Douglas 360°

This grad turned her love for martial arts and self-empowerment into a business

By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations

Michelle Tremblay wants to nip bullying in the bud – both in schools and in the workplace. And with her business, MPower Lives, she’s doing just that.

“It’s all about empowerment,” says Michelle, who offers services ranging from conflict resolution seminars to self-defence and assertiveness training classes for schools, sports teams and corporate groups. “I believe that confident kids don’t bully and that adults who are self-aware and feel valued at the workplace will show up a lot differently than those who aren’t.”   

I believe that confident kids don’t bully and that adults who are self-aware and feel valued at the workplace will show up a lot differently than those who aren’t.

Michelle is also taking on bigger clients for workplace sessions, from VanCity to Westminster Savings to G&F Financial.

“Mental health has been an important focus for many companies recently,” Michelle says. “There’s been a shift from focusing on policies to focusing on people, which has been incredible to support.”

Empowering others

Michelle Tremblay, Founder, MPower Lives

Although MPower Lives has seen significant success in recent years, getting there wasn’t easy. “When I first started my business, it wasn’t what I had envisioned. I knew I had something, but I was just a beginner,” says Michelle. “When I moved to Vancouver from the Okanagan, I had this dream of rebranding myself and taking my company to the next level.”

In 2016, Michelle enrolled in the Douglas College Training Group’s Self-Employment Program, one of the largest and most successful entrepreneurial training programs in Canada. 

“I had a phenomenal experience learning the ropes of how to run a business,” says Michelle, who went on to be a finalist in the program’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award. “It was powerful to have my instructors and business mentor believe in what I was already doing and help me build a more solid structure.” 

Since completing the program, MPower Lives has expanded to include six other instructors and programs, all focused on building student resilience and social and emotional independence through the use of yoga, dance, acting, singing, martial arts and mindfulness strategies. In the wake of the pandemic, MPower Lives continues to offer their programs online.

Personal empowerment

Michelle’s road to entrepreneurial success started with her own journey of personal empowerment. After losing a loved one to suicide, Michelle started training in karate.

“I reached my breaking point,” says Michelle, now a second-degree black belt. “It was the hardest, heaviest place in my life. Training allowed me to take my power back and was the catalyst that I needed to step into my own personal growth.”

It was the hardest, heaviest place in my life. Training allowed me to take my power back and was the catalyst that I needed to step into my own personal growth.

The skills Michelle has gained through over 18 years of training have made their way into her business in more ways than one, from being a core component of her curriculum to helping guide the company’s culture.

“When you walk into a dojo to train, there’s a level of respect no matter what level of belt you are,” Michelle says. “You respect the white belt who just walked in the door because we’ve all been there before. There’s also a sense of ‘I’m going to help you get where you’re going.’ This approach is incredibly important to me and my business.”

Room to grow

Michelle’s services range from conflict resolution seminars to self-defence and assertiveness training.

Now five years into her business, Michelle has her sights set on even further growth for her career, her company and team.

“My vision is to ensure the training I’m providing for kids in schools is sustainable and that we can use our existing base to include training for more companies and keynotes,” Michelle says.

Inspired by the many coaches and mentors in her life – from her Douglas business mentor to her sensei – Michelle also aims to be a role model for people in her community, including other entrepreneurs.

“Something people forget is how incredible they truly are. You have to go after your dreams no matter how crazy you think they are. You may have to start by having a job and then doing it on the side. I believe that in years to come, we’re going to have way more entrepreneurs than we’ve ever had.”

Douglas College students have many avenues for support available for mental wellbeing. If you need help, reach out for support. You can meet with one of the counsellors at Douglas College or, for 24/7 support, call the new provincial Here2Talk service.

Half a century in education – happy anniversary to us!

Today we celebrate a milestone, 50 years after welcoming our first students


By Maxwell Otte, Records and Information Management

Douglas College is 50 years old today.

Fifty years ago, at 10am on Nov. 19, 1970, Douglas College officially opened. The opening ceremony took place on Douglas Day, a holiday commemorating the first governor of British Columbia, Sir James Douglas.

When Douglas College opened it served eight school districts (Burnaby, Coquitlam, Delta, Langley, Maple Ridge, New Westminster, Richmond and Surrey) and had campuses in New Westminster, Richmond and Surrey. There were 1,200 full-time students, 729 part-time students and 95 faculty.


