Douglas 360°

Not only for improving English: how the ELLA program helped this Post-Degree Diploma student’s journey every step of the way

By Maggie Tung, Communications Coordinator

When Amie Sarabosing, a Post-Degree Diploma in Marketing Management student, was looking to study at Douglas College, she didn’t think she needed to take classes to improve her English. It’s her second language, and she thought her language skills were up to par. She got a wake-up call when she couldn’t meet the English proficiency requirement to start her post-degree.  

ELLA program student Amie

Amie realized that while her English was serviceable for day-to-day activities, her academic writing and speaking needed improvement. So, she enrolled in the English Language Learning and Acquisition program (ELLA) — and she’s never regretted her decision. 

ELLA focuses on improving students’ English ability in a college environment. Its courses teach them how to write effectively, understand academic texts, and conduct university-level conversations – all things that Amie is very grateful for. 

“Doing ELLA before taking my academic courses was the best decision,” Amie says. “It made my transition to studying my post-degree a lot smoother. Instructors don’t spoon-feed you, so you have to do your part and take initiative.”   

Before her time in ELLA, Amie wasn’t confident in her ability to express herself in English, especially in public speaking or conversation. Now, not only has ELLA strengthened her English skills, but it has also made her more self-assured.  

“I was able to comfortably talk to my professors and ask questions,” she elaborates. “It actually felt like I was ahead of my classmates in my post-degree diploma program because I was exposed to the library and resources from the ELLA program. I knew how to do citations perfectly too. Since ELLA class sizes are so small, I improved so quickly in just one semester. It made studying at Douglas so much easier.” 

Learning more than English in class 

ELLA made learning English fun for Amie because it covered topics relevant to her everyday life.  

“I think what’s unique about the ELLA program is we got to discuss Canadian culture and global issues. In an academic class, the focus is only on specific topics relating to the program, not necessarily real life. They don’t talk about culture and ways to adapt to it. In ELLA classes, Canadian and international studies and issues were incorporated into the teaching in ELLA classes. It made the class very interesting.” 

Instead of being forced to write and speak about topics she felt detached from, Amie felt free to explore the subjects she had a genuine connection to.  

“For example, in our speaking class, we practiced public speaking a lot. The class expounded on many different topics. We weren’t just learning English but also about current events and international and domestic cultures.” 

Read more: English Language Learning program gave this student the confidence to pursue her dreams in Canada

Making lifelong friends 

Taking ELLA in her first semester at Douglas allowed Amie to meet like-minded people.  

“In the class, with both domestic and international students all learning English, we bonded quickly over how difficult it is to learn the language.” She continues, “My classmates were from China, Korea, Hungary, South America and the Middle East. We learned a lot from each other. ”  

More than that,  Amie is confident that many of the fellow students she met through ELLA will be  lifelong friends. 

“I am still close with people I met on the first day of class,” Amie exclaims. “I wrote a note here, ‘Friends for life’; that was one of the best parts about this program.”  

Using ELLA to go beyond her studies and to employment 

Amie is finishing her post-degree diploma this August. While excited, she isn’t nervous about her next step because she already has a job in Douglas College’s Student Support Department, working as a Student Support Navigator Assistant. She applied for the position as a student, and plans to continue working there after graduation. Her employment there is something she credits to  the help of her ELLA instructors. 

“I didn’t have anyone I could use as references to find a job when I started at Douglas. I was able to get my job with the help of my ELLA teachers. Because I was a hardworking student, they gave me a nice reference. I think it was a huge factor in my getting hired.” 

Sharing her positive ELLA experience 

Ella program English learning friends
Amie and the friends she made through ELLA.

Amie wants other students to know the importance of learning a language and culture thoroughly before beginning their academic studies. 

“I highly recommend that students who are new to Canada take ELLA first before transitioning to academic studies. Even if they think they have a good command of the English language, Canada has certain standards. I say this because I lived it.” Amie says. “The ELLA program helped me not only academically, but with my employment, and I met great friends along the way. It is one of the best and most unforgettable experiences of my life!” 

Interested in the ELLA program? Visit the Douglas College website and complete the eligibility form. 

