Douglas 360°

Not too steep: This alum’s passion for tea and education helped her grow into an entrepreneur

By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations 

Marketing alum Nancy Prokosh didn’t plan to become an entrepreneur. In fact, the idea came to her in a dream.  

“I had a recurring dream about Alice in Wonderland, with teacups spinning around and around. I didn’t know if it was a sign for my future, but it sparked my interest in tea,” says Nancy.   

And Nancy has run with it. Today, she is recognized as one of Canada’s top tea experts, and she owns a successful retail business, Tealicious Tea Company.  

In the tea leaves  

woman standing behind a chair posing

Nancy opened Tealicious Tea Company in 2001, which was a brick-and-mortar retail store until she branched out into the online sphere in 2015. Unlike many big-box tea brands, Nancy’s teas are fair trade and 100 percent organic, grown without the use of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.  

It’s important to Nancy that Tealicious’s teas are good not only for Mother Earth, but for the producers as well. Tea farms can be exploitative for workers, their working environment rife with problems from poor wages to child labour to Indigenous land tenure. As an Indigenous entrepreneur herself, Nancy aims to be part of the solution. 

“I partner with tea producers who support women who have been cast out of their communities for one reason or another,” Nancy explains. She adds that such shunning is common if a woman doesn’t conform to a community’s gender norms and expectations. “In most cases, these women have no education, no money, nothing. But the tea producers I partner with will hire them on, train them on everything from tea cultivation to harvesting, as well as provide them with the opportunity to access education.    

“This access to training and education can be a catalyst for these women. This provides them with more opportunities and the ability to be self-sufficient. And it’s important to me to support these efforts.”  

Read more: Bamboo in the water: This International Business Management student clinched a $24 thousand investment on Shark Tank Mexico 

Quali-tea education     

Nancy’s passion for education has deep roots in her own personal journey.  

“When I got married to my first husband – which was an expectation for people at that time – I turned down my acceptance to SFU’s law program. It was the biggest mistake I ever made. I didn’t understand how much I would come to regret the decision,” she says.   

But Nancy hasn’t let her regrets hold her back.   

After opening Tealicious Tea Company, Nancy wanted to upgrade her knowledge to help grow her business and came to Douglas College to pursue a credential in Marketing. The program enhanced her skills in customer relations, selling, marketing, promotions, buyer behaviour and strategy.  

“Douglas College helped me a lot with my business. The program helped me build my foundation,” says Nancy.  

Since coming to Douglas, Nancy has also pursued training with the International Tea Education Institute, adding tea pairing to her list of offerings. Currently, she is in the process of launching courses to train others in tea pairing.  She hopes to branch out into public speaking and present to those also in the field one day.      

“We’re in a time when people are constantly reinventing themselves,” says Nancy. “I’m excited by the opportunity to grow my business and continue to challenge myself in new and interesting ways.”  

Bamboo in the water: This International Business Management student clinched a $24 thousand investment on Shark Tank Mexico 

By Zach Siddiqui, Communications Coordinator 

To Erick Rodriguez, modern fashion requires creating with care. When clothing lines fail to combine aesthetics and durability, they don’t just produce disappointing products – they feed into the global waste crisis. The world produces millions of tons of textile waste per year, a fact not helped by the widespread uptick of fast fashion.  

“If your goal is just selling a lot of clothes, that’s not sustainable,” says Erick. “There are already a lot of clothes in the world. Why would I want to make more garbage?” 

Erick is a student in Douglas College’s Post-Degree Diploma in International Business Management. Before that, though, he helped found Elementa, a sustainable clothing line that markets all over Mexico. He first enrolled in Douglas to gain the know-how he needed to expand across the world – and now he’s on track to do exactly that in 2022.  

Erick’s ongoing Douglas education is part of what enabled his most recent success: an investment deal earned on the infamous Shark Tank Mexico. Erick and his business partner, his sister Mishe, pitched their line of bamboo apparel to the “Sharks,” the show’s five wealthy investors. They received a whopping nine investment offers, ultimately securing a total of $23,800 CAD.  