Official opening ceremony on Douglas Day, Nov. 19, 1970. Left to right: College Principal George Wootton, Minister of Education Donald Brothers, Premier W.A.C. Bennett, and Chairman of the Douglas College Council Jack Smedley, with plaque commemorating the opening.

Building a bright future

Due to construction at the New Westminster Campus, the opening ceremony was held at Massey Auditorium at New Westminster Secondary School. The auditorium was full of students and invited guests, and the program opened with a performance by the Douglas College Band. Premier W.A.C. Bennett was the principal speaker and declared the college open, capturing the egalitarian spirit of Douglas by saying, “Community colleges… Will raise the standard of living for everyone in B.C. They are neither technical schools, nor universities, but are all things to all people.”   

Read more: Take a look at our photo timeline to see the evolution of Douglas College

Remarks were also delivered by the Minister of Education, Donald Brothers, College Principal, George Wootton, and Chairman of the Douglas College Council, Jack Smedley. Speaking to the new students, Smedley emphasized that the College was “totally committed to creating a climate for learning out of which may grow your much needed contribution to improve life’s standards in our time.”

Fifty years later, Douglas College continues to uphold Smedley’s commitment by providing students with educational experiences that challenge and enlighten, and open doors to lives of passion and purpose.


Official opening ceremony on Douglas Day, Nov. 19, 1970, at Massey Auditorium in New Westminster. Douglas College Council Chairman Jack Smedley giving speech.

These Psychiatric Nursing students created an outreach project that won a United Nations Association in Canada award

By Melissa Nilan, Marketing & Communications

When Psychiatric Nursing student Vanessa Reid came up with the idea to organize donations for Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in 2018, she never expected it to end up gaining the attention of the United Nations two year later.

Last month, the Community Outreach Project won the John Gibbard Memorial Award from the United Nations Association in Canada Vancouver branch (UNAC-Vancouver). The award is given out annually to a student or group of students committed to creating positive change locally or internationally.

“Being recognized with this award is a reminder to us that what we’re doing is noticed and that it’s important,” says Vanessa. “It has made me feel really motivated to continue promoting change for the homeless community. Despite COVID-19 and the state that the world is in, it’s still important to try to connect with others and give back where we can, in the safest way possible.”

Read more: Psychiatric nursing student seizes early opportunity for valuable work experience

Collecting necessities

Purchasing supplies for care packages.

The project collects donations of clothing, food and toiletries, as well as funds they use to purchase additional necessities; supplies are then distributed to homeless people in the Downtown Eastside. Since joining forces with Douglas College and the Coquitlam Rotary Club in 2019, they have increased their reach to homeless communities and shelters in the Tri-Cities and Fraser Valley, and have started hosting dinners.

“When we first started, we would reach out to friends and family to collect items. The response was overwhelming. We would get together at my house to make sandwiches and soup and prepare care packages. Then we’d set up outside a lower-income housing building, called Bill Hennessy Place after my grandfather, and hand out the food and care packages,” says Vanessa.

Inspiring future generations

Vanessa’s grandfather, Bill Hennessy, was a WWII veteran. Following the war, he was left partially paralyzed in one leg and had to walk with a cane; he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and struggled with addiction. He got help and managed to turn his life around, and then dedicated the rest of his life to helping others facing similar issues.

“He would go up and down the streets of Vancouver talking to the people who were homeless, getting them food, trying to find them shelter for the night. Back then, a lot of them were veterans too. He would take them to AA meetings and help out however he could. His desire to make real change is very inspirational,” says Vanessa.

His work was an inspiration to both his daughter and granddaughter; Vanessa’s mother became a psychiatric nurse, and through her and the stories about her grandfather, Vanessa followed in their footsteps.

“My grandpa used to take my mom along with him – that’s what motived her to go into psychiatric nursing and she motivated me. When I got into the psychiatric nursing program at Douglas, I told my classmates about my grandpa and it sparked the idea to do something similar in honour of him.”

Vanessa chose Douglas for her education because of the Psychiatric Nursing program’s reputation for excellence among its graduates.