Celebrating my heritage while finding my community at Douglas

By Aly Hillaby, Bachelor of Social Work student

June became National Aboriginal History Month in 2009, and in 2017, the name changed to National Indigenous History Month. The change is significant because the word “Indigenous” is recognized internationally in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which was created in 2007 after two decades of negotiations. The UNDRIP is a comprehensive guide that sets out minimum standards required to protect the individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples in terms of culture, language, health, education, employment, protection of traditional lands and their right to participate in decision-making. 

Acknowledging the cultures and contributions of Indigenous Peoples

Since 1996, National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 has celebrated and acknowledged the diverse cultures and contributions of the First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples in Canada. June 21 was chosen because it is around the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and a day that is important for many Indigenous peoples and communities. Across Canada, this day is celebrated with cultural performances, activities, arts and other events that recognize the contributions of Indigenous people.

With many events being held virtually this year, Douglas College students and other community members can take this opportunity to participate and increase their understanding of the diverse cultures, arts, traditions, worldviews, languages, experiences and histories of Indigenous peoples.   

Read more: Guided by the Raven and Eagle: How this Psychiatric Nursing grad found clarity by following her Indigenous roots

New ways of learning and growing

Indigenous history month day

Experiencing aspects of our own and different cultures is a great way to continue to grow. Growing up, my main source of knowledge about my Indigenous roots was through the education system. I found that education about Indigenous people often paints them in one general stroke – thus losing important details about what makes each group unique.

National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day present an opportunity to learn about the history and diversity of Indigenous peoples, and to recognize the strength and resilience that generations have shown in order to uphold, pass down and reclaim cultural knowledge and traditions. Taking the initiative to learn more about different Indigenous cultures and groups may help you have a better understanding of yourself and others. My journey at Douglas College involved this type of learning and growth.

The welcoming environment of Indigenous Student Services

My experiences as an Indigenous student at Douglas have been incredible. Indigenous Student Services (ISS) feels like a community. I came across ISS when I was looking for a quiet place to study at the New Westminster Campus. Ever since then, I have stayed connected. I found a welcoming environment where I had opportunities to not only learn more about my culture, but grow as a person.

When I moved from the New Westminster Campus to the Coquitlam Campus, I was worried because I felt like I was losing a place where I belonged. Luckily, my hesitations were unfounded. I found the same type of environment at the Coquitlam Campus and got to know many more wonderful people. I felt heard and encouraged. It’s a place I go and say hi to people in between classes, check in with staff, grab myself a coffee and just unwind or talk about things going on with the people around me. 

The ISS team encouraged me to participate in events that came up at the school, organized lunches and events and updated me about things going on in the community that I was interested in. 

Throughout this past year, I still go to ISS to work or study because it is such a great place. I’m excited for when we can be back in person, and I can see everyone’s welcoming faces again. 

If you want to learn more about Indigenous culture, art and history, here are some resources to check out:

Q&A: How one Therapeutic Recreation alum finished off her last semester during the pandemic – and landed a job!

By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations

After experiencing the positive impact a therapeutic recreation team had on her as a child, Emma Martina was inspired to pursue a career in the same field. Despite the challenges of pivoting quickly to online learning last March due to the pandemic, Emma graduated and landed a job as a Therapeutic Recreation Assistant with Vancouver Coastal Health at UBC Hospital.

What inspired you to pursue a career in Therapeutic Recreation?

When I was younger, I stayed at Canuck Place Children’s Hospice with a family member. It was a confusing and difficult time where I was surrounded mostly by adults, but the therapeutic recreation team and the army of volunteers worked hard to make the space comfortable for us to enjoy childhood activities with other families.

Upon reflection, I recognized how vital those supports were for my psychosocial health, development and bereavement. After completing the Health Care Assistant program at Vancouver Community College in 2013, I became a registered care aide at George Derby Centre in Burnaby. It was amazing to witness the recreation staff and the various programs having such positive effects on the residents. I worked in complex and dementia units for four years and it reinforced the real impact therapeutic recreation can have for all ages and levels of health care. 

Read more: This alum is bringing joy to seniors with dementia in the midst of the pandemic

Why did you choose to come to Douglas College for your diploma? What was your experience with the program?

As a union member myself, I wanted to support a public college. Plus, all the therapeutic recreation staff I had met were all Douglas graduates and highly recommend the program.  

From the first email, it was clear to me that the program was extremely well organized and welcoming. And it was, from the first day to my last. I felt very supported by the faculty who all had amazing resumes full of lived experiences working in a wide range of therapeutic recreation roles. The small cohort size made it feel like a family where we could have open discussions and learn from one another. The program was well-paced and enabled me to build up to heavier course loads and practicums. 

