Douglas 360°

From Kenya to Vancouver Island: Irene Jesso’s marathon journey to improve the lives of marginalized communities  

By Brian Helberg, Communications Officer

The tiny island village of Alert Bay, B.C., is over 14,000 kilometers from Kenya. But for Kenyan immigrant Irene Jesso, this remote community is now home.   

Irene and her family moved to Vancouver Island after she graduated from Douglas College in 2020 with a Bachelor of Social Work to help struggling families in Alert Bay, working with K’wak’walat’si Child and Family Services. 

“Children should always have access to food, shelter, education and medical attention. When I see that that’s not always the case in many communities, it breaks my heart,” said Irene. “Understanding the effect of power — and powerlessness — is key when working with marginalized communities. So is knowing you can amplify someone’s voice, and advocate for their rights and needs. That is what I am doing in Alert Bay.”  

Irene is a registered social worker with the BC College of Social Workers and a qualified SAFE home study practitioner. Acquiring the skills necessary to deal with complex and sensitive situations has been a lifelong journey for Irene. She learned the initial lessons during her youth in Kenya. 

Starting line  

Born and raised on the opposite side of the world from British Columbia, Irene never imagined that one day she would be living in Canada and fulfilling her dream of becoming a social worker. While Irene herself grew up with the privilege of a healthy, happy home, she saw the suffering in her community. She has carried these memories with her throughout her life.   

“Life in Kenya can be harsh for some children,” said Irene. “Child welfare is not as we know it here in Canada. I grew up seeing suffering, innocent young children suffering.  

“There are children that are born in the street, live in the streets, and grow up. They have children of their own in the streets and the cycle continues. Seeing that level of suffering was soul-crushing, and I wanted to do something about it.”  

Irene was 19 years old when she began building an orphanage in Kenya. She not only helped physically construct the orphanage, but also assisted in fundraising to build it.  

“Social work has been a passion for me since I was a teenager,” said Irene. “Whether it was talking to people, counselling people, helping people or fundraising – I discovered while building the orphanage that I was doing what I love.” 

This experience shaped her perspective as a person and further cemented her desire to work with underserved communities. On a daily basis, Irene uses empathy and generosity – two traits she learned to harness while creating change in her home country.   

“I remember realizing during my childhood that if you are in a fortunate position in life and have the means, you should try to help less fortunate people,” said Irene. “My passion for using my knowledge and skills to improve the lives of marginalized people started during my youth. It has continued to grow throughout my life.”  

Read more: “This Social Work alum wants her master’s degree to help her create systemic change”

Breaking through the wall  

Irene touched down on Canadian soil for the first time in her 20s as part of an international mission program. She initially resided in Kelowna before finding her way to Vancouver. After researching local colleges and universities, Irene decided that Douglas College’s Social Work program was right for her.  

“I know in my heart that my education at Douglas College was a gift,” said Irene. “We did case studies in class that prepared us for the real world by letting us working with real people in real situations. My instructors gave me the confidence that I could be a social worker and succeed in creating positive change.”  

Like many of her classmates, Irene found her motivation to enroll at Douglas in the chance to engage in practical learning opportunities. She wanted to get training from professional social workers and get hands-on experience during her practicums.   

Irene spent over 1,000 hours working at two practicums with Coast Mental Health. After graduating, Irene got her wish to become a social worker in a remote Canadian community after securing a position in Alert Bay.  

Hitting her stride  

Irene’s initial destination of choice was Nunavut, but Alert Bay proved to be perfect for her. Situated off the northern coast of Vancouver Island and home to fewer than 1500 people, Alert Bay and its residents face major challenges. These include food shortages and a lack of affordable housing.  

“The more I learned about marginalization, intergenerational trauma and the current effect of colonization in Canada, the more my desire to work in a remote community grew,” said Irene. “The population I work with in Alert Bay is over 90% Indigenous. I feel privileged to be able to work with this population because it’s an opportunity to honour their identity, their traditions and their backgrounds.”  

With limited resources available to the residents of Alert Bay, Irene’s duties vary greatly depending on the day. The skills she acquired in her Douglas days have come in handy, as she deals with many challenging hurdles: environmental, geographic and – for the residents of Alert Bay – personal.  

“I am often dealing with Home Study assessments for caregivers and foster parents. The goal is to ensure child safety when a youth is placed in a home, which involves interviewing families and assessing situations,” said Irene. “We also do a lot of preventative work, particularly related to food shortages and inflation issues. Both problems have hit Alert Bay hard. So, we try to help those who have been affected.”  

