Douglas 360°

Reading between the lines

By Maia Odegaard, Marketing and Communications

Think about all of the things you read before you even arrived at work this morning: the newsfeed on your phone, the expiration date on a carton of milk, the text splashed across bus shelter advertisements. You probably didn’t notice how much you were reading. Now imagine how different your morning would have been without that essential skill we so easily take for granted.  

As this national literacy organization found, “one in five Canadians struggles with reading, writing or math, and millions more do not have the essential skills to succeed in today’s economy.” Enter the Douglas College I-CARE Literacy Program, which provides one-on-one tutoring for reading and writing and serves approximately 30 to 50 adults each year with the help of roughly 40 literacy mentors from around the Lower Mainland. This diverse group of volunteers includes one Douglas College student who gives his time, even while juggling a full course load, part-time job and other commitments.

Dustin has been an I-CARE mentor for two years

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I graduated, and teaching was something I always considered,” says Dustin G. “I saw it as a great opportunity to help someone and to work on my own personal goals, seeing whether I wanted to take on the challenge of teaching as a profession.”

While Dustin decided not to become a teacher – he’s now studying Political Science at Douglas College – he’s dedicated to helping his learner achieve her goal of becoming a confident reader and writer. “I’m committed to staying with I-CARE until I have one learner who’s satisfied,” he says.

Dustin has been a volunteer for close to two years and has worked with the same learner the entire time. They have reached several milestones together. “We’ve had a couple of firsts,” he says. “The first full paragraph that we wrote – she wrote, actually. I’m just there to help or point out a missing letter – that was great.” Now, whenever they hit a roadblock, he’s able to point to that achievement and say, “You wrote this. Don’t forget that you wrote this, and it’s very well written.”

The learners vary in age and background, with roughly half of them having grown up in Canada. Over the past 40 years, Vancouver’s population has changed and as such, the I-CARE Program’s clientele have changed, too.  

“Quite a few of our learners are people who had no opportunity to go to school as children and have struggled for a long time,” says Nancy Walker, I-CARE Coordinator. “Their spoken English is very good. They’ve been working for a long time and raising children, who have helped them improve their English. But reading and writing don’t come by osmosis.”

If you’re a Douglas College student interested in becoming a tutor with the I-CARE Program, email Nancy ( or call 604 527 5409 to find out when the next tutor training session is happening.

“The act of giving back to the community is really great,” says Dustin. “To be able to apply knowledge that I take for granted every day and help make another person’s life better, it’s very fulfilling.”

Making an investment in a smart education

By Anasuya Kesavan, Marketing and Communication

Photo by David Denofreo

Kim Banh knows the value of a dollar—and of a good education. Growing up on a tight budget with his single mom, who worked at a fast-food joint to support three children, taught him financial-planning skills. He used it to plan his education in Commerce and Business Administration and realize his dream of graduating from a university with the Douglas College-SFU degree program.

On completing high school, Kim dreamed of a university degree and a steady career. However, with more than one part-time job, he had to balance his time and resources. After doing extensive research on B.C. post-secondary institutions, Kim chose Douglas because he wanted to maximize his return on investment and chalk a straightforward path to university.

“I always wanted to study at UBC or SFU,” he says, “but, I had to balance the cost and my work hours.  I chose Douglas because the cost of tuition, class size and university transferability were very appealing.”

Kim took the Douglas College-SFU dual-degree program and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Economics from SFU. He says the one-on-one time with instructors at Douglas helped him do well in his courses.

 “Getting access to instructors is very important in the initial years. Douglas is a close community, and it’s easier to reach out for help.”

Despite a busy work-school schedule, Kim started volunteering as a Student Ambassador, which refined his skills in public speaking, event planning and marketing. One thing led to another as Kim took on the role of Marketing and Promotions Assistant for Douglas Student Life. He says it gave him the confidence to give presentations to large audiences and taught him negotiation and team-building skills. It also helped him find a part-time job as a Financial Planner.