Read more: Psychiatric Nursing student overcame personal challenges and transformed what she learned into a thriving self-care community

Creating a legacy

Vanessa was joined in her venture by fellow psychiatric nursing students Wenli Huang, Sylvia Ma, Ruth Desterke, Jennifer McLeod, Kenna Balogh, Sarah Cribb, Tamara Bircher, Hailey Walsh, Sahar Salehi, Alaina Stathem, Yuta Bergeron, Heather Marquet, Zulma Garcia, Jenny Adams, Brenna Robert, Hannah Mankwald and Christine Clyne.

Handing out supplies in the DTES

While Vanessa and the other original project members graduate this year, they already have plans in place to pass the reigns of the project on to junior classmates who joined them last year and are eager to continue the work.

“We’re mentoring four students to take over the leadership role. They’ll keep the same values of the project, about homelessness and mental health, trying to reduce that stigma and raise awareness, but we’re going to let them take over and have their own autonomy and continue to evolve the project.”

The success of the project has motivated Vanessa to keep doing more to help others; she plans to start a new project for homelessness and mental health in her professional career with more services and resources than what she was able to provide as a student.

This Geology instructor moonlights as a volcano explorer

By Maia Odegaard, Marketing and Communications

Did you know there’s an active volcano less than three and a half hours from Vancouver? Dr. Nathalie Vigouroux-Caillibot certainly does. Nathalie is a geologist who specializes in volcanology. And when she’s not teaching, she’s exploring one of Canada’s most overlooked – and potentially dangerous – natural hazards: volcanoes.

Read more: Attend an upcoming information session to learn about studying Geology, Geological Resources and more!

“When people think of Canada, they don’t think of active volcanoes, but it’s only been about 150 years since the last eruption, a volcano called Lava Fork in NW British Columbia. In geological terms, that’s less than a nanosecond,” says Nathalie, who teaches in the Geological Resources program at Douglas and is chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. “If it happened that recently, it could definitely happen again.”

Conducting explosive research

Nathalie Vigouroux-Caillibot

Currently, Nathalie is a part of a team of 34 researchers from seven universities in B.C. and Alberta, as well as federal scientists, studying geothermal activity at Mount Meager – roughly 160km north of Vancouver – as a possible renewable energy source for Canada. They also work with representatives from the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations to ensure survey sights are not on important ancestral sites, including ancestral burial areas.

The Federal Geological Survey project at Mount Meager was started in the 1970s, but investing in geothermal energy became a less desirable endeavour when the price of oil dropped in the following decades. With the current climate crisis, geothermal energy is of interest once again, so the project reopened and researchers conducted work from July–October 2019.

Read more: Sport Science instructor creates video game for stroke rehabilitation

The hottest field trips

Nathalie and has also taken her students from Douglas to the research site to analyze the hot springs connected to the volcano, where they’ve collected data on the hot spring chemistry. The goal is to survey the volcano’s activity and potential as a source of renewable geothermal energy.

While hydroelectricity is relatively inexpensive in B.C., there is value in geothermal energy exploration – geothermal plants have smaller footprints than large hydroelectric dams, lower emissions over their lifespan and provide a more stable power source than wind or solar energy.

“We’re working to increase the understanding of Mount Meager’s geothermal system,” Nathalie says. “We want to determine where there’s hot water, how much there is, how it moves around underground and many more technical details that a company would want to know before investing in the project.”

Read more: This rapper could be your next poli-sci instructor

A dangerous hobby

In addition to the potential for electricity production, Nathalie has more reasons for exploring Mount Meager. She also has a personal and professional interest in monitoring the volcano, including a working collaboration with SFU.

“It’s a big volcano, and it erupted around 2,400 years ago. The eruption sent particles of ash all the way to Alberta, so we know it was definitely a sizable eruption. If it wakes up at some point in the future, it may change the chemistry of the hot springs, including the temperature and the pH, but it could also create landslides or flooding. It’s important that we keep a close eye on Mount Meager.”

Framing education with experience gave this Dispensing Opticianry grad a head start in her career

By Melissa Nilan, Marketing and Communications

For Prabhjot Sandhu, becoming an optician was a no-brainer. The career combines everything she loves: health care, fashion and providing excellent customer service.

Prabhjot conducting an eye exam.

“You’re helping someone find a frame that suits them, and you’re helping them see. I like that blend of artistry and science,” says Prabhjot.