We caught up with Erick about his company’s journey, his studies at Douglas and his future plans. 

“The small entrepreneur I was starting to be” 

In 2015, Erick earned a bachelor’s degree in international business from the Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico, and he and Mishe founded Elementa two years later. Despite the general administrative skills his degree gave him, what he needed was expertise in import-export. 

“Douglas College’s program really made sense to me. We already had a product in Mexico, but I was itching to move it into Canada,” said Erick, who had spent a year attending high school in Squamish, B.C. “And I wanted to make it happen myself, as the small entrepreneur I was starting to be. Coming to Douglas wouldn’t just teach me the knowledge I needed – it would let me immerse myself once again in the culture and market here.” 

In two semesters in Douglas’s PDD program, Erick’s learned even more than he’d predicted. Whenever he studies a new concept in class, he researches it further in his spare time so he can incorporate the knowledge into his business dealings at Elementa.  

“Studying here has surpassed my expectations, a hundred percent.” 

Read more: Down to business: This marketing student is taking on the new BBA Marketing

“Made to survive in nature, in rain and snow” 

By 2020, Erick and Mishe were attracting offers for Elementa to feature in magazines, such as the Latin American editions of ELLE and GQ. This was especially prompted by their newfound selling point: ultra-soft bamboo fabric, a textile seldom seen in the Mexican market.  

“To enhance our product, I started importing fabrics from around the world. I thought bringing in a new, untapped fabric and educating our customers about it would accelerate our growth,” he explains. 

“I remember being starstruck over merino wool and testing countless polyesters. But when I came across the bamboo fabric, I knew it was our breakthrough.” 

Eventually, Erick’s family suggested that demand might be even higher in Canada, where fashions are influenced by a chillier, stormier climate. For Erick, who cherished the time he’d spent in Squamish, the idea immediately took root. 

“Clothes in Canada are made to survive in nature, in rain and snow,” says Erick. “So fabrics are very important to the designs, and people are more likely to understand which fabrics they need.” 

Read more: Mechanic shifts gears to business owner with dreams of running one of the most successful auto repair shops in the Tri-Cities

“Like my baby was on the line” 

Getting the Shark Tank call stirred up a whirlwind of preparation for Erick and Mishe.  

“A producer found our digital advertising and called us. They said, ‘We love your product. We’d love to have you,’” Erick says. “I was hesitant at first. But if we were going to do it, we knew we had to be outstanding.” 

The pair threw themselves into researching the five Sharks and developing the right pitch. Throughout the process, Erick was grateful for his Douglas professors’ support – particularly from his Introductory Marketing instructor, Matthew Larson. 

“I wasn’t telling anyone at first,” he says. “But I had an exam the day I was filming, so I texted him, ‘I’m not usually like this, I’ll never try to escape a test! But I have to record for Shark Tank.’ After that, he gave me public speaking tips, video resources, feedback – I appreciated it so much.” 

Watching Erick’s Shark Tank pitch was a “truly unique” experience for Matthew, one which only reaffirmed his confidence in Erick’s talent.  

“At Douglas, faculty strive to support our students’ endeavours and be involved in what they love to do,” says Matthew. “Erick did something he was great at and passionate about: He built a company and brought his vision to life. He’ll be a great entrepreneur and marketer.” 

The pressure spiked, however, when Mishe tested positive for COVID-19 a week before filming. In the end, Erick pitched the Sharks alone. 

“It was make-or-break,” he says. “Let yourself get destroyed on camera, and it takes a toll on your business. You become a joke. So it was like my baby was on the line, you know? No margin of error.” 

Video is in Spanish with English auto-generated subtitles.

“The birth of the brand” 

Ultimately, Erick secured an approximately $375,000 MXN investment ($23,800 CAD) from one of the Sharks, Rodrigo Herrera, in exchange for a 20 percent stake in the company. Featuring on Shark Tank felt like their brand’s second birth, Erick says. 