“My education and experience at Douglas College has given me the knowledge, skills, confidence and poise to deal with all sorts of clients,” says Kim. “I really do owe a lot of my success to Douglas College, my instructors and the mentors that I’ve met here, and the friends that I’ve made.”

Today, Kim is a confident young banker, with a full-time job as a Financial Planner at RBC Financial Planning. At some point, he plans to get an MBA. He offers this advice to students who want to excel in their studies – and in life: “You can’t get anywhere without working hard. Keep your grades up. Get involved and volunteer in the community.”

Serving up a career in the hospitality industry

By Anasuya Kesavan, Marketing and Communications

Alexandre Quattrucci desired a peaceful life, safety and a career in hospitality. A former casino player development specialist who looked after the Latin American markets, he came from Brazil to Vancouver and Douglas College to start afresh.

With several casinos and good weather, Vancouver was a natural choice. “I wanted a new career in the hospitality industry,” says Alex. “I like working with people and enjoy numbers. I was also prepared to go back to school to succeed.”

At Douglas, Alex approached the Career Centre for advice on entering the job market for his industry training that is required to complete his Hospitality Management Diploma Program. Here he learned how to write a Canadian style resumé and cover letter. “It was the best thing that has happened to me,” says Alex. “My coach helped me prepare for an interview and also recommended me for a job at the Starlight Casino.”

After six months, Alex transitioned from the Casino to the hotel industry through the Douglas College Hospitality Fair at the Coquitlam Campus. “This is an excellent event. You are interviewed on the spot,” recalls Alex, who was hired by the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel.

Alex’s journey at Douglas began when an international consultant referred him to two colleges in the Lower Mainland. A mature student, Alex chose the Hospitality Management Diploma Program at Douglas for its reputation. He started having doubts when fellow students in a Vancouver English language course warned him that Douglas was a tough school.

“I was afraid. How would I cope? I was coming back to school after such a long time,” says Alex.

However, all his apprehensions were in vain. He enjoyed his courses, which gave him an understanding of running a hotel, managing food and beverages, rooms, beds and budgets. “There were many interesting courses including Business Law, HR and entrepreneurship. Douglas gave me an understanding of the hotel management business as a whole,” recalls Alex.

“Hotels deal with people. We also have to do cost control and budgets.”

As the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel’s Houseperson Alex has earned several Bravo Grams, a recognition by colleagues and clients, and an Employee of the Month award in July 2018. “It’s an awesome company to work with. I want to grow in this industry,” says Alex.

“The best thing that has happened to me is meeting the coaches at the Career Centre. There are so many opportunities for students to excel and find jobs. Most importantly, they are committed to job train you.”

Hitting a home run for Indigenous youth

By Maia Odegaard, Marketing and Communications
Photo by David Denofreo

For Sport Science student Sahara Tom, softball has been a part of her life since before she was born – her father has been an umpire for over 25 years – and it continues to influence her career path today.

Sahara followed her older sister Garaline to Douglas College so she could study Sport Science partly because she’d heard wonderful things about the program and the College learning environment, but also because of her passion for sports. Ultimately, her experience with treatment for sports injuries helped her decide on a career as a kinesiologist.

“Sports have been a large part of my life, and have given me countless memories and opportunities to better myself as an athlete and as a person,” she says. “Through my years of playing sports, I have also encountered countless injuries, and have gone through countless hours of various types of rehabilitation, and found kinesiology to be one of the most effective and beneficial.”

Many of us are familiar with chiropractors – Sahara’s original career goal – and even physiotherapists, but few may understand the work performed by a kinesiologist.

Sahara explains, “Kinesiologists work more with a workout base. They try to find ways to strengthen your whole body. The kinesiologist I work with makes sure that my body is able to do the basic movements before building off of everything. Whereas, I’ve been through a lot of physio where they only address the specific injury.”

 “I’ve been playing softball since I was about five, so coming up on 16 years now,” says Sahara. “I grew up in Nanaimo playing softball and when I was 14, I start playing in the All Native Nationals.”

