Douglas 360°

Opinion: Is there a link between hearing loss and dementia?

By Ted Venema, Hearing Instrument Practitioner instructor

When new research emerged several years ago linking hearing loss to dementia, it stirred up public concern. The hearing retail industry took advantage of this fear by running ads claiming that hearing loss could lead to dementia. Moreover, they claimed that you could prevent this with hearing aids.

It’s true that research has found a link between hearing loss and dementia. But “link” is a loaded word — it can indicate a connectedness, a loose relationship or a causal connection. As the saying goes, correlation does not equal causation. In this case, research has found a relationship between hearing loss and dementia, but not a cause and effect. So what is the nature of this vaguely defined relationship?

No research offers a conclusive answer. But many possible answers would fit what we already know about how ears and brains work, without alarming leaps of logic. It could be as simple as this: Maybe the person with hearing loss is trying so hard to listen that they cannot devote full cognition or attention to what is being said. The person may need to put in more effort just to understand, stopping the brain from storing what’s been heard into their memory.

Also, hearing is a communicative sense involving speech, language and connection with others. Let’s consider elderly people who have hearing loss. That loss may make it hard to communicate, leading to loneliness and frustration, both of which place stress on the brain.

Finally, many of the tests for cognitive decline are administered verbally. Someone with hearing loss might certainly have trouble answering questions. But it may have less to do with cognitive decline and more to do with their struggle to hear the questions in the first place.

So why are hearing aid retailers marketing a causal relationship between hearing loss and dementia when it hasn’t been proven by research? Simple: to sell more hearing aids. There’s a huge fear among the elderly around “losing it.” In fact, gerontology studies have shown that elderly people fear cognitive decline more than death. If they think they can stop or delay the onset of dementia by wearing hearing aids, many would be willing to fork out thousands of dollars.

If you or a loved one is losing their hearing, don’t be alarmed by oversimplified, misleading claims about the link between hearing loss and dementia. But do consider wearing hearing aids. While they will not prevent dementia, they can improve your social life, connections with other people and overall quality of life.

Ted Venema earned a BA in Philosophy at Calvin College (1977), an MA in Audiology at Western Washington University (1988), and a PhD in Audiology at the University of Oklahoma (1993). He has worked with the public as a clinical Audiologist, testing hearing and fitting hearing aids, at Canadian Hearing Services in Toronto and at NexGen Hearing in Victoria, B.C.

Dr. Venema has also been employed as a researcher and presenter for Unitron, a Canadian-based hearing aid manufacturer in Kitchener, Ontario. He was an Audiology professor at Auburn University in Alabama and also at Western University in London, Ontario. In 2006 he initiated, developed and implemented a new Hearing Instrument Specialist program at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ontario.

Since September 2017, he has been teaching in the Hearing Instrument Practitioner program at Douglas College in Coquitlam, B.C. Ted is the author of a textbook, Compression for Clinicians, which has now been rewritten and available as a 3rd edition.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the institutional views of Douglas College.

2022 Student Leadership Awards winners announced

Last night, the Student Leadership Awards ceremony honoured this year’s winners and nominees. The awards are given to students, faculty and staff who have shown themselves to be leaders through their outstanding contributions to the College. 100+ guests attended to show their support.

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees of the 2022 Student Leadership Awards.

Student Leader Award of Distinction

Jaden Haywood, Bachelor of Business Administration, Management – WINNER

“Jaden has been volunteering at Douglas since her first semester. She’s held every leadership role the Future Students’ Office offers, starting out as a Student Ambassador volunteer and most recently joining our professional staff team.

“If you’ve joined or considered joining the Douglas student community in the past three years, then you’ve probably been part of an experience that Jaden helped create. She’s connected with hundreds of prospective students and worked behind the scenes to design, rethink, facilitate and deliver our trademark events and services.

“We’re incredibly lucky to have her on our team and so grateful for her dedication.”

— John Kinsley and Eric Glanville, Future Students’ Office

Aly Hillaby, Bachelor of Social Work – WINNER

“Aly has dedicated her efforts to so many areas of Douglas: She supports the Bachelor of Social Work program, works as a student assistant with Indigenous Student Services and serves as the Indigenous Student Representative with the Douglas Students’ Union.

“Between peer support, organizing cultural events, hosting workshops, and promoting diversity and inclusion within the school, Aly works every day to support the wellbeing of her fellow staff and students. She’s been the driving force behind many initiatives, including last year’s Orange Ribbon tribute in honour of the 215 children found at the Kamloops Residential School.

“Caring, attentive and strong, Aly motivates others to strive for greatness. She is a leader.”

— Emilyanna Peters, Bachelor of Social Work

Mehre Dlir, Bachelor of Business Administration – WINNER

“As the Douglas Students’ Union’s External Relations Director, Mehre has been a standout advocate for students, a leading voice against the barriers they face. She was an integral part of equipping all washrooms at Douglas College with free menstrual products while breaking down stigmas around menstruation. She also sits on the Open Education working group and is passionate about making textbooks free and accessible to students at Douglas.

