Douglas 360°

Beyond the face: Meet Jessie

By Maia Odegaard, Marketing and Communications

You’ve seen them on the SkyTrain and walked past them at the mall. You’ve sat beside them in bus shelters and spotted them in newspapers… but just who are the people in our 50th Anniversary ad campaign? They’re not models; these are real Douglas students, working hard to achieve their educational and career goals – just like you.

By the time Jessie Weststrate was six, her passion for softball was already taking shape. When it came to deciding which post-secondary to attend after high school, Jessie chose Douglas for its renowned athletics program – including an active women’s softball team – and the chance to study Sport Science in a friendly, close-knit environment.

Read more: Royals soccer star and Sport Science student charts dual career path

As for making friends as a first-year, Jessie found that being a part of the women’s softball team, as well as attending on-campus events, made it easy to meet other students. However, she did struggle somewhat with the adjustment to the academic expectations of college.

To get a handle on her study strategies, Jessie turned to the Royals’ Athletic Support Strategist, who advised her to join a study group specifically for student athletes. Not only was she able to learn how to write an academic essay, but she connected with other students just like her.

“As a freshman, getting myself out there and participating in the social events and academic support opportunities available at Douglas really made a difference. Now I’m more confident in my school work and I have a great group of friends that I’ll know for years to come,” says Jesse.

The glam shot you’ve seen around town.
Jessie IRL sporting her Royals’ uniform.

Once Jessie finishes her Sport Science Diploma, she wants to become a registered massage therapist (RMT). As a student athlete, she’s experienced the benefits of massage therapy firsthand, including regular visits from local massage therapy school students who offer free treatment to Douglas student athletes to earn their practicum hours.

“One day, while getting a massage, I started chatting with one of the interns and learning more about becoming an RMT,” says Jessie. “My dad also went to massage therapy school, so I’d heard a bit about his experiences, too. I think massage therapy will be a great fit for the skill set I hope to gain during my time at Douglas, and I look forward to helping other athletes feel healthy and strong.”

Read more: Sport Science student shoots for big time success with his clothing line and NBA dreams

When asked what advice Jessie has for other first-year college students, she says it’s important to get involved, whether or not you’re an extrovert.

“No matter what personality you have, you have to do more than just attend classes and study. Joining a club, group or a sports team will definitely help with your adjustment to college life. You can make friends, form study groups and share information about all the support and resources available through the College, all of which will help you make the most of your education. And most importantly: it’s fun!”

Beyond the face: Meet Alejandra

By Melissa Nilan, Marketing and Communications

You’ve seen them on the SkyTrain and walked past them at the mall. You’ve sat beside them in bus shelters and spotted them in newspapers… but just who are the people in our 50th Anniversary ad campaign? They’re not models; these are real Douglas students, working hard to achieve their educational and career goals – just like you.

Alejandra Llanes’s childhood was a tribute to sustainability: Her parents designed their home in Colombia to be energy-efficient through maximizing natural light and eliminating the need for heating and cooling systems. They even maintained their own compost, grew crops and raised animals for food. Inspired by her parents, Alejandra plans to become an architect so she can make her own contributions to sustainable housing.

“My parents approached their decisions with the belief that the environment is something valuable that should be treated with respect. I want more housing projects to be approached with this kind of thoughtfulness, and I can help make that happen by being involved in the design process,” says Alejandra.    

Read more: Dying coral reefs drives this Associate of Science student to make change

Though she knew she wanted a career around environmental sustainability, she wasn’t sure in what capacity. But during a solo trip to France after high school, she came across an architectural project called Paris Smart City 2050, which aims to address housing and density issues with innovative sustainable architecture, in keeping with Paris’s Climate Action Plan.

Alejandra loved the concept and envisioned herself contributing to a greener future by being involved in creating similar sustainable buildings. Initially she explored environmental engineering, but didn’t like the math and physics aspect.

“I chose to go into sustainable design because the creative aspects of architecture would allow me to express myself while helping the environment,” she says.

The pro shot you’ve seen around town.
Alejandra IRL, casually elegant.

With her decision to become an architect made, she applied to the Associate of Arts in Environmental Studies at Douglas, which is giving her an understanding of the environment that she can apply to her future design work.