Her passion for softball doesn’t end there: Sahara is also focused on coaching other young softball enthusiasts. She’s run a softball camp at her reserve in Burns Lake, B.C., and she plans to continue working to bring kids from different Indigenous communities together to play softball. To this end, she has even applied to coach the 2020 Teen B.C. softball team for the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).

“I love the whole idea of NAIG because they bring a lot of tradition back into Indigenous sports. I think that’s really important to bring more of that into B.C.,” says Sahara. “Growing up, my sister and I also played All Native Basketball and that experience connected us with a lot of other communities.” This was especially important to her as neither of her parents are from Nanaimo.

Sahara also wants to work more closely with ISPARC, the Indigenous Sports, Physical Activity & Recreation Council, as they provide those in Indigenous communities with different sporting opportunities, and are responsible for organizing Team B.C. for NAIG.

“Last year I took some NCCP – the National Coaching Certification Program – modules for different coaching techniques and I got to know Rick Benson, the Executive Director of Softball B.C.,” says Sahara. “The Aboriginal coaching module emphasized the fact that a lot of reservations don’t have the equipment needed to continue playing after we leave, so after telling Rick about my goals, he offered to partner with me and sent some equipment for us to use for the camp.”

Now in her fourth year of study at Douglas, Sahara is close to realizing her dreams. Once she completes her Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching, she plans to register with the B.C. Association of Kinesiologists and continue coaching within the Indigenous communities. And, in her spare time? “I want to play a lot of softball. I’d also like to travel to New Zealand – they have amazing softball teams there. If I could somehow find a way to play softball in New Zealand, that would be truly amazing!

Tech talk: Here’s how you can help us improve our tech services

Douglas’s IT department is working with the Douglas Students’ Union (DSU) to bring better and improved technology services to all campuses – and they need your to help.

On March 20, the newly formed Student IT advisory group will meet with the AVP and CIO of Technology, Brian Mackay, to share their College technology experiences.

Slow Wi-Fi, long waits at the “Quick-Print” station, and not knowing what password to use for which accounts are just a few of the concerns the students say they are all too familiar with.

“We are the ones using these services every day, we know what works and what doesn’t work and what services we need more or less of,” says Paul Wittayaworapat, Director of Campus Life for the DSU.

Members of the Student IT advisory group say they hope these conversations will lead to a noticeable impact on campus.

“The student perspective is especially important during the planning stages of updating or introducing new technology because we bring a very specific user experience to the table and can influence changes and ideas that will serve the growing and dynamic needs of students,” said advisory group member Kyle Maddox.

Brian hopes to tackle many of these issues through technology upgrades and adopting new tools.

“It’s so important to engage with the users of our technology and have them share information and ideas with me on ways to improve our services,” said Brian. “I want to ensure every student has access to the best technology resources to support them in their academic journey.”

Join the IT conversation by sharing your tech ideas or concerns with the DSU. You can contact the DSU on the following media platforms:

  • Douglas Students’ App
  • Facebook (Douglas Students’ Union)
  • Twitter (@thedsu6)
  • Instagram (@thedsu6)

Fine-tuning his passion into a profession

By Anasuya Kesavan, Marketing and Communication

Photo by David Denofreo

As a high school graduate, singer, songwriter and guitarist, Antonio Larosa had never considered a career as a musician. He studied acting and even tried accounting and architecture. Eventually, he turned to music and completed the Basic Musicianship Program at Douglas College to tune his passion into a career.

The Burnaby musician is currently in the process of recording a six-song EP while performing across the Lower Mainland. “I loved to play music, however, I never thought of it as a feasible career,” says Antonio. “I took some time to figure out that if you love something, and you are passionate about it, you can make it work.”

Antonio worked on getting a strong foundation in reading and writing music, and learned the core basics of how everything fits together. “Douglas laid the foundation of my career as a musician,” says Antonio. “Theory, scales, practice techniques and practice regiment are skills that I believe every musician needs in his toolbox. The program teaches you how to take that knowledge to the next level. It’s a traditional way of learning, which I think is the best way of learning the fundamentals of music.”