“I look forward to working with Mehre through another term as Director of External Relations, and I have no doubt she will be a formidable leader in the Douglas College community.”

– Genessa Ewart-Yan, Organizer Campaigns, Douglas Students’ Union

NOMINEES for Student Leader Award of Distinction

Congratulations to all the students who were nominated for the Student Leader Award of Distinction.

  • Amrita Ramkumar
  • Axel Bernoe
  • Bikrum Hothi
  • Daniela Castillo Sanchez
  • Doyinsola Agbaje
  • Halie Hunter
  • Kristen Apodaca
  • Maya Moalla
  • Myat Noe Pwint

Up and Coming Leader of the Year Award

Myungsan Yung, General Studies – WINNER

“During his time at Douglas, Myungsan has been a member of the Student Wellness Awareness Network, a Student Representative for the Douglas Students’ Union and an active member of the Douglas community. He is ambitious, kindhearted and hardworking – you can see the genuine care and compassion in his eyes whenever he meets another student. Above all, he always invites and encourages people to become part of the communities he’s in.

“Myungsan plans to graduate from Douglas and continue to SFU to become a software engineer. I believe he is destined to become an amazing leader, someone who will do great things.”

– Vitaliy Vekslyer, Computer Science Student Assistant and Senior VP, DSU Debate Club

Hannah Lohnes, Diploma in Early Childhood Education – WINNER

“I met Hannah at the Fall 2020 online version of EDGE. She was an enthusiastic participant, and everyone commented what a pleasure it was to spend time with her. Starting as a student that semester had its challenges, and Hannah met them with the willingness to create community and have a great college experience.”

“Today, Hannah is an integral member of our team in Student Life, one we know we can rely on. The past two years have been full of change and have required all of us to be adaptive and remain positive. Students like Hannah have not only made our work possible but have helped keep it fun!”

— Erica McKeddie, Student Life Coordinator

Taranjeet Parmar, Associate of Arts in Psychology – WINNER

“Throughout her time as a student assistant, Taranjeet has had a commendable work ethic and a remarkably positive attitude. Since September 2020, she has volunteered with the Student Wellness Awareness Network, helped plan New Student Orientation and led our Kickstart program. She has stood out in her role for her kind, inquisitive nature and her passion for helping students.

“Transitioning back to in-person school and events last Fall was daunting, but Taranjeet met the challenges with a positive attitude, helping students get excited for the new semester and feel a sense of community.

“She throws herself into her work at Douglas College with heart; you can tell that she genuinely loves what she does.”

— Megha Gupta, Student Life Coordinator

Akshara Sharma, Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Finance – WINNER

“Akshara has held many positions at the College, working with the Future Students Office, Douglas College International, the Career Centre and Centre for Educational and Information Technology.

“She joined the Student Ambassador program last Summer, during which she volunteered at many events, such as information sessions. She was also a vital part of the calling campaign to reach students who had been accepted to Douglas but hadn’t yet registered. Having a student be the voice of the College for this program is wonderful because it creates a connection before they even arrive. Her supervisors regularly received unsolicited praise commending Akshara’s professionalism and follow-through.

“She is a hardworking, top-performing volunteer. She deserves recognition.”

– Breanna Fraser-Hevlin, Wellness Coordinator, Student Affairs and Services; Lucia Correa Meyer Green, Promotions Coordinator, Business Development; and Anderson Lu, Finance Instructor

NOMINEES for Up and Coming Leader of the Year Award

Congratulations to all the students who were nominated for the Up and Coming Leader of the Year Award.

  • Heewon La
  • Ivanna Smetanska
  • Karan Gill
  • Luna Wagner

Outstanding Contribution to Student Engagement by College Faculty Member Award

Sean Velasco, Athletics Communications Coordinator – WINNER

“Over the past two years, Sean has been instrumental in Athletics and Recreation’s ability to transition how we engage students at Douglas College. He has worked on mental health initiatives like the Bell Let’s Talk campaign, and he spearheaded new physical wellness initiatives for the pandemic by transitioning in-person fitness programming onto online platforms.

“Sean fully demonstrated his ability to create community through the Virtual Fitness Challenge. Over 150+ students, employees and faculty across took part by showing off their physical activity online.

“Within Athletics, the pandemic’s impact on student-athletes who had lost their seasons was devastating. Sean took the initiative to transition the traditional 300-person awards banquet into a livestreamed event. The Royals Virtual Athletics Banquet provided opportunities for students to be involved as live MCs to present and honour their peers.

“Sean is a magnificent colleague, co-worker, person and friend for all of us; his award is well-deserved.”

– Sarah Dench, Vice-President, Student Affairs

•••

Learn more about each of the Student Leadership Awards here. Read about last year’s Student Leadership Awards winners here.

On track: How Southern Railway is helping break down barriers for Indigenous and immigrant students at Douglas

Southern Railway of British Columbia’s (SRY) main office is just down the street from Douglas College’s New Westminster Campus. But it wasn’t until Douglas alum Allyn Edwards stepped into SRY President Gerald Linden’s office that an idea for a partnership was born.  