“The program is so versatile,” she says. “Since environmentalism can be applied in almost every field, I’ve been able to take a variety of courses, from biology to anthropology. It’s fun to learn about the environment through different perspectives.”

Read more: University Transfer student follows his heart all the way to UBC and his own business

Once she graduates, Alejandra will have 60 credits she can transfer to university. She is currently eyeing a degree in environmental design at a university in the south of France. From there, she’ll complete a Masters of Architecture to become a licensed architect, so she can start her career designing sustainable housing.

Beyond the face: Meet Nikki

By Melissa Nilan, Marketing and Communications

You’ve seen them on the SkyTrain and walked past them at the mall. You’ve sat beside them in bus shelters and spotted them in newspapers… but just who are the people in our 50th Anniversary ad campaign? They’re not models; these are real Douglas students, working hard to achieve their educational and career goals – just like you.

Nikki Tran has advice for students who are struggling to figure out their career path: Don’t worry. Deciding what you want to study is not always easy, and Nikki had a few false starts before she found a program that made her happy.

Nikki started post-secondary at another institution with the goal of becoming a teacher.

“I chose teaching because I’d always really liked helping other people understand concepts. I was a peer tutor in high school, and it felt really good when somebody actually understood something because of me,” says Nikki.

But her parents didn’t agree with her decision and convinced her to look at other career options.

“My parents are from Vietnam and sacrificed a lot to make a good life for us in Vancouver. I want to live up to their expectations for my future career. They imagined me going into business or pharmaceuticals.”

Nikki took a year off to reconsider her options. At her parents’ recommendation, she picked up a few accounting and business courses at Douglas. She did well, and decided to continue. But her second semester didn’t go as smoothly as the first. She took another year off school to reflect on her options. But she was starting to panic.

“It reached a point where I didn’t know what to do. I was worried I was taking too long to pick something, or that I would pick the wrong thing and waste time studying something I wouldn’t end up pursuing,” says Nikki. “

But the more she put off school, the worse she felt.

“Many of my friends had already graduated, and I felt like I was falling behind. Because of that, I was letting my parents make my decisions for me. But if I kept that up, I wouldn’t be happy. That’s when I decided to go back to my original idea of teaching.”

The pro shot you’ve seen around town
Nikki IRL: Still quite glam in our opinion

Read more: From college to Harvard, math professor got her start at Douglas

With her mind made up, Nikki returned to Douglas. She still wasn’t sure what she wanted to pursue, but she let herself explore, and soon discovered the answer.

“I took courses in English and psychology, and then I took one sociology course and was hooked. I knew right away that’s what I wanted to learn,” says Nikki.

Nikki is now completing an Associate of Arts in Sociology. Once she graduates, she aims to transfer to university to complete her bachelor’s degree, and then do her teacher training.

Read more: From sociology to youth justice, this grad found the path to her dream job at Douglas

Nikki says it was only when she stopped worrying about what she was going to do – and what her parents thought she should do – that she was able to discover what she loved. She offers the same advice to other students.

“The more you force yourself into something, either because you’re trying to meet someone else’s expectations or because you’ve already taken courses for a specific program, the harder it’s going to be to figure out what you actually like. You’ll be shutting the door on unexpected opportunities,” Nikki says. “In trying new things, I eventually figured out what I really liked, and my plans for the future just created themselves.”

How do Nikki’s parents feel about her decision?

“Ultimately, they just want to see me succeed, regardless of what I do as a career.”

Beyond the face: Meet Kyanith

By Melissa Nilan & Maia Odegaard, Marketing and Communications

You’ve seen them on the SkyTrain and walked past them at the mall. You’ve sat beside them in bus shelters and spotted them in newspapers… but just who are the people in our 50th Anniversary ad campaign? They’re not models; these are real Douglas students, working hard to achieve their educational and career goals  just like you

Kyanith has major league plans. He wants to work for the NBA as a coach, manager or physiotherapist. He’s also a clothing designer, and wants the team to wear warm-up gear he designed himself.

“I have so many ideas. It’s just a matter of putting them all together,” says the Sport Science student.

Kyanith came to Douglas to do just that.

