Douglas 360°

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

2021 Student Leadership Award winners announced

By Melissa Nilan, Student Life

Last night, the Student Leadership Awards ceremony honoured this year’s winners and nominees. Typically an extravagant in-person event, the ceremony was held online for the second year in a row due to the pandemic. Together, attendees watched a video of speeches celebrating the incredible work and leadership of the eight award winners, followed by a virtual social gathering. Over 50 guests logged in to show their support for the winners and nominees.

If you missed out on attending last night, it’s not too late to watch the ceremony video.

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees of the 2021 Student Leadership Awards.

Student Leader Award of Distinction

Living Big Student Leader of the Year Award of Distinction

Caitlin Spreeuw, Associate of Science Diploma – WINNER

“Caitlin is passionate about open educational resources (OER) and is dedicated to the challenge of increasing OER use at Douglas College. She is an active member of both the Open Douglas working group and the Douglas College Open Education Strategic Initiative Team, which is newly formed by Senior Management. She passionately and eloquently brings the voice of students to all meetings. Caitlin coordinates all of the DSU events for their activities during Open Access Week and Open Education Week. Open Douglas couldn’t have a better partner in Open Education than in our DSU, and that is thanks to Caitlin’s leadership.” – Debra Flewelling, Open Education Librarian, Learning Resources (nominator)

Cody Goodman, Bachelor of Science in Psychiatric Nursing – WINNER

“Under Cody’s leadership as Vice-President of Peer Mentorship in the Department of Psychiatric Nursing, the BSPN Peer Mentorship expanded its purview. Any leader needs to take initiative, have a vision, and be willing to commit time and energy to their cause; Cody has repeatedly demonstrated these characteristics. I have witnessed Cody cultivate a growing community of peer support, actively recruit members of the BSPN community to assume leadership roles and mentors others to ensure their success. Cody is masterful at instilling hope and empowering others.” – Marlene Graveson, Student Coordinator/Faculty, Department of Psychiatric Nursing (nominator)

Community Builder of the Year Award

Melissa Chirino, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a minor in Criminology – WINNER

“Melissa is an honest student who has a passion for helping others. Her vision at Douglas has always been to provide assistance and support to students. Melissa is someone who is a leader but also a team player; she will never make anyone feel uncomfortable or feel like there is a hierarchy. During COVID, Melissa – along with others – had to bring the Douglas community online. She thought of ways to interact with students, especially those joining in from other countries. She hosted Netflix parties, game nights and much more.” — Gurpinder Gaidu, DSU Women’s Representative, Criminology student (nominator)

Nikiel Lal, Bachelor of Physical Education and Coaching – WINNER

“Nikiel has been involved in several departments around the school, he was a Campus Representative at the Douglas Students’ Union and went on to be the Director of External Relations. He is also the Sport Science Student Council President. He has shown a lot of leadership skills around the College; he exhibits optimism, is a go-getter, kind and enjoys building a community at Douglas.” – Amrita Ramkumar, Campus Representative – NW, DSU (nominator)

NOMINEES for Student Leader Award of Distinction

Congratulations to all the students who were nominated for the Student Leader Award of Distinction.

  • Hannah Bakken
  • Hemnesh Ramwani
  • Jaden Haywood
  • Jennifer Way
  • Jennifer Tong
  • John Paul Escala
  • Kristen Apodaca
  • Luke Stanisavljevic
  • Megan Scott
  • Reid Marriott
  • Suhakshi Arora
  • Sydney Griffin-Beale

Up and Coming Leader of the Year Award

Axel Bernoe, Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing – WINNER

“Axel has been an amazing volunteer with the Student Ambassadors (SA) over the past year. He joined during the pandemic but was noticed by all of us not only for his willingness to help but his dedication to the program. He was recognized for his commitment to the SA program as both SA of the Month and as a recipient of the Student Ambassador Award of Distinction. He had one of the highest numbers of volunteer hours over the past two semesters; while many volunteers struggled to make the reduced minimum hours, he still hit 20 hours. He’s been elected to the DSU board for 2021-2022 and will only become more ingrained within the Douglas community through his bachelor’s program.” – John Kingsley, Future Students’ Office staff (nominator)

Lauren Wittal, Bachelor of Science in Nursing – WINNER

 “Lauren is a very strong and positive student who is committed to improving the world around her. She is active in supporting students in nursing through the peer mentorship program. She also supports the community by working with Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister Adrian Dix in creating targeted social media messaging for youth-related to COVID-19. She is a true leader. As a Research Ambassador, she supports students to engage in a community of practice related to research and scholarship via a journal club and supports faculty and fellow students in their own research projects. She helps facilitate the Psychiatric Nursing Research Interest Group as well as the Health Sciences Research and Scholarly Activity committee. She leads by example and is an exceptional student and Research Ambassador.” – Ruhina Rana, Faculty, Health Sciences Research Coordinator/ Nursing, Health Sciences (nominator)