Allyn, SRY’s accounting controller and a Commerce and Business Administration (CBA) grad, has served on the Douglas College Alumni Association board since 2019. It was during a board meeting that he was inspired to approach Gerald about opportunities for SRY to support Douglas College students through corporate giving.  

As a result, SRY officially launched the Southern Railway of BC Future Leaders Bursary through the Douglas College Foundation early this year. The bursary supports Indigenous and immigrant students enrolled in a CBA program.  

“Part of SRY’s cultural identity is giving back to the communities that the company is based in. It made sense to connect SRY with Douglas,” explains Allyn. “SRY’s headquarters are right down the street from Douglas. I wondered, ‘Why haven’t we been doing this all along?’” 

“Allyn’s connection with Douglas College was an initial, critical bond,” says Gerald. “But beyond that, SRY has always been very cognizant of situations where if we can give back, we do. It seemed like a good fit.”  

Read more: How a CBA alum, Allyn Edwards, inspired his employer to support education at Douglas  

A two-way track  

While SRY’s bursary with Douglas is new, they’re no stranger to philanthropy. The organization supports numerous local charities, including the local hospital foundation and other railway and heritage causes.  

In fact, giving to a post-secondary institution had already been on Gerald’s radar. SRY’s parent and sister companies, Seaspan and the Washington Group of Companies, have made significant contributions to other academic institutions. But Gerald hadn’t quite found the right fit for SRY until Allyn came into his office.  

When it came to Douglas College, the organization’s goal was to establish a bursary to help students facing systemic inequalities. The Government of Canada and the Parliament of Canada report that Indigenous people and immigrants both face barriers to education and the workforce that their peers don’t. These include limited resources and a lack of recognition of foreign experience and accreditation.

Gerald Linden, President of SRY.

“We asked ourselves who would benefit the most from our support,” says Gerald. “If the students who receive this bursary – or even their children or grandchildren – end up working at SRY one day, that’s great. But that’s not the purpose of this bursary.

“Our financial support isn’t about a short-term situation or something that will eventually benefit us as an organization. It’s about helping people improve their lives through education.”  

Close to 8.5 percent of landed immigrants in Canada were unemployed last year. Among new immigrants who had been in Canada for five years or less, that number jumped to almost ten percent. In Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, Indigenous populations had an unemployment rate of nearly 12.5 percent.  

The 2022 Stronger BC Economic Plan identifies skills training for Indigenous people as critical in reducing barriers to the workforce. Also, immigration provides almost 100 percent of Canada’s workforce growth and addresses major gaps in fields like health care.    

With the bursary, SRY hopes to help address these issues in the workforce while giving financial aid to underrepresented student groups.  

“It’s time we support opportunities to diversify our workforce and make sure everyone has the chance to succeed,” says Gerald.  

A route to the future  

The Southern Railway of BC Future Leaders Bursary has officially launched. Now, Gerald hopes that SRY’s philanthropy will inspire other organizations to give back.  

“I really encourage other companies to look into financial support programs like this,” says Gerald. “It takes an internal catalyst for an organization to bring something like this to fruition. Someone needs to be the one to take the first step,”

“I hope our bursary motivates everyone to match or exceed what SRY has established to improve access to education. To me, there’s nothing more important.”  

SRY’s new bursary has inspired a legacy of philanthropy within Douglas itself. On April 1, the Douglas College Foundation launched its 2022 Spring Campaign, which aims to raise $70,000 to support the creation of additional Indigenous and immigrant student bursaries at Douglas. Until July 30, all donations made to the campaign will be matched dollar for dollar, doubling the impact of each and every donation made.  

Are you interested in joining Southern Railway in helping to break down barriers for Indigenous and immigrant students? Donate today.  

This Commerce and Business Administration grad is making his alma mater more inclusive

When Allyn Edwards first came to Douglas, it was a means to an end. Much to his surprise, he is still deeply connected to the College community years after he graduated.

“I thought Douglas would be a good place to start while I figured things out, but I didn’t necessarily think I’d continue my education there,” says Allyn. He ultimately graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting. “But I liked the small classes, and I made strong connections with my instructors. Douglas ended up being a good fit for me.”

Not only did Allyn connect with the learning environment, but he thrived in his extracurriculars and student positions as well. He was part of the Douglas Commerce and Business Association club, worked as a Student Assistant for the Future Students’ Office and became a Student Ambassador in his final year.

Ultimately, the people Allyn met are who made his time at Douglas memorable.

“The time we spent studying together and getting involved in extracurriculars made my college years really enjoyable. It made me a better student, too,” says Allyn.

Douglas is also where Allyn met his wife. “We met through the accounting program, and she was a Student Ambassador. In fact, there is a chance that I initially joined the Student Ambassador program because of her,” Allyn says.

“I’m an introvert, so my extracurriculars helped me step out of my comfort zone.”

Community interest

The importance of building connections isn’t new to Allyn. He’s been involved in his community since he was a kid.