“Lots of eyes are now looking at us, expecting big things,” he says. “With that audience comes the potential for better quality, more products and going international.” 

Even as his career takes off, Erick hasn’t abandoned his studies. He’s on track to complete his International Business Management program this fall, and he’ll be starting his Post-Degree Diploma in Marketing next year. He plans to balance his studies with beginning his first exports to the Canadian market, with the intent to start marketing to the U.S. as well. 

“People have asked me why I love studying so much,” he says with a laugh. “The truth is, I need to have the knowledge in order to perform.  

“Without those tools, I don’t feel like I can create.” 

Making meaningful connections: a guide to supporting your social health

By Myat Noe Pwint, Student Assistant Wellness Leader for Student Life  

When you arrive in a new country, you’ve got a long list of to-dos. There are places to visit, new foods to try, and jobs to do part-time. Most importantly, it’s time to make new friends by building meaningful connections. No one tells you how difficult it is to make friends in a classroom, though. Most students arrive five minutes early, immerse themselves in what the professor says and pack up their bags shortly after class ends.  

I wondered to myself — how are people making friends and living the lives we see on others’ Instagram Stories? Well, I would like to take you back to my very first semester at Douglas College.

On my first day of class, I felt dejected. Even though I thought I’d make plenty of friends when I arrived in Canada, I didn’t get to know anyone at all that day. So, I decided to be proactive and start signing up for school activities. I visited a lot of events, joined clubs, went to workshops and did volunteer work.  

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

The first step to making friends is joining 

Now you might ask me, “How did you know about these events?” No special skills are required, I promise. The tip I offer is to keep an eye on the announcements posted on the school’s bulletin boards and online.  

My closest friends and I met at EDGE. If you didn’t know, EDGE happens every year and is a highlight of student life at Douglas College. There are a number of volunteer opportunities too, including the Student Wellness Awareness Network (S.W.A.N.), where we often table at both campuses and discuss physical and mental wellness habits with students. I became friends with amazing people from the team and even students who passed by our table! 

I can also confidently say that joining the Douglas Student Union (DSU) clubs was one of the best decisions of my life. Students organize clubs to play games, talk about interests, watch movies, etc. I joined in my first semester, and I have never-ending stories to talk about how much fun I’ve had.  

Opportunities are given to those who search 

People at Douglas know how to make students feel safe and included. Before I started school here, I was a really shy and quiet person. I still am, in fact – but I’m a lot more outgoing than who I was two years ago.  

My experiences at school developed both my social and professional skills. It also helped that I volunteered with the Future Student Office (FSO), where their amazing team supports every student volunteer with the skills we need in facilitating or joining school info sessions. I don’t only get to be friends with super awesome people — I also get to build my network for my future professions and learn things that concern my career and education pathways. Now I am working as a Student Assistant for Student Life and the Douglas International office, and also as a Coquitlam Campus Representative at Douglas Students’ Union.   

“Opportunities are given to those who search.” This quote always lingers in my mind. Whether it’s making friends or building your career and education pathways, there are support systems for you at Douglas. Join me and other students in building a school community that is joyful and nurturing for each one of us.  

—– 

This blog post is a part of Beyond the Blues, an annual event that raises awareness of mental health issues for students, helps them better understand and support their mental and emotional health and highlights mindfulness and self-care techniques to help them succeed inside and outside the classroom. Learn what mental health awareness means for our students through their own words and personal experiences. 

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

By Jaden Haywood, a member of the Student Wellness Awareness Network 

For post-secondary students, the stress of juggling multiple courses and looming deadlines often leads to late-night cram sessions and all-nighter essay marathons. Many students sacrifice sleep to keep their heads above water. 

Sound familiar? Have you felt like a zombie, waking up after a late night? Energy, mood and appetite are all affected by the lack of sleep. Symptoms include fatigue, irritability and difficulty focusing and remembering. I experience junk food cravings, sluggishness and crankiness when I get insufficient sleep and as a result, I struggle in school and at work.

