will seek guidance from community with respect to the manifestation of the narratives that may emerge.

According to the NHDS, “Documentary heritage is a cornerstone of all democratic societies. It supports economic, social, legal understanding and cultural growth, while also fostering innovation to ensure a strong future.” By digitizing these materials, and through collaboration with community, “Our intent is to honour VIU’s values as an open access, special purpose teaching university,” says Hyman.

This is the second grant the VIU Library has received for digitization initiatives in the last six months. The Library also received $40,000 to digitize the Nanaimo Daily Free Press (1874-1928) and the Cowichan Leader (1905-1928).

Although the digitization of the historical texts and maps will be complete by August 2019, Hyman says the collaboration between the University and Indigenous communities will be a longer commitment. The Library aims to continue finding ways to decolonize historical information and build upon its capacity to provide open access content to students, faculty and the greater VIU community.


Gender historians bring international research journal to VIU

VIU History Professors Dr. Cheryl Krasnick Warsh (left), Dr. Katharine Rollwagen and Dr. Cathryn Spence (not pictured) are the new North American co-editors of Gender & History, a well-respected international journal that publishes academic articles exploring the history of gender relations.
Photo: Vancouver Island University

The world’s leading journal on the history of gender relations is now basing its North American editorial operations out of Vancouver Island University (VIU).

VIU History Professors Dr. Cheryl Krasnick Warsh, Dr. Katharine Rollwagen and Dr. Cathryn Spence made a successful bid to become the North American co-editors of Gender & History, a well-respected international journal that publishes academic articles exploring the history of gender relations. 

The journal started about three decades ago by two female historians, one located in New York State, the other in England. When the initial founders passed on the torch, the dual headquarters format was maintained – with editing offices and advisory boards in both the UK and North America. When Krasnick Warsh learned about the open call to take over the North American home of the publication from the University of Minnesota, she jumped at the chance.

“It’s another way to bring VIU into the spotlight internationally and showcase the expertise of our professors. Our History department is small, but three of us specialize in different aspects of gender history, so I thought it was a good opportunity,” she says. “The joyful part of all this is we will know a lot more about a wider range of subjects just by reading the submissions. Since we all teach courses that relate to gender, it’s going to be really fun to incorporate some of this in our classes – we’ll be exposed to all the emerging, cutting-edge research in this discipline.”

VIU will be the home of Gender & History for the next five years, with the option to renew for another five years before it passes to another North American institution. The journal publishes three times per year and authors can submit to either VIU or the University of Glasgow – the UK editors of the journal. VIU will work closely with the UK office to determine the contents of each publication, and each office does a final edit of the work submitted and reviewed by the other office’s advisory board – making it a truly international effort.  

“We are looking at bringing a number of Canadian academics onto our advisory board, which is exciting,” says Krasnick Warsh. “One of the main roles of the advisory board is to recruit new authors, and also provide guidance and expertise to the editorial team.”

On top of producing three issues of the journal per year, VIU will be responsible for hosting an international conference on a gender-based theme every second year – the UK and North American offices alternate hosting the annual symposium.

VIU will host its first Gender & History symposium in the spring of 2020, and Krasnick Warsh, Rollwagen and Spence are hoping to highlight an issue that is both connected to the Island, but also includes a strong international dimension. 

 “It’s going to have a huge impact for students on campus – in terms of us bringing new materials into the classroom, getting access to cutting-edge research being done on the histories of gender, being able to attend a national-calibre symposium, and the work opportunities we are able to provide,” says Rollwagen. “We now have two fourth-year work op students helping us, and they are doing what PhD students usually do. The opportunity for them is to learn how academic publishing works, to get a real insider’s perspective. They are reading and helping to edit all the articles. 

Fourth-year History student Lindsay Church is one of the Editorial Assistants working under the guidance of the three VIU professors. 

“I’ve been surprised by how working on the journal has positively affected the confidence that I have in my own academic abilities,” she says. “Getting to work so closely on articles that encompass such a wide variety of subject matters, with authors from all over the world, has strengthened my own writing skills and broadened my understanding of what academia looks like. It’s made me eager to continue my own studies, and I feel extremely fortunate to have received this opportunity in my final year at VIU.”



University unveils its newest facilities

Electronic patient simulators, spectrum analysis and chemistry labs, a renovated automotive trades learning centre, a new marine, automotive and trades complex plus a geo-exchange energy transfer station are the newest components added to the business of training students at Vancouver Island University.

The university showcased its newest multimillion-dollar facilities at the Nanaimo campus Wednesday with tours of the buildings and programs.

The four-storey, 6,855-square-metre building became operational at the beginning of September and is the new home to VIU’s nursing, health care and chemistry programs and includes an electronic patient simulation centre that replicates critical care, home care and emergency room care settings.


Student refugee program provides safety, second chance.

WUSC Committee welcomes refugee Emmanuel Lokolong
Vancouver Island University photo

Becoming a Canadian resident and studying at university was an opportunity Salem Abdullah never imagined possible until four months ago. Thanks to Vancouver Island University (VIU)’s World University Service of Canada (WUSC) local committee Abdullah is pursuing his passion in a new country.  Abdullah and Emmanuel Lokolong, a refugee from Kenya, are two students sponsored this year by VIU’s WUSC program.

“Being here is more than perfect,” Abdullah says. “Most importantly, I feel safe.”

Abdullah remembers his childhood in Syria as a happy time, but as war took over the streets, it transformed into a place he could hardly recognize.

“When I did my high school exams, there were bombs falling just outside,” he says. “The militia control the cities, making it extremely hard to move and access enough food. Access to food is the biggest problem.” Abdullah adds the government and opposing militia control the media outlets in order to promote their side of the war. “It made a huge difference in Syria,” he says. “How can you convince someone to pick up a gun and fight?”

Watching the co-opting of the media inspired Abdullah to pursue a career in journalism. “I want to show that we can turn our story around in a positive way. We can do it. This is especially important for my people after this war,” Abdullah says. 

After completing a year of university in Syria, Abdullah fled to neighbouring Lebanon to seek refuge – putting his post-secondary ambitions on hold. For the next four years, Abdullah worked a variety of jobs because attending university as a refugee was virtually impossible to do. “For four years I lost hope I would ever go back to school,” he says. “So getting this opportunity has been the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

WUSC is a Canadian non-profit organization dedicated to improving education and employment opportunities for youth around the world. WUSC matches refugees with partnering universities that offer the programs requested. Since 2008, VIU has sponsored two refugee students every year for the students first year of studies; this includes living expenses, tuition fees, and supporting them socially as they adjust to a new country. The unique sponsorship program is funded through a student levy contributed by VIU’s Student Union (VIUSU) and financial support from VIU’s Faculty of International Education and the VIU International Refugee Scholarship Fund. Committee volunteers also hold several fundraising events throughout the year, including the annual Harambee Gala Dinner in the spring semester, to raise additional money to support student refugees.

“The Student Refugee Program is led by students who want to make a difference in their community,” says Darrell Harvey, VIU’s Co-ordinator of International Projects and Internationalization. “The group truly demonstrates what it means to be a global citizen.”

VIU Nursing student Nadifo Abdi is a past refugee student of the program, and now pays it forward by supporting other students as the co-chair of the VIU WUSC Committee.

“Before I arrived at VIU, I was scared I would feel alone, but people were so welcoming and supportive,” she says. “Someone was kind enough to help me, so I want to do the same for other refugees.” 

Abdullah is one of two refugee students sponsored this year in the student-to-student sponsorship program at VIU.

Emmanuel Lokolong, the second sponsored student, grew up in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. His parents, originally from Uganda, fled to Kenya to escape political violence, and have been unable to return. Lokolong considers Kenya as his home, although due to his refugee status, he could not achieve naturalization there.

After experiencing the health care system in Kakuma, Lokolong decided he would dedicate his efforts to join the medical field. “My passion is to become a nurse, then hopefully after completing my degree at Vancouver Island University, I would like to go to medical school and become a doctor,” he says.

Lokolong hopes to return to Kenya after his studies to provide education about immunizations and health practices to the community at Kakuma.

Lokolong’s and Adbullah’s aspirations to make a positive difference would still only be a dream if it were not for the support of the students at VIU.  

“Being part of the WUSC committee I think helps people understand what it is like to come into a culture different from your own, and puts a real human behind what you hear in the news about refugees,” says Abdi. 

No matter how different other cultures may seem to one another, Abdullah says people all share a common belief.

“All people want is just a chance – to live a safe life firstly, and second for a better life through education.”


Drummer brain, prison theatre and heritage graffit in colloquium talks

Music Professor and drummer Hans Verhoeven kicks of the Arts and Humanities 2018-19 Colloquium Series by performing Iannis Xenakis’s masterpiece, Rebonds, among the most difficult pieces in the solo percussion repertoire. /Dirk Heydemann photo

0924 -From how drummers, prisoners and 16th Century Scottish women think; to the role graffiti plays in the art world; to an investigation of how media creates a sense of belonging, a free public lecture series at Vancouver Island University (VIU) investigates a wide range of topics.

Every year, Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Arts and Humanities faculty members share their research and open up dialogue on timely issues with a wide audience through the Arts and Humanities Colloquium Series, which take place throughout the fall and spring semesters.

“A broad range of different departments are participating this year, including History, Visual Art, Theatre, Music, English and Media Studies,” says Katharine Rollwagen, a VIU History Professor and Chair of the Colloquium Committee. “It’s a chance for community members to hear about some of the amazing research being conducted in their own backyard by Arts and Humanities professors.”

The series kicks off on Friday, September 28, with a talk by drummer and Music Professor Hans Verhoeven, who will perform Iannis Xenakis’s masterpiece, Rebonds – among the most difficult pieces in the solo percussion repertoire. He will demonstrate different compositional concepts and techniques to help the audience appreciate the piece on a deeper level.

“I will talk about my own process for learning this piece and the combination of mental, aural and muscle memory that it requires, even when one is still ‘reading’ the music,” explains Verhoeven. “To learn a piece like Rebonds, and to be a percussionist in general, demands an extremely agile mind; one cannot rely on old ways of doing things and must constantly be willing to go back to a child-like state of learning and absorbing completely new patterns, movements and ways of doing things, often very quickly and under pressure. 

On Friday, October 19, History Professor Dr. Cathryn Spence will explore how 16th century Scottish women chose to divide up their worldly goods after death. Spence will read out parts of wills – some of which include a few unexpected things – to show what these documents reveal about the society of the day.