“Whether it’s teaching music or giving a live performance, you need to know the basics. I believe the Basic Musicianship program at Douglas can open up careers in teaching, studio recording, live performance, composition and music therapy. This is the best program to be in when you have little to no music knowledge to get you on your feet for the future.”

At Douglas, Antonio also sang in the community choir and networking with musicians by going to live, weekly performances by experienced musicians. “It’s very inspiring,” says Antonio who recommends local open mic nights to get a taste of performing live. “Learning to sing with others and performing with others is a very key piece to working as a musician.”  

These experiences helped Antonio perform with 11 other musicians in a show called “Bailamos!” which took place at the Empire Theatre in Belleville, Ontario, and aired on PBS in North America.

Antonio Larosa with Marc Devigne (centre) and Michael Daniel Murphy (right) at Bailamos 2016.

Working as a musician is challenging – expressing emotion in a song takes years of practice. There is also a marketing and entrepreneurial side to the profession that a musician has to learn to manage. “Social media is cool if you learn to harness it and use it to your advantage. It can be daunting to expose yourself so much, but it has definitely become a necessary part of this industry. 

“I’m striving to get to the point where I can just play or sing what I am thinking, musically. If you are doing your best, that’s all you can do!” says the up-and-coming musician who believes in enjoying his musical journey and staying focused on his career.  

Tips to get the most out of the Douglas College Career Fair

At the upcoming Career Fair, Feb. 27 & 28 in the New Westminster Campus concourse, you can meet and network with over 25 regional and national employers, as well as professional organizations, who specifically want to meet (and hire!) Douglas students and alumni.

Put your best foot forward with tips and advice from some of the employers you’ll find at this year’s fair.

1. Have a great cover letter and resumé on hand. Also, do your research!

“Resumés, business cards, etc. are nice to have. Employers will usually ask for an online application at some point during the process. Most importantly, bring a great personality, good questions and a genuine interest in the employers.”
– Cindy Huang, Talent Acquisition Specialist, O2E Brands

2. Dress for success.

“For the career fair, we think that students should wear what they would normally wear to a career fair or a job interview. Wearing anything with inappropriate images or profanity is not advisable.”
– Marcy Dabiri, HR Generalist, Transport Canada / Government of Canada

“It’s best to wear business attire if you can, but smart business casual is also usually OK for students attending a daytime event.”
– Marra N., Student Recruitment with Chartered Professional Accountants of B.C.

3. Ask questions, be polite and follow up.

“Create a good vibe by showing initiative when speaking with our leaders. They want to see that you are a go-getter who can take control of the conversation and are able to build relationships. To break the ice, introduce yourself right away and talk about the excitement you have for the role.”
– Michael Leung, BBA, HR Specialist – Recruitment, Shaw Communications

“Students should thank the individual for their time and say it was nice to meet them before walking away from the table. They should get a business card if they are interested in working with that employer. Within a day or two, students should email the individual they spoke with and also connect with them on Linkedin.”
– Marra N., Student Recruitment with Chartered Professional Accountants of B.C. 

4. Remember that Douglas College sets you apart from the crowd.

“Be enthusiastic, professional and proactive. Douglas College provides future-employees with a good understanding of their field for real life application.”
-Cindy Huang, Talent Acquisition Specialist, O2E Brands

“I’m always impressed that Douglas College has a supportive Career Centre to help students navigate their career, active student clubs and an engaged alumni network. All of these things help students prepare for their careers.”
– Marra N., Student Recruitment with Chartered Professional Accountants of B.C. 

Need some help getting ready? Contact the Career Centre at 604 527 5889 or email

The Career Fair runs Feb. 27 and 28, from 10am-3pm in the New Westminster Campus concourse.

Rewriting her story and making a difference

Telka Pesklevits

By Maia Odegaard, Marketing and Communications

Photo by David Denofreo

For Creative Writing student Telka Pesklevits, Douglas College changed from a stepping stone in her post-secondary plan to the setting for her entire educational journey. While she initially planned to transfer her credits into media studies at UBC, Telka stayed on at Douglas and took advantage of all the great opportunities offered at a smaller post-secondary institution.

