Douglas 360°

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:  

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

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 Yun, 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.