What was it like to study remotely/online during the pandemic? What were the benefits of your online learning experience? 

We made the shift from in-person to online learning really quickly once the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic. It was a bit overwhelming at first because we were at the end of the semester and we had projects and exams that we had been anticipating to complete in person.

Despite the quick shift to online, my professors were incredibly supportive and graceful. One of the benefits I experienced was how many hours I saved not having to commute, while still having a supportive classroom environment through Zoom. I can see the online diploma program as a great option for students who may have other responsibilities that would keep them from attending in-person classes, or for people who want to pursue a career in therapeutic recreation but don’t live in the Lower Mainland.

I took some elective courses in advance of the diploma program, which helped increase my confidence and competence. I went to Strong Start: New Student Orientation which was very helpful for me to meet fellow students and learn about the various resources available through the college.

Emma and her resident Eva Tokke, who worked with Douglas College until 2017!

How did Douglas prepare you for a career in Therapeutic Recreation? 

I also utilized a lot of resources and services at Douglas College – from accessibility services to financial aid to the learning center – which improved my advocating skills, aided my time management and made my diploma experience better. These skills in turn made me more competent and confident in the recreation assistant job search. They helped me find an employer who values providing their employees with positive tools and resources to succeed.

What was your most memorable time at Douglas?

The most memorable part of my Douglas experience would be the relationships with my cohort and professors. They are an inspiring group of women who are very dear to my heart. To have had such a close, supportive cohort from very different walks of life – all with a common goal to bring healing and hope to others – is amazing. 

I learned something long-lasting in every elective and diploma course I took. The teachings provided in the Therapeutic Recreation program have changed my paradigm forever on the endless abilities we are all capable of and intrinsic value in every life.

What were the most challenging and fulfilling aspects of your experience at Douglas?

The first semester with a full course load was overwhelming. I struggled with my health science course and was afraid I would fail and fall behind in the program. Within the first two weeks, I reached out to the learning center and hired a private medical student tutor who I saw every week for my first year of the program. This investment paid off and became one of my most fulfilling memories of the program. Not only did I do well in my health sciences courses, but I learned to love the material and appreciate my body and mind more than ever.

What words of wisdom do you have for future Therapeutic Recreation students considering taking the online diploma program? 

Taking the Therapeutic Recreation diploma online is a great option for those who want to make a difference in their home community, but don’t want to move to the Lower Mainland or commute long distances for school. You get the benefits and flexibility of learning online and can apply and hone those skills with work placements in your area. 

If you’re still unsure, attend an online information session! Sometimes timelines or course loads can seem daunting. Attending an information session can humanize and ground those narratives. Two years can seem like a lot – especially if you are balancing other responsibilities – but those two years are going to go by regardless, so if you feel the longing for change, go for it! 

The pandemic has sadly shown the fragility of many careers, but you will always have stability in health care. If you enjoy human connection and engagement, you can and will learn all the skills needed to help you succeed.

Finally, you’ll never be limited by working in therapeutic recreation. There are various environments, roles and demographics where you can find your passion. 

The Therapeutic Recreation diploma will be offered online starting Fall 2021. Learn more about the diploma on our website.

Meet Douglas College’s first recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumni Award

By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations

Child and Youth Care alum Meredith Graham has achieved a lot in her life. She’s a spoken word artist, workshop facilitator, keynote speaker, consultant, a Youth Transition Conference Facilitator with the Ministry of Children and Family Development and advocate for changes inside the mental health, education and government care systems.

But Meredith has also experienced many challenges. She’s a former youth from government care who has journeyed through abuse, homelessness, poverty and mental illness.

Today, Meredith uses these adversities to serve and advocate for vulnerable youth across the country, and as the inspiration for her company name, Symphony of ResiliencyTM.

“In my work, I often emphasize how I am where I am today because of the people who chose to be instruments in the symphony of my life,” says Meredith. “Because of my own experience, it’s really important to me to create the same opportunities for young people from care that many people from parented and caregiver homes have access to. I want to empower them to be the conductors of their own symphony.”

Rising up, against the odds

This year, Douglas College Alumni Relations is recognizing Meredith with the inaugural Outstanding Young Alumni award for her professional success and her contributions to youth in the community.