“My time with the Creative Writing Department has been such a great experience,” says Telka. “Getting one-on-one feedback in a workshop format really pushed me to pursue creative writing. And, the feedback model has also helped me with my academic writing skills.”

So what does the future hold after graduation? “My plan is two-tiered. I want to write. Poetry with social meaning is my passion and this is a golden age for modern poetry, it would be great to be involved in that,” says Telka. “I would also love to work in a non-profit doing communications. I think working in the non-profit sector would be so inspiring. One of my fellow directors at the student union is currently doing communications for CUPE, something like that would be my ideal.”

Telka is passionate about pursuing a career that combines her creative thinking and writing skills with the contextual social foundation she’s gained during her education. “I want to do something that I know will help change and improve the lives of others,” she says. “Whether on a big scale or a small one, I want to help people.”

There are many groups that she hopes to positively affect over the course of her career, including women, people with disabilities – especially invisible disabilities – and the LGBTQ community. “I’m also Métis,” she adds. “That’s part of why I work for the Aboriginal Student Services centre. Reconciliation is very important to me. Whether or not that’s exactly the work I’m doing, it will be a guiding practice.”

During her time at Douglas, Telka has studied a number of subjects to bolster her skill set, including business, anthropology and more. In addition to her classes, she’s also rounded out her resumé working for numerous departments within the College and as Services Coordinator for the BC Federation of Students. She is currently the Director of College Relations for the Douglas Students’ Union (DSU), a student representative on the Douglas College Board of Directors, has worked for Aboriginal Student Services and was a Student Ambassador – a fairly robust c.v. for a college student.

By being involved in so many areas of Douglas College, Telka has had the opportunity to strengthen her connection with the faculty in a way that isn’t possible with classroom interactions alone. Working for the DSU, as well as her other opportunities to work side-by-side with faculty and staff have been invaluable.

“Being a part of the conversation, offering my perspective as a student and seeing how decisions are made,” Telka says, “helped shape my own decision making process.”

And, when she isn’t advocating for students, you’ll most likely find Telka hunting for hidden gems. “My main hobby is thrifting,” she admits. “The only thing not thrifted in the photo is my jeans!”

4 ways to declutter your digital life

By Nicole Chiu, Communications Officer, CEIT

We all know what it’s like to clean a messy room or organize clutter around the home. But have you ever thought of decluttering your digital life? Organizing your life online keeps your digital mess at bay and can even protect you from cyber-crime.

So, what can you do to declutter?

1. Leave it in the Cloud

Upload your computer and mobile files onto the Cloud and use folders to organize your documents, images, videos, and more. As a Douglas College student you have access to 1 terabyte of Cloud space on OneDrive, an internet-based file storage provided by Microsoft Office 365. That’s enough space for:

  • A Word document with 85 million pages
  • Over 300,000 pictures
  • 41 days of video footage

Additionally, you have access to a collection of services from Office 365. This service allows you online access to applications like Word and PowerPoint. Best of all, your files save automatically to your OneDrive storage while you’re working, freeing you from worrying about losing your work because you forgot to hit ‘save,’ or your computer crashed. Files uploaded onto your OneDrive will be private, secure, and accessible from any device from any place with an internet connection*.

For more information on how to use Office 365, visit the Office 365 page on the Douglas College website.
*When you leave Douglas College as a graduate or otherwise, you will lose your access to OneDrive and your files will be deleted. If you know you will soon be leaving Douglas, move your files onto your computer or upload them onto another Cloud storage service, like a personal version of Microsoft OneDrive. 

2. Keep your inbox clean

Check and clean your inbox often. Also, remember to empty out the junk mail. Move unwanted emails to your junk folder and create folders for important emails. Want to access all your email in one place? Simply forward your College email to your personal email account.

To learn how to forward emails sent to your College email address, visit the College email in Office 365 page.