Read More: Interested in the Dispensing Opticianry program? Attend an online information session.

Choosing Douglas for the Dispensing Opticianry (DOPT) program was also a no-brainer: The two-year program provided more hands-on opportunities in the field than programs at other schools.

Looking for options

The classroom learning of the Fall and Winter Semesters is interspersed with short on-campus practicums in at the College’s Vision Care Centre. During the Summer Semester, DOPT students arrange their own full-time practicums with businesses of interest to them.

Prabhjot did one practicum at an optical store, and one at an optometry clinic – where she was the only dispensing optician on staff.

“I did all the fittings myself, from start to finish. I really got a feel for what it was like as a dispensing optician in the real world. It was great for learning and building my confidence,” says Prabhjot.

Read more: Psychiatric nursing student seizes early opportunity for valuable work experience

A career in sight

Working in two very different environments helped Prabhjot decide which route she wanted to take after graduation.

“I wasn’t a fan of the clinical environment because it’s very focused on disease and pathology. I prefer retail because I love the interaction with clients and helping them find eyewear solutions.”

Now a licensed optician at the same optical store where she did her practicum, Prabhjot wants to one day open an optical shop with her sister – a fellow DOPT grad.

Read more: Dispensing Opticianry grads bring creativity and customization to the eyewear industry

HEARing their calling: how two grads found their career path, and each other, at Douglas

By Maia Odegaard, Marketing and Communications

During his time at Douglas, Mike Zacharias learned early on that a bad grade could actually be a good thing. In fact, doing poorly on a quiz in one of his first classes led him to meeting Sam Costa, his girlfriend, coworker and fellow graduate of the Hearing Instrument Practitioner diploma program.

“Our meeting was purely coincidental,” says Mike. “We’d both done poorly on our first quiz. I asked her if she’d like to study together and she said yes. Eventually studying together turned into becoming a couple. So just because you don’t do well on your first test, don’t give up, kids!”

Read more: Attend an upcoming online information session to learn more about the Hearing Instrument Practitioner Diploma program.

Get involved, get experience

Not only did finding a study buddy improve their respective grades, but both Mike and Sam excelled in the HEAR program and found gigs in the industry before they even graduated. To build her resumé, Sam did testing for NexGen Hearing – a hearing health provider in B.C. – and Mike also performed hearing tests, but at an ENT practitioner’s office.

“The program prepared us really well for work in the hearing health field,” says Sam. “We learned all the components necessary to do a good job in the clinic for the clients. It was fun, interesting and made me excited to start work.”

Read more: Psych nursing student seizes early opportunity for valuable work experience

Both Sam and Mike really enjoyed the challenge of their course work during the two-year diploma program, but they agreed what really made the program stand out (other than meeting one another) was being able to meet and interact with industry professionals. Particularly at one networking event organized by members of the Faculty of Science and Technology.

“Industry day was our most memorable experience at Douglas” says Mike. “It was really great to meet with employers and manufacturers just as we’re about to graduate, and ask them our questions about working in the industry.”

Read more: How this music alum found his calling in film and television

Using transferable skills

While they ended up in the same program – and currently work as Hearing Instrument Practitioners for the same company – Mike and Sam came to the HEAR program from very different backgrounds.

Sam had worked in the health care industry as a care aide at a long term care facility. She was drawn to the HEAR program at Douglas because she wanted to further her career helping people, and it stood out as one of the only Hearing Instrument Practitioner programs with hands-on learning opportunities and face-to-face instruction. Being from Pitt Meadows, she was also happy that going to Douglas meant staying close to home.

Mike on the other hand, travelled a little farther for school and a chance at a completely new career.

“The forest industry in Prince George, where I was working, had basically collapsed. I wanted to find a new career with stability,” says Mike. “I’ve always enjoyed interacting with people and I am an avid techy. The hearing industry is great for both those things.”

Right place, right time

Toward the end of their program, Sam and Mike attended a graduation dinner sponsored by Connect Hearing, where serendipity struck once again.

“During the course of the evening we chatted with the manager of human resources and the topic of where we’d like to work once we were certified came up,” says Mike. “Connect Hearing needed two full-time Registered Hearing Instrument Practitioners on the Sunshine Coast, and three days later we were offered the positions.”