“There is an assumption that Scottish women were the same as English women and had very little freedom when it came to making wills and dividing up property, but in fact they had quite a lot of freedom and they weren’t afraid to use it,” she says. “These wills and testaments end up being stories about people’s lives, what they cared about. It all ties into thinking about the documentation we are leaving behind today.”

For the final presentation of the fall on Friday, November 23, VIU Theatre Professor Eliza Gardiner will discuss the prison theatre production she directed last year, and relate how her experience working on Antigone with federal offenders at William Head Institution will inform her directing of the Theatre Department’s spring show, Oedipus Rex.

“The skills development and self-discovery made possible through the applied theatre project at William Head diminished stigma associated with criminological behavior because more than 2,000 people visited the minimum security facility to see what the cast and crew created,” says Gardiner. “I am still profoundly impacted by how the incarcerated men considered the deep themes of love, loyalty and the law featured in the Greek tragedy, expressing so artistically the connection between the classic plot and their lived experiences. 

On Friday, January 25, VIU Art and Design Professor Dr. Justin McGrail will delve into the significance of art and artists outside the traditional art world, and consider the challenge of documenting and conserving an urban heritage of anti-preservationist art, i.e. graffiti.

“I’m interested in art that is an unexpected part of urban life, and how it changes the somewhat distant role art has when it is only found in museums,” says McGrail. “I hope audience members will join me in questioning society’s assumptions and judgments about graffiti, street art and vandalism.”

The following month, Dr. Ravindra Mohabeer, Chair of VIU’s Media Studies program, will discuss how people interact with media, and how that affects our sense of place and feelings of belonging to a particular geo-specific locale.

“Through personal stories about the intersection of my media use and my capacity for a wandering mind, the audience will consider how truly ‘present’ any of us actually is,” he says. “It is my hope that the audience will ask questions about the role of media in their own sense of belonging now, in the past, and within the context of ever-changing technologies and mediations of ‘presence.’”

The final presentation of the season will feature Music Professor Sasha Koerbler and English Professor John LePage exploring how German composer Felix Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream interacts with Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

 The presentations take place in the Malaspina Theatre (Building 310) from 10 – 11:30 am and are followed by a discussion period during which audience members are encouraged to ask questions. Coffee and tea are available in the lobby of the theatre before each presentation.

For more information, visit Colloquium. To view this press release online, visit VIU News.


Belize field school explores employability skills

Sport, Health and Physical Education (SHAPE) student Brianna Urlacher poses with students at Holy Cross Anglican School in the San Mateo district in Belize during a recent field school trip. Photo: Vancouver Island University

0917 - Fourth-year Sport, Health and Physical Education (SHAPE) student Rory Marshall learned a lot on a recent field school to Belize. Thanks to SHAPE’s new collaboration with Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Centre for Experiential Learning, he can relate his experiences to specific skills employers are looking for.

Marshall participated in SHAPE’s field school to Holy Cross Anglican School in the San Mateo district in Belize. VIU students were there to teach various physical activity and sport programs to students, and practice different teaching techniques. The unique part of the field school was that every student was required to create an online portfolio that included a section outlining what skills were learned, both on the trip and throughout each student’s time at VIU, and how they are valuable to employers. 

“The intention was to teach students how to put what they learned from that educational experience in the language employers speak,” says Alexis Beaubier, Cooperative Education and Internship Coordinator with the CEL. “It helps students capitalize on what they’ve learned not only in the classroom but also in the field and shapes it in a way that means something to everybody – not just the person who went through those experiences.” 

One skill Marshall worked on while in Belize was his adaptability skills – something he says is difficult to practice fully in a classroom setting but is vital to working in many fields. A paramedic as well as a VIU student, Marshall wants to pursue a career as a Physician Assistant with the Canadian Military 

“The first day was such a learning curve – we realized quickly that the traditional sports model we teach in Canada doesn’t necessarily apply,” he says. “The kids didn’t have a background playing team sports the same way Canadian students do, so we had to take a more individualized approach. We were also teaching in a big, dirt area next to the school, which also served as the parking lot of the movie theatre in the evening. I appreciated very quickly what I had back home when I saw what they were doing with so few resources. Plus, the heat was overwhelming, so it was hard to ask much of the kids when temperatures were in the mid- to high-thirties. The ability to develop a plan, assess the situation, adapt the plan, then effectively implement the revised plan while continually assessing and adjusting was a major takeaway. It definitely helped keep my problem solving and analyzation skills sharp! 

Experiential learning is a cornerstone of the curriculum in the department of Sport, Health & Physical Education. Professor Rick Bevis has run study abroad programs for the past 15 years, travelling to various locations in the Global South as well as Europe. The topic may vary from location to location, but the goal of having students gain valuable socio-cultural perspectives in their field of study has always been the same.

The Belize field school took place from April 27 to May 7. Bevis says this new dual approach to the field school – both learning course materials by doing and figuring out how those skills apply to what employers are looking for in employees – was powerful and the response they had from students was overwhelmingly positive 

“This field school experience is fully captured because it has been thought about deeply, including how it will shape students’ ideas and personalities, as well as their marketability as highly skilled employees,” he says. “Whether they are applying for graduate programs or jobs, we feel we’ve given them tools to market themselves effectively.”

Beaubier says one common interview question almost all students now have an answer for is giving an example of a time when they failed or had to adapt to a situation that was not what they expected.

“When the students write the skill statements, they are forced to think, ‘What did I learn in school that prepared me to do that, and what proof do I have?’” she says 

“It contributed to feelings of real pride in their accomplishments,” adds Bevis.

For Marshall, it means the field school is forever preserved.

“So many people go on a field school and when they are asked how it went, all they say is, ‘It was amazing,’” he says. “Having the portfolio was a great way to look back on the whole experience and say, ‘Well, I did this and this and this.’”

To learn more about how the Centre for Experiential Learning can support new or existing field schools, visit CEL. To view this press release online, visit VIU News.



Nursing School at VIU gets $10,000 research award

Prof Shannon Dames

0910  - Vancouver Island University (VIU) Nursing Professor Dr. Shannon Dames and a multidisciplinary team from Island Health are collaborating to develop curriculum that will emphasize the importance of promoting self-compassion among health care providers.

Dames and team were awarded a $10,000 Reach award from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) for their research into improving the healthcare worker experience and developing an evidence-based strategy to address the commonly reported issue of hostile work environments.

Inspired by the memory and passion of Nobel Laureate Dr. Michael Smith, the Foundation is BC’s health research funding agency. The Foundation developed the Reach Program to provide funding for teams of researchers and research users to support the dissemination and uptake of evidence to inform and improve further studies, practice and policy-making 

“This funding announcement marks a milestone for VIU as it is our first Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research grant,” says Dr. Nicole Vaugeois, Associate Vice-President of VIU’s Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity office. “We have been working over the past year to engage in more collaborative research with Island Health and this fund will enable us to formalize this partnership and, together, mobilize critically important research for the benefit of our region.”

The research Dames and team are conducting aims to improve the environment for both healthcare providers and their patients.

“There is a long-established local and national reputation among healthcare environments related to a multitude of stressors, including co-worker hostility,” says Dames. “The impact on attrition rates and employee mental and physical health is immense. 

In her research into healthcare workers’ resilience, Dames notes that while some healthcare workers opt to leave the workplace due to burnout, others stay, which compounds the issue and contributes not only to low morale but can also negatively impact patients’ health and well-being. 

“New research shows that self-compassion or unconditional, positive regard turned inward, promotes the ability to manage workplace stressors. When developed as an organizational priority, it prevents social dominance issues and celebrates authentic and diverse ways of being. Conversely, work environments that are low in self and other compassion, tend to be highly perfectionistic, littered with social dominance issues, and are easily threatened by diversity,” says Dames.

“The development of a self-compassion curriculum is timely for Island Health given one of our organizational priorities is to increase the focus on enhancing the well-being of health and care providers,” says Dawn Nedzelski, Island Health’s Chief Nursing Officer and Chief of Professional Practice. “Previous research has documented the connection between self-compassion and resiliency.”

 Dr. Wendy Young, Research Facilitator and Knowledge Translation Coordinator at Island Health, will work in partnership with Dames and VIU Nursing student Alexa Garrey to develop the curriculum.

Young has a strong background in moving research into practice. She brings significant expertise to this work, having conducted collaborative health services research and evaluations for the past two decades. Young is committed to supporting collaborative interdisciplinary teams to improve practice.

“I am thrilled to be a part of this important work,” says Young. “We can anticipate that increasing self-compassion in healthcare providers will lead to increased patient satisfaction and improved experience and outcomes for patients, providers and the health system.”

 In her fourth year of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Garrey has immersed herself in this study, learning as much about herself as she has about the research process.

“I have found great value in exploring the notion of self-compassion,” says Garrey. “It seems as though in a world that is ego-driven, it has become uncouth to work on yourself yet just the process of learning about self-compassion has enabled me to incorporate this practice in my own life.”

The Reach award application process was also supported by VIU’s Office of Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity (SRCA) and Island Health 

With the help of the Reach award, the research team will complete a literature review, develop an evidence-based curriculum, and submit a grant application to fund a pilot study on Vancouver Island. 

“The ultimate aim of the self-compassion curriculum is to enhance the mental health and well-being of healthcare workers,” says Dames. “Those who direct compassion inwardly, naturally extend compassion to others. 

The curriculum is expected to improve stress resilience among healthcare workers, decrease the use of substances to cope with stress or distress, reduce attrition rates due to burnout and promote healthy communities of practice.

For more information, visit the Nursing homepage. To view this press release online, visit VIU News.

VIU English professor explores inter-cultural dialogue with play collaboration

VIU English Professor Dr. Nelson Gray recently published a unique collaboration with renowned Métis playwright Marie Clements./VIU Photo

Dr. Nelson Gray and renowned Métis playwright Marie Clements tackle one storyline from two different perspectives

How we perceive the world through our cultural beliefs can vary so much that if two people are asked to recount the same event, the result can be two radically different stories.

That is certainly true in Vancouver Island University (VIU) English Professor Dr. Nelson Gray’s latest published project – a collaboration with renowned Métis playwright Marie Clements in which both wrote a one-act play based on the same plot line, but from two different perspectives. Talker’s Town and The Girl Who Swam Forever are both about a Katzie girl who escapes from Residential School, with Gray telling the story from the perspective of a non-Indigenous boy whose friend is involved with the girl, and Clements telling the girl’s story.