“My parents roped me into all these fundraising things and activities I didn’t want to do,” Allyn says, laughing. “What it did instill, though, was an understanding of the importance of giving back to your community.”

When Allyn discovered the Douglas College Alumni Association (DCAA) was recruiting volunteer board members, it seemed like a natural fit. The DCAA fosters lifelong relationships between the Douglas community and alumni, including offering professional development opportunities, raising funds and financially assisting students and graduates to achieve their goals.

After joining the board, Allyn wanted to see how he could further the DCAA’s efforts. In early 2020, a conversation about fundraising inspired Allyn to approach his employer, Southern Railway of British Columbia (SRY). He proposed an opportunity to get involved with the Douglas College Foundation through corporate giving.

“Part of SRY’s cultural identity is giving back to the communities that the company is based in. Their headquarters are right down the street from us in New Westminster,” explains Allyn. “It only made sense to connect them with Douglas.”

SRY’s President, Gerald Linden, loved the idea. The organization launched the Southern Railway of BC Future Leaders Bursary through the Douglas College Foundation early this year. The bursary supports Indigenous and immigrant students enrolled in a CBA program.

“It can be hard to offer financial support to address issues like this as an individual. That’s especially true in an area like the Lower Mainland that has such a high cost of living,” says Allyn. “Approaching my employer was a great opportunity to provide that financial support to an area of great need.”

Read more: How a local company is breaking down barriers for underrepresented students at Douglas

It all adds up

When deciding which groups would benefit the most from the bursary, Allyn and SRY consulted with the Douglas College Foundation. The answer made perfect sense to Allyn, who has family that have immigrated to Canada and not had their professional credentials recognized here.

“Moving to a new country is a huge change. Having to upgrade your education to continue in your chosen professional field adds to that stress,” says Allyn. “For many people, this may cause an additional financial burden, and I like that this award may offer them relief.”

Young immigrants can already face challenges in their education, from language barriers to unfamiliar learning systems. Mature or educated students face additional roadblocks when their new country of residence doesn’t recognize their previous education and experience.

SRY’s bursary has also inspired a legacy of philanthropy within Douglas itself. In April, the Douglas College Foundation launched its 2022 Spring Campaign, which aims to raise $70,000 to help fund Indigenous and immigrant student bursaries at Douglas. These donations will be matched by Douglas College.

TD Insurance, a long-time partner of the College’s alumni program, will further match donations made by Douglas alumni (up to $10,000), tripling the impact of every alumni contribution.

“Supporting people who are your neighbours, friends or family, and people who might be your future co-workers, is very important to me. All I want is for the bursary to help them,” says Allyn.

Visit the Douglas College Foundation giving page to give a monthly or one-time gift, or visit the Alumni Relations website to learn how you can offer support with your time or expertise.

This Social Work alum wants her master’s degree to help her create systemic change 

As a Bachelor of Social Work grad, Rachelle Wilmot is a social worker active in the Downtown Eastside core. She works in child protection on a family service team with B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Family Development, where she helps ensure at-risk children receive the support they need. Her role has given her the chance to improve the lives of many local children, youth and families. 

Despite her accomplishments, Rachelle wants to do more. This year, she begins studying remotely for her Master of Social Work at Dalhousie University. We spoke with Rachelle about her time at Douglas, why she loves social work and what her advice is for people who may want to become social workers themselves, through a master’s program or otherwise.  

Why did you become a social worker? 

I was always driven to work with, and advocate for, people. Initially, I was studying history so I could become a teacher. Halfway through my second year, I decided to transfer those credits to a social work degree at Douglas because I wanted to do something more hands-on with people, especially children. Don’t get me wrong: teachers do an amazing job and they’re all in. But I wanted to provide support in what I saw as a more marginalized setting.  

Why did you choose Douglas? 

Compared to other programs, Douglas’s was more affordable. That was huge because I pay for my own schooling. I worked all throughout my studies. That’s not to say I was completely unsupported, though. I got help whenever I could from applying for scholarships and other funding. My grandmother even used to help me pay for books. Tuition was stressful, but Douglas gave me the environment and resources I needed to manage it. 

What does it mean to work in child protection? 

We work with families who have been investigated and deemed in need of further services. They might need legal aid after a child was removed from the home, or long-term support in their household, or something else completely. Whatever the case, we facilitate the longer process of working with the family to keep the child safe and in the home. 

Child protection is something I have my own history with. My parents both suffer from substance abuse, so it’s something that’s close to my heart. 

What is your top priority when keeping children safe? 

The priority is always reunification with family, for the child to be able to stay in their homes with their families. As we assess the situation, we go down the priority list. If the parents aren’t an option, then we ask ourselves, “What are our choices to keep this child in their community? What family members can they stay with, what community members?” If all other choices are exhausted, our very last option is foster care and planning for permanency outside of the home. 

What did you think of the community at Douglas? 