“Meredith found joy in life and decided she should not keep that joy to herself,” says Tracy Green, Meredith’s nominator for the award, who met her while working at the Douglas College Foundation. “Meredith’s advocacy work is a demonstration that we all have a role to play in our community. Her own resilience is a message that if we look for it, we’ll find the same in ourselves, and that if we are struggling, she’ll be the first person who offers to help you find it.”

“This award is really humbling for me,” Meredith says. “It’s not so much about what it means for me, but what it means for my people. You can have mental illness, you can be homeless, you can be from care, you can be a person of colour, you can have everything stacked against you, but you can rise.” 

Read more: Keeping an eye on Douglas: How this alum helps give the gift of education

Finding her true calling

Meredith’s post-secondary journey started with a diploma in the performing arts. But she quickly realized it wasn’t her true calling.

“I thought I was going to grow up to be the next Meryl Streep,” jokes Meredith. “I still love performing and theatre, but ultimately it didn’t feel like it gave purpose to my life. It didn’t feel like a way in which I could give back.”

For Meredith, giving back looked a lot like what the youth workers who had played an important role in her own life did for her.

“I was really drawn to their ability to care for people in a different way. I wanted to be like them, to be that person for youth – my siblings in the system, as I call them,” Meredith says.

She discovered the Bachelor of Child and Youth Care program at Douglas, and knew it was the right fit. “Douglas College offered one of the best programs in Canada at a college-level tuition. It made sense.”

It wasn’t just the program that drew Meredith to Douglas, but the ability to build relationships with her classmates and instructors in a close-knit community. Meredith took this passion for connecting with others to the Douglas Students’ Union (DSU) Board of Directors, where she served as the Disabled Students’ Representative. 

“I learned a lot of skills as part of the DSU. I learned how to make myself heard in rooms full of powerful people at the provincial government level and how to advocate for people and ask questions,” says Meredith. “It was really empowering to learn how we’re all in this together, figuring out how to do better and be better with and for others.”

When it comes to words of wisdom for Douglas College graduates, she shared this short poem:

May you, now that you’ve graduated, be wildly elevated, highlighted, and celebrated.
May you, now that you’ve exhausted your best and reached the crest, rest.
May you consider and ponder your individual and community responsibility, and the abounding opportunities, to be an instrument in a person’s symphony of resiliency.
And may you amplify the music of the marginalized – the ones the world tries to write off the page.
And then may you make music that moves.
And, if you ever feel or fear you’ve lost your words, know that I will sit and sing with you.

A poem by Meredith Graham

For more information on the Outstanding Young Alumni award visit the Douglas College website.

Guided by the Raven and Eagle: How this Psychiatric Nursing grad found clarity by following her Indigenous roots

By Brenna Robert, Bachelor of Science in Psychiatric Nursing grad

Yi’yáu, xƛanugva Brenna. Sahtu Dene du Háiɫzaqvṇugva. Gáyáqḷanugva tx̌as Wágḷísḷa du Tulita.
In Heiltsuk, this roughly translates to: Hello everyone, my name is Brenna and I am of Sahtu Dene and Heiltsuk descent. I hail from Bella Bella and Tulita.

I can say with confidence now that psychiatric nursing is my calling, but I didn’t always feel that way. Honestly, I didn’t even know the career existed until a few months before the program started. It was a Kwantlen Polytechnic University professor – the first psychiatric nurse I ever met – who pointed me in the right direction and encouraged me to apply. Up until that point, I had flip-flopped between different career paths and schools, sampling every subject from horticulture to chemistry to politics. At the time, I felt a bit like a thief in the night, stealing bits and pieces of programs, but the completion of every new course left me feeling emptier and even more confused about what I wanted to do with my life.

My ancestors paved the way

My mother used to comfort me by saying: “Whenever you’re lost, remember the Raven and Eagle on your shoulders. They’ll always be there to guide and protect you.” You can believe me when I say both birds had their work cut out for them. But thinking back on the hard times now, I suppose I really shouldn’t be surprised. After all, like many other Indigenous students, I’ve inherited a heavy legacy from Canada’s educational system; many of my family members hide an agonizing past in residential schools, while others still fight for a space in academia, against all odds. My journey is one more story among theirs. Despite how mystified I am by how I ended up here, I truly can’t say I’m surprised that the same values that link my family’s stories together – resilience, compassion and hope – are the same values that define the profession I chose: psychiatric nursing.