“Reading both plays back to back is like going through the looking glass,” says Gray. “They offer two distinct histories and two different ways of perceiving the world, in a mutually respectful way.”

The collaboration started two decades ago, but the plays have now appeared together in a joint publication through Talonbooks. Gray, along with Crystal Burnip – a recent VIU First Nations Studies graduate – presented on this unique collaboration at the Arts and Humanities Colloquium Series in March of this year, and, several weeks later, at the Earth Matters on Stage Symposium at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. 

“There are two very different histories in this country, and they both need to be recognized and respected for their differences. I think that’s why it’s important for them to come out now,” says Gray. “It’s being published when the desire for reconciliation is very much in the air.” 

The impetus for Talker’s Town stemmed from a traumatic experience from Gray’s youth, when he was involved in a car accident that took the life of a non-Indigenous girl and injured two others from the nearby Katzie reserve. Years later, Gray began researching the history and culture of the Katzie people, and, eventually, returned to his home town in Pitt Meadows to connect with people on the reserve.

As Gray started writing the story, he found that he was struggling to write from the perspective of the girl fleeing Residential School. That’s when he asked Clements for her help. When Clements, after trying to find the girl’s voice, began to feel “ghettoized in a white guy’s play,” Gray commissioned her to write her own play, based on the same events, from the Katzie girl’s point of view.

What Clements came up with astonished him. 

“She portrays all the characters and events through the perspective of the girl, and she also weaves elements of Katzie mythology and their creation story into it,” says Gray. “Her play let me see something that had been there all along that I hadn’t known about, something that was so fundamentally different than the experience I had growing up in that place.” 

Looking forward, Gray, who spent many years writing and directing for the stage before coming to VIU 10 years ago, is writing the script and libretto for Here Oceans Roar, a contemporary eco-opera incorporating oceanographic research and based on his experiences working as a skipper on a West Coast salmon troller.

“After doing it for several years, I realized I was more of an artist than a fisherman, and I also saw that the salmon numbers were declining,” says Gray. “That was the start of my interest in literature that explores the relationship between our human world and the natural world.”

This fall, to share this interest with his students, Gray is teaching Literature and the Environment: Scenes from the Anthropocene, a course dedicated to studying what literature can reveal to us about our relationship to the natural world.

“The Anthropocene is the current geological age we are in, in recognition of the phenomenal impact human beings are having on the planet as a whole,” Gray explains. “We’ll look at plays and films where the natural world is a major player in some form. We’re moving into a different kind of consciousness and these plays are part of the work being done to reframe our thinking about humanity and its place in the world.”

For more information, visit VIU English’s Featured Courses list.

VIU program aids students with disabilities

VIU's incoming CETP program was inspired in part by a similar offering which benefited VIU alumni Natalie Parfitt. She now successfully operates her own dog sitting and walking company.
VIU photo

0730 - Vancouver Island University is launching a new program to help students with disabilities make their entrepreneurship goals become reality.

Provincial funding has allowed VIU to establish the Co-operative Entrepreneur Training Program (CETP) in October at the school's Nanaimo campus. VIU stated in a news release the pilot program to be offered to 12 participants is aimed at creating self-employment careers which create a better fit for those with mental or physical disabilities.

Tanya Assaf, VIU instructor and chair of the Workplace Essential Skills and Training Program, stated in a news release the program is designed to find and showcase hidden talents.


VIU trains First Nations in resource management

The First Nations Stewardship Technicians Training Program has taught Harold Glendale and Angela Davidson skills they use every day in their roles as guardians with Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation. Photo: Vancouver Island University

 0706 - A unique program at Vancouver Island University (VIU) is helping First Nations communities monitor their lands and waters.

The First Nations Stewardship Technicians Training Program provides specialized training to work in resource management. Designed and developed in partnership with First Nations communities in response to a growing desire to increase capacity in natural resource management, the courses are delivered in-community over a two-year period in one-week sessions. This format allows participants to continue working while they go through the program.

Harold Glendale, a Senior Guardian for Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation in the Alert Bay/Knight Inlet region, uses the skills he learned in the program daily in his job. His job includes surveying fish, shellfish and vegetation populations; interacting with the public, either to make sure they are obeying the laws or staying out of danger; or documenting sites of historical importance to his Nation, such as ancient burial or hunting grounds. 

“My favourite part of the job is being able to go out in my territory every day, learning everything I should be learning about my people,” says Glendale.


VIU artists participate in the Temporary Public Art Program

Photo Caption: Visual Arts student Ben Sopow installed a metal sculpture in Maffeo Sutton Park in May.– VIU Photo

0621 - For many student artists, going from the private process of making art in a studio to displaying a finished piece in a public space is a big step. 

 A Vancouver Island University (VIU) Visual Arts student has taken the leap from the classroom to the park this year with one of his sculptures on display at Maffeo Sutton Park as part of the City of Nanaimo’s Temporary Public Art Program

 Every year, the city transforms this high-traffic park into an outdoor art gallery, and Ben Sopow’s aluminum and Plexiglas piece, Everything Happens So Much, is among the 11 pieces of art on display over the next year for community members and visitors from around the world to enjoy.

 “I’m really happy with the way it turned out,” says Sopow. “It is satisfying to apply the skills I learned as a VIU student to realize this project in the larger community of Nanaimo.”

 Sopow taught art and other subjects to elementary school children for 30 years and spent his summers painting landscapes. A desire to hone his art skills brought him to VIU when he retired a decade ago. 

 “What really draws me about the Visual Arts Program is the community that is formed in these studio art classes,” says Sopow, who is also involved with the University’s Peer Supervised Learning program as a physics tutor and the Outdoor Recreation Outrigger Canoe Racing Team. “You’ll spend hours and hours in the studio with other students finishing projects. The emphasis is really on honing your art-making skills. The University also builds career into the instruction, and provides opportunities to participate in real exhibits.”

 This isn’t Sopow’s first experience with public art. Thanks in part to mentorship from his instructors, including Visual Arts Professor Jason Gress, he’s already had artwork displayed at the Port Theatre, Milner Gardens, the Natural History Museum and Literacy Central Vancouver Island, where he is a member of the board.  

Through a directed studies course, Sopow was mentored by Gress on every step in the process of getting his piece in the Temporary Public Art Program, from concept and submitting the proposal, to producing his vision, which was more difficult than he expected. For example, in order for the aluminum to be cut with a water jet, Sopow had to enlist the help of a friend with graphic design experience to create a digital file of his project.

“What struck me about this project was the collaboration needed to complete it – at times I was more like a project manager,” he says.

Gress says having a student conceive of and produce a public art project as part of a course, and then having that art exist in the public domain for an extended period of time is unique. In fact, Sopow is the first Visual Arts student to participate in the Temporary Public Art Program.

“This project represents a deep connection between VIU Visual Arts students and the wider community,” he says. “Also, because the work is being displayed at Maffeo Sutton Park, it’s likely that visitors from all over the world will get to experience Ben’s artwork.”

Everything Happens So Much is a square sculpture featuring four colours in four different quadrants, which Sopow says represents diversity and balance in the world. 

“It’s a reflection of me, the optimist,” he explains. “To me, 7.2 billion people getting along together every day is a miracle. Compared to everything else that’s going on in the world, war, crime and violence is only a small part of the human story. 

Sopow’s design is not the only VIU connection in the City’s Temporary Public Art program this year – also on display is work by Welding alumni Sheldon Murphy and Heather Wall, and Graphic Design alum Laura Timmermans, who co-produced a piece with her brother, Michael, who is a current VIU student in the Bachelor of Business Administration program.

Chris Barfoot, the City’s Culture and Heritage Coordinator, says the strong VIU connection was not the intention of the program, but it seems to be happening naturally 

“We’re really grateful for the opportunities the program is creating for local artists, and bringing the artwork produced at VIU downtown is just a win-win for everybody,” he says.

For more information, visit the Visual Arts homepage. To view this press release online, visit VIU News.


Retiring Provost Dave Witty reflects on years at VIU

Dave Witty

-0614 - Dr. David Witty, outgoing Provost and Vice-President Academic at Vancouver Island University (VIU), knew he was blessed in his new role as he traveled on the ferry one day eight years ago to visit VIU’s Powell River Campus. 

 There were a few reasons he felt that way. The first and most obvious was the breath-taking scenery. The second was what it meant to be traveling to a community the size of Powell River (population approximately 13,000) for the reason he was going: to introduce himself as the new Provost of the newly-minted University and to lay out the consultation process for gathering their feedback of what should be included in the future academic plan. The significance of it was profound for him; a community this small had access to university-level education.

“It struck me as something very special,” Witty reflects. “Over time, I also came to understand that what we do at VIU is something special. Open access education isn’t just a concept we talk about to feel good about our work – it’s a mandate we deliver that changes lives.”   

Witty has faithfully served VIU’s mandate as a new university with a responsibility to its region for the last eight years. As Provost and Vice President, he was tasked with supporting the academic planning for the institution. Dr. Witty was the right person to lead that planning process. The Academic Plan that resulted from his efforts has been one of the strongest pieces of our integrated planning process and is where many important parts of our identity as an institution live.” These include VIU’s mission, vision, values and institutional purpose. 

VIU’s academic plan is now in its second iteration because almost all the objectives in the first were reached. The objectives were broad, but the resulting work was specific with tangible results. Regular and rigorous review of academic programs through the initiation of a Summative Program Assessment has also been a key development in ensuring academic quality oversight is consistent and meets the standards set by the University Senate.

Witty will be the very first to say that this work was across the institution and led by many different people. It is all part of the growth and evolution of VIU as a university  and has meant there have been many celebrations over the years. He points out that he has learned a great deal from the First Nation and Metis communities in their commitment to education and the role VIU should play in providing access to excellence.

“I do a lot of traveling and meeting with colleagues from other institutions. Every time I do this I find myself feeling so proud of what we have accomplished here. The creativity of the faculty we have to make any goal a reality, despite issues like funding restraints, is almost magic because it has created so much positive change over the years,” Witty says. “I tell students, and I truly believe, we are the best bang for your buck. We are very good at what we do and provide our students with an education they can actually make a living with.”

Recognition is now coming from outside about the quality of this education. MCP Director Dr. Pam Shaw recently received a 3M National Teaching Fellowship, a rare award given only to the very best in post-secondary teaching in Canada. VIU was just named a finalist for the Higher Education Academy’s 2018 Global Excellence in Teaching Award – one of only 17 institutions among hundreds of applicants from 41 countries. 