My small cohort was Douglas’s very first class in social work, in 2017, and it’s always been close-knit and mutually supportive. Several of us are still in touch. That network of support included our instructors, too. If I was working double-shifts, I could say the next morning in class, “I’m really tired, please don’t call on me,” and that was met with compassion. There was an understanding that the students in the program were working professionals, and they held us to a high standard while recognizing that not every student has the same 24 hours.  

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

How did you build experience while you were studying? 

The program gave me so many chances to do practicum work. That often led to casual work or full-time jobs with the same employers. I’ve worked for the Lookout Housing and Health Society, the Canadian Mental Health Association and Harbour Light. My last practicum was with the Ministry, which is where I really started to get a feel for this work, supported by the legislative knowledge I gained in class. That practicum eventually opened the door to my current position. I reached out to the district operations manager, who I’d worked with as a student, and they hired me after a panel interview.  

Why do you want to get your Master of Social Work? 

I’m in love with learning. I’ve read the syllabus for the program I’m entering again and again. It really focuses on our Indigenous partners and our Black community. As a Black social worker who was doing my undergrad studies not so long ago, that kind of focus is not something I’ve experienced before.

Above all, I want to create systemic change. I want to carve out a role for myself that lets me influence policy and shifts in practice. I want to work in our city and to help people who are the most marginalized. I’m going to stand a better chance of doing that after I get a master’s degree. 

That said, I want to acknowledge that the tools to push that systemic change forward are denied to so many people through the gatekeeping of education. Not everyone has the same access to schooling as me and others. Even as I pursue a master’s degree myself, I recognize that that in itself is another barrier we need to tear down.  

What is your advice to social workers who want to get their master’s?  

A Master of Social Work is competitive, and what you need to get accepted into a program is very specific. Keep an eye on your grade point average, as I found there is a B minimum across the board for entering graduate studies. You also need two years of post-bachelor work experience, because they really want people to have a firm foundation of experience on the frontline. Like any grad program, you’ll need reference letters, so keep those ties with your instructors. Finally, the application essays are lengthy, so set aside the time to write them well. 

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get in on the first round. It’s not a reflection of you or your work. Don’t be afraid to call the university and ask them, “What was missing?” Then you’ll know what to work on for next time. 

••• 

March 13–19 is B.C.’s Social Work Week, dedicated to the achievements of our province’s social workers. Learn more about our Bachelor of Social Work program, and the opportunities it opens.

This Physical Education and Coaching student is trekking over 4,000 km to support fellow sexual violence survivors

Content warning for mentions of sexual violence and suicide.

As a wrestling coach, certified personal trainer and Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching student, Alyssa Kroeker knows all about the intense drive behind any athletic feat. This spring, she will trek the Pacific Crest Trail, a famous cross-continental hiking trail that takes six months on average to complete.

Alyssa has spent 17 months preparing for the challenge this 4,270-km trail poses, and the journey means more to her than a simple badge of accomplishment. As a survivor of sexual violence, Alyssa is undertaking this journey to heal. She hopes to extend that healing to fellow survivors. During the hike, she’ll be inviting fellow survivors to connect with her and share their stories, as well as raising funds for two charitable organizations to support those affected by sexual violence.

“I’m not doing this to find myself. I am hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to create myself. To create a version of myself that makes me proud of who I am and what I stand for.”

– Alyssa Kroeker

Alyssa spoke to us about her upcoming journey, how she’s been preparing for it, and how she wants to provide support and resources for fellow survivors.

The Pacific Crest Trail is one of the longest trails in North America, famous for the challenge of endurance it poses to hikers. You’ll be walking 10-20 miles a day through harsh weather and tough terrain. When and how did you decide to hike it?

It was about two years ago. At the time, I was in a very dark place. In 2015, I had been sexually assaulted by someone who I no longer accept as family. Then in 2019, I was assaulted again by a supposed family friend. I soon found myself questioning my will to live, and I did try at one point to take my own life. It was fight or die after that, but I still could barely get out of bed, shower or go outside alone – not even to walk my dog.

I’d always loved sports and the outdoors, but in that state, I couldn’t do them anymore. So I started reading and watching movies instead, because it let me escape without leaving the safety of my own home.

One day, my boyfriend threw on the movie Wild. It’s the story of a woman who faces personal tragedies that push her to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. While watching it, something inside of me just clicked, like a light in a dim room.

“I hope that my travels and my story can help students on campus feel a little less alone, and a little more like they can get support from their communities.”

– Alyssa Kroeker

The moment the credits rolled, I dove headfirst into researching everything I could about the Pacific Crest Trail. I wanted to see pictures, know what hiking it would be like, everything. Eventually I found footage on YouTube about the experience, and seeing those videos finalized the choice for me. I knew I wanted to take that hike on.

But I’m not doing this to find myself. I am hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to create myself. To create a version of myself that makes me proud of who I am and what I stand for.

Alyssa hiking in preparation for the Pacific Crest Trail this Spring.
To do this hike, you typically need a lot of training and practice with the necessary equipment. How have you prepared for your journey?