“Douglas has opened up a lot of doors in terms of career options,” he says. “With the Sport Science Diploma, I can pursue physiotherapy or coaching or sport management. And Douglas is also helping me with my clothing line. I’ve taken electives in business and marketing, and I’ve been able to use my own company for projects.”

Read more: Meet Business student Navjot who came to Douglas to realize his entrepreneurial dream

Kyanith’s clothing line, Minty Brand Apparel, launched in 2020 with a winter-weather streetwear line. He’s working on expanding that collection, and will eventually add athletic wear to the line-up.

His affinity for fashion started in high school. Newly emigrated from Nepal, Kyanith made friends through his school’s basketball team. Off the court, he and his friends designed hoodies for themselves that became unexpectedly popular with other students.

The pro shot you’ve seen around town.
Kyanith IRL, looking sharp in his Minty Brand Apparel

 “It was a brotherhood thing. We branded ourselves the Minty Squad and got hoodies printed that we all wore. But then other people wanted to wear them, too. Rather than say no, I thought, why not make it accessible to everyone?

“I also thought I could use the opportunity to contribute to the community I grew up in by having the clothes manufactured in Kathmandu, Nepal, so it’s creating jobs over there,” Says Kyanith.

When he isn’t studying or designing clothing, Kyanith is moving his career forward in other ways. He’s the assistant coach for a local amateur basketball team, Rise Up Basketball, and works at a neighbourhood rec centre. And he’s just getting started.

Read more: BPEC student Sahara is hitting a homerun for Indigenous youth

“I’m working my way up the coaching ladder and getting involved with more teams,” he says. “I’m reaching out to influencers to help market my clothing, and I’m planning to connect with other coaches about providing branded warm-up gear for their athletes. There’s a lot to figure out still, but I’m on my way.”

Listening and learning

By Sarah Dench, AVP, Academic and Student Affairs

Over the past few days I have been reflecting on events we are seeing in the United States. We’ve spent so much of our time in the past few months talking about physical illness due to COVID. But racism and violence are also illnesses. They infect and take lives.

I watch the news and feel grateful I live in Canada, as imperfect as it may be, but I know we aren’t immune. We have our own history of racism to acknowledge and account for, and the current reality of racism to address. We can’t turn away from that, and to stay silent is to be complicit. 

Those of us in higher education might be inclined to assume we are somehow beyond racism and violence. But we are part of the world around us, and to be actively anti-racist – speaking and educating to oppose racism and systems of oppression – is our responsibility.  All of us must think about how we take action, personally and as organizations. 

I was torn about sharing these thoughts. As a white person in a position of privilege, I do not want to be drawing focus or speaking about experiences that aren’t mine to claim. I want to be an ally, but that’s also not my label to apply.

However, leadership matters, and I can commit to use my position of privilege for a purpose, to stand with people of colour and those who fight against racism, bigotry and oppression. I can call out racism when it happens, I can support people and organizations that work against racism and support survivors of racism, and I can listen and learn. I hope we can all do that together and oppose racism as a Douglas College community. 

-Sarah Dench
Associate Vice President, Academic and Student Affairs

As an institution, Douglas College opposes all acts of racism and stands with people of colour to actively combat systemic bias in our communities. Students who experience grief, trauma or stress resulting from racism and violence are encouraged to seek support:

Personal Counselling

Get help with issues affecting your academics or personal well-being.

Student Support and Conduct

Receive help for matters of disruptive conduct and support if you are in distress. The office works collaboratively with students, faculty and campus partners to resolve issues, such as disputes and access support, in a restorative and respectful manner.

Indigenous Student Services

Get the information you need about services available for Indigenous students.

Here2talk

The BC government is also providing free 24/7 Mental Health support services for post-secondary students through here2talk.ca.

Speak to a counsellor by phone:

604 642 5212 direct

1 877 857 3397 toll free

1 604 642 5212 for students calling outside Canada (international calling charges may apply)

What is academic integrity and why does it matter?

By Rudi Araujo, Marketing and Communications

Every student at Douglas College is expected to adhere to the highest standards of academic integrity, whether taking courses in-person or online. But, what does academic integrity actually mean?

Read more: How not to be a word thief and know how to cite your sources properly  

What is academic integrity?