“VIU has something special and is being recognized as a leader in teaching and learning. I think it is recognition that what we have is special. What other university can truly say they champion open access, truth and reconciliation, international education, trades and applied technology as well as pure academia and experiential learning?” says Liesel Knaack, Director of the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning.

“David has contributed to the University and the communities it serves in many and varied ways. He has been a key contributor to institutional change. He has welcomed and supported many new institutional leaders, such as deans, in his role as Provost and they will continue on within the institution as it evolves and grows,” says Nilson. “His passion, persistence and perseverance in his role as Provost has been essential to our success, and his impact will influence the institution for years to come.”

 “I’m a builder. I have contributed to creating something special while working at VIU over the past eight years. I think I have created a strong base for a new Provost to come and lead the continued growth of VIU from the Provosts office.  So it’s time to hand it over to someone else,” he says.

VIU graphic design student wins Skills Canada top award

VIU Graphic Design student Joe Thoong (middle) has captured the gold medal in this year’s Skills Canada National Competition in Edmonton. Photo: Skills Canada­

A Vancouver Island University (VIU) student is the nation’s top graphic designer at this year’s Skills Canada National Competition.

First-year Graphic Design student Joe Thoong beat out students from across the country to take the gold medal at the national competition, held June 4 and 5 at the Edmonton EXPO Centre.

“It’s something I’ve wanted for so long and something I have been training hard for, but I don’t think the fact that I’ve won has actually sunk in yet,” he says. “It’s been an exhausting month!”

Skills Canada, founded in 1989 to promote skilled trades and technology careers amongst Canadian youth, hosts the only national multi-trade and technology event of its kind for both high school and post-secondary students and apprentices across the country, states the website. Regional and provincial competitions are held across the country to select the students who participate in nationals.

This is Thoong’s third year competing in Skills Canada competitions, and his second time at the national competition. For the first two years, he competed as a high school student at Georges P. Vanier Secondary School in Courtenay. The first year, he won the silver at provincials, and the second year he won silver at nationals.

“I think I’m a sore loser – I just had to go back and see if I could get the top prize,” he jokes. “I love the adrenaline rush of the competition. When you have only seconds left, it’s weird how much you can get done.”

To increase his chances of winning, Thoong spent 12 hours a week practicing his design work throughout April and May, with Graphic Design Professor Nancy Pagé providing feedback.

“Nancy and I would meet and she would critique my work,” he says. “You have to be versatile because each project you get at nationals is going to be very different in terms of style, medium and tone.”

Thoong completed two very different design projects during the national competition – a logo and packaging design on the first day and magazine cover, back and centre spread on the second. He got interested in graphic design when his high school art teacher Dave Randle introduced him to the industry and encouraged him to enter the Skills Canada competitions.

“I’ve always been a creative kid – I used to always draw and I’ve always been a visual communicator,” says Thoong.

Thoong will head back to Skills Canada nationals in Halifax next year to compete against the silver medal winner in his category from this year for a chance to go with Team Canada to WorldSkills Kazan 2019

Pagé says Thoong’s success reflects well on the program and confirms that faculty are preparing students for success.

“It’s a fantastic addition to his resumé,” she says. “It demonstrates his commitment to the discipline and showcases his efforts in a tangible way. I think any employer seeing his success in this event provides instant credibility and confirms his level of competency within a skills-based discipline.”

For more information, visit the Skills Canada homepage.

Vancouver Island University convocation June 4-6

About 850 Vancouver Island University (VIU) graduates from 55 different programs will walk across the stage on June 4-6 in five Convocation ceremonies.

 Highlights of the ceremonies include the awarding of five honorary degrees to Chief Dr. Robert Joseph, a national leader in reconciliation; Gene Anne Joseph, the first librarian of First Nations descent to get a Master’s of Library Science degree; Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia and Sergio Cocchia, philanthropists and prominent members of the BC business community; and Dr. Michael K. Hawes, CEO of Fulbright Canada, the world’s most prestigious and largest academic exchange program. Each ceremony will also include a valedictorian representing fellow graduates, and seven VIU professors will be recognized with Provost Awards for excellence in teaching design and practice. 

 Convocation will be live-streamed for those who cannot make it to the event in person. For more information, visit VIU’s Convocation webpage.



2:15 pm           Procession of graduates from the Vancouver Island Conference Centre to the

                        Port Theatre

2:50 pm           Presentation of Honorary Doctor of Laws to Chief Dr. Robert Joseph

3 pm                Valedictory address by Nneka Otogbolu, a Master of Business Administration/Master of Science in International Management


3:10 pm           Presentation of graduates from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Faculty of Management and Faculty of Social Sciences


TUESDAY, JUNE 5, 10:00 AM 

9:45 am           Procession of graduates from the Vancouver Island Conference Centre to the

                        Port Theatre

10:20 am         Presentation of Honorary Doctorate of Letters to Gene Anne Joseph

10:30 am         Valedictory address by Autumn Anne McIvor, Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduate

10:40 am         Presentation of graduates from the Faculty of Health and Human Services


 2:15 pm           Procession of graduates from the Vancouver Island Conference Centre to the

                        Port Theatre

 3 pm                Valedictory address by Reef Hujaij, Bachelor of Arts, Major in Digital Media Studies graduate

 3:10 pm           Presentation of graduates from the Bachelor of Arts, Faculty of Health and Human Services


9:45 am - Procession of graduates from the Vancouver Island Conference Centre to the

                        Port Theatre

 10:20 am - Presentation of Honorary Doctor of Laws to Sergio Cocchia and Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia

 10:30 am         Valedictory address by Edward Nathanson, Bachelor of Tourism Management graduate

 10:40 am         Presentation of graduates from the Faculty of Management, Faculty of Trades and Applied Technology


 2:15 pm           Procession of graduates from the Vancouver Island Conference Centre to the

                        Port Theatre

 2:50 pm           Presentation of Honorary Doctor of Letters to Dr. Michael K. Hawes

 3 pm                Valedictory address by Samantha Stremecki, Bachelor of Education graduate

 3:10 pm           Presentation of graduates from the Faculty of Education, Faculty of Science and Technology

VIU on short list for international teaching award

For Criminology student Mandii Hopkins, a unique access program at VIU that is allowing her to attend school here is “the light at the end of the tunnel.” Here she is pictured with her sons, Reginald, left, and Kenny Lucas. Photo: Vancouver Island University

May 28, 2018 Vancouver Island University (VIU) is receiving international recognition for its high standard of teaching and learning.

 VIU is a finalist in the Higher Education Academy’s 2018 Global Teaching Excellence Award. Introduced last year in association with Times Higher Education, the award recognizes and celebrates an institution-wide commitment to the pursuit of teaching excellence. VIU is one of 17 finalists shortlisted from applications from more than 40 countries, and one of just two universities in Canada to make the list. 

 The story of Criminology student Mandii Hopkins helps to highlight one of the reasons VIU may have been chosen as a finalist for this prestigious award.

 The 26-year-old single mother of two wanted to go back to school for years, but raising her two boys had taken all of her resources. She tears up when she talks about how VIU found a way for her to get the education she so desperately wants, not only to build a better life for her and her children, but also to raise up others in her community.

 “For me, being here is the light at the end of the tunnel,” says Hopkins, who hopes to go to law school after she finishes her degree so that she can become an advocate for people in her community. “I just want to show myself and those who believe in me that I can do this, and show my sons that they can do it too. Without this program, there’s no way I would be in school right now, I’d be scrambling to find work to get my family through the next month.”

 Last fall, she was offered a scholarship through a unique learning partnership VIU joined that aims to remove barriers for Indigenous youth accessing post-secondary, and provide the wrap-around supports they need to succeed once they are here. The initiative is funded by the Mastercard Foundation and Rideau Hall Foundation, and VIU is partnering with the First Nations communities it serves to co-create the program and determine what supports are needed.

This unique partnership is one of the many access-focused initiatives VIU has pioneered that is earning national and international recognition for the institution. This work likely contributed to the University being nominated for this prestigious award. 

 “Our students and employees have long recognized that the way learning takes place here is special; this accolade lets the rest of the world in on the secret,” says Dr. David Witty, VIU Provost and Vice-President Academic. “VIU’s Academic Plan – Promoting and Celebrating Access to Excellence – provides a solid foundation for everything we do here, from responding to regional needs, to access initiatives that support those struggling to attend post-secondary for financial or other reasons, to offering innovative, experiential learning opportunities for students.”

Besides the learning partnership, which will double the number of Indigenous students pursuing an education at VIU, the University was the first in BC to launch a Tuition Waiver Program for those who have spent time in the foster care system, and actively promotes education savings initiatives like the federal government’s Canada Learning Bond program.

Access initiatives also extend into VIU’s international population, including raising money to bring student refugees from around the world to campus, as well as offering scholarships to international students from disadvantaged backgrounds – key pieces in fostering a global outlook, says Dr. Graham Pike, Dean of International Education.

 VIU’s student body includes more than 2,000 international students from 90 different countries studying at VIU, as well as many opportunities for local students to go on overseas exchanges, field schools, summer intensive programs, co-ops, internships and research with international partners. For example, the University’s participation in the Queen Elizabeth Scholars program and in international development projects has given VIU students the opportunity to travel all over the world, and brought many international scholars to VIU.

 “Part of preparing our students for a changing world is providing these types of international engagement opportunities,” says Pike. “Promoting a two-way exchange of students and faculty is vital to fostering intercultural skills and global connections.”

 What makes teaching and learning at VIU stand out is the passion of faculty and instructors to support students both in and out of the classroom, says Dr. Liesel Knaack, Director of the University’s Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning. 

 “It is about more than just teaching excellence here at VIU,” says Knaack. “It is about how we challenge and stretch students beyond the classroom to become independent thinkers. Being shortlisted for this award is a recognition of the diverse supports and rich opportunities available for VIU students across all our programs.”

The winner of the Global Teaching Excellence Award will be revealed in Edinburgh, Scotland, on July 18.


The world comes to Vancouver Island University

Thanh Phuong Nguyen, an international student from Vietnam, tells Pham Manh Hai, Consul General of Vietnam, about VIU. Photo: Vancouver Island University

0517 - Students and employees got the opportunity to showcase Vancouver Island University to more than a dozen representatives from countries around the world this week.

The University partnered with the Mid Island Business Initiative (MIBI) to tour 14 consuls general with offices in Vancouver around the University and mid-Island region on Tuesday, May 15. A consul general serves as a representative of their own country in another country, providing assistance with bureaucratic issues to both the citizens of the consul’s own country travelling or living abroad, and to the citizens of the country in which the consul resides who wish to travel to or trade with the consul’s country. 

