Campus Life  

UBCO research shows how healthy plants help rivers meander

A section of the Kettle River is photographed from a bridge.

A section of the Kettle River in the British Columbia interior.

New research reveals a surprising truth about rivers: plants play a key role in shaping their very form.

Dr. Alessandro Ielpi, an Assistant Professor of Geomorphology in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science at UBC Okanagan, has found evidence supporting the theory that vegetation influences whether rivers flow in graceful curves or straighter paths.

"That plant life aids in shaping river landscapes is a notion that has been entertained for many years in the scientific community," Dr. Ielpi says. "This kind of research helps pinpoint with a higher degree of confidence just how vegetation does that."

The research, recently published in the journal Nature Communications, highlights a clear connection: rivers with healthy vegetation tend to meander more easily than those flowing through landscapes barren of plant life.

He says this discovery has significant implications for managing the environment, adapting to climate change and designing sustainable communities.

This notion is best demonstrated in the relation between the curvature of river bends--how tight any bends are--and the pace at which the river flow erodes its banks.

The research was based on a compilation of more than 50 rivers from around the globe. It used high-resolution satellite imagery of river landscapes analyzed sequentially over years.

"This difference in shape a river channel can attain has cascading effects," Dr. Ielpi says. "Disturbances like wildfires in floodplains can disrupt vegetation patterns, leading to channels adapting their shape and potentially altering flooding patterns and ecosystem health. In a similar fashion, climate-driven changes like the greening of northern regions may alter river channels, impacting regional ecosystems and water flow."

He explains that the benefits of healthy river vegetation extend far beyond shaping riverbeds. Healthy plant life along rivers can act as a natural defence against floods, mitigating the impacts of extreme weather events driven by climate change. This knowledge can be used to build climate-resilient communities.

Furthermore, insights from this research can