Now, Mike and Sam have started their careers as Registered Hearing Instrument Practitioners on the Sunshine Coast, where they have been living and working for a year and a half. They’re enjoying their unique work at the clinics – Mike in Gibsons and Sam in Sechelt – so much so that they recently purchased a townhouse there.

“The lifestyle here is a little slower than the Lower Mainland, which is something we both appreciate. We’ve worked really hard and have been incredibly fortunate to end up where we are.”

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

The Student Ambassadors (SAs) are a select group of student leaders who help organize and run the recruitment events put on by the Future Students’ Office. As a Student Ambassador, you’ll have the opportunity to make a significant contribution to the College community while developing your interpersonal, professional and leadership skills. SAs play a key role in year-round College events, including information sessions, Counsellor’s Day and high school visits.

Hemnesh Ramwani is an international student studying International Supply Chain Management. He joined the Student Ambassador program during his second semester at Douglas, in Winter 2019.


By Hemnesh Ramwani, International Supply Chain Management

Two things drew me to becoming a Student Ambassador: Gaining leadership and communication skills; and recruiting and helping new students.

Hemnesh Ramwani

Since joining the program, my favourite part of being a Student Ambassador is interacting with future students during information sessions. I enjoy helping them by sharing my knowledge and experience. My second favourite aspect of being a Student Ambassador is the regular meetings with other SAs. Everyone is so supportive; we’re like a family and we always help each other no matter what the issue.

What I’ve gained through the program

Being a Student Ambassador has been immensely helpful for improving my communication and leadership skills. I can honestly see the difference from when I first started to now. In our SA meetings, we get to network with, and learn from, members of the Future Students’ Office, we play skill-building games or present on various topics to practice our public-speaking skills.

Being a Student Ambassador is something I can put on my resumé, and it will definitely help me in the future; as an International Supply Chain Management student, leadership and communication skills will be essential in my future management roles. And the networking aspect of being an SA will open doors for me in the working world.

Read more: This student grew personally and professionally as a Student Ambassador.

Adapting to COVID-19

When the pandemic started, we were worried about what would happen to our role since our work is all done in-person. Fortunately, we were able to adapt; our meetings shifted to Zoom, campus tours were conducted virtually and information sessions continued to happen through video and other digital formats.

The online delivery has been very successful and we’re continuing our work as usual. Even with the transition to online work, we continue to feel connected to our team. We even received our branded swag – I didn’t expect it because we would normally pick it up in-person, but the staff went out of their way to mail it to us directly.

Read more: Nursing and Child and Youth Care alumni share how the nature of their work has shifted in the wake of a global pandemic.

Why you should join the Student Ambassadors

If you are considering becoming a Student Ambassador, I definitely recommend it. Being an SA will improve your communication, leadership and people skills – three major skills everyone needs for a successful future career – and isn’t that why we’re in college?

Secondly, being a Student Ambassador is a lot of fun. The network of Ambassadors, staff and professionals is so supportive and encouraging. We really enjoy working together.

And lastly, as a bonus, SAs get priority registration for courses each semester. You get the courses you need at the times you want and with your first choice for instructor.


The Student Ambassador program is accepting applications for Fall 2020 until September 18. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity! Apply today.

This accounting grad serves up deadpan coffee reviews on Instagram

By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations

Alfred Zagloul’s multifaceted career as an accountant, Instagram influencer and entrepreneur is surprisingly all connected by one thing – coffee. And he wouldn’t have it any other way. 

“I’ve been really fortunate that my degree has allowed me to merge my career with my passions and interests,” says Alfred.

Sippin’ on success

Out of all his professional ventures, his Instagram success is probably the most surprising. When Alfred’s Daily Hive colleagues noticed he enjoyed exploring downtown Vancouver’s coffee shops on his breaks, they suggested he start an Instagram profile. After a few months of planning, @AlfredDrinkingCoffee was born. 

“The account started out as a joke at first,” Alfred admits. “We wanted to poke fun at the stereotype that accountants are boring with no sense of humor, while delivering a deadpan coffee review.”

Turns out, the joke was on him. In less than a month the account went from two followers to 2,000. Not long after that, coffee shops and roasters – from local JJ Bean Coffee Roasters to a roaster in Australia – started to reach out to collaborate. Now, the account boasts over 11,000 followers and Alfred has reviewed over 500 types of coffee. Officially a profitable side hustle, Alfred continues to grow the account and track his income, expenses and inventory with the skills he learned during his Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from Douglas.