When my professor introduced me to this new and exciting world of psychiatric nursing, there were a few colleges I considered enrolling in. When I couldn’t decide between them, I relied on the advice of the clever Ravens and wise Eagles among my family and friends for guidance. One of the biggest factors in choosing Douglas College was the designated Indigenous seats offered to students of the Psychiatric Nursing program, which nearly guaranteed my admission to a program famous for its long waiting list.

My Douglas support network

There were so many things I liked about Douglas College while I was studying there that it’s difficult for me to pinpoint the best parts. For starters, the Coquitlam Campus offered a variety of supports available to me as an Indigenous student; everything from counselors who supported me in my application, to our own room where we could relax and socialize. The Psychiatric Nursing program itself was demanding, but even on my worst days, I could always find my classmates and instructors right beside me. They believed and inspired me to reach my full potential even outside of the classroom. Being at Douglas also opened doors I never knew existed. Through the Psychiatric Nursing program, I participated in the Homeless Outreach Projects organized by my fellow students, worked as a student intern with other Indigenous professionals, and most importantly, advocated for Indigenous patients during various stages of their mental health journey.

Read more: Hitting a home run for Indigenous youth

Paying it forward for my community and beyond

Now that I’ve graduated, I’m leaving with bigger dreams than I ever could have imagined when I started the program. I want to help people within my reservations in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories who struggle with substance use and mental health, I want to become a case coordinator of adult mental health services in Vancouver, and I want to continue to support other students who want to make a difference in the world of mental health – to name just a few. Of course, I won’t be able to do any of those without consolidating my practice, so my first baby steps will be to continue learning and strengthening my knowledge base in new grad programs at Fraser Health Authority and Vancouver Coastal Health.

If I can pass on advice from one budding Indigenous student to another, it’s to expect the unexpected and become comfortable with discomfort. Growth spurts aren’t predictable or easy, but we are gifted with strong roots and stronger communities that will support us through them. The world needs us now more than ever, but if you feel lost or overwhelmed by this, remember the Raven and Eagle are on your shoulders – always guiding you and protecting you on your journey. Ẁúq̓vanúgvuƛa. (I believe in you). All my relations.

Want to learn more about Douglas College’s Psychiatric Nursing program? Attend an upcoming information session.

Celebrating our student-athletes in Royal fashion

By Sean Velasco, Athletics, Recreation and Sports Institute

On May 6, the Douglas College Royals hosted their annual awards banquet celebrating the achievements of the student-athletes during the past year. The celebration was conducted virtually and streamed live via the Royals’ social channels.

Despite the cancelling of the sports season due to the pandemic, there was much to celebrate as each team recognized the outstanding contributions of their student-athlete leaders for team culture and academics.

Donor awards were also distributed to student-athletes who met the academic and sports qualifications.

The event also included a special presentation and recognition of service for Sport Science Faculty Emeritus and the first Douglas College Athletics Director, Gert van Niekerk. Gert dedicated 45+ years of service to Douglas as an instructor, coach and administrator.

Watch the full banquet livestream.

Read more: Setting up a career: How one former Douglas College Royals found success as a coach

Donor Award Winners

Andy and Helen Andrews Memorial Award:
Matt Shand, Men’s Volleyball
Olivia Cesaretti, Women’s Volleyball

Baseball Coaches Association of BC Scholarship:
Logan Newman, Baseball
Otis Pritchett, Baseball

Centaur Products Sports Award of Distinction:
Ben Shand, MVB
Karalee Antoine, Women’s Basketball

Coach Frick and Rick Hansen Difference Maker Award of Distinction:
Hannah dela Cruz, Women’s Soccer
Jennifer Nyce, Women’s Basketball

Dave Seaweed Award of Distinction:
Logan Richter, Women’s Volleyball
Madison Fowler, Softball

David Munro Basketball Award of Distinction:
Kayla Ogilvie, Women’s Basketball
Ben Rabel, Men’s Basketball

Gord Ellis Memorial Scholarship:
Sean Sasaki, Baseball
Nolan MacDonald, Baseball

Jesse Penner Memorial Award of Distinction:
Blake Nelson, Baseball
Matthew O’Reilly, Baseball
Cameron Dunn, Baseball
Nolan MacDonald, Baseball