Ariel Ataiza, Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Care – WINNER

“Ariel has worked with the Student Life department for several semesters, creating student connection and community on campus. He has been an active student on campus in a number of capacities: as a participant in events and programming, a volunteer, a leader and as student staff. Ariel has demonstrated he has a strong awareness of the ever-changing needs of the student population. His involvement in the community has given him a foundation to develop meaningful programming that supports and engages his peers. In meetings and student group training, he gives space to his quieter peers and demonstrates active listening; giving the floor for others to share their thoughts and ideas in a judgement-free zone. Not only is Ariel a valued member of the Student Life team, but he is also a part of the Douglas College Education Council and Director of Membership at the Douglas Students’ Union.” – Andrea Tran, Student Life Coordinator, Student Life (nominator)

NOMINEES for Up and Coming Leader of the Year Award

Congratulations to all the students who were nominated for the Up and Coming Leader of the Year Award.

  • Arnaldo Fragozo
  • Megan Scott
  • Tanisha Soni

Outstanding Contribution to Student Engagement by College Faculty Member Award

Marlene Graveson, Student Coordinator/Faculty, Psychiatric Nursing Department – WINNER

“Marlene is a passionate, committed exemplary nurse and faculty in Psychiatric Nursing and a strong student advocate. She cares deeply for her students and instills a sense of pride in the profession. Marlene, in her current role, is committed to truth and reconciliation calls to action; she has developed a meaningful partnership with Indigenous Student Services and has initiated exit interviews with recently graduated Indigenous students about their learning experience. She is a silent partner behind the peer mentorship group, self-care booth, monthly student recognition and journal club. Marlene promotes resiliency and success in the student body. During this time of pandemic stress and uncertainly, Marlene had taken the lead in focusing on student and faculty mental health and well-being, arranging the use of a program called ThriveRU, which provides weekly activities for students to do on their own to help develop resiliency. Marlene is sincere and supportive in every situation, and inspires leadership in our next generation of students.” – Joan Crisp, Psychiatric Nursing Curriculum and Program Evaluation Coordinator (nominator)

“Marlene has worked in a faculty liaison position for the PNUR Mentorship program for longer than I have been in the Psychiatric Nursing program. She models a positive and supportive nursing culture. This has translated into a strong and supportive PNUR Mentorship program. She is always excited to help us support the PNUR student population at large, and pushes our leadership team to achieve greater goals. She is encouraging and vibrant, even during these tough times, and she is always receptive to hearing our ideas about creating a supportive and connected PNUR population.” – Cody Goodman, Psychiatric Nursing student (nominator)

NOMINEES for Outstanding Contribution to Student Engagement by College Faculty Member Award

Congratulations to all the faculty members who were nominated for Outstanding Contribution to Student Engagement by College Faculty Member Award.

  • Daniela Pacheva
  • Julie Crothers
  • Ruhina Rana
  • Wesley Snider
  • Tina Fusco

From baking soda and vinegar to virtual reality, this Chem prof is keeping students engaged at home

By Melissa Nilan, Marketing and Communications

When the pandemic hit, James Zhou was among the many instructors scrambling to convert a very hands-on subject to an online format. How could students practise chemistry at home without a lab? (Dexter’s Laboratory, anyone? If only!) James and the laboratory staff came up with some clever and creative solutions, including virtual simulations and having students do experiments with ingredients found in their own kitchens.

Black bean experiment: The black beans were used to make a natural pH indicator. It helps determine whether a solution is acidic or basic. A black bean indicator is grayish-purple in neutral solutions, pink when it comes into contact with an acid, and green when in contact with a base.

“We felt that if we just filmed everything, students wouldn’t be engaged enough. We wanted them to really get hands-on experience in the lab. Simulations and safe at-home experiments were the answer, and the students have really enjoyed it,” says James.

Chemistry in the kitchen

For the first-year introductory chemistry course, James shipped kits to students’ homes. This “lab” required students to mix and identify common pantry ingredients, such as salt, sugar and flour. Since these aren’t volatile chemicals, the ingredients could be safely shipped, and students could easily perform the experiments at home.

“We gave the students sandwich bags randomly labelled A, B, C, et cetera, and they had to determine what each chemical was by doing different reactions with it, such as testing if it dissolves in water. We also gave them special beans that change colour if the ingredient is acidic or basic, and pH papers they could use. Students really enjoyed it because they actually got to do something hands-on,” says James.

Exploring the limitless possibilities of virtual labs

James and his team also introduced students to virtual chemistry labs. A virtual lab allows students to play with different equipment and chemicals to simulate their own experiments. The best part? There is no limit to how many times they can do an experiment online, unlike in a physical lab where there are limited time and resources.

“Simulations were the answer. The virtual lab is like a chemistry video game. You can do the experiments over again as many times as you want and keep making improvements. The program will tell you at the end where you made mistakes and how you can improve,” says James.

This is one of the virtual lab experiments conducted with students in upper-level chemistry courses.

For students in upper-level chemistry courses, James offered a platform that could go full virtual reality with the addition of VR goggles, for those who had them. Students would get the experience of immersing themselves in the lab, where they can turn their heads and look around the virtual room as if they were actually there. 