Read more: How Gen Zers can – and should – start investing their money

The grind

Even though Alfred has found his unique professional niche, it wasn’t always easy. He came to Douglas College’s accounting program for a change of pace after failing out of another post-secondary institution.

“I didn’t study and quickly went from academic probation to being kicked out by the third semester,” he says.

The change proved to be exactly what he needed. The smaller class sizes at Douglas College meant he was able to connect with his peers and interact with his instructors in meaningful ways.

After a few semesters of keeping his head down and getting his grades up, Alfred realized he was missing out on half of the college experience by solely focusing on his academics. So, he became a Student Ambassador and got involved on campus.

Read more: Gain leadership skills and build your resumé as a Student Ambassador

“You’re not going to apply all the knowledge that you’re learning in your courses into your career. But what you will apply is all the experiences you had that built you into who you are. At my core, I know that graduating from Douglas made me into who I am today,” Alfred says.

Taking his shot

After graduation and a stint in the accounting department at Blenz Coffee’s headquarters – where he picked up his love of coffee alongside his first accounting gig – he was hired by Karm Sumal, CEO and co-founder of what was at the time Vancity Buzz to help reinvigorate the publication’s finance department.  

“I got so much experience just in that first year of basically restarting Vancity Buzz’s books from scratch. We built the policies and the structures of the department,” Alfred says.

During his first year, Vancity Buzz expanded to Toronto and Montreal and rebranded as Daily Hive. Today, the company is the largest online-only media publication in western Canada.

“I didn’t get much sleep during that time, so coffee definitely helped,” he says.    

Staying grounded

Even with his success, Alfred is far from finished.

“Nowadays people seem to want to pursue a career and it’s the be all, end all. But it’s not enough for me. I want to do all the things I’m passionate about,” Alfred explains. “But with my degree and my understanding of how money works, I know I need to build a financial foundation before I can do everything.”

In late 2019, Alfred launched Zagloul Consulting where he aims to support his clients in pursuing their dreams by helping them truly understand their business finances.

Even with yet another side hustle under his wing, he’s already applying the skills he teaches his clients to his own future. “I still have five or so years to go, but I’d love to open up a coffee shop of my own one day.”

Want to connect and network with people like Alfred in the Douglas community? Join Douglas College Café, an exclusive mentoring and networking program. Learn more on the Douglas College website.

Get in the know with NSO and other reasons to sign up for New Student Orientation

By Student Life

“Where do I get my student ID?”
“Who else is in my program?” 
“When will the Bookstore be open?”    

There’s a lot of questions that arise when you begin a new journey, especially one as monumental as starting college. That’s why we host Strong Start: New Student Orientation (NSO), so you start off on the right foot. While this is an exciting time in life, it can also be stressful. We’ve designed orientation to give you a snapshot of all the services, programs and opportunities that will assist you during your first semester and beyond. 

Read more: This rapper could be your next poli-sci instructor

What if I skip orientation?

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “I don’t need to attend NSO, I’ll figure all that out when I get there.” Sure, you could wait and figure it out on your own – but imagine it’s the first day of classes. You arrive at campus early to get your books, only to realize “oh no!” the Bookstore is closed for in-person services due to the pandemic (which we talk about at NSO) that you have to order your textbooks online. 

Then, you’re looking for your class but can’t find it. You spot another student (a rare sighting, because a lot of courses are online this semester) and ask them if they know where to find your class, but they can’t help you. When you finally find your classroom, you’re late and there’s only one seat left at the back of the class and it turns out you forgot your glasses on top of not having your textbooks – tragic.  

Being online and on time

With many courses being online or having online components this Fall, knowing how to handle any technical issues that may arise is going to be crucial. NSO will introduce you to, and get you familiar with, Blackboard and other online services you will need to succeed. The time you spend now in preparation for the upcoming semester will benefit you in so many ways. 

In addition to learning how to access your online classes, you’ll learn how to maintain your health and wellness (aka managing the “freshman 15”), access tutoring and other services, and how to get involved in the College community. There are lots of opportunities at Douglas and we want to give you a 360˚  view of them all.  