Academic integrity is ensuring you’re not being academically dishonest which includes committing academic fraud, cheating, misuse or misrepresentation of sources, plagiarism or self-plagiarism.

To ensure all students are starting at Douglas with the same understanding, all new students to Douglas (starting in Summer 2020), and those returning students that have not attended Douglas College for at least two years, must complete an Academic Integrity Education online course by Aug. 6, 2020.

Douglas requires all new-to-Douglas students to complete this mandatory module. The great thing is that it takes no more than 30 minutes to complete and is easily accessible through Blackboard.

Read more: 9 IT services to support distant and remote learning

The resources available for students at Douglas can help you succeed with your studies. Get help from our peer tutoring centre, available at the Learning Centre, which can assist students in skills like writing, studying, test preparation and more.

Pass your module with flying colours

Students will need to finish the module with at least 80 percent to successfully complete the course. Good news, though, you have three chances to pass. If you’re not successful after the third attempt, additional support will be provided.  

*Please note: Students who do not complete the online module by Aug 6, 2020 or don’t pass, the ability to register for future terms will be affected. For more information, contact aie@douglascollege.ca.

Striking the right chord: How this music alum found his calling in film and TV

audio mixer close-up

By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations

Daniel Cardona’s career in film and TV all started with a music diploma – and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

His original plan was to become a musician. But after earning his Diploma in Music at Douglas and completing a Bachelor of Music at the University of British Columbia Daniel came face to face with a hard reality: He didn’t have what it took to make it as a musician.

“I realized that in order to make a living as a musician, you need to be very, very good,” Daniel says. “I know musicians who are very successful, but it wasn’t the right fit for me. I needed to make a change.”  

Read more: Hot off the (bench) press! This Douglas grad won gold for Canada

Back to Douglas

Instead of starting over, Daniel decided to build on the skills he’d gained through his music education. He returned to Douglas to get the Music Technology Diploma, where he learned sound engineering, music software, audio engineering and music production.

“I wanted to take my inclination and ear for music in a different direction. I’ve always been interested in audio technology and thought this would be a good way to combine the music skills I’d already gained with my interests,” says Daniel.

Tech skills weren’t his only takeaway. He says being in a cohort-like program built a sense of community and camaraderie with his classmates.

“I learned how to work collaboratively and closely with others – a skill that benefits me tremendously in my career today.”

Once he graduated, Daniel headed to the Vancouver Film School to complete a diploma in Sound Design for Visual Media, adding game audio implementation and post-audio editing for television and film to his arsenal of skills.   

Read more: Stagecraft grad creates high-end custom carpentry

Pitch perfect 

Today, Daniel is a re-recording mixer and post-audio editor at Sharpe Sound Studios in North Vancouver, where he does post-production sound editing, mixing and effects for film and television projects for companies like Disney, Hallmark and Lifetime.  

Daniel Cardona
Daniel Cardona

He says his variety of skills and experience keeps things interesting on the job.

“It can be hard to mix shows day in and day out and still have the same passion for them after watching them 50 million times. But when I can switch from one aspect of production to another – for example, from mixing to editorial – that’s what keeps me on my toes,” says Daniel.

Out of his lengthy filmography, Daniel says one of his favourite projects was Disney Channel’s Gabby Duran & the Unsittables, where he mixed a variety of sound effects with sound design.

“The show is about a human girl who babysits aliens,” Daniel explains. “So you can imagine there were a lot of strange sound effects that I got to play around with.”

He says music provided a beneficial foundation for his career.

“My music degree trained my ear,” he says. “I wouldn’t know half the things I know now if I hadn’t gotten a music degree before going into audio engineering.”

Beyond the face: Meet Katelyn

By Maia Odegaard, Marketing and Communications

You’ve seen them on the SkyTrain and walked past them at the mall. You’ve sat beside them in bus shelters and spotted them in newspapers… but just who are the people in our 50th Anniversary ad campaign? They’re not models; these are real Douglas students, working hard to achieve their educational and career goals – just like you.

Katelyn Lohr has always had a passion for helping others. At the age of 14, when many of us are trying to figure out who we are, Katelyn was travelling to the Amazon rainforest to volunteer with the charitable organization Free the Children. This trip instilled in her an understanding of the social inequality in our world. Now, she plans to go to law school and do something about it.