Living in Alert Bay has been an incredibly rewarding experience for Irene and her family. Obviously, Irene has had to deal with challenges associated with uprooting her family and moving to small island village. However, her desire to help marginalized people in underserved communities made joining K’wak’walat’si Child and Family Services the perfect choice for her.  

“I would encourage more social workers and other professionals to dedicate a few years after their graduation to work in remote communities,” said Irene. “You learn so much and it challenges your skills. That’s how you grow. You become part of a greater community and work closely with other professionals. It’s incredibly rewarding to feel you are making a positive impact in people’s lives.”  

Read more: “A sense of community: How this Social Work student is advocating for students inside and outside the classroom”

Podium finish  

Irene’s journey from Kenya to Douglas College to Alert Bay has been more of a marathon than a sprint. But her positive attitude and determination has allowed her to achieve her lifelong dream of bettering the lives of people living in a remote community.  

“It hasn’t been easy, but I believe in living the talk – having the strength to take on challenges but always making sure you are standing by the values you profess,” said Irene. “I have always been motivated to accomplish my goals, both personally and professionally.   

“I know one day I will go back home to Kenya and give back to the community, but I love my life in Alert Bay right now and I’m living my dream as a social worker.”  

Visit the Douglas College website to learn more about the Social Work program and how to apply.  

‘Tis the season for frightful weather

With winter weather on the horizon, it’s time to start preparing for more treacherous road and sidewalk conditions, and using extra caution when commuting to and from campuses.

Campus closures

Douglas College continuously monitors the weather and makes decisions about operations of its campuses with the safety of students and employees as our primary consideration.

If weather takes a turn for the worse and a campus closure seems likely, Douglas will inform the College community prior to 6:30am for morning closures and 2:30pm for afternoon closures.

The College website homepage is the best source for up-to-date information. Information is also available from the College information line (toll-free 1 877 679 0823) and DC Alerts. DC Alerts subscribers get rapid campus closure updates sent via text, email and/or phone messages. Sign up for DC Alerts now.

What happens if the College is open but I’m unable to travel due to severe weather conditions in my area?

Douglas College serves a large and diverse geographic area. We make decisions based on the impacts to the largest portion of our population, but we understand this will never include every student or employee. It is the responsibility of each individual to make decisions about what is safe for them. If this means you are unable to travel to class, please notify your instructor as soon as possible.

Instructors have been requested to consider weather conditions when making decisions about attendance during winter weather. Ultimately, these decisions are the sole discretion of individual instructors. 

Sidewalk conditions

The College takes all precautions to ensure our campuses are safe. We will be keeping sidewalks and pathways on campus clear of snow and will apply salt to help melt any ice. If you feel sidewalk conditions on campus are unsafe, please contact the appropriate campus:

We understand sidewalks off campus can be treacherous when icy. Keeping city sidewalks clear is the responsibility of local businesses. If you feel sidewalk conditions are unsafe, please contact the appropriate city:

Winter weather preparedness tips

  • Allow extra time to get to campus (whether by car, bus, SkyTrain, etc.) Translink posts service outages and updates on their website.
  • Wear appropriate footwear and winter clothing, especially if regularly moving between the New Westminster Campus and the Anvil Office Tower.
  • If driving, use caution and ensure you have winter tires that are in good condition.
  • If walking, use caution and consider driving conditions, while watching for vehicles (even at crosswalks).

Are you ready for the Big One?

By Safety, Security and Risk Management

You’re working at your desk when suddenly the room begins to sway and shake. It’s an earthquake. What do you do?

On Oct. 20, in an effort to prepare for a potential earthquake, Douglas College students, employees and visitors can take part in the Great British Columbia ShakeOut – a province-wide earthquake drill – at both campuses (excluding Anvil Office Tower).

“Seismic experts tell us that we can expect a major destructive earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone,” says Rob MacMillan, Manager of Emergency Management at Douglas College. “We don’t know when it might hit. This drill is about practising how to protect ourselves when it does.”

Get ready to drop, cover and hold on 

On Oct. 20 at 10:18, an announcement will inform people on campus when the drill begins. When you hear the announcement, carefully drop to the ground, take cover under a desk or table, and hold on. If you are not near a desk or table, or are physically unable to drop, cover and hold on, cover your head and neck with your arms and crouch in a corner, away from any glass. The drill will last around 90 seconds. You will be advised when it is over. 