I studied the trail, gathered the gear I’d need and began training for it. It’s been tough, especially at first. There’s a heavy cost factor in finding the right gear, especially since you can’t return equipment that doesn’t work out once it’s used. And I’ve had an injured hip for over a year now. Before that injury, I had a whole plan to be in peak condition before the hike. But that vision was demolished when I learned just how much physio and rehab I needed. I would just keep re-injuring my hip by trying to force my body to train. I’m taking it a lot easier now, and I will get stronger on the trail.

“If I can inspire just one person to find the strength to keep fighting another day, then everything is worth it.

– Alyssa Kroeker
Did you ever want to quit?

All that labour and training actually helped solidify my resolve by making me reflect on my motivations. The days I was most exhausted, physically and mentally, were when I really realized that I’m not only doing this for myself. It’s also for the people who have helped me along the way, and most of all, for other survivors. If I can inspire just one person to find the strength to keep fighting another day, then everything is worth it.

Alyssa hiking in preparation for the Pacific Crest Trail this Spring.
What impact do you hope your journey will have for other survivors?

I hope it will inspire them and reassure them that they can take power back. There are far too many survivors like me, voiceless and denied justice. I am fighting for my own justice, and in doing this hike, I want to illuminate our power and our perseverance.

To put that into action, I’m working with two organizations – WAVAW (Women Against Violence Against Women), a rape crisis centre in Vancouver, and the South Okanagan Women in Need Society. I’m going to be raising funds for fellow survivors as I hike by calling for donations. I’ll be sharing my travels on my Instagram and opening my direct messages to people who want to share their story with me. And I’m starting my own website to help document the hike and get the word out there.

You’re also working towards your bachelor’s degree right now. As you plan your departure, what makes your journey valuable for students like yourself?

Being a college student in Canada is frightening. Look at the federal statistics on student safety, for example. In 2019, 71 percent of students in college or university witnessed or faced unwanted sexual behaviours at school, or in a school-related setting. Given those numbers, and my own past experiences, I fear walking around campus and being in a classroom. I know that I’m not alone in that.

That said, I’ve been fortunate to have an incredibly supportive environment at Douglas. In fact, more than one of my teachers and lab techs have walked me from my car to the campus building and vice versa. They made sure I felt safe in class and during labs and field trips.

With that in mind, I hope that my travels and my story can help students on campus feel a little less alone, and a little more like they can get support from their communities.

•••

Alyssa departs for her hike on March 26. Follow her journey at @thebcbackpacker on Instagram and at her website.

Five ways you can get involved in research at Douglas 

Four students present research project on urinary tract infection

By Nicole Chiu, Research and Innovation Office  

Every semester, hundreds of students dive into research projects at Douglas. Whether you want to conduct and present your own research, work alongside faculty experts on their projects, or promote the exciting research opportunities the College has to offer, there are many ways for everyone to get involved in research at Douglas. 

The benefits of incorporating research into your education are endless. You will gain critical-thinking skills, learn how to analyze and interpret data, meet other students who share similar interests and gain professional-level experience you can put on your résumé. You could also get hired as a research assistant or present your work at an academic conference.  

There are many ways to be part of the Douglas College research community. Here are five ways you can get involved in research this year.  

1. Student Research Days  

Student Research Days is an annual event where you can present a research project to the College community. You’ll get to showcase your research expertise and passion for research to our panel of faculty judges. Prizes of up to $500 will be awarded to the top projects. 

Student Research Days takes place April 13 at the New Westminster Campus.  

Apply to be a presenter. Applications are being accepted until March 9. 

Read more: Student Research Days returns to Douglas College on April 11 and 13

2. Research conferences  

If you’re already a researcher at the College and have a project you’re eager to share with a larger audience, then it’s time to take your research presentation skills to the next level at a research or industry-specific conference. You’ll sharpen your public-speaking skills, get practice presenting at an industry event and network with renowned experts in your field. Student Research Conference Funding can help cover conference fees and travel expenses. 

Apply now for Student Research Conference Funding. The deadline to apply is April 15.   

3. Become a research assistant 

Work alongside faculty – and get paid for it – as they do research and work with community partners and other institutions to apply their findings to solve problems in the real world.  

You will learn research techniques and gain the type of in-field experience and work experience that will help you stand out when you’re looking for employment.  

Look for Current Openings on the Douglas College Careers site by selecting “Student Assistant” in the posting category. 

4. Become a research ambassador 

Student Research Ambassadors work within their faculties to raise awareness of research and get their fellow students involved – and get paid to do it. 

You’ll work with other Student Research Ambassadors from across the College to promote research while developing your interpersonal, professional and leadership skills. 

Look for Current Openings on the Douglas College Careers site by selecting “Student Assistant” in the posting category. Look for positions that include the title “Student Ambassador.” 

Read more: Therapeutic Recreation grad publishes article on resilience research

5. Lead your own research  

Direct your very own research project with Scientific Research Skills (SRES 2100). In this self-guided course, offered by the Faculty of Science and Technology, you’ll learn how to conduct an independent study on a topic of your choice.  