Katy Cole-McGilligan Men’s Basketball Award of Distinction:
Taylor Smith, Men’s Basketball

Margaret Mason Women’s Basketball Award of Distinction:
Sasha Salmon, Women’s Basketball

Margaret Mason Women’s Basketball Award of Distinction:
Chantelle Zinger, Women’s Basketball

Nicki Kerr Service Award:
Shelbi Snodgrass, MPC

Our All, Our Honour Award of Distinction Supported by Vancouver Whitecaps FC:
Kya Cleto, Women’s Soccer

Peter & Kathleen Kerr Memorial Award of Distinction:
Sarah Svetic, Women’s Soccer
Ben Bergeron, Men’s Soccer

Relive the banquet

Gert van Niekerk presentation

A special presentation was made to Gert van Niekerk for his 45+ years of service to Douglas as an instructor, coach and administrator.

Donor Awards​

Watch the recipients of the Donor Awards.

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

By Maggie Tung, Communications Coordinator

Ted Venema had never even heard of the hearing health field until he was 30. Now, he is not only educating his students and the public on the importance of protecting our eardrums, but he also sees a rising demand for Registered Hearing Instrument Practitioners and says that this is an excellent time to get a start in the industry. 

Hearing Instrument Practitioner Instructor HEAR Program
Ted showing a HEAR student how to look into the ear canal with an otoscope.

What got you into teaching?

After graduating university, I ended up in Calgary and worked at the juvenile detention centre there. The kids were from 10 to 16 years old and were in there for breaking and entering or whatever, and they come from broken homes and stuff; a lot of them couldn’t read very well. So I often ended up showing them the alphabet and teaching them to read. I think that’s when I realized I liked explaining things; that I loved teaching.  

Why did you decide to teach in a hearing-related field?

To tell you the truth, I’d never heard of the hearing-related field of audiology until I was about 30 years old. I got a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. I thought I’d go on for my master’s and PhD in philosophy, too. Guess what? I wasn’t very good at symbolic logic. My girlfriend suggested – since I like talking a lot – that I should study to be a speech therapist, so I went into speech-language pathology. It turned out that I really didn’t like speech-language pathology that much, and so I slid into audiology and got my master’s degree. I was a clinical audiologist before I went for my PhD in audiology and became a professor. It’s funny how life takes you to places you didn’t think you’d end up at. 

Why don’t you teach at a university? 

I’ve taught at two universities, one at Auburn, in Alabama, and then at Western, in London, Ontario. But at universities, you’re supposed to publish your research. And that just wasn’t in my heart; I’d rather focus on teaching. So I find that the college scene is for me.  

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

What does the Douglas College HEAR program do? 

Basically, the Hearing Instrument Practitioner program teaches students how to test hearing, how and when to refer to a doctor and when not to. Otherwise, if it’s straight hearing loss, then how to prescribe hearing aids. So it’s testing, hearing and prescribing hearing aids when need be. Students learn anatomy, sound waves and acoustics. They learn about hearing disorders and hearing aid technology. 

A Hearing Instrument Practitioner graduate out of Douglas College will definitely find work. 

ted venema

Why is it a good time to become a hearing instrument practitioner? 

Baby boomers like me, people born between 1946 and 1964, we are now reaching senior citizen status. And when you hit the age of 65, that’s when you start getting age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis. So there’s going to be a lot of people needing hearing aids. I think only about one in five people who need hearing aids wear them, so the market is barely penetrated, and the number of potential clients will keep going up. A Hearing Instrument Practioner graduate out of Douglas College will definitely find work.

Why is it important to be aware of hearing loss? 

Hearing Instrument Practitioner Program
A HEAR student with a client at his practicum.

Hearing loss is invisible: You can’t see it, and people only believe what they see. Hearing is an interesting sense because it not only involves the person who has the hearing loss but also people around them. When someone has hearing loss, it affects relationships, and it can really put a strain on them. When people can’t communicate very well, it cuts them off from others, it really does. So I think it’s an underplayed sense and yet it’s so critical. 

Why is it important to protect our hearing? 