This could save your life 

MacMillan says it’s crucial that people are prepared to take the correct action in an earthquake. 

“This is about how to take that immediate life-saving, injury-reducing action. In a small or moderate quake, you may hear objects rattling in your office or classroom or feel a quiver under your feet. In a large quake, the ground or floor will move – possibly violently – and you may feel dizzy and unable to walk. You will probably feel shaking and rolling,” he says. “You need to drop, cover and hold on.” 

The truth unzipped: Why it’s time to ditch fast fashion

Written by Naomi Higo, Urban Ecology Coordinator

You’ve probably seen the term “fast fashion” floating around. But if you don’t know what it means, here’s the skinny on your skinny jeans. Fast fashion is a business model that mass-produces cheap, trendy clothes in high-speed cycles. But that kind of rapid production has consequences.  

The fast fashion industry is infamous for being one of the planet’s biggest polluters. It’s also one of the biggest sources of sweatshops and child labour in developing nations. So, what can you do about it?  

As consumers, we have the power to choose how and where we spend our money. Some of the easiest ways to make sure you’re not supporting a fast fashion company are to educate yourself, buy less and buy second-hand. 

  1. Build your knowledge. Learn more about the fast fashion industry so you can make informed decisions about what you’re buying. Read more here.
  1. Check out clothing swaps. Thrift shops aren’t the only places to find secondhand options. Depending on where you live, you might be able to find clothing swaps and giveaways happening near you. Luckily, they’re becoming a bigger and bigger trend in Metro Vancouver! Read more here.
  1. Upcycle your outfits. Don’t just throw away your holey sweaters! There are ways to revive those old, fraying pieces. You can learn to do minor repairs or even remake them into a new piece. Worst case scenario, you can donate them to a textile collection service in lieu of dooming them to a landfill. Read more here.

Want to get started on lifestyle changes like these? Join Douglas College and the Institute of Urban Ecology (IUE) for our first-ever Waste Reduction Week! Oct. 3–7 is packed full of free events at both campuses to support Douglas College staff and students in living more sustainably, with fast fashion as this year’s focus.  

Waste Reduction Week comes from a larger Canadian tradition dating back to the ‘80s, one that’s all about limiting environmental harm. It historically explores everything from individual choices up to the systemic changes needed to transition to a circular economy. (A circular economy is one that minimizes waste and reuses resources as much as possible.)

At Douglas, we strive to be global citizens and role models in our communities. Part of being a global citizen is recognizing that the choices we make in our cities affect more than our urban ecosystem. Their effects radiate outward to people and nature in other parts of the world.   

It’s easy to think of the environment as “a problem for the experts,” but you don’t need to be a scientist to make a difference. Sustainability is interdisciplinary. No matter what your skills or passions are, if everyone made one small change today, those small changes would add up to one big change globally.   

Chef Anne Marie Bonneau said it best: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” 

Want to learn more about reducing your fashion-based waste? Attend our Waste Reduction Week events over the next few days! Learn more: https://www.facebook.com/events/3230980557179720

Naomi Higo is the Urban Ecology Coordinator at Douglas College’s Institute of Urban Ecology. As an educator with a passion for conservation biology, Naomi has worked on causes like animal rescue, ocean health, habitat loss and the exotic pet trade. She believes that sustainability education should be integrated into every field. 

This Veterinary Technology grad is fighting plastic pollution in her industry 

Jocelyn Marsh connects veterinary medicine with ocean stewardship in an effort to save nearly 2.7 million plastic needles and syringes per year from entering the landfill and our waterways. 

Jocelyn Marsh is making waves in environmental activism through her passion for ocean stewardship and small animal medicine. Working part-time as a Veterinary Technology Lab Facilitator at Douglas and as a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) showed her how extreme plastic pollution has become in the industry.  

Enter the Love Our Oceans Project (LOOP). Plastic waste and particles can easily end up in our waterways, posing great risk to marine wildlife and surrounding ecosystems. LOOP addresses this by focusing on the impact of the industry’s plastic waste issue, while creating alternative practices to combat pollution.

LOOP was born from Jocelyn’s participation in the Ocean Bridge Ambassador Program through Ocean Wise, a global environmental charity that started in Vancouver. In 2021, she started this program that connects young adults with ocean conservation efforts. As a part of the program, Jocelyn needed to develop a conservation project to implement in her local community. 