If you want to continue doing research at a university, this course will equip you with the fundamental research skills, knowledge and the confidence to land a research assistant position at a research university. 

This course is offered in the Summer, Fall and Winter semesters. If you’re interested in registering for SRES 2100, talk to a Science and Technology instructor you are keen to work with to discuss your research interests. Once you agree on a topic, you can register for SRES 2100.  

To learn more about SRES 2100, visit the course information page on the Douglas College website. 


Learn more about research at the College by visiting the Research and Innovation Office page on the Douglas College website.  

Student Research Days returns to Douglas College on April 13

Graphic: "Student Research Days 2022" against white background with colourful science-related icons.

By Nicole Chiu, Research and Innovation Office

Student Research Days is an annual event where you can present a research project to the College community. You’ll get to showcase your research expertise and passion for research to our panel of faculty judges. Prizes of up to $500 will be awarded to the top projects.  

On April 13, Student Research Days will be back and rows of research poster presentations will span the Coquitlam Campus Atrium and the New Westminster Campus Concourse.  

Don’t just take it from us. Take it from past presenters who told us the benefits of presenting at Research Days.      

We spoke to Simran Bhamra from the Therapeutic Recreation Diploma program and Bradley Huddlestone from the Bachelor of Arts in Criminology Honours program to find out why they participated in Research Week, what they learned and their advice for this year’s participants. 

Simran Bhamra
Bradley Huddlestone

Why did you take part in Research Week? 

“I wanted more experience talking to different people about my research and speaking to the public. It also made me feel like my work was appreciated.” – Bradley 

“I wanted the chance to advocate for my field and share my research findings to inspire positive changes in long-term care.” – Simran 

What did you learn?  

“I learned what it was like to talk about my research in a more public setting. This is definitely a skill that will help me when I defend my Honours thesis.” – Bradley 

“It was amazing to see the responses from individuals outside my field regarding my research and learn about how their fields could improve long-term care. I had many rewarding conversations with my peers and with faculty members and felt like my work was appreciated.” – Simran 

Wise words to this year’s participants 

“Don’t be afraid to talk about what excites you about your research. The day is about you and your work. Take advantage of that.” – Bradley  

“Just do it! It was such a rewarding experience, and it’s a good steppingstone to potentially presenting at conferences and other events.” –  Simran  

•••

Watch Criminology student Bradley Huddlestone speak about his study during Research Week 2021: A content analysis of YouTube comments framing homeless criminalization. 

Watch Therapeutic Recreation student Simran Bhamra speak about her study: The perceptions on the role of therapeutic recreation in motivating culture change in long-term. 

•••

Applications to present at Student Research Days are open until March 9. Apply to present by visiting www.douglascollege.ca/research-days.  

Due to programming changes, Student Research Days will be a one-day event on April 13, 12–3pm at the New Westminster Campus Concourse. The event previously included an event on April 11 at the Coquitlam Campus. 

Seeing all the possibilities: How this Dispensing Opticianry grad found more career pathways than she ever imagined

By Maggie Tung, Communications Coordinator 

Henna Ahmad was always interested in eye health care, and she knew the Diploma in Dispensing Opticianry (DOPT) program was the right fit for her. But she never foresaw just how many doors it would open. 

“This program helped me realize how many pathways there are in the opticianry industry. Throughout my career, I’ve got to be in different roles and positions, and I continue to learn.” 

Henna Ahmad portrait

Want to become a licensed optician? Learn more about the Diploma in Dispensing Opticianry by attending an info session. douglascollege.ca/info 

Finding the right prescription 

Henna says the two-year Dispensing Opticianry program set her up for success. She started her career with solid foundational knowledge of opticianry and had hands-on experience thanks to her practicum placement in an optical store. After graduation, she landed a job in sales at that same store.  

In her position, she helped clients find the right glasses and contacts based on their visual and lifestyle needs. But after a few years, she wanted a change. She wasn’t worried, though – her credential had opened up a wide range of career options, so she was confident she would be able to move into a different position easily.  

“There are many directions you can take with a diploma like this,” she says. “You can do sales, work in a lab or move into the health-care side. You can even go further and study more if you want. The program is a gateway; it supports you wherever you want to go.” 

Henna moved into healthcare, as an ophthalmic technician for LASIK MD. In this new role, she is training to assist in LASIK eye surgeries.  

She has also come back to Douglas – as a guest speaker. The DOPT program contacts her when students are learning a topic that correlates to what LASIK MD offers.  

“For example, if they’re studying cataracts, I’ll come in and talk about how we diagnose them and the different surgeries we offer to treat them,” she says. 

This has opened up yet another potential career path for Henna. 

“Speaking to students has made me realize that I love teaching, which I hadn’t even considered before,” she says. 

Read more: Keeping an ear out: Meet the instructor who wants you to turn down the noise 

The future’s so bright, she’s gotta wear shades   

In fact, she loves teaching so much that she’s set her sights on one day leading the Dispensing Opticianry program at Douglas College.  