We don’t stare at the sun, right? Likewise, our ears are not impervious to the ravages of noise. After presbycusis due to aging, excess noise exposure is the most common cause of permanent hearing loss, and it can happen to anyone at any age. And it’s permanent. Hearing aids help, but they don’t address the real need. I always give this analogy: When you walk on the lawn, the grass bends, and then it stands back up again. But if you keep walking on the lawn, the grass blades will eventually die. And those grass blades are like the tiny hair cells inside your inner ears. When you blast them down with noise, they’ll stand up again, but you’ll have ringing in your ears. If you keep blasting them, they will die. And they don’t come back. 

Read more: Opinion: This is how even young people are destroying their hearing 

How can we protect ourselves from hearing loss? 

Use common sense. If you have ringing in your ears after you’ve been to a loud party or whatever, that’s a sign of excessive noise exposure. Noise that’s over 85 decibels – 85 decibels is like someone yelling at you from one metre away – is too loud if your ears are exposed to it for a long period of time. Use earplugs if you’re going to be riding a lawnmower or sawing wood or whatever with power tools.  

How loud is too loud when using headphones?  

If you can hear sound from someone’s headphones, that person’s probably getting over a hundred decibels slamming into their eardrums, which is more than those ears were meant to take. 

Ted Venema, Hearing Instrument Practitioner
Ted Venema, Hearing Instrument Practitioner Instructor

Ted Venema is an instructor in the Hearing Instrument Practitioner program at Douglas College. He earned a BA in Philosophy at Calvin College (1977), an MA in Audiology at Western Washington University (1988) and a PhD in Audiology at the University of Oklahoma (1993). He has worked with the public as a clinical audiologist, testing hearing and fitting hearing aids, at Canadian Hearing Services in Toronto and at NexGen Hearing in Victoria, B.C. Ted is the author of a textbook, Compression for Clinicians, which is one of the textbooks in the Hearing Instrument Practitioner program at Douglas College.

Setting up a career: How one former Douglas College Royals found success as a coach

By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations

Alum Paul Funk has made a name for himself in varsity volleyball. After getting his start as a setter for the Douglas College Royals men’s volleyball team, Paul built his career coaching local teams before landing a position as assistant coach for Team Canada Volleyball and head volleyball coach for Örebro Volley in Sweden.  

And he hasn’t slowed down. For the past 15 years, Paul has been the head coach for the women’s volleyball team at the University of Guelph, where he won the Ontario University Athletics West Coach of the Year award for two consecutive years.

A unique approach

While Paul’s career has taken him across the country and around the globe, his connection to Douglas came from a much different trip.

“My family moved from Manitoba to B.C. when I was young so that my dad could take a job at the College,” Paul says, whose dad, Otto Funk, was one of Douglas’s first employees when the College opened in 1970. His mom, Nettie Funk, also joined the Douglas family and worked in the library. 

Despite the family connection, it was Paul’s junior high volleyball coach who paved his way to Douglas.

“At the time, the plan was to become a high school PE teacher,” Paul explains, who completed physical education courses while at the College. “I wanted to continue playing volleyball and had a connection with my former coach, who had since moved on to coach at Douglas. I had heard good things about the College’s physical education program, so going to Douglas just made sense.”

With the Douglas College Royals, Paul went on to play in the Pacific Western Athletic Association Volleyball Provincial Championships in 1986, where they placed first.

After graduating from Douglas, the head coach of the Royals women’s volleyball team – a former teammate of Paul’s – asked him to help coach the team.

“The coach needed extra help with his setters, the position I played,” Paul says. “It started as two days a week, but it very quickly became a lot more.”

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

Paul’s education and experience as a player proved to be valuable assets to the team and ultimately launched his career.

“It opened a new understanding of what I wanted my career to be,” says Paul, who eventually went on to complete his physical studies and sports science degree at the University of Winnipeg. “As a coach, I’m able to stay involved in the game. Giving back and passing along my knowledge that other players can benefit from is satisfying and rewarding.”

A member of the Royals family

Nearly 30 years after his time at Douglas, Paul continues to remember his time at the College fondly.

“The teammates I had when I was a player at Douglas are spread all over the country, and in some cases all over the continent,” says Paul. “It doesn’t matter how far we are, I still keep in touch with those guys on a regular basis because our time at Douglas was something that we really enjoyed and where we established a connection with one another.”

“The teammate who originally got me into coaching all those years ago was the best man at my wedding,” he adds. “My teammates are part of my family.”  

Keeping an eye on Douglas: How this alum helps give the gift of education

By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations

When Sherry Klassen began her studies at Douglas College to become an optician, she had no idea she was starting to build a relationship that would continue into her career.