Streams of Action

LOOP approaches sustainability through two streams of action: The pill vial recycling program and a “weight-based audit.” 

“We’re constantly dispensing pill vials for prescriptions,” she explains. “They were a big issue, because we dispense the medication, then just throw the vials in the recycling.” 

Jocelyn notes that reusing existing materials cuts down on more pollution than recycling. She encourages her clients to bring back their pill vials to be reused for their pet’s future prescriptions. “I take it from them, properly disinfect it and then I use that for future medications. So, we’re ultimately lowering the output of vials.” 

She says that if more veterinary hospitals took on the pill vial recycling program, we could save up to 340,000 vials per year across Canada.  

The weight-based audit addresses the issue of plastic syringe and needle waste.  

Medication audits ensure the appropriate handling, storage and prescription of medicine. By tracking the dosage, veterinarians and doctors can guarantee accurate dosages for their patients. 

However, traditional veterinary medication audits involve drawing up an entire container of liquid medicine into a syringe, measuring the volume and comparing it to the previously recorded volume. Not only is this process time consuming, but it notably increases the number of syringes used. 

In human medicine, a weight-based methodology is used. Instead of using a syringe to measure the volume of a medication, this technique monitors the weight of the product and compares it to the previously recorded weight.  

Jocelyn says moving to a weight-based audit would remove the need to use syringes and thus, cutting down on plastic consumption. 

“There are about 3,500 registered veterinary hospitals across Canada,” she explains. “In a year’s time, if all those hospitals were to switch to the weight-based methodology, we could save about 2.7 million plastic needles and syringes per year.” 

Going Global

Beyond the local community, LOOP’s initiatives have reached a wider audience across Canada and internationally.  

“There was one lady from a small town in Kentucky who emailed me and said that her town didn’t have any recycling,” Jocelyn says. “Even outside of the veterinary hospital, they had no access to recycling. She thought these practices would be great to bring into her community.” 

This year, the Love Our Oceans Project won second place in the Ocean Wise Innovator lab. This is a global competition through Ocean Wise where three winners are chosen for the most innovative projects. This global contest provides funding to ocean conservation and marine innovation projects.  

Through the funding she receives from this program, Jocelyn plans to expand the pill vial recycling program into human pharmacies.  

“It’s really exciting to see how you can grow your ideas and move into other industries.” 

Want to learn more about the Diploma in Veterinary Technology? Check out our VTEC page on the Douglas College website.

Find out more about the Love Our Oceans Project and how you can contribute to ocean conservation efforts on Jocelyn’s website.

Please judge this book by its cover: Michelle Sound and her blossoming art career 

Becoming a professional artist was always the dream but never the plan for Michelle Sound. However, Michelle has found the best of both worlds at Douglas College. She splits her time between working as the Indigenous Advisor for the Certificate in Academic Foundations – Indigenous Studies (CAF) program and working as a professional artist, creating everything from murals to photographic art in her studio.  

“I think I have always wanted to be an artist, but I never really thought of art as a full-time career,” said Michelle. “Even when I was a kid, I remember thinking that I would not be able to pay my rent solely from art and needed a more stable job.  

“Art was always something I loved but imagined I would do in my spare time, so I am proud to now have two careers in academics and art.” 

Most recently, Michelle’s work caught the eye of local Indigenous poet and author Billy-Ray Belcourt. The poet’s debut novel, A Minor Chorus, features one of Michelle’s pieces on the cover, Kinuso. The piece takes its name from Michelle’s family’s ancestral home in northern Alberta 

Breaking barriers and forging a path for the next generation 

Despite her recent rise to notoriety, Michelle’s road to becoming a professional artist has not always been smooth. Michelle is a single parent and has had to make choices associated with that to ensure stability for her family. 

“Finding the time and energy to work on art was quite difficult when my son was young,” explained Michelle. “I needed to maintain a full-time job to make sure he and I had benefits and security. 

“Now he’s in high school, so I have been able to really focus on my art in the past two years. It’s allowed me to create a full body of work now as opposed to just a few pieces here and there like I did previously. [Creating a full body of work] has led to me finding more success in the art community.” 

Another challenge for Michelle has been the biases of the art community. Canada’s art industry has always been known for being unwelcoming to Indigenous artists, and Indigenous women in particular. 