Sleep is crucial for restoring our physical and mental health. For example, our bodies’ natural reduction of stress hormones  happens overnight. Even so, many students prioritize studying instead of sleep.   

Read more: Supporting your health and wellness during tumultuous times

It’s time for sleep hygiene  

Tired and cranky isn’t a winning combo for academic success. I try to get a full eight hours of sleep each weeknight, facilitated by my sleep hygiene routine. What is sleep hygiene? The practice of caring for the body and maintaining health via sleep.

Successful sleep hygiene involves a disturbance-free environment and a consistent routine. I’m most productive in the morning, so I crafted my sleep hygiene routine accordingly: I wake up at 7am and go to bed by 11pm on school nights. After weeks of repetition, my body naturally wakes up on time; I’ve developed an internal alarm clock!

Notably, my phone is absent from my bedroom at night. Phone screens’ blue light messes with our circadian rhythm (the cycle of sleeping and waking). By removing the distraction, I fall asleep quicker and wake feeling refreshed.   

Sleep may be my superpower, but I’m not immune to the pitfalls that prevent a good night’s sleep. Nights out and the weather can disrupt a sleep hygiene routine – heatwaves are terribly uncomfortable without air conditioning – and frequent stress triggers can result in tossing and turning at night. There have been times I’ve lain awake at night, preoccupied by thoughts and unable to fall asleep.

To combat this restlessness, I keep a notebook on my nightstand. I find writing my thoughts and ideas provides perspective, and this helps quiet my mind, enabling sleep. Other successful strategies include bedtime meditation and deep breathing, techniques to slow the heart rate and induce relaxation.   

Jot it down 

Ready to get a better night’s sleep? The Sleep Foundation provides a Sleep Diary to track the quantity and quality of your sleep. Fill it out every day for a week to identify your current sleeping habits. Everyone’s sleep hygiene routine is different, but we all share one thing in common: a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night! A small increase in sleep could have a big impact on your physical and mental health. 

What have you got to lose? It’s time to snooze!    

—- 

This blog post is a part of Beyond the Blues, an annual event that raises awareness of mental health issues for students, helps them better understand and support their mental and emotional health and highlights mindfulness and self-care techniques to help them succeed inside and outside the classroom. Learn what mental health awareness means for our students through their own words and personal experiences. 

Calling student scientists! Lead your own research project at Douglas College 

By Nicole Chiu, Research and Innovation Office  

There’s a few ways to get involved in research at Douglas College, like becoming a Student Research Assistant or a Student Research Ambassador. But now, there’s a chance to lead your very own study and be the director of your own research project.   

The Science and Technology Faculty is offering a self-guided program beginning in the Winter 2022 Semester, where you’ll learn how to conduct an independent study on a topic of your choice. Research proposals and topics are currently being accepted for the program. 

Read more: Get paid to promote research at the College – here’s how 

Your own research project

So, here’s what to do if you’re interested. Connect with a Science and Technology faculty member to initiate the process and pitch your research topic. The faculty member will accept the proposal at their discretion. Once accepted, the faculty member becomes the project advisor, providing you with their research expertise and guiding you in the research process.  

Students will have to enroll in the Scientific Research Skills course (SRES 2100).  

Within the course, you’ll learn the importance of equity, diversion and inclusion in research, research ethics, the scientific method and developing a good research question, mastering oral presentation and much more.  

Your project could conclude in one semester or go beyond three semesters, depending on the needs of your research. At the end of every semester, you’ll present your findings to the Douglas College research community. You’ll also be able to submit your work for a publication in an academic journal.  

If you’re looking to continue as a researcher at a university, this program will give you the fundamental research skills, knowledge and the confidence to land you a Research Assistantship position at a major university on a big research project.  

At this time, the opportunity is available to Douglas College students who have completed at least 18 credits in any Science and Technology courses.  

For more information on Scientific Research Skills (SRES 2100) visit the Douglas College website. 

Levelling the playing field: Sport Science instructor calls for more inclusive youth soccer programming in B.C.