20 years after graduating from Douglas, the Dispensing Opticianry grad is a Regional Sales Manager at HOYA Vision Care Canada, an international optical lens manufacturer with a long history of charitable work. Over the last 14 years – thanks to Sherry – HOYA has donated an estimated $150,000 in lenses and award funding to Douglas College.

“When I was at Douglas, we always needed lenses to edge and learn more about the materials. I always wondered where they came from,” says Sherry. “When I had the opportunity to donate our unused lenses, I wanted to give them to Douglas. I know from experience that having hands-on experience with the materials makes students better opticians, and HOYA has the ability to support this.”

Donations like these don’t go unnoticed.

“Donations go a long way in supporting student learning,” says Tony Viani, Coordinator of the Douglas College Dispensing Opticianry program, and one of Sherry’s former instructors. “They allow students to practise fitting progressive and single-vision lenses into plastic and metal frames. Not only does it allow them to practise skills necessary to work in the industry, but it also enables the department to purchase other equipment and tools there may not have otherwise been funds for.”

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

Wide lens on education

Sherry graduated in 2000.

The Dispensing Opticianry program continues to work with and seek a variety of partners like HOYA Vision Care to provide opportunities for applied learning, from donations of inventory management software to PPE for students both in the classroom and during their practicums.

Beyond their annual lenses donations, HOYA Vision Care also contributes annually to the HOYA Vision Care of Canada Award of Distinction, which recognizes Douglas College students enrolled in their first year of the Dispensing Opticianry program who receive the highest academic standing in their Practical Skills lab.

“We aim to be a true partner to eye care professionals at every stage of their career, through thick and thin,” says Sherry. “We’re here to help students, not only by providing the best technology available, but by contributing to their education and training so they’re equipped to succeed in the industry. If every lab across Canada donated to programs like Douglas’s, all of our future opticians would have great resources.”

To learn more about how you or your company can help build responsive learning environments at Douglas College, visit the Douglas College Foundation website.

Staying connected during a pandemic: my Student Ambassador experience

By Sebastian Laufer, Academic Foundations for Potential Nursing Applicants

When I first joined the Student Ambassador program, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. But once I did, I knew I had to stay.

Student Ambassadors help with school visits, speak to potential new students, direct people to information sessions, and address concerns potential or current students may have. It is an opportunity for me to share my Douglas experience. Most of these opportunities have now had a virtual replacement and I am able to do most from home which has been a pleasant experience.

Lost and alone no more

douglas college student ambassador

When I arrived at Douglas, I had no idea what I was doing and what there was to the school besides the courses I enrolled in; I felt lost and alone. It wasn’t until I was led to the Future Students’ Office – where they helped me navigate such an overwhelming time – that I gained confidence and clarity around my schooling. This is why I signed up to be a Student Ambassador: so I can do the same for other new and future students.

Connecting during COVID

The Student Ambassadors stayed connected during the pandemic with monthly meetings and volunteer jobs. There were meetings where everyone shared their hobbies: It was cooking for one student, rock climbing for me, and someone even showed off their singing skills!

Oftentimes, we went into breakout rooms through Zoom, and even if it was only a couple of minutes, it really helped me feel connected to the other students. It’s such a nice experience to consistently see familiar faces, and I look forward to seeing them in person again. Until then, it’s been a great way to stay connected digitally!

Lifting the spirits and beating the blues

I was a little worried joining this group originally because I wasn’t sure what a Student Ambassador did and did not know anyone at first. However, since the program takes on people who have initiative and want to positively impact the community, it was very easy to make connections.

Upon speaking to people on the team, it was clear that everyone was just like me, and wanted to help out as much as possible. Being surrounded by such positivity has been great for keeping spirits up during the pandemic and getting over the school blues that happen from time to time. It is also easy to stay motivated in school with other Student Ambassadors as we keep each other accountable.

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

You can be a Student Ambassador, too

I recommend the Student Ambassador program for anyone who feels they want to be a part of the school! It doesn’t matter if you’re shy or have little knowledge about Douglas – it’s a place for everyone. This team will help you get through school and give you the ability to assist new and potential students in navigating the crazy world of post-secondary education!

Apply by Sunday, May 9, for a chance to help new students get to know our College community while gaining leadership experience you can put on your résumé. Learn more at