“I have been working steadily for the last decade or so since getting my master’s degree, but it was hard at first,” said Michelle. “Traditionally, as Indigenous women, we do not get as many opportunities to share our work. When I was completing my Master’s of Fine Arts from Emily Carr University, it was rare for Indigenous women to get solo exhibitions.” 

But in the past five years, according to Michelle, there has been a conscious shift towards repairing that relationship. Curators and institutions are becoming more aware of their biases and the history of discrimination with Indigenous women artists.  

“The bad history remains, but there is hope among artists that things are improving,” she said. 

“It feels like now is the moment I am realizing that I have an art career” 

After years of hard work, this past year has been a whirlwind for Michelle. Her remarkable Auntie Drum Series elevated her to the national level and she became a finalist for the prestigious Salt Spring National Art Prize in 2021. The same series has featured in multiple solo exhibitions at galleries across Canada, such as Gallery 101 in Ottawa and the Daphne Art Centre in Montreal. 

“It’s been an amazing year for me,” said Michelle. “Before last year, I’d only had my work featured in local group exhibitions. The response to my Auntie Drum Series was incredible. I had never had a solo exhibition, and then I had five in the last year.” 

Holding it together 

Kinuso is one of several photographic art and text pieces from Michelle’s most recent art series Holding it Together. The series navigates the hardships of Indigenous Peoples through the landscapes and languages of their traditional territories. 

“It’s very exciting that Billy-Ray chose Kinuso for the cover of A Minor Chorus,” said Michelle. “Typically, book covers are designed specifically for the book, so I was surprised and honoured that they were interested in using an existing piece of mine. It is interesting for me to have something I have created go out into the world in this way.” 

The cover of A Minor Chorus features many unique design elements, like beading, caribou tufting, rips and still photography. The photo is of the reserve in Kinuso, Alberta – the town Michelle’s family has traditionally called home. Adding textured features is a calling card of Michelle’s work. Many of her other pieces incorporate traditional Indigenous materials or dyed rabbit fur. 

“For me, I rip out pieces to show the losses that have happened because of colonization: the loss of territory, loss of language and loss of people and family,” explained Michelle. “We as Indigenous people must live with the effects of those losses. Stories and art are ways we can process our feelings related to those traumas. So, sewing back up those rips or beading them back up is a way of filling in those holes and healing.” 

Shared history leads to a shared future 

Working with Billy-Ray on A Minor Chorus was a full circle moment. Michelle grew up in Vancouver, but her family’s roots are in Nothern Alberta. Billy-Ray and Michelle are both Cree, and the piece Billy-Ray chose for the cover has special meaning to both artist and author. 

“That photo was taken on my reserve in Kinuso,” Michelle explains. “I am from Swan River First Nation, about three hours north of Edmonton near Slave Lake in Alberta. The reserve Billy-Ray is from is about a 20-minute drive from mine. So it was special for me to get to work with someone with a shared history.” 

Michelle is content right now having dual careers as the CAF Advisor at Douglas and working as an artist. She loves supporting Indigenous students as they embark on their post-secondary education. She has found great balance in her life working at the College while fulfilling her dream of becoming a professional artist. 

“I am incredibly fortunate to have two careers I love,” said Michelle. “Watching students find their footing at Douglas and then seeing them forge successful careers has been really rewarding for me. It has been a life-changing few years for me professionally with my success as an artist and I am excited for what the future holds, both with my artwork and at Douglas.”  

Be sure to support Michelle’s work! Pick up a copy of A Minor Chorus when it hits shelves on September 13, and attend her art exhibitions in the future. 

This Student Ambassador helped people find their place at Douglas – and so could you!

If you’re a student at Douglas College, there’s a good chance a Student Ambassador encouraged you to enrol here. It might not have been face-to-face, but Student Ambassadors support the Future Students’ Office (FSO) in running recruitment events, sharing what it’s like to attend Douglas and highlighting the doors it opens. And right now, you have the chance to join the next crop of student leaders. 

Patrick Sheepwash became an Ambassador halfway through his first year, and his experience as a guide to prospective students made his own college years unforgettable. Read our Q&A with Patrick for an insider’s account of life as a Student Ambassador – and find out why the program might be a great fit for you.  

What first got you interested in becoming a Student Ambassador? 

A couple of months into my second semester, I was invited to go with one of my science instructors to a gathering for prospective Science and Technology students at Science World. I had a blast talking about Douglas, why I chose Douglas, my classes and what I’d learned so far. 