“From a young age, I knew my future was going to fall somewhere within the scope of helping others,” Katelyn says. “My goal is to be an advocate for change within our legal system by working as a lawyer for Indigenous communities.”

Katelyn chose to start her law education at Douglas with a Criminology Diploma because of the tight-knit atmosphere and experienced faculty.

“We’re being taught by instructors who’ve been lawyers for most of their careers, which means they have real-world experience that informs their teaching,” says Katelyn. “With our class sizes, you can actually build a personal connection with your instructors, and these are people who could potentially help you get an internship down the road. You’d never find that in a class of 500 people at a big university.”

Read more: Beyond the face: Meet Ariana

The glam shot you’ve seen around town
Katelyn IRL (still pretty glam in our opinion)

Katelyn also loves the practical aspects of her Criminology courses. So far this year she’s taken two trips to the New Westminster law courts, where she got to see criminal court cases in action.

“I think there’s a very big separation between studying law and criminology in school and actually experiencing a criminal court case, especially because the portrayal of law in the media is always so Americanized and not an accurate portrayal of what I will experience as a Canadian lawyer,” she says.

Read more: Difficult past propels Criminology student to bright future

Eventually, she wants to open a legal clinic in northern Canada where people don’t have access to legal aid or counsel.

“The courts travel on a circuit there – a judge and two lawyers travel throughout all of these cities and towns, trying possibly hundreds of cases in just two days. It’s not fair representation,” Katelyn explains. “My legal clinic would likely focus on helping the Indigenous populations in the north, who make up a large portion of those without fair representation. The clinic would be stationed, but would also travel on a circuit offering legal advice ahead of a trial.”

Inspired by Apple and SpaceX

Engingeering student Gurmaan Gary Brar in fabrication lab, photo by David Denofreo

By Melissa Nilan, Marketing and Communications
Photo by David Denofreo

Gurmaan Brar wants to be at the forefront of creating technology that changes our lives à la Apple and SpaceX. To achieve his goal, he’s pursuing a degree in engineering at the University of Victoria (UVic). But he chose the Douglas College Engineering and Fabrication Technologies Diploma as his first step.

 Attend a free online information session May 28 to learn more about the Engineering and Fabrication Technologies program

Gurmaan’s future wasn’t always so bright. He got kicked out of high school, and had to work hard to catch up and get the grades to apply to post-secondary. But the experience left him unsure about continuing his education. He toyed with the idea of taking a year off, but ultimately, concerns about losing momentum changed his mind; he made a last-minute decision to apply Douglas.

It was a sound decision that gave him a solid foundation for his education.

Planetary gear set made by Gurmaan Brar in engineering fabrication lab
Planetary gear set made by Gurmaan

“Douglas gave me a great background in math and physics, which has made my classes at UVic easy. Plus the hands-on experience in the fabrication labs gave me a better understanding of how things work. I made a planetary gear set, an electronic remote to power a Lego train we built, and headphone amplifiers that I reused in my car to boost the stereo bass. That’s not something I would have gotten if I’d gone straight to a university program,” says Gurmaan.

Gurmaan says he loved Douglas’s community feel and the small classes; his classmates were always looking out for each other. The team environment was one of the things that drew him to engineering in the first place.

“Engineering is a team-based profession,” says Gurmaan. “You need to be creative and good at problem-solving, but more importantly, you need to be able to connect with other people and communicate well.”

Read more: Douglas student follows his heart to university and his own business

After he graduated from Douglas, Gurmaan took advantage of the transfer agreement that offers Douglas Engineering students a guaranteed seat in the second year of UVic’s bachelor program. Once he graduates from UVic, the sky’s the limit.

 “I want to be involved in a big engineering project that has a huge impact – like the iPhone or Falcon rockets. Something that changes people’s reality.”

How we work now: Alumni edition

By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations

As COVID-19 continues to change the ways we live and work, we connected virtually with three Douglas alumni to learn how they’ve had to pivot in a time of crisis.