By Nicole Chiu, Research and Innovation Office 

In 2020, the BC Soccer Association (BC Soccer) released an equity policy and loosened its participation policy to allow for gender identity rather than sex to be the determining factor in player registration. Sport Science instructor Dr. Dominique Falls thought this was a big deal when she heard about it, but she wanted soccer communities across the province to take it further by moving away from gender-segregated youth leagues. 

Dominique stresses the importance of gender-inclusive athletics programs. This is especially true for youth under 18, who are at a critical time in their development.  

“The more kids of all genders play alongside each other, the more likely they’ll respect and understand each other on and off the field. All-genders soccer spaces are productive not only for the development of good players but also to shift gender dynamics in society as a whole, starting with our youth,” says Dominique.  

Read more: Trail running builds resilience in women, Douglas College study finds 

Forming a team on the field  

Dominique was curious about how youth soccer programming is currently organized in B.C. This led her to assemble a research team at the College.   

The study is split into four phases.  

  1. Gathering information on the gendered youth soccer programming in B.C.  
  1. Surveying parents, coaches, and administrators to gauge beliefs, attitudes, and ideas about gender and soccer.
  1. Interviewing kids to gauge their beliefs, attitudes, and ideas about gender and soccer.
  1. Observing all-genders soccer in action to better understand what happens in these spaces .

Dominique and her team have just completed Phase 1 of their study. This first phase focused on gathering information about the gendering of all the youth programming in the province. Now, they’re analyzing the data. Phase 2 will begin this Fall as the soccer season begins, and phases 3 and 4 will begin in 2022.  

Goal-getter 

Ultimately, Dominique hopes her findings will push the soccer community to make changes to embrace more inclusive programs. Among other things, this would involve trans-inclusive leagues and leagues that will include non-binary youth.  

“We hope to help community organizations understand the benefits of making more inclusive spaces. Of course, we’re realistic and know that change can be slow and that gender roles and relations are stubborn, especially in sports,” Dominique says.

“But if the outcome of our research makes even a few clubs across the province shift toward offering all-genders programming, we’ll feel like we’ve made a difference,” she concludes.  

Get paid to promote research at the College – here’s how 

By Nicole Chiu, Research and Innovation Office 

Student Research Ambassadors work to raise awareness of research, share research opportunities, and promote student involvement in research. As a Student Research Ambassador you’ll learn more about research, meet new students and faculty, build your resume, and even get paid! Interested?” 

Here’s how to apply:  

  1. Visit the Douglas Careers site to see current available opportunities.  
  1. Under the “Posting Category,” select “Student Assistants,” then click “Search” 
    OR search “Student Research Ambassador” in the “keywords” field. 
  1. Begin looking for opportunities that interest you and apply. 

Easy as that!  

Read more: Make connections, grow your skills and promote research at Douglas

Visit the Douglas College career site at the start of each semester for upcoming opportunities within various faculties and make sure to read the job descriptions and the eligibility requirements in each posting. 

You can also join our Facebook group, Research at Douglas, to learn more about research at the College, student research projects, and research opportunities. 

9 things we bet you didn’t know about the Canadian border crossing

By Nicole Chiu, Research and Innovation Office

We all share the uneasy feeling of having to cross the border, whether it’s going into the U.S., or returning to Canada from a trip. There’s a lot more than the seemingly never-ending questions from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers or the famous drug-sniffing dogs we all get excited to see while we wait to cross the land border in our cars.  

Dr. Patrick Lalonde is a former student CBSA officer and has researched Canadian borders for many years. Patrick gives us the inside scoop on what goes on at these ports of entry that we may not know about. Some are bizarre and others can protect you and your family members when crossing the Canadian border. 

1.Cheese is one of the most smuggled commodities in Canada.

This is due to the Canadian Government’s protection of the Canadian dairy farming industry. It’s sometimes referred to as the “Canadian Cheese Cartel”. Cheese exceeding the basic personal importation limit ($20 or 20kg) or imported for commercial use may result in a hefty tax. Companies importing cheese have been hit with taxes and duties up to 245%! This has resulted in some attempting to smuggle cheese into Canada. 