I was pretty much doing a Student Ambassador’s job there, but I didn’t know about the program yet. And Susan Oesterle, the Associate Dean of Science, came and asked me, “Hey, are you a Student Ambassador?” She told me to apply for the program, and that I’d be really well suited for it. So I looked into it, applied and got in.  

What is the application process like? 

You have to fill out an application. And you need to meet a few different requirements, stuff like GPA and whatnot. They don’t want you to prioritize being a Student Ambassador over your grades or anything like that.  

The interview is actually really fun. The FSO brings all the applicants together with their staff and some current ambassadors. They mix formal one-on-one questions with big group activities. The team designs it that way to see how you interact with people in different scenarios.  

Read more: Staying connected during a pandemic: my Student Ambassador experience

What was your favourite part of being an Ambassador? 

High school visits were so much fun. You go with someone from the FSO to schools and talk to the students about Douglas, mostly grade 11s and 12s. A lot of the time, it’s a big open-house deal where other colleges and universities visit on the same day. In that case, you’re setting up a table and letting interested students come to you.  

Besides school visits, Student Ambassadors also help out with information sessions, campus tours and a lot more. I loved working in such a tight-knit team; every event I took part in was a group effort. 

What did you talk about the most with prospective students? 

I made a lot of mistakes in my first year as a student, and I’ve always been open about that, especially with new students. It helps them prepare for what lies ahead and to fill in gaps and clear up misconceptions.  

For example, I always heard that going into college, a student with a 90 percent average should expect to drop to an 80 percent average. But this isn’t totally true. I actually think I do a lot better in my courses now than I did in high school.  

Read more: Have fun and build valuable skills this Fall with the Student Ambassadors

How did the Student Ambassador role shape your time at Douglas? 

Very positively. It can be daunting coming from high school to college, a bigger place with more people. If you just go to your classes, you don’t really get to explore everything the College has to offer. Even if you don’t end up using a lot of those resources, it’s still nice to know where everything is. Joining the Student Ambassadors meant doing campus tours, seeing many of our programs in action firsthand and meeting the coordinators who make it all happen, all while making tons of friends in the program.  

At this point, if I came back here in 10 years, I’d still know where things are! It made me appreciate the scope of what Douglas does. That in turn gave me a sense of familiarity, comfort and, ultimately, confidence.  

What are the most valuable skills you developed through the Ambassador program? 

The program takes what you have and really expands on it, mainly leadership, communication and interview skills. Communication resonates the most with me, in terms of projecting a professional image, understanding decorum and learning how to speak to various types of people. Throughout your time as an ambassador, you’re constantly talking to people of different ages, different academic situations, different industries, different backgrounds. 

What’s your advice for someone who wants to become a Student Ambassador? 

I definitely encourage it! It makes you more confident and gives you a reason to be excited for school. It’s a chance to further yourself, a chance to help build community, and a chance to find mentors and tools to help you achieve your long-term goals. 

You do want to be mindful of your time, especially if you have both school and a job. But as much of a commitment as it may be, it’s such a worthwhile one. Programs like this are what give you the college experience you want.  

••• 

Want to become a Student Ambassador? Start now: https://www.douglascollege.ca/student-services/student-life/student-leadership/become-student-ambassador  

Goal diggers: Geological Resources students land the perfect mining jobs this summer

One of the first things Geological Resources students learn is that the world runs on rocks. Minerals build everything from smartphones to skyscrapers, pencils to airplanes. The diploma program at Douglas trains budding geological technicians and geologists in how to search for and unearth these rich reservoirs. Now, its latest class is ready for a field test.  

This summer, eight students have flown out to remote communities across B.C. for their first mining jobs. Hear from three of them about their love of geology, their time at Douglas and how the Diploma in Geological Resources program (GRDP) linked them to these coveted positions. 

“‘Send us your resumé.’”

Cameron Washi’s love for geology started with precious memories. This summer, she’s on the hunt for precious metals in B.C.’s Golden Triangle.  

From June to September, Cameron is working as a junior geologist with P2 Gold up in Stewart, B.C. – over 1,400 km north of Vancouver. The Triangle region contains some of Canada’s most historically major deposits of gold, drawing countless miners to this day. Cameron spends her days “traversing,” or riding helicopters through the peaks to collect samples of the earth, while her team drills for gold and copper.  

Cameron Washi (left) and classmates on a field trip.