The purpose of the visit was to introduce the consuls general to what VIU and the mid-Island have to offer for investors and international students. Each consul general who came on Tuesday was matched up with a student from their home country where possible to tour VIU’s Nanaimo Campus before spending the afternoon at Milner Gardens and Woodland, a public garden in Qualicum Beach owned by the University.

“The goal was to raise awareness about the great work that VIU does for the central Island economy and the exciting opportunities for international students who study here,” says Dr. Graham Pike, Dean of International Education. “International students bring so much to our campus in terms of their cultures, languages and traditions.”

VIU has a diverse student body that includes more than 2,000 international students from more than 90 countries. Pike introduced the consuls general to some of the unique programming and research facilities VIU has, and talked about the supportive, welcoming learning environment that attracts international students to the region.

John Hankins, CEO of MIBI, says the goal of the visit was to raise awareness of the region to the Consulates to enable them to share the opportunities with companies and investors from their respective countries.

“On a global scale, Vancouver is well-known, but the mid-Island is not,” he says. “The consuls general represent their respective countries and having them come over and experience firsthand what we have to offer ensures we are on their radar.”


MIBI was created to introduce new organizations and industries to the advantages of establishing businesses in the mid-Island region. The organization acts as a catalyst, supporting businesses to harness the potential that exists in this area for both business and life opportunities. VIU is a member.


Dr. Ralph Nilson, VIU President and Vice-Chancellor, says the visit was an opportunity to showcase how important international students are to the region.

“Education is key to sustainable prosperity and an important part of this is welcoming international partnerships and international students to foster a global exchange of ideas. The mid-Island is evolving from a resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy and enhancing opportunities for engagement across the globe is vital to success in this changing world. We also had the opportunity to discuss how VIU engages in learning with Indigenous communities on the West Coast of BC. 

Shreya Sachdeva, a Master of Business Administration student from India, showed Consul-General Abhilasha Joshi around the campus. She’s excited to tell her friends and family that she got to meet the consul general of India, who has invited her to an event she’s organizing for students in Vancouver.

“It was a great opportunity meeting the Consul General of India in Canada, as it’s a matter of pride for me to have represented the Indian student body of VIU in front of the Consul General,” she says. “This visit is great for our marketing and reputation. When students in India learn the consul general visited VIU, I think more students will want to come here.”

Philippe Sutter, Consul General of France in Vancouver, is excited to strengthen relationships with VIU to allow for more exchange opportunities between French students and researchers and West Coast institutions. France has launched a new program encouraging researchers from other countries to travel to France and vice-versa, and he also wants to increase opportunities for student exchanges.


More engineering spaces opened at VIU

0502 - An additional 40 engineering diploma and certificate seats at Vancouver Island University will give more students access to the technical skills needed for good-paying jobs in the booming tech industry.

"There hasn't been any significant investment in tech programming for more than a decade," said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. "Adding more tech spaces at Vancouver Island University is part of our provincial tech-expansion plan that's adding thousands more spaces to give students the skills to succeed, and ensuring that the tech sector is supported with homegrown talent."

Funding of $100,000 will allow Vancouver Island University to develop and implement additional student spaces in the university's fundamentals of engineering certificate, and a new engineering design and practice diploma program.

"B.C.'s tech sector is growing exponentially, and companies in every corner of the province need skilled workers," said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. "These additional seats at Vancouver Island University's engineering programs will help local companies find the talent they need to get their product to market and generate good-paying tech jobs."

"This funding will enable us to train more of our tech talent locally, while helping to support the growth of tech industries on Vancouver Island," said Leonard Krog, MLA for Nanaimo. "Our government's startup funding to expand tech programming will allow Vancouver Island University to add 40 additional student spaces in two enhanced engineering programs."

"To obtain good-paying, 21st-century jobs, people need access to affordable and relevant education," said Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan. "Funding two new engineering programs at Vancouver Island University will open the doors to opportunities in the tech sectors for more students on Vancouver Island."

Spaces for the one-year certificate and the two-year diploma will become available in 2019-20 with 20 spaces, ramping up to 40 spaces in 2020-21. Once the spaces are fully implemented, funding is expected to increase to $400,000 annually.

"VIU would like to thank the provincial government for recognizing the importance of funding regional training that will prepare students for in-demand engineering occupations," said Brian Dick, chair of VIU's engineering, physics and astronomy. "This support will allow us to expand our program to offer students both first- and second-year training, and a choice of whether to continue on to further education, or move into employment in the local tech sector."

The fundamentals of engineering certificate program contains the core, first-year courses in physics, chemistry, engineering design, computer programming, mathematics and communication. Upon successful completion, graduates are qualified to apply for second-year engineering at the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University and the University of Alberta. 

The new, two-year diploma in engineering design and practice builds upon the certificate, targeting those students who wish to gain employment in the local tech sector, but may not want to continue immediately to a full engineering degree. The diploma provides these students with specific and practical employment skills, with emphasis on the design and fabrication processes.

"Adding an engineering transfer pathway to VIU helps fill an educational void, by allowing students to continue the engineering education they started at VIU, building on what they've learned in the first-year certificate," said VIU engineering transfer student Allan Stenlund. "The second-year diploma allows them to work on more in-depth projects, giving them the opportunity to significantly amplify their capabilities, expanding the scope of their skills and expertise, and their opportunities."

"The engineering expansion is great news for the mid-Island engineering community," said Lee Rowley, principal, Herold Engineering. "Having more opportunity for more engineers and technologists to begin their training locally allows a more affordable start to their careers. It also gives local firms the chance to hire well-trained employees, who are familiar with the career opportunities and lifestyle Vancouver Island provides."

Quick Facts:

* The Province is adding 2,900 tech-related spaces throughout B.C., to produce 1,000 additional tech-grads a year by 2023. This includes tech spaces in a number of niche programs, including the engineering certificate and diploma programs at VIU.

* Over 83,400 tech-related jobs openings are expected by 2027, including jobs like computer programmers, engineers, information system analysts, digital designers and software designers.

* The tech sector is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the B.C. economy, generating approximately $29 billion in revenue a year, and supporting over 106,000 good-paying jobs. B.C.'s tech sector is home to more than 10,200 businesses.

Renovated auto shop helps VIU drive automotive program

Trevor Rea-Stewart, a fourth-year automotive apprentice student, has noticed a huge difference following renovations to the automotive building. Vancouver Island University photo

0418 - An overhaul of Vancouver Island University’s automotive building is intended to drive the program forward.

The renovations are part of the $20-million marine, automotive and trades complex expansion and redevelopment project announced in December 2016 by the federal and provincial governments.

The automotive building renovations include a 225-square-metre addition with a larger tool crib and an apprenticeship lab; a renovated customer service area designed to look like a dealership; a reconfigured shop area that now fits up to 24 vehicles compared to 16 in the former layout; and renovated classroom spaces.

VIU engineering students in design competition

Vancouver Island University (VIU) students Wilson Nguyen, from left, Wesley Dunn, Allan Stenlund and Jennifer White work on their engineering design during last year’s competition. Photo/Vancouver Island University

0410 - First-year-engineering students at Vancouver Island University are building model, moveable structures with Popsicle sticks to test their design skills – and now they want the public to help choose a winner.

In a friendly competition, sponsored by Herold Engineering, Helijet International Inc., and the Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (EGBC), 10 teams from the Engineering Design II class have been creating model structures out of Popsicle sticks, dowels, a variety of sensors and actuators, and an Arduino microcontroller.

 Their creative designs will be on display Friday, April 13 in the Upper Cafeteria, Building 300, at VIU’s Nanaimo Campus from 9 am to 2 pm. The public is invited to stop by and celebrate the achievements of these engineering students and provide feedback on how well they met their design objectives.  

“The students are working on one of three projects:  Two are moveable bridge structures, and the third is a moveable canal structure,” says Brian Dick, Chair of VIU’s Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy. “In all three cases, the goal is to build a structure that is autonomous, in other words it must operate on its own without human intervention. The system must control traffic, move the structure deck according to project requirements, accommodate specific stakeholder demands, and be robust enough to support a fixed weight.  A complicating element was that each structure was designed by one team of students, but built by another. During the build, the two teams collaborated to work through any challenges that arose.”

 A number of constraints were presented to students as part of their design, one of which is its aesthetic appeal.

Local engineers, the public, staff, students and faculty at VIU are being asked to rank each of the structures in terms of what design best addresses stakeholder needs, which best displays innovation and practicality, as well as which shows the best reflection of the original design teams' intent. Students will receive marks based on this feedback. Dick’s first-year course is part of the Fundamentals of Engineering Certificate.

 “We’ve been running the program at VIU for a number of years and we typically have around 40 - 45 students each term,” says Dick. 

 Successful completion of this certificate with a minimum required GPA and time of completion qualify students for admission into the second year engineering program at the University of British Columbia (UBC), the University of Victoria (UVic), Simon Fraser University (SFU), or the University of Alberta.  For more details, go to


Refrigeration mechanic program takes training to next level

Josh Dares is in the first cohort of VIU students to complete their Level 3 apprenticeship training through VIU’s Refrigeration Air-Conditioning Mechanic program. He starts a new job this month thanks to having access to the higher level of training. Photo: Vancouver Island University

0404 -A new offering in Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Refrigeration Air-Conditioning Mechanic (RACM) program is saving students thousands of dollars in travel and living costs and leading to better job opportunities. 

The program, which trains students to install, service and troubleshoot all aspects of residential, commercial and industrial heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC/R) equipment, just began offering Level 3 apprenticeship training for the first time, enabling students who would have had to travel to the Lower Mainland to get this training to stay on the Island and keep working. The University already offers 8.5-month foundation/Level 1 courses to introduce students to the trade, as well as Level 2 training out of the Cowichan Trades Centre.

 What’s significant about offering this higher level of training is the opportunities it opens up for students, not only in terms of a wider range of job opportunities, but also better salaries, says program chair Larry Nohr.



VIU students to hold model United Nations conference

The organizers of VIU MUN 2018 are excited to debate controversial and timely issues with other students from the region on February 9 and 10, 2018. From left to right: Keeley Campbell, Justin North, Elissa Doerksen, Stephanie Pastro, Lauren Rogers, Fahad Al-Shammery, Jacob Gair and Anna Kryvonos. Photo: Vancouver Island University

0131 - Things are about to get very diplomatic in Nanaimo, as Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Model United Nations Club prepares to host its second annual model UN conference February 9-10.