Tom And Jerry Eating GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

2. Detector dogs do not focus exclusively on intercepting illicit drugs.

General detector dogs are trained to detect narcotics and firearms. Agricultural detector dogs are trained to intercept food, plant and animal products. Currency detector dogs are trained to detect large quantities of currency circulating through the border.  

Sniffing The Brave GIF by Great Big Story - Find & Share on GIPHY

3.The CBSA generally employs Labrador Retrievers and Beagles as detector dogs.

Aww!Labrador retrievers are used to detect drugs, firearms and currency, and beagles to detect food, plant and animal products. Good boy/girl! 

Dog Soccer GIF by Atlanta United - Find & Share on GIPHY

4. Coffins may be imported into Canada tax-free under the condition they contain the remains of the deceased and that the funeral service and/or burial or cremation will occur in Canada.

Coffins are exempt from harmonized sales tax and from any duties under the Coffin or Casket Remission Order. They say the only two things that are certain in life are death and taxes. And this order proves that only the former can bring relief from the latter.

Coffin GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

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

5. Some foreign nationals with criminal records are allowed entry into Canada despite laws concerning criminal inadmissibility.

Have you ever wondered how your favourite musicians, actors, athletes and other celebrities are allowed to enter Canada despite their criminal past? This doesn’t just apply to celebrities; some foreign nationals with criminal records can request that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness make a declaration of relief. The Minister can grant relief on a case-by-case basis, and allow the individual to enter Canada if they are satisfied that the individual is not a security threat to the country. Rock on! 

Miss Piggy Strength GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

6. Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), foreign nationals can be turned away from Canada as “non-genuine visitors”. 

Despite not being inadmissible for criminality, national security or other reasons detailed under IRPA, border officers may exclude a foreign national as a non-genuine visitor if they determine they are not being honest about the true nature of their travels to Canada. Believe it or not, people do try to lie to border officers about their true intentions. 

No Way GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

7. Border officers are not entitled to ask where you were or what you did on your travels while outside of Canada. 

Canadian citizens and residents are guaranteed mobility rights in Section 6 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Officers may only ask questions about your whereabouts outside Canada if they have already formed a reasonable suspicion that you were being dishonest in providing answers to primary questions. The same right does not apply to foreign nationals entering Canada. People from other countries will be asked where they are going and the purpose of their travels in Canada as routine primary questions. They are also not entitled to the same Charter protections as Canadians. 

Protect The Jetsons GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

8. While goods being imported by Canadian citizens or residents can be refused entry, they themselves cannot be refused entry to Canada.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents have an unconditional right of re-entry to Canada after travelling abroad. This includes all COVID-19 travel restrictions; as a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you are legally entitled to enter Canada. This does not exempt Canadians from having their goods examined and/or possibly being personally detained or arrested at the border though – this is still permitted under the Customs Act and the Criminal Code of Canada. This legal right to re-enter does not extend to foreign nationals (including student or work permit holders). Temporary statuses can be revoked, and you can be excluded from entering Canada or possibly deported if the grounds exist for CBSA to do so. 

Conan Obrien Conan25 GIF by Team Coco - Find & Share on GIPHY

9. Under the Customs Act, border services officers do not require reasonable grounds to believe something criminal is occurring to conduct a search.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that it is reasonable to expect a lower degree of personal privacy at the border to search people and goods to keep Canada safe. Officers can conduct warrantless examinations whenever any level of suspicion has been formed that a violation of a law may be occurring. Whereas a public police officer would usually be required to have a warrant under the Criminal Code of Canada. In many cases, officers are also able to conduct random examinations in the absence of reasonable suspicion. In some cases, CBSA computer systems can generate random referrals of people and vehicles. It could just be your “lucky day” at the border – not exactly the kind of lottery we want to win! 