“I’ve actually spoken to the department head. And I’m like, ‘I want your job, so I’m waiting for you to retire. When you do, let me know, and we’ll work something out,’” she says, laughing. “It’s where I see myself in the future.”  

In the meantime, Henna continues to build a fruitful career that fulfills her desire for work-life balance. 

“This industry gives me constant stimulation, and it keeps me on my toes. But it’s not so tasking that I can’t enjoy my hobbies and spend time with friends and family,” she says. “I can come home from work and read a book purely for leisure or go on hikes to enjoy the outdoors without stressing about my job in the back of my mind. I love the work-life balance that I have.” 

Out of the shadows: How this alum is helping the LGBTQ+ community 

Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations   

For Alex Sangha, a Douglas College arts alum, his personal experience with mental health encouraged him to help others. 

“I used to be reluctant to speak about my own journey with bipolar disorder,” says Alex. “But as I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve realized sharing my own story is a way to reduce the stigma around mental health. It’s part of the resources I can provide people who are also vulnerable.”  

Alex’s goal of helping others has blossomed into a career of activism and fighting for justice. Over the last 30 years, Alex has built a successful career as a social worker, counsellor, filmmaker and speaker. He’s also the founder of Sher Vancouver, a registered charity for LGBTQ+ South Asians and friends in the Metro Vancouver area. 

Lights, camera, action  

Alex’s activism has permeated his entire career. Most recently, Alex has made the foray into filmmaking and producing two documentary films, My Name Was January (2018) and Emergence: Out of the Shadows (2021), both of which cover topics close to Alex’s heart. 

My Name Was January follows the story of January Marie Lapuz. She was murdered in her home in New Westminster in 2012. “As a transgender person who engaged in survival sex work, January didn’t receive the justice she deserved during the trial,” explains Alex. The killer was sentenced to only eight years in prison for the crime, where he claimed self-defense.  

January was Sher Vancouver’s Social Coordinator and Alex’s close friend. “I wanted to bring justice to January and remember her as the bright light she was.”  

Producing My Name Was January opened the doors to both Alex’s passion for filmmaking and the feature documentary, Emergence: Out of the Shadows, where he was both a producer and a cast member. The documentary follows three individuals, including Alex (credited under his birth name, Amar). They share their experience expressing their sexuality within conservative South Asian families and within the LGBTQ+ community.  

“I remember the few times I went to a queer support group and how marginalized I felt in the mainstream queer community. I was the only brown guy there. We had different cultural backgrounds, upbringings and traditions,” says Alex. 

Similar to how sharing his own mental health journey connected him to social work, Alex wanted to share his story of coming to terms with his sexuality as a cast member. “It was one of the reasons why I wanted to share the screen with other brown gay people like myself. We didn’t have to explain anything to each other. We had a sense of mutual understanding and acceptance.” 

The films received many international awards and recognition and reached others in the LGBTQ+ community who struggled just like Alex did in his youth.   

“Films like these create awareness and make people feel welcomed,” says Alex. “I want to continue to create safe spaces in the community.”  

Read more: Get ready to snooze: A student’s perspective on the importance of sleep hygiene for mental health 

Building a foundation at Douglas 

While few people excel in as many different worlds as Alex does, he didn’t know what he wanted to pursue when he first came to Douglas College. Alex credits Douglas with helping him discover his calling toward social work and learning more about himself and his sexuality.  

“Douglas College was the best two years of my life,” says Alex. He was able to connect with his peers – including other gay students – through classes and joining the Pride Collective. “I came into myself as a gay man and social work became my mission. I did well in my courses and made life-long friends! It felt like I could do anything.”    

Douglas gave him the academic foundation for his lengthy academic journey. After completing his Associate of Arts Degree at Douglas, he went on to earn a Bachelor of Social Work with a First Class Standing (UBC), a Masters of Social Work (Dalhousie University) and Masters in Public Administration and Public Policy (London School of Economics).    

Personal inspiration  

Alex traces his broad portfolio of accomplishments back to a single transformative, life-saving experience in his youth, and its memory spurs him forward to this day.  

“When I was 19 years old, I was very stressed about my sexuality,” he says. “I wasn’t sleeping, I was literally deteriorating and falling apart. I had a nervous breakdown and had to be hospitalized. But that’s where I had what I believe to this day to be a profound spiritual experience; I felt an energy leave my body like an out-of-body experience and I saw this amazing light of spiritual energy.”   

“Afterwards, I talked to a priest. He said that maybe God was trying to send me a message to love myself. Maybe God was telling me I should do what I wanted with my life.”  

Since this epiphany, Alex has worked hard to share the love with others. In 2017, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada for his service to his community.   

“My career – the counselling, social work, filmmaking, social justice – all goes right back to that spiritual experience,” he explains. “It’s my motivation. Whenever I’m feeling down or am struggling, I think about that light and the spiritual connection I had in that moment. And I want to be able to share that feeling of safety with others, too.”   

Emergence: Out of the Shadows continues to have community screenings across the Lower Mainland, both in-person and online. Check out the Douglas Student Union events page for upcoming screenings at Douglas.