Marissa Bruchmann

Marissa Bruchmann

Registered Nurse, Fraser Health Authority
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (2018)

As a nurse working in Surrey Memorial Hospital’s emergency department – the largest in Canada – Marissa is on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Surrey Memorial is one of the only hospitals in the Lower Mainland set up for a viral issue like this because there are separate glass-enclosed rooms to treat patients,” Marissa says. “Even so, the entire department has been completely re-arranged, with multiple phases of transition to accommodate the influx of patients, separate zones for those with and without influenza-like symptoms. There are policy changes every day, and when we go in, we don’t know what’s going to be next.”

As the first point of contact in the hospital for potential COVID patients, Marissa and her colleagues have noticed ebbs and flows of traffic in the emergency department.

“At first, we were overrun by people wanting to get swabbed – many who didn’t meet the criteria. Then, weirdly, things started slowing down because people were so terrified of coming to the hospital, even when they should have,” says Marissa. “People were so scared of the virus that they’d come in too late for other issues and require critical care because of it.” 

Since the dip in trips to emergency, Marissa says the number of COVID cases are continuing to decrease, but the number of non-COVID related emergency visits are increasing again.

“People are returning to normal life after hearing the restrictions are easing. People aren’t following the rules anymore and aren’t social distancing as much, so the department is worried we could see seen another spike in cases.”

Read more: Starting a “calmversation”: how one Douglas alum is changing the face of education

Herbie Atwal

Herbie Atwal

Assistant Registrar, Douglas College
Child and Youth Care (2005)


As the Assistant Registrar, Herbie plays an important role in the management and distribution of the newly implemented Douglas College COVID-19 Emergency Fund which Douglas launched to help students affected by the pandemic.

Herbie – who has been with the College since March of this year – says the financial aid portion of his job hasn’t come naturally. “I have a background in academic advising and recruiting, so I was prepared for that side of the Student Success Advisor role,” Herbie says. “I had planned to learn the financial aid portion more gradually, but given the current pandemic, I have had a steep learning curve to ensure our students were financially supported.” 

Even so, Herbie says taking on the emergency bursary duties honours why he came back to Douglas – to help students. “I’ve been able to use my academic advising, counselling skills and ability to build rapport and relationships across the institution to help our students continue to succeed in their academics,” he says.  

“I’m seeing all the emails coming in from donors each and every day about how they want to do as much as they can to support students at Douglas,” Herbie adds. “The opportunities that they’re giving students are amazing and incredibly life-changing.”

Read more: Good grades got this student $5,000 a year in scholarships

Nicole Perron

Nicole Perron

Nurse Manager and RPN, MPA Society
Bachelor of Science in Psychiatric Nursing (2007)

As Nurse Manager at MPA Society’s Beckman House, a 21-bed mental health care home in Maple Ridge, Nicole works with her team to support client-centred rehabilitation, promoting independence and emotional well-being.  

In the wake of the pandemic, daily life at Beckman House has drastically shifted. “Our members’ world has shrunk so much. Without being able to go on group or one-on-one outings and without visitors, boredom and loneliness really influence their day-to-day lives,” Nicole says. “We’ve really had to put on our creative hats to ensure that even in our closed bubble we can promote their independence and continue supporting their wellness.”

One of the ways Nicole and her team have tried to combat these newfound changes is through the creation of their very own corner store, Beckman Mart, designed to encourage members to stick close to home. “Beckman House is close to quite a few corner stores and our members like to frequent them,” Nicole says. “We’ve started our own store, stocked with their favourite things.”

To further reduce the risk of infection that comes with exchanging cash, the Mart only accepts Beckman Bucks – Monopoly money that can be earned by completing tasks that make the house safer for members and staff, like disinfecting doorknobs.

Other activities that they’ve added to their schedule are physical distancing art groups and walks through the neighbourhood.  

Although it was hard at first, Nicole says Beckman House has adapted to this new reality well. “Everyone has faced huge hurdles, but we’ve come full circle and things are fairly baseline in this new normal now,” Nicole says. “There’s been lots of peer-to-peer education as members help each other with daily tasks and the staff has been an amazing team.”

Have you or another Douglas alum you know had to pivot in the way you work during the pandemic? We’d love to share your story. Contact us at alumni@douglascollege.ca.