Douglas 360°

English instructor meets students where they’re at

Do you have bad memories of high school English class? So much that you’re dreading taking English at college? Have no fear, because Douglas English instructor Brenna Clarke Gray speaks your language. A lover of new technologies and different ways of learning, Brenna will help you find your way into the study of literature at a level you can appreciate.

A text is a text is a text

“I like to start the semester with TV shows or graphic novels or films,” she says. “I find the same student who is super nervous about discussing a theme when it’s in something scary like a poem or a novel can talk about it fluently when they’ve seen it in a TV show or read it in a graphic novel. If students can recognize something in one kind of text, they are totally capable of doing it in another.”

Email is so 2000

“For our students, email is how you get in touch with Mom and Dad, how you get info from your bank and stuff. I find Facebook and Twitter are about meeting students where they’re at. Rather than sitting here waiting for them to reach out by email, they might send me a quick tweet that says, ‘Hey, I’m confused about this reading.’”

Beyond the classroom

“I set up course groups on Facebook, which means students have a common place they can go to discuss course issues. The best is when they say, ‘I just saw a funny video on Youtube and it reminded me of this main character we’re talking about.’ Making those real life connections is what the study of literature is all about.”

Brenna assigns her students to post articles on Wikipedia. Find out how it makes them more conscious writers in a story we published last year.

Read more inspiring stories about our students and instructors in our new viewbook.

Cody’s future is history

Wondering what it takes to be a well-rounded person? For Cody Sterzer, it means getting a liberal arts degree. “Someone once told me a liberal arts degree is designed to do one thing: make the world inside your head a better place,” he says. “I never forgot it.”

The A student is planning to become a history professor, but his path wasn’t always clear. A self-described slacker in high school, Cody had his “OMG” moment when he took a history course at Douglas.

“Watching the instructor was fascinating. That’s when it hit me like a truck: I needed to do what he was doing. I needed to teach. Everyone else was struggling to take notes, but I just sat there looking at the board and thinking, ‘this is totally lighting up my world.’”

Find out more about studying History at Douglas College by visiting our website. Read more inspiring stories about our students and instructors in our new viewbook.

Theatre student conquers the odds

When Theatre student Chelsea Stamp-Vincent woke up in the hospital after being hit by a car, doctors told her she’d be a quadriplegic for the rest of her life.

Her first thought was that she wouldn’t be able to graduate with her classmates and fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming an actor. Not when she’d broken her neck in three places, fractured her spinal cord and sliced a main artery. She was facing life in a wheelchair.

Chelsea counted on the support of her friends and family to help her with her recovery. She got an added boost from Allan Lysell, Theatre Coordinator at Douglas College.

“Allan came to see me four days after the accident,” Chelsea recalls. “He told me about community theatre groups for people with disabilities, but I was hell bent on going through physio and getting better so I could go back to Douglas. Allan said that even if he had to carry me onto the stage, the Theatre Department would welcome me back with open arms.”

With tremendous determination, Chelsea slowly regained control of her body and her life. She learned to walk again and returned to school and the stage – in time to graduate with her class.

The intense program of classes and rehearsals gave Chelsea little free time. But thanks to bursaries through the Douglas College Foundation, she’s been able to make ends meet. “It’s harder now because I can’t work while I’m going back to school. My body just won’t do it. So it’s a huge blessing and a weight off my shoulders.”

A classically-trained opera singer, Chelsea always imagined herself on the stage. But her accident and rehabilitation have given her a new perspective. She graduated from the Theatre Department in June and is planning to pursue a degree in psychology at Douglas.

She wants to eventually become an occupational therapist working with young adults with spinal cord injuries. “I want to show them that it’s possible to achieve the dreams they had before they were injured.”

Richard Petrus: Future sales star

First-year Marketing Management student Richard Petrus has big dreams.

“I’ve always wanted to be a sales representative. I like the challenge,” he says. “I just have entry-level experience right now, but I want to do big business, selling to big corporations or even countries.”

Originally from Namibia, South Africa, Richard moved to Canada in 2011 when his mother, who was already here, told him about the opportunities he could take advantage of to complete his education.

“Marketing and communications are the two things that interest me the most,” he says. “My favourite class at Douglas is Personal Selling. We get to be creative and give lots of presentations.”

Moving to British Columbia presented some challenges for Richard. “I wasn’t used to the weather, I got lost a lot – my country is very small – and I didn’t know anyone,” he says. He managed to fix the last two with one smart move.

“I joined the Vancouver United soccer club,” he says. “I love soccer. It helped me make friends and get to know this place because we travel all around.”

One of his biggest dreams is to somehow combine soccer and sales.

“It would be great to work for the Vancouver Whitecaps in some way!”

Douglas College Self Employment grad opens doggie daycare

It’s a dog’s life – and Craig McDowell wouldn’t have it any other way. Craig graduated from the Douglas College Self Employment Program in July and soon after opened Zoomies, the largest doggie daycare in New Westminster. Here’s what Craig has to say about the Self Employment Program and his new venture.

On working with animals

I’ve always loved dogs, but I’ve had a couple of really challenging dogs that pushed me to look for answers that were not easy to find. Through that process I discovered how exciting it can be to work with animals professionally and realized that I have a lot of skills that allow me to help people going through the same sorts of challenges that I did. After doing some film work and providing private consultations I decided it was time to fully realize my dream of starting a daycare and training centre to create a place where I could help dogs and their owners to learn new skills and have fun in a safe and friendly environment.

The thing about Zoomies

Zoomies provides all the support that people with busy schedules need to be able to enjoy quality time with their pet. At over 4,000 sq. ft., we are the largest dog daycare in New Westminster. We provide classes and workshops in obedience, agility and many other fun activities. We have a fantastic dog wash area that offers both full-service and self-service dog washing, nail trimming and ear cleaning. Our boutique retail features fantastic cookies and birthday cakes from Three Dog Bakery and other essential items like toys, food, supplies and treats.

Thank you, Self Employment Program

I would absolutely recommend the program to other entrepreneurs, with the caveat that you will only get out of it what you put into it. Going through the program helps keep you organized and gives you tools that present you with opportunities, but you have to be willing to do the work and keep pushing yourself in order to take advantage of those opportunities.

A word to aspiring entrepreneurs

Be ready to work long and hard at it, and be persistent, especially when times are hard. It’s important to remember that it’s about running your business first and foremost – marketing, finance, operations and sales are all equally critical to your success. Don’t get so focused on one aspect of your business that you ignore the others. If you aren’t good in one area, then try to find someone who is to help you.

You and your pooch can find Zoomies right across the street from the New Westminster Campus, at 804 Agnes Ave., For more on the Self Employment Program, visit the website.