And yes, students can cause explosions in their virtual labs by mixing the wrong chemicals or altering time and heat in their experiment — something they wouldn’t be able to do in a real classroom.

“The simulator allows you to speed up time, conduct the experiment in different orders and try different products. Some students discovered if you leave the experiment for too long or turn the temperature up too high or add the wrong reagent, it will explode. We can’t do all those variations in a true lab, but in a virtual setting you have unlimited resources,” says James.

Read more: This Geology instructor moonlights as a volcano explorer

Pursuing the WOW factor in science

James knows the value of experiential learning first-hand; lab experiments are what led him to a career in chemistry.

“My favourite part of chemistry was going into the lab, exploring chemicals and doing fun experiments. And I was really good at it, so I ended up following the chem path through university,” says James.

While he was working on his master’s degree at SFU, he did STEM outreach for K-12 students. Teaching them about science sparked his interest in becoming a teacher himself.

“I would host workshops for kids and teens and do fun activities. We blew stuff up, made things shrivel into little pieces, shattered things – lots of cool stuff you can’t do at home. The ‘wow’ aspect of those experiments is, I think, what really gets students’ attention.”

James Zhou teaches chemistry at Douglas College

 Read more: Elementary school teacher renews her passion for teaching math and science

Looking ahead to post-pandemic

While some chem students have returned to in-person labs this semester, James and his colleagues are continuing to make use of these remote methods in order to limit the number of students on campus. They will continue this approach throughout the pandemic – and maybe even after.

The simulations are a really nice dry run for students before they actually come into a real lab, and possibly something we could continue using in the future. They can test out and practise their experiments online in advance before doing them for real.”

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

Therapeutic Recreation seniors

By Carly Whetter, Foundation and Alumni Relations

When Danielle Axton posted on social media asking people to send holiday cards to residents at the assisted living facility she works at, she had no idea the post would go viral, resulting in thousands of cards arriving from across the globe.

Danielle, a Therapeutic Recreation diploma grad, is the Memory Living Manager at Chartwell Langley Gardens Memory Living, an assisted living home for seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Knowing how difficult it is for her residents to stay in touch with friends and family, especially during COVID-19, Danielle wanted to find a way to connect them with the community.

During the last holiday season, Danielle shared a social media post where she asked people in the community to send cards to the residents.

“I wanted to think outside the box and figure out what I could do to help bring them some joy,” Danielle says.

She only expected a handful to arrive, but to her surprise, the post went viral, and cards began pouring in from across the globe.  

“I can’t count how many cards we received, but I can comfortably say it’s been well over 5,000,” says Danielle, who also notes they still received cards well into February. “We’ve received a surprising amount from Germany and Japan, but they came in from all over the world. It’s been amazing to see how something like this can resonate with so many people.”

After isolating the cards for three days, the Memory Living staff put them on the dining room table for the residents to read and share.

“People poured their hearts into these cards. The residents look forward to reading them every single day,” says Danielle. After the residents read the cards, they were hung on the walls as a reminder to residents that the world is still connected, even during a pandemic.

Danielle’s dedication to her residents hasn’t gone unnoticed. She was recently awarded Chartwell’s 2020 Memory Living Manager of the Year award, a national award recognizing her work in making a difference in her residents’ lives during a year where they haven’t been able to see their families as much as they used to.  

“I feel so blessed that I get to help make people’s lives better every single day,” she says.

Road to Douglas

Danielle always knew she wanted to work with older adults. When she discovered therapeutic recreation – the use of leisure and recreation activities to improve the health, well-being and quality of life for seniors and people living with disabilities or illness – she knew she’d found her career, and enrolled at Douglas College.

“The program really emphasizes that this field is not only about having fun and making meaningful connections, but it also highlights how important the work we do on a daily basis is,” says Danielle. “We are taught from the very beginning to think outside the box and to individualize our approaches so our residents can live a satisfying and fulfilling life that is filled with purpose and meaning.”

Read more: TR grads use therapeutic recreation to help kids with disabilities improve their quality of life

Read the original post here!

Practice makes perfect

Danielle honed the skills she learned in the classroom through two practicums – one at Holyrood Manor, a long-term care home in Maple Ridge, and the other at the now-closed mental health facility Riverview Hospital, in Coquitlam.

“My practicums challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone,” Danielle says. “Holyrood Manor allowed me to work with older adults, while Riverview allowed me to gain more experience on the mental health side. There are so many times, especially in the senior population, where a diagnosis of dementia is also partnered with depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, for example. There are so many intersections in this field, so my practicums were beneficial in helping inform the type of care I continue to provide today.”

Now 10 years into her career, Danielle is more motivated than ever to continue to offer unique, person-centred care to older adults with dementia.

“Quality care for this population can really make their lives that much brighter. These are the people that shaped the way we live our lives now, and they deserve to have the best experience possible as they travel through their dementia journey. It means so much to me that I get to be a part of their lives.”