Read more: This Sport Science student used her connections in the athletics department to make the most of her time at Douglas.

Did we mention the sweet prizes?

Maybe you’re still not convinced it’s worth your time. So, in addition to all the priceless knowledge you’ll acquire during New Student Orientation, you’ll be eligible to win $300 worth of tuition credits (hello free money!) and a $250 Amazon gift card just for attending. All you need to do is complete the survey at the end of the Blackboard course to be entered into the draw; it’s easy as 1, 2, 3!  

We know these are unusual times, but we want to give you a great college experience while we all sort through this new way of learning. Douglas College is here to support you as you start this next chapter in life, and we want to provide you with the tools to help you succeed.  

We look forward to meeting you during orientation!  

A summer up north: psychiatric nursing student seizes early opportunity for valuable work experience

By Melissa Nilan, Marketing and Communications

When Kaarun Sangra joined the Bachelor of Science in Psychiatric Nursing program, he was eager to begin working with patients as quickly as possible. So when he got the opportunity to practise his psychiatric nursing skills in his third year, Kaarun snapped it up; he became the first-ever student psychiatric nurse to be hired through the employed student nurses program at Dawson Creek and District Hospital (DCDH), in northern B.C.

Kaarun was hired to work on the inpatient psychiatric unit, which had previously only hired employed student nurses from the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

“I felt that being the first ever psychiatric nursing student to get hired for their psychiatric unit was a great achievement, not only for myself, but also for our discipline as we continue to develop and build new bridges,” Kaarun says.

Despite being only a third year, Kaarun felt sufficiently prepared for the work experience; he’d already learned a broad range of skills in the Psychiatric Nursing program, from clinical to therapeutic, and how to take a patient’s living situation and cultural background into account when developing treatment plans.

“I had to navigate difficult conversations, utilize de-escalation techniques and assess a patient’s mental status, while also empowering and working with them to tailor their care to their goals and preferences. My ability to do this work and to thrive within this environment was a direct result of the knowledge and skills I learned at Douglas.”

Read more: Psychiatric Nursing students find a cure for toxic work environments

A rural challenge

DCDH is a rural hospital, a 13-plus hour drive from Vancouver and about an hour’s drive from Fort St. John, the closest city. The unit has two nurses per shift to care for up to 15 patients; this high patient-to-nurse ratio, combined with the limited resources of a rural hospital and the unique needs of psychiatric patients, made for a busy patient load for staff – and a valuable learning opportunity for Kaarun.

“Nurses in rural communities take on significantly more responsibilities in regards to patient care than those in more urban settings due to the limited staffing. So working in this environment seemed like a real adventure to me, and I was excited for the challenge because I knew it would push me to be a better nurse,” says Kaarun.

Caring for Indigenous patients

Kaarun also worked with many Indigenous patients at the hospital. He says the Psychiatric Nursing program prepared him well for that, too.

“We learned in depth about the cruelties and hardships Indigenous populations have faced in Canada. There is a strong focus on  delivering patient-centered care by improving our understanding of how Indigenous populations view health care, their beliefs regarding mental health and medications, as well as how to integrate cultural practices.

“Caring for Indigenous patients in a manner that was sensitive to their culture and beliefs was an important experience that really helped take my practice to the next level,” he says.

Read more: This nursing grad wants to close the gaps in health care services in northern Indigenous communities.

Past and future goals

Kaarun is no stranger to the values and beliefs of different cultures when it comes to mental health. While growing up, he got a firsthand view – and didn’t agree with what he saw.

“My parents are Punjabi, and I grew up in a culture where there is a lack of understanding about mental illness – sufferers are typically shunned and viewed as weak. Seeing how this affected family and friends, I wanted to do something about it,” says Kaarun.

Kaarun graduated earlier this year, and now works as a registered psychiatric nurse on the Acute Inpatient Psychiatry Unit at Surrey Memorial Hospital. His long-term goal is to work in the emergency department of a hospital because he enjoys the challenging, fast-paced environment where critical thinking is essential. But before then, he’s going to make the most of his current role, and maybe return to work in a rural community.

“I enjoyed my experience working up north and still consider returning there to work one day. My current position is allowing me to really consolidate the skills I gained through my work experience with the education I gained at Douglas. This way, when I pursue other positions, I’ll be able to deliver an even higher quality of care.”