She connected with P2 through the AME Roundup, a conference for mineral explorers to network, trade ideas and launch initiatives. The GRDP sends students to the conference every year to find jobs, make contacts and learn more about the industry. The program covers the costs of attendance, which is required for students to graduate – and a chance for them to impress the industry professionals they meet. 

“Every company booth I visited was looking to hire students,” says Cameron. “It’s funny because normally they want fourth-years from university. But they’d hear about the skills I got training in at Douglas – mining, exploration, geological mapping – and they’d be like, ‘Crap. Send us your resumé.’” 

The job mirrors Cameron’s early adventures in nature, exploring craggy campsites with her family. 

“I spent half my childhood outdoors,” she says. “My parents would take me camping, and I’d come home with rocks for my collection. So I grew up eager to learn about the environment. That soon narrowed down to geology.” 

Long term, Cameron wants to complete a bachelor’s degree and work her way up to becoming a senior geologist.  

Read more: “From glaciers to volcanoes: The 2019 Iceland Field School in photos”

“Without us, these resources would never be found”

Jason Wong with pickaxe in hand.

Jason Wong has had minerals on the mind since middle school. Now he’s spending the summer as an exploration assistant with Equity Exploration, a mineral exploration company with roots right here in Vancouver.  

Jason’s task is to head to a given dig site, pull up rocks, and analyze them for signs of mineralization. In other words, he helps figure out where exactly the minerals are buried. “A big focus is finding the minerals people need for everyday life: iron, graphite, copper, magnetite,” he explains. “Without companies like ours, these resources would never be found and used.” 

Before Equity, Jason scored interviews with several companies in search of the right gig, many of which he met through AME Roundup. He was referred to his current position by a classmate who’d interviewed with Equity before.  

“A friend of mine had an offer that he wasn’t able to commit to, but he helped connect me with Equity,” Jason explains. He paid this windfall forward, linking another classmate with the recruiters at Equity, who got hired as well. As Jason elaborates, the GRDP program is a tight-knit group where students form strong friendships. 

“It’s an intimate experience, and networking aside, it’s worth it to build all these new relationships.” 

Jason’s plans for the future are open. He’s happy to stay in mineral exploration or branch out into other, related fields – one of the strongest contenders is volcanology.  

Read more: “This Geology instructor moonlights as a volcano explorer”

“Something people are desperate to have”

“Kids have big dreams – medicine, space travel – and mine was a life of dinosaur bones,” says Riley Cruickshank. “Turns out there’s no money in paleontology. With geology, you earn more and you keep the digging and truck-driving.” 

Riley is in Quesnel working as a junior geologist with Hardline Explorations Corp, travelling from project to project. He describes it as a “jack-of-all-trades” job: geotagging, surveying the ground, core-logging to identify the minerals in rock deposits and much more, all while travelling from project to project. No dinosaur bones involved. 

Riley moved into the GRDP from General Studies and immediately appreciated the practical perks. Like Cameron, he found the diploma put him ahead of his university-educated peers at Roundup when it came to fieldwork. 

Riley Cruickshank taking notes on rocks.

“It’s like, maybe you can see this rock under the microscope and tell me what’s in there. Cool. Now how do we get that out? Cue silence,” Riley says. “The practical experience Douglas gave us is how we got the edge competing for jobs.” 

After this job, Riley plans to get his bachelor’s degree, which he needs to become a senior geologist. Eventually he wants to pursue his PhD and teach the next generation of mineral explorers. He expects their work will be more essential than ever — whether people realize it or not. 

“Geology affects infrastructure. It’s not just me dig hole, shiny rock, good desk sample. That shiny rock tells you that something is there. Something you probably need for your technology, your electricity, your fuel. Something people are desperate to have.” 

••• 

The Diploma in Geological Resources can lead to a career as a junior geologist, a geological technician or engineer and many other positions. Many of the credits in the Geological Resources program transfer to bachelor’s programs at research universities throughout B.C. If you choose to pursue and complete a Bachelor of Earth Science, you move one step closer to getting your license as a senior geologist or environmental geoscientist. 

For more information, visit our website. 

This Psychology student is investigating Asian-Canadians’ use of mental health services

By Nicole Chiu, Research and Innovation Office

Rico Misajon is examining whether there is a link between Asian-Canadians’ cultural backgrounds and their perceptions of mental health, including how they view seeking mental health services.  

Rico’s study is called Accessing Mental Health Services: Asian-Canadians and their experiences. The Applied Psychology Honours student wants his research to help College administrators create more culturally centered and accessible resources for Asian students and employees. 

“The first step to greater accessibility is discovering how the Asian population conceptualizes mental health and their attitudes towards it. That’s how we understand it at the individual level. Then we can look more at the structural barriers to resources that respondents may be facing,” says Rico.  

Read more: “Discovering his passion: how this alum’s time at Douglas helped him build the foundation for his career”

Speaking from personal experience 

Rico Misajon, Applied Psychology Honours student.

Rico’s family didn’t talk much about mental health. 

“There is a narrative that Filipino people are always happy, no matter the obstacles, and my parents lived by that. So they thought counselling and mental health resources were unnecessary, and they never viewed them as an option,” Rico says. “You just worked things out yourself, with your strength and resilience.”

“This made me think about the nuanced experiences of Asian-Canadians, and specifically, how we navigate emotions and seek help.”  

After starting his studies in psychology, Rico began to think about his experiences growing up Asian. Soon he took an interest in the mental health attitudes of other members of Douglas College’s Asian community.  

Read more: Five ways you can get involved in research at Douglas 

The study 

Earlier this year, Rico surveyed Douglas employees and students who identify as East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian or bicultural/mixed.  

This survey included questions about a participant’s personal cultural beliefs and their experiences with using mental health resources. 

 “I wanted to start a conversation around mental health, especially for those who might not necessarily believe in seeking help due to their upbringing,” Rico says.  

Rico’s hypothesis suggests that Asian-Canadians born in Asia who hold traditional Asian values have an unfavorable attitude toward mental health services. On the other hand, it proposes that Asian-Canadians born in B.C. and who adopt Western values view it more positively.

So if Rico proves his hypothesis, the findings could help Douglas College tailor mental health services for Asian students and employees. 

“Ultimately, I want to make mental health a bigger concept in the Asian-Canadian community. And I want to somehow cater the College’s services to better support that community on campus.” 

The study will be finalized and published later this year. It will be available after that on the Douglas Open Repository (DOOR)

Want to learn more about student research opportunities? Visit the Research at the College page on the Douglas College website.  

Meet your Summer 2022 Valedictorians!

We caught up with seven of our Summer 2022 valedictorians before they crossed the stage. Find out what they’ll be doing after graduation and how they plan to change the world.

How do you hope to make the world a better place?

“I’m a huge advocate for the human-animal bond. The emotional support that our little companions give us is so important. I want the ability to protect that bond by keeping them as healthy as possible for as long as possible.” – Tiffany Cheung, Diploma in Veterinary Technology, 2022 Valedictorian
“I hope to make the world a better place through relationships. In Child and Youth Care, we talk a lot about relational practice. For me, this means showing up with intention and authenticity, as well as holding space for others. I really want to make it a better future for my daughter and show her that there’s real strength in being a woman.” – Nova MacLeod, Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care, 2022 Valedictorian
“I hope to make the world a better place by involving myself in charity work, as well as volunteer work. I’ve already been doing that to some extent by participating in the Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign, as well as volunteering at my workplace.” – Navjot Kooner, Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting, 2022 Valedictorian
“I plan to transfer to UBC for music composition. If that works out, be a film composer or a professional composer. I also want to go into more of the performance side of things. I want to perform my own music and maybe be in a band.” – Jackson Poling, Diploma in Performing Arts – Music, 2022 Valedictorian

What will you DO after graduation?

“I will be starting a new job in post-partum care at B.C. Women’s Hospital. My goal is to consolidate there for a year, then move into the neonatal intensive care program. I first got into nursing because I had several miscarriages, and as a result of that I went through the recurrent pregnancy loss program at B.C. Women’s Hospital. I wanted to be able to do that for other women and families.” – Jennifer Tong, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, 2022 Valedictorian 
“I’m going to focus on planning my event, which focuses on bridging community amongst Black folks in Vancouver. It’s open to all, and I’m really excited for the idea to help people network.” – Doyinsola Marie Agbaje, Bachelor of Business Administration in Management, 2022 Valedictorian
“I’m planning on going into the teaching program at SFU. Instead of working at the backend of the system, I wanted to start helping people understand how to engage in the world first in ways that are healthy.” – Victoria Kondo, Bachelor of Arts in Applied Criminology, 2022 Valedictorian