Inspect Will Smith GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Want to learn more? Patrick is designing a new course, Customs and Border Services (CRIM 3386), which will be offered in Summer 2022. The course will draw upon his research work on Canadian borders and experiences as a CBSA officer. Keep an eye out for this offering next summer! Can’t wait until next summer? Read more about Patrick’s research titled, Border security meets Black Mirror: perceptions of technologization from the Windsor borderland.  

Dear new students: You will regret not attending Strong Start

By Hannah Lohnes, Early Childhood Education student and Student Assistant, Student Life

Hello fellow students! My name is Hannah, and I am a soon-to-be second-year student in Douglas’s Early Childhood Education program. 

I attended Strong Start: New Student Orientation when I started at Douglas in September 2020. It was my first semester back to school after taking a few years off from post-secondary education. I was incredibly nervous about navigating a new school during a pandemic, with online classes. I did not know what services were available to me, how the online system worked or who to talk to about the hundreds of questions I had. Ah! Starting anywhere new is terrifying, and I was so afraid I would miss something important. 

Answers, advice, tips and more 

Luckily, I got an email from the College asking if I wanted to sign up for Strong Start. I had no idea what it was but thought, “Might as well sign up for everything they send me. Something will probably be helpful!” It ended up being the best decision I could have made. Through the short online Blackboard course, I learned all the basics of Douglas, like its history, where the campuses are and the various College services. I swear I finished it with a notepad full of more questions and things to check out! But at that point, I knew where to go to get the information I wanted. The Blackboard course was very easy to use, and with it being self-paced, I could pause and go do other things. So I finished the course over a couple of days. 

I had no idea there was so much support you can receive as a Douglas student. In my previous college experience elsewhere, we were not made aware of anything beyond, “enrolment services is in that building, and the cafeteria is over there.” I didn’t know that a college could have tutors that support you in your classes or a department that  help you create a learning plan if you had accessibility needs (they have been amazing at working with my focus and memory problems!), or that you could even get a job as a student assistant with many of the service departments. After going through Strong Start, I wanted to be as involved as possible in college life. 

Read more: Staying connected during a pandemic: my Student Ambassador experience

Knowledge equals confidence 

This orientation to Douglas also came in handy once I got hired as a student assistant helping with Kickstart coaching, in-person campus tours and the upcoming Friday Hangouts this Fall. I felt prepared to answer student questions about services and confident in leading the campus tours as I knew I could better assist my fellow students with the information I’d found most useful when I started. 

I highly recommend Strong Start to any new student who has questions or concerns about starting at Douglas College. The information it provides was crucial to my first semester’s success, and for knowing what is available to me for the next few years of studies. You have the whole school supporting you and cheering you on, you just need to know where to look. Go forth and succeed – you’re going to have an amazing time here. 

Get on board: This Human Resources alum found and cultivated her talent — for talent acquisition

By Zach Siddiqui, Communications Coordinator

Recruitment is a thrill for Riddhi Shah. As a human resources professional, Riddhi loves the ever-changing, people-oriented nature of her work — every day means a fresh experience. 

“I like to stay occupied,” she says. “And HR is a field where I can always look forward to a new conversation.” 

Human resources wasn’t always Riddhi’s goal. But finding her aptitude for it led her to enrol in Douglas’s Post Degree Diploma in Human Resource Management. After a year of juggling her studies, career and extracurriculars, Riddhi’s proving that it’s never too late to break into this industry.  

A sudden re-orientation 

Once an aspiring journalist, Riddhi earned her bachelor’s degree in mass media. By graduation, though, her interest started flagging. Unsure of her next steps, Riddhi found direction after scoring an interview at a recruitment agency in her hometown of Mumbai, India.  

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure what human resources was until I researched it before my interview,” she says. Despite that bottleneck, she got the job, soon throwing herself into a daily rhythm of research, outreach and connection. 

“As a recruiter, you link the right people with the right opportunities,” she says. “But what does an engineer do? What about an IT expert? Which skills make someone the right candidate? I learned so much about not only HR, but also the lives people lead in the industries I was doing HR work for.” 