 A Model United Nations, also known as MUN, is an educational experience where students roleplay as delegates to the United Nations and simulate UN committees. Students discuss topics that are relevant to current events from the perspective of the countries they are representing. The conference is open to both university and high school students, and more than 60 students are registered so far.

“It’s a really good learning experience, especially if you’re interested in going into political studies or perhaps one day becoming a politician,” says Elissa Doerksen, Director of Media Marketing and Corporate Relations for the VIU MUN Club. “It not only expands your knowledge on certain countries’ political standpoints, it also helps improve your debating skills. It heightens participants’ awareness about events happening in the world, and teaches how to debate and create solutions to international issues as a team.”

Participants can choose to represent countries at either the General Assembly or Security Council tables. There will also be an International Press Corps charged with representing different media outlets and tasked with interviewing delegates, reporting on the happenings of committees and analyzing conference developments. Participants dress formally and follow clearly outlined rules of procedure.

“Last year, students got really into it and transformed completely into character for the country they were representing,” says Doerksen. “It gave people a good idea about what a real-world UN conference is like.”

 VIU MUN 2018 takes place during Global Citizens Week, an annual week filled with campus events, visiting speakers and classroom dialogues that explore issues of global development at home and abroad. This year the theme of the week is Solidarity in Action, and in honour of this theme, MUN participants will debate topics such as human rights of LGBTQ people, displacement of people due to climate change, prevention of human trafficking, and ending the humanitarian crisis and violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar.

“Not only are these topics controversial, but they are also extremely topical to the society we live in today,” says Stephanie Pastro, Secretary General. “Our organizers have worked tirelessly to ensure a wide variety of topics for delegates to tackle. Model United Nations may not directly change the world but it prepares the leaders of tomorrow, training them to be diplomatic and innovative in the solutions they provide. At VIU MUN 2018 we hope to help delegates recognize their full potential and harness it in a way that furthers the world.” 

The two-day conference will include opening ceremonies, committee sessions and a mock press conference. Each delegate must submit a position paper in advance outlining the foreign policy, opinions and diplomacy of the country on the presented topics. Visit the VIU MUN website to register or learn more.

To learn more about VIU’s Political Studies program, visit the program homepage

Kaitlyn Lafontaine wins prestigious Aboriginal sports award

Kaitlyn Lafontaine, a Vancouver Island University student and Mariners athlete, received the 2017 Premier’s Awards for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport – Interior Region. Photo/Vancouver Island University

0126 - Kaitlyn Lafontaine is a dedicated athlete, a mentor and a Vancouver Island University (VIU) student who dreams of using her education to make a positive impact on Indigenous people in Canada.

Lafontaine, a member of the Métis Nation, recently received the 2017 Premier’s Awards for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport – Interior Region. The recipients must not only be exceptional athletes but also demonstrate a commitment to pursing higher education, leadership qualities, volunteerism and a connection to their culture.

“Kaitlyn is an example of our dedicated Mariners student-athletes who are committed to success not just on the court, or the classroom, but also in the community,” said Stephanie White, VIU’s Director of High Performance Sport, Recreation and Physical Literacy. 

Lafontaine, a guard for the VIU Mariners women’s basketball team, said she was proud to win the Interior region award because even though she has played basketball on Vancouver Island for the past four years it was great to represent her hometown, Kelowna.

“It was a proud moment to represent where I am from and my family name,” she said.

 Winning the regional award automatically serves as a nomination for the Provincial Premier’s Awards for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport Award. The winners will be announced during the Indigenous Youth Sport Leadership Forum held at the Gathering our Voices Youth Conference in Richmond, March 20-23. 

Lafontaine said attending VIU allows her to balance pursing higher education and play basketball.

“She is a veteran on our team and one the younger players look up to for guidance both on and off the court,” said Tony Bryce, Head Mariners Women’s Basketball Coach. “We are going to miss her leadership and toughness next year.”

Lafontaine is currently majoring in First Nations Studies and Criminology at VIU and plans to apply to law school after graduating and study Aboriginal law.

“Education is a huge tool for change. I really want to use my education to give back to my community and make a difference,” said Lafontaine. “School has taught me I am someone who can make those changes.”

On the basketball court Lafontaine balances a combination of adrenaline and calmness. Her awareness is heightened. At any moment she could be in the middle of a play and her reaction needs to be quick, calculated and precise.

“There are a hundred things that go through my head every single play,” she said.

Playing basketball has been a family affair since she was a child. Her grandparents, parents and siblings all play the game. 

“There is literally a baby photo of me holding a basketball when I was two years old, so to say I was born into it isn’t an understatement,” said Lafontaine.

One of the highlights of her basketball career is participating in the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in 2014.

“For me it was a huge experience because in that moment my culture overlapped with basketball,” she said, adding the experience motivated her to get her Level 1 and Aboriginal Coaching Certifications. In 2017 she was the assistant coach of the U16 girls team at NAIG in Toronto and currently coaches at École Pauline Haarer Elementary School in Nanaimo.

 Lafontaine said she’s excited that the VIU Mariners are hosting the 2018 PACWEST Basketball Championships March 1-3, where the top women’s and men’s basketball teams will compete for the title and a ticket to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) National Championships.

VIU News.

Fighting for justice exhibit bring sto light lesser-told stories

VIU alum Connie Graham, front; VIU Anthropology Professor Dr. Imogene Lim, left; Kathryn Gagnon, Curator/Manager of the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives, back; and Dr. Tusa Shea, Coordinator of the Arts and Science Programs for the UVic’s Division of Continuing Studies helped create the Fighting for Justice travelling exhibit. Photo/Vancouver Island University

0126 - Wing Hay Young, a popular Port Alberni-born boxer, tried to enlist in the Canadian Army in 1940, during the Second World War.

 He was denied entry based on his ethnicity, prompting his white boxing friends to descend on the enlistment office, refusing to sign up until their friend was accepted. Young, who became one of the first Asian Canadians to enlist, went on to distinguish himself on the battlefield.

For many years, Debra Toporowski could not be a member of the Cowichan Tribes because her mother had married a Chinese Canadian man. Under the Indian Act of 1876, women were forced to give up their status if they married a non-Indigenous person. Today, Toporowski is not only a member of Cowichan Tribes, she is a band councillor. Bill C-31, passed in 1985, amended the Indian Act to prevent this gender-based discrimination following pressure by First Nations women on the government. 

Both stories are part of 150 Years and Counting: Fighting for Justice on the Coast, a travelling banner exhibit developed by Vancouver Island University (VIU), University of Victoria (UVic), and the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives. The exhibit is one outcome of the project, Asian Canadians on Vancouver Island: Race, Indigeneity and the Transpacific, led by UVic and funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

It was on display in the library at VIU’s Nanaimo Campus until Friday, January 26, and will be displayed at the Cowichan Campus from Monday, January 29 to mid-February. It returns to the Nanaimo Campus library on February 20 until March 5, at which time people can view it at the Campbell River Museum. 

Fighting for Justice personalizes more than 150 years of history from the perspective of First Nations communities, Asian Canadians and their allies, who fought for justice in the face of colonial dispossession and racist exclusions. 

“The point of this exhibit is to tell those stories that haven’t been told and showcase the intersections of these communities,” says Dr. Imogene Lim, a VIU Anthropology Professor, who worked on the exhibit’s concept development alongside Dr. Tusa Shea, Program Coordinator, Arts and Sciences Programs for UVic’s Division of Continuing Studies, and Kathryn Gagnon, Curator and Manager of the Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives.

 The exhibit tells the history through individual stories of Asian Canadians and First Nations on Vancouver Island, and highlights the ties between different groups on the Island. There are several examples of Asian Canadian and Indigenous communities working together, including an Alert Bay grocery store owned by an Asian Canadian family that continued to provide supplies for potlatches in the area after the government ban.

“I’m hoping people gain an awareness of how resilient these communities were and are, how they fought to preserve aspects of their culture that were under threat,” says Shea.

The key point for Gagnon was telling the stories in simple, bite-sized chunks to give people an idea of the history without overwhelming them – and then encouraging them to pursue more information.

“You have to know it happened before you can explore it,” she says.

One VIU student and one VIU alum also had the chance to work on the exhibit. Anthropology student Chantelle Spicer worked on the accompanying resource guide while Connie Graham, an Anthropology and First Nations Studies graduate, coordinated the exhibit and edited the banner text.  

Graham’s favourite part about the exhibit is the emphasis on the diversity of people settling on the Island.

 “People have this idea that Canada was colonized by white Europeans and that’s not necessarily the case,” she says. “There was a lot more diversity in the makeup of the original settlers, but they all weren’t treated equally.”

 To learn more or book the exhibit, email Dr. John Price, UVic History Professor, at

To learn more about VIU’s Anthropology program, visit the program homepage. Visit VIU News.


Encouraging conversations about wellness and self-care

Stephanie White, VIU’s Director of High Performance Sport, Recreation and Physical Literacy, left, and Gemma Armstrong, a VIU Counsellor, are encouraging people to talk about mental health during VIU’s What About Wellness Week, which runs from Monday, January 29 to Friday, February 2. Photo/Vancouver Island University.

0125 - Every one of us has ups and downs in our mental health and mental illness will affect all Canadians either directly or indirectly in their lifetime.

They may experience mental illness themselves or have a family member, friend or colleague who struggles with it. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, approximately eight per cent of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives. In any given year, one in five people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness.

To raise more awareness about mental health and promote student well-being, Vancouver Island University (VIU) is hosting What About Wellness Week, which runs from Monday, January 29 to Friday, February 2 

As part of the events held during What About Wellness Week, the VIU Mariners men’s and women’s basketball teams are participating in Make Some Noise for Mental Health Day. Make Some Noise is a Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) initiative which supports campaigns that raise mental health awareness, encourage open mindedness and promotion of resources and support on campuses and in the community. It also encourages CCAA members to participate in Bell Let’s Talk Day, which is Wednesday, January 31.

“It’s a very important event that athletic departments across the country participate in,” said Stephanie White, VIU’s Director of High Performance Sport, Recreation and Physical Literacy. “It’s important for us to be a loud voice in the discussion about mental health on university campuses.”

Mariners are inviting fans to bring noisemakers to the matches against Quest U Kermodes on February 2 and get loud. The loudest will win pizza. The women play at 6 pm and the men’s game begins at 8 pm.

White said making noise will not only let fans show their support for Mariners athletes but also is a mechanism to reduce the silence around mental health issues and let people know there are supports available.