3. Manage your passwords

If you have a number of different passwords to remember, try using a free password manager like LastPass. It helps you create strong passwords and remembers them for you. It’s especially important to make strong passwords for all your accounts. It will ensure that your information is safe from online attackers.

For your Douglas College accounts, use a minimum of 15 characters and a combination of at least three of the following:

  • Lower case letters
  • Upper case (capitol) letters
  • Numbers
  • Special characters, i.e. !@#$%^&*()_+=~`.

Take the password test to validate the strength of your password. Aim for a password that will take over three million years to crack.

For more information on accounts and passwords, visit the Logins & Passwords page.

4. Clean your computer once a year

The second Monday in February is National Clean Out Your Computer Day. Sure, you can give your PC or Mac a good dusting and wipe-down, but the real magic happens when you update and get rid of old files. You’ll be amazed at how much faster your computer works by following these tips:

  • Update all your software and ensure you have the latest operating system
  • Uninstall old applications and delete old files you no longer use
  • Back up important files onto your OneDrive storage

Challenge yourself and tackle all four ways to declutter your digital life. Or, ease yourself into it one-by-one. Whatever you decide, you’ll feel digitally refreshed and organized.

UK journalist launches writing career at Douglas

By Maansi Pandya, Professional Communication grad 

It was 2016, and I had just completed my undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia. While UBC had been an excellent challenge and a great first step in my education, I still felt like I had a lot more to learn. Like many young people early on in their careers, I was overwhelmed by my options and unsure of what my next step should be. I’ve always been a creative person and have loved writing since childhood, but I didn’t know how to translate my love of writing into a career. I decided the obvious next step was to continue my education. Then came the tough part, deciding where to study next!

I knew I wanted a career where I could be creative, tell stories and hone my craft as a writer. After some lengthy research into several post-graduate programs with a creative focus, I eventually discovered Douglas College’s Professional Communication Post-Degree Diploma. Joining the program turned out to be the best decision I’ve made and eventually helped me find a career I love: journalism.

At Douglas, I took courses in public relations, magazine writing, editing, copywriting and more. I came away from each course feeling fulfilled, inspired and excited about what I had learned.

The smaller class sizes meant each student was given undivided attention and constant feedback, which proved to be invaluable in my growth as a writer. I also had the best instructors I could have asked for, each incredibly knowledgeable and supportive of my growth.

One of the many high points of the program was taking Roberta Staley’s journalism course, where I had my first foray into the exciting world of reporting. My first assignment was to report on Vancouver’s chapter of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington for the Vancouver Observer. Interviewing marchers and hearing their stories was a thrilling experience.

Next, as part of the program’s work placement, I interned at Vancouver and Western Living magazine. The internship turned out to be a key turning point for me. It gave me the opportunity to be published in a well-known magazine and further improve my writing skills. Getting feedback from professional editors was incredibly rewarding. I also made lifelong friends in the process.

My internship eventually led me to become a freelance writer for Canada Wide Media’s BC Living magazine. Freelancing was a fun, completely different world. It involved lots of invoices, emails and follow-ups, but also gave me the chance to create my own schedule and be in charge of what I wrote. For anyone interested in freelancing, the best advice I could give is to find a way to organize all your upcoming projects that works best for you. Personally, I found bullet-journaling to be a very practical, less restrictive way to keep track of all my deadlines. Freelancing can be unpredictable. I sometimes went from having three articles due a week to one a month.

Since graduating from Douglas, I moved to London, England, to pursue my journalism career. I’m extremely excited for what’s to come and am very grateful to my instructors at Douglas for all their wisdom, guidance and for helping me find my passion.

Information sessions for the Post-Degree Diploma in Professional Communication are on now at the New Westminster Campus. Register now!

Maansi Pandya is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver. After graduating with BA in Sociology from UBC, she earned a Post-Degree Diploma in Professional Communication at Douglas College in 2018. Maansi has written for BCLiving, Western Living, Vancouver Magazine and the Vancouver Observer. She now lives and works in London, England.

Featured image: Visual of Maansi’s report on
2017 Women’s March on Washington for the Vancouver Observer.