Riddhi fell in love with her newfound trajectory and continued her line of work for almost three years. Nonetheless, she saw a widening gap in credentials between herself and her coworkers. 

“I’d started completely fresh. Meanwhile, some of my colleagues had already earned their Master of Business Administration in the HR field,” she explains. “As I advanced in my career, there were just too many fish in the pond. I had no MBA, diploma or certifications. I couldn’t show employers what I was capable of. 

“If I wanted this career, I had to educate myself further.” 

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

Training on passion 

In researching her options for studying abroad, Riddhi eventually came across Douglas’s Post-Degree Diploma in Human Resource Management. The one-year diploma program teaches principles of management, labour relations, employment law and more. Students also receive support and training through the Career Boost Program, which coaches students through job-hunting before and after they graduate.   

Riddhi began her first courses in the thick of COVID-19’s onset, making her one of many who had to navigate the switch to online instruction. However, she notes that she always felt supported. She credits the diligence of her teachers and counsellors for this, as they consistently provided quality education and resources despite the circumstances. 

“The professors teaching in this program are very passionate about what they do,” Riddhi says. “Honestly, that gets transferred to us, too. Listening in class, you think, ‘I want to do this work as well.’”  

Riddhi’s program is one of many paths to earn the Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR) designation. Nationally recognized, and critical for aspiring HR professionals, the CPHR credential broadens students’ options for career advancement. 

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Fringe benefits 

While enrolled in the Diploma program, Riddhi regularly looked for more ways to get involved in the HR world and learn more about the industry. She eventually landed on becoming a student ambassador for CPHR BC & Yukon, the non-profit organization which grants the CPHR in B.C. It also provides its members with benefits like job boards, networking events and professional development workshops. Riddhi has found these benefits instrumental in building her own career. 

“If I hadn’t become a student ambassador, I wouldn’t have been so active in terms of being a part of the institution,” she says. “It keeps you updated, it helps you meet so many industry professionals and, as a student, it prepares you for the job search once you’ve graduated.” 

As an ambassador, Riddhi’s main role was to liaise with the College and with fellow human resources students about CPHR, news from the Canadian HR scene, and the benefits of becoming a CPHR member. As a member of CPHR BC & Yukon, students can apply for the CPHR designation after graduating from an accredited human resources program like Douglas’ with a minimum 70 percent average and gaining three years of HR work experience.  

Taking this route allows you to forgo the CPHR National Knowledge Exam. You’ll prove your expertise through your work in the classroom, instead. Besides the Post-Degree Diploma, another option for students with bachelor’s degrees is Douglas’s Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Advanced Human Resource Management, a two-year program with a stronger focus on business fundamentals.  

Read more: Staying connected during a pandemic: my Student Ambassador experience

Strategic planning for the future 

For people who want a career in human resources, Riddhi believes the most important thing is to be proactive. 

“Long before your graduation date, you should know your goals — what field of HR you want to break into, what companies you want to target and what you want to accomplish,” she says. “That’s your homework.” 

In an industry devoted to finding the “right candidate,” it’s doubly important to sell yourself as exactly that, Riddhi says. With confidence and preparation, she believes success in human resources is attainable for anyone. 

“While working as a recruiter here in Canada, I’ve seen what companies are looking for. Students, especially, are getting rejected just because they’re not coming across as strong personalities in the interviews. 

“But there are certainly jobs you can start your career with. It just requires that little bit more of an effort — that final push to present yourself with power.” 

Having completed her diploma in April, Riddhi is moving forward with a career in the recruitment sphere of HR, earning a corporate recruitment position in May. Her current goal is to earn her CPHR designation and become a talent acquisition manager in the next five years. In the meantime, she wants to continue acquiring new credentials and certifications wherever she can. 

“The diploma at Douglas played a significant role in helping me get my desired position,” she says. “The skills and knowledge I gained in the program have shaped my career. I want to keep growing and developing like that because the things you learn are what bring value to the life you live.”