 “It is something everyone pretty much goes through at some point in their life. We have to recognize it,” she said. “It doesn’t diminish who we are as people.”

 Activities are planned throughout What About Wellness Week on VIU’s Nanaimo campus. Gemma Armstrong, a VIU Counsellor, said VIU hopes to provide opportunities for connection and open conversations, and encourage students to reflect and learn about their mental health.

 “We want students to know that they can take charge of their mental health by building awareness and developing skills and supports,” she said. “I like to imagine that when we ask each other “how are you?” that we can be real with each other whether we are struggling or flourishing.”

 Activities include a Wellness Day at Shq’apthut – Natural Spiritual Healing, free coffee and stress relief activities hosted by the VIU Students’ Union, a Stitch and Bitch and more. For Bell Let’s Talk Day students and VIU community members are invited to the Upper Cafeteria to play games, destress and learn about supports available.

 During What About Wellness Week VIU Counselling Services is also asking students to fill out a survey about health and wellness events and programs on campus. The information will be used to help strengthen existing counselling programs and determine what other ways the University can engage students in health and wellness activities.

 VIU News.

Peer Support navigator removes barriers for students

Ruby Barclay is ensuring students who have spent time in the foster care system get what they need to succeed in school as Vancouver Island University’s first Peer Support Navigator for the Tuition Waiver Program. Photo / Vancouver Island University

0214 - Vancouver Island University’s new Peer Support Navigator for the Tuition Waiver Program for former youth in care is ensuring fewer of the University’s most vulnerable students fall through the cracks.

 More than 80 students who have spent time in BC’s foster care system accessed the Tuition Waiver Program at VIU this year. While the program ensures their tuition is paid for, many of these students have other needs that must be met for them to succeed once they are enrolled. That’s why Ruby Barclay, a fourth-year student in the Child and Youth Care program, was hired as Peer Support Navigator for the program last May. Her job is to advocate for students in the program and help them get what they need to be successful in school. To her knowledge, her position is unique in the province.

“My role is to act as a bridge to services,” says Barclay. “I host social gatherings once a month for students to connect through casual conversations. I also listen to their needs or help them identify barriers to being successful in school, and host workshops for them on topics like time management or setting boundaries in relationships. Students come with unique challenges as a result of in-care experiences, and need support moving forward and navigating post-secondary. We have seen an increase in students accessing services and we’ve seen less students fall through the cracks because of this position.”

Barclay’s week varies based on the needs of the students. For example, one day she might be in business dress advocating for a new support in front of VIU’s Board of Governors; the next day she’s meeting with a student to find them housing and hosting a social gathering. Through this role, Barclay has been an advisor to the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program; she works with different levels of government to address the root cause of barriers for students; and she’s a mentor on the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre’s Youth Advisory Council. Just before Christmas, she raised funds to make 46 self-care packages that she hand-delivered to students.

Barclay has a better understanding of the unique needs of students in the Tuition Waiver Program because she is accessing the program herself.

“I know the kind of weight and stereotypes that come along with the label of youth in care,” she says. “One important aspect of my job is modelling and fostering a space for students to build their identity outside of being a youth in care. I am modelling for them the impact of being socially connected, successful in school and pursuing what I am passionate about. Nearly 30 students have graduated from the program so far – it’s about replicating how I and these other students have been successful.”

Barclay also connects with people who want to enter the program to help them with the process. For some students, small acts like helping them fill out an application form can help launch them in a new direction in life, she says. 

“I love watching students come out of their shells – just seeing them take charge and start to figure out what they need to do is so rewarding,” she says 

Barclay started connecting with her peers in September 2016 as part of a practicum placement she designed for herself with the University’s blessing. As the impact of her work started to become apparent, she caught the attention of University administrators, including William Litchfield, Associate Vice-President of University Relations, who created a paid position.

“She saw an opportunity where a voice needed to be elevated,” he says. “Since she started her work, I’ve seen a big change in many students accessing the Tuition Waiver Program – they are more confident, they are integrating more in the University community, and engaging with others more. At the end of the day, we want them to be students. Ruby is aware of needs these students have that we don’t know about and she’s done a good job of advocating for students and getting them what they need.”

Thanks to the Mid-Island Chapter of the 100+ Women Who Care, which donated more than $13,000 to the VIU Foundation, the institution will be able to hire a second Peer Support Navigator. 

Students do not need to have aged out of the foster care system to be eligible for VIU’s Tuition Waiver Program – the only requirement is that they have spent 12 cumulative months in the system. To learn more, visit the Tuition Waiver Program homepage or email

Syrian refugees find welcoming atmosphere at VIU Cowichan

Fanar Sheikh Zein, holding daughter Ariana, and Baraa Mohammed, Syrian refugees who arrived in Canada last March, are finding a welcoming community at VIU Cowichan. /Vancouver Island University photo

0119 - A Syrian couple who spent four years living at a residential complex for refugees in northern Iraq are finding a welcoming new community at Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Cowichan Campus.

 Baraa Mohammed and Fanar Sheikh Zein, Kurdish Syrians from Qamishli, in the northern part of the country, came to Canada looking for a better life for their daughter, Ariana, who was born shortly after they arrived here. 

“We came for her,” says Mohammed. “We didn’t want her to go through what we went through and see what we’ve seen.”

Sheikh Zein is taking English and Math classes at VIU Cowichan and hopes to get recertified to work as a physiotherapist in Canada. Mohammed is taking an online English course and hopes to get back on track to finishing her Bachelor of Arts degree, which was put on hold once she became a refugee. She’d like to work in financial services or human resources.

Both Sheikh Zein and Mohammed are grateful about the degree of support and acceptance they’ve received at VIU.


For more about the Cowichan Inter-cultural Society’s sponsorship efforts, visit the program homepage. To learn more about upgrading courses at VIU Cowichan, visit the Adult Basic Education homepage.

VIU Magazine now available online

VIU Photo

The latest edition of VIU Magazine is now available online. It features faculty and student research on microplastics; a look inside the Applied Environmental Research Laboratories’ new mobile lab – the Mass Specmobile; an interview with VIU President Dr. Ralph Nilson on his vision for the future of the region and what part VIU plays in creating that future; and a feature on two student poets who are already earning a name for themselves. It also features a history of Indigenous education initiatives at VIU; an explanation of how the District Geo-Exchange Energy System works; and alumni success stories.


VIU holding International Disabilities Day

1128  - Vancouver Island University is host to its sixth annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the main cafeteria (Bldg 300). It is the largest community event of its kind in the mid-Island with 25 different advocacy and community groups attending.  

This year’s theme, Transformation Toward Sustainable and Resilient Society for All, shines a spotlight on universal access, and what living in a truly accessible place means. Each year, VIU Disability Services hosts a fun activity to increase awareness for people living with disabilities, with the goal of building a more accessible and accepting society. This year’s event is an Artists’ Corner, which will feature four artists throughout the day.

People with or without disabilities are encouraged to attend and learn more about services available in Nanaimo. Participating community groups include Nanaimo Brain Injury Society, Nanaimo Special Olympics, Nanaimo Nitro Power Soccer, Nanaimo Association of Community Living, Nanaimo Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment Services, No Obstacles for Vision Impaired (NOVI), Nanaimo Multiple Sclerosis Society and many more.  

To learn more about this United Nations initiative, click here.

University community targets gender-based violence

1127 - Vancouver Island University (VIU) students’ Union (VIUSU), the VIU Faculty Association and ResTide are spearheading 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence events during the United Nations international campaign, which VIU is honoured to be a part of.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence begins Saturday, November 25 on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and runs until International Human Rights Day on December 10. The campaign originated in 1991 at the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership.

 Throughout the 16 Days of Activism campaign, videos featuring various members of the VIU community and anti-violence messages will be shared through social media.

 Events held on VIU’s Nanaimo campus include:

  • November 27 – December 8: The Clothesline Project, held in collaboration with Haven Society, invites people to write and hang messages against violence in the Upper Quad. The community clothesline engagement event is November 29 from 11:30 am to 1 pm;
  • November 29 – December 1: The Thrive Drive, held at VIUSU’s office, is raising money and collecting much-needed items for the Nanaimo Women’s Centre;
  • December 6: A vigil at the VIU Memorial for the women killed at École Polytechnique on the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women starts at 2:30 pm;
  • December 6: Stitch ‘N’ Bitch feminist embroidery gathering from 3 – 6 pm at Building 355, Room 211;
  •     November 25 – December 10: Honouring the Lives of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Red Ribbon Project, held throughout the 16 Days. People asked to tie a red ribbon on the staircase railings between the campus rainbow stairs and the Kwulasulwut Garden.

Kenyan college delegation tours VIU trades program

Haron Asiago, Industrial Liaison Officer with Kisii National Polytechnic, checks out the tools being used by VIU Carpentry students Natalie Speirs, left and Karly Atkinson during a whirlwind tour of the Nanaimo Campus’s trades programs. Photo/ Vancouver Island University

1123 - Faculty and staff from Kisii National Polytechnic in western Kenya got a whirlwind tour of Vancouver Island University’s trades programs last week. 

Five faculty and staff members from Kisii spent a week observing various VIU trades programs. The delegation was here as part of a partnership between the two institutions to develop a more hands-on curriculum for Kisii’s building trades programs that is better-aligned with industry needs.

“We want to develop a curriculum that can be flexible so it matches the requirements of the building industry,” explains Athanas Mokaya, Principal of Kisii National Polytechnic. “The youth unemployment rate is high, and at the same time it is a struggle to find skilled tradespeople in a number of areas. We need a lot more industry input to ensure the training matches the needs.”

The middle class in Kenya is growing and there’s a strong demand for new housing, he added.

Peter Nyaribo, head of Kisii’s Building and Civil Engineering Department, was taking close inventory of the equipment available to VIU students. Kisii’s building trades programs include certificates in carpentry, plumbing and masonry, and diplomas in building technology and civil engineering. He plans to lobby for better equipment for his own workshops, as they currently use mainly hand tools.

“If we have this kind of equipment, our students will be better prepared to go out and work,” he says.

Deanna Littlejohn, an Instructor in VIU’s Electrical Program, says even if students end up getting work with an employer that still uses mainly hand tools, if they have experiences with power tools, they will be able to advocate for more efficient equipment on the work site, improving industry standards from the bottom up. 

While at VIU, the Kenyan delegation also learned about applied research and interactive teaching approaches from VIU faculty members in Trades and Engineering. The group also spent time with the University’s Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning, attended a program advisory committee meeting for the automotive department to see how the University interacts with industry, and met with the University’s Planning and Analysis office to determine how to test whether programs are meeting industry requirements.

Aside from creating a more hands-on curriculum that better meets the building industry’s needs, another area of focus is on increasing the number of women entering the trades.

“We struggle with that in Canada as well, so we’ll be working together on strategies that benefit both institutions,” says Darrell Harvey, International Projects Coordinator. “There’s tons of two-way learning happening.”

The visit was part of a three-year, $1.67-million partnership through the Kenya Education for Employment Program (KEFEP), an initiative of Colleges and Institutions Canada (CICan) funded by Global Affairs Canada. VIU is working in consortium with Humber College, Durham College and Selkirk College to develop and enhance training programs in mechanical engineering, renewable energy and building technology at three Kenyan colleges.

A team from VIU went to Kenya last June to lay the groundwork for the work ahead. Before coming to VIU, the Kenyan delegation spent a week learning about leadership and change management, gender mainstreaming and environmental sustainability with VIU’s partner, Durham College.

Over the next year, VIU and Kisii faculty will work together on curriculum development and equipment acquisition. After that, the partners start training Kisii faculty and staff in hands-on, practical teaching techniques, and how to use the new equipment.

To view VIU news online, visit VIU News

Giving Tuesday campaign has a $150,000 target

On Tuesday, November 28, all the money you spend on food in the Vancouver Island University Students’ Union Pub will go towards scholarships and bursaries through the University’s Giving Tuesday campaign. Jesse Bixby, left, Janelle Wilson and Austyn Lorimer show off one popular menu item. /Vancouver Island University photo

1119 - Students, staff and faculty at Vancouver Island University (VIU), as well as the University’s community supporters, are banding together to make a difference in the lives of students on Giving Tuesday. 


Giving Tuesday is a global movement for giving that falls on the Tuesday following Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On this day, people are invited to get together to raise money and awareness about favourite causes and think about others.


During VIU’s fourth annual Giving Tuesday campaign on Tuesday, November 28, all friends of the University are invited to donate to the VIU Foundation as part of the campaign. VIU aims to raise $150,000 to support students.


“If you’ve been thinking about making a difference in the life of a student at VIU, this is a good day to do it,” says David Forrester, VIU Advancement Manager. “You can choose where you want your money to go. You can donate – or create – a specific scholarship or award, or funnel the donation to a particular faculty or program you’re passionate about. You can also give to the Inspiration Fund, which supports the areas of greatest need.”

Complaint filed over inaction on student's sex fetish

1117 - The former director of human rights at Vancouver Island University has filed a harassment complaint against the school, alleging it failed to act after a student imposed his sexual fetish on non-consenting women.

Katrin Roth filed the complaint with B.C.'s Human Rights Tribunal, claiming VIU did nothing to protect students and employees from a male student in his 40s who has what she believes to be paraphilic infantilism.

It's a sexual fetish described as having the desire to role-play as an infant, including wearing diapers or drinking from a bottle.


Addictions studies program at VIU launches rewarding careers

VIU Psychology Professor Dr. Elliott Marchant started the Addictions Studies program because he wanted to teach students that addiction is not a simple problem that can be explained by one theory. Come out to an info session about the program, as well as VIU's harm reduction forum, on November 15. Photo: Vancouver Island University

1110 - Meg Hansell loves helping people turn their lives around.

The Vancouver Island University (VIU) alum graduated in the spring with an Addiction Studies Certificate and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and was immediately hired at Edgewood Treatment Centre. 

“I love helping people fundamentally change their lives,” says Hansell, a Junior Counsellor at Edgewood. “They enter treatment in a hopeless place, and they leave with the ability to live full and productive lives – free from substance abuse. It’s just such an amazing transformation to watch. It’s not easy work, but it’s certainly rewarding.”

Hansell says VIU’s Addictions Studies Certificate helped her get the job she has now. Developed by Psychology Professor Dr. Elliott Marchant, the program is intended to be taken as part of a degree or to supplement a degree. It can be tailored by students to fit into their primary area of interest, such as counselling or police and social work. Students choose from a collection of courses in eight different departments that offer a variety of perspectives on addiction.

 “The combination of courses gives you a deep understanding of the neurobiological basis of addiction as well as the social aspect,” she says. “You finish the program more prepared and able to interact with people with addiction.”

 Another aspect of the program Hansell found helpful is that Marchant brings in a variety of guest speakers working in the field, including representatives from Edgewood. Talking to people working in the industry helps students gain a broader understanding of where they best fit. 

 After working in the field for a while, Hansell plans to go back to graduate school and her ultimate goal is to one day run her own research centre.

 “We’re still uncovering how addiction works in the brain, it’s one of those unresolved areas,” she says. “You ask someone what addiction is and there’s no real concrete answer to that question. We don’t understand this concept fully, and that sparks my interest.”

 The Addictions Studies Certificate has been available for just over a year, and the first graduates crossed the stage last June. Marchant says he started the program because he wanted to teach students that addiction is not a simple problem that can be explained by one theory.  

 “There isn’t another program like it in Western Canada,” he says. “It’s a theoretical certificate – I’m not trying to train clinicians, I’m trying to train people to think about the bigger picture.”

Students from various programs are enrolled, including psychology, criminology, sociology, child and youth care, and education.

“The program includes a huge amount of cross-facilitation between departments and students choose courses based on their area of interest and how it interacts with addictions – the current fentanyl crisis is not solvable by one approach,” says Marchant.  

As part of National Addictions Awareness Week, Marchant is organizing an information session on Wednesday, November 15 from 7 – 8 pm in Building 180, Room 134 on VIU’s Nanaimo Campus. Anyone who wants to know more about his program is welcome to attend.

 His information session takes place right after VIU’s Harm Reduction Forum called Risky Business: Staying Safe & Substance Use. The forum runs from 5:30 – 6:30 pm in the same room as Marchant’s info session and is meant to provide a platform for dialogue about the opioid overdose crisis in Nanaimo.

The forum will include representatives from the RCMP, Discovery Youth & Family Services, Island Health and VIU’s Health and Wellness Clinic. It will be followed by a resources fair, naloxone training and pizza from 6:30 – 7:30 pm.

Renowned poet Fred Wah comes to VIU

Fred Wah

171019 - From rivers and creeks to the wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean, Fred Wah’s poetry is immersed in water.

The BC poet, who is best known for founding the influential literary magazine TISH in the early 1960s, winning the Governor General’s Award for poetry in 1985 and a stint as Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate in 2011; has been writing about water all his life without realizing it.

 Wah is excited to share this passion with Nanaimo as Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poet for 2017. As the Gustafson poet, he will participate in three events, including a free reading and a lecture that are both open to the public on October 25 and 26. At these events, he will share how his preoccupation with water recently spilled into a larger project – a poem about the Columbia River written in collaboration with Vancouver poet Rita Wong that is “as long as the river.”



VIU students will national award for work on MBA Games

Vancouver Island University photo

171016 - Members of the VIU MBA Games competing team proudly display the Queen’s Cup, given to the event’s overall winner. From left: Gurleen Kaur, Navin Yadav, Nneka Otogbolu, Hailey Millet and Adtya Kumar. Otogbolu also won the CBIE Elizabeth Paterson award, along with three other VIU MBA students, who were on the National MBA Games organizing committee when the Games were at VIU. 

Learn more about VIU’s Graduate programs here.

VIU unveils unique mobile mass spectrometry lab

Vancouver Island University (VIU) is unveiling a world-class research vehicle, the Mobile Mass Spectrometry Lab equipped with state-of-the-art instruments, during an official opening event. A brief announcement will be followed by a demonstration of the mobile lab in action.

 The Mobile Mass Spectrometry Lab, a.k.a. the Mass Specmobile, is unique in Canada and allows scientists to conduct leading-edge research related to air and water quality. The high-tech innovations include the ability to continuously measure trace level contaminants from a moving vehicle and on-site in real-time. In addition to providing excellent research training opportunities for students, this new facility gives researchers the ability to quickly identify, measure and track the movements of contaminants and provide information crucial to the protection of human and environmental health.

 The Mobile Mass Spectrometry Lab and its equipment was developed at VIU by Dr. Erik Krogh and Dr. Chris Gill, co-directors of VIU’s Applied Environmental Research Laboratories (AERL), and VIU students thanks to a $1-million investment from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and BC Knowledge Development Fund.

VIU online auction will help students

Whether you like golfing, skiing, hockey or fine dining, VIU’s Online Auction has a package for you to bid on, as David Forrester, VIU Advancement Manager, demonstrates. All proceeds support students in financial need. Photo: Vancouver Island University

171012 - Finding the money to pay for important things like textbooks, childcare and essential learning equipment like a laptop computer can be hard when you’re going to university. 

Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Online Auction aims to help. Every year, local businesses donate prizes that people can bid on, with all proceeds going to student awards, equipment and learning opportunities. This year, prizes have been grouped into experience packages with themes ranging from travel, spa and golf getaways, to dining experiences and even a tattoo package.

 The bidding starts Thursday, October 19 at 9 am and closes Thursday, October 26 at 9 pm.

 “What’s nice about the Online Auction is there’s something for everyone in the prize packages, whether you like to travel, enjoy the outdoors, shop or do things with your family,” says David Forrester, VIU Advancement Manager. “Lots of our regular bidders like the fact that 100 per cent of the proceeds go towards supporting students in need - so they’re getting something they really want and helping others at the same time. Plus, with the holidays coming up, it’s a great opportunity to get a head start on your shopping.”

To learn more or bid on items, visit This link will be live Oct. 19.

Red Seal standard available for VIU hairdressing students

Hairdressing Foundations Program alum Gabrielle Mayor plans to return to VIU to complete her Red Seal certification in the next two or three years. Photo Credit: Vancouver Island University

1011 - Vancouver Island University (VIU) Hairdressing student Gabrielle Mayor loves everything about her chosen trade, from cutting and colouring hair to creating elaborate up-styles.

 It’s a creative trade where she’s always learning something new, constantly reading up on the latest trends to stay relevant and building close relationships with people so she can meet their needs. But until this year, Mayor felt that people didn’t always take hairdressing seriously as a trade.

 Starting this year, students entering VIU’s Hairdressing program will be eligible for Red Seal endorsement - standardized training that’s recognized across Canada. The change has meant that the Hairdressing program at VIU is now a two-level program with a standardized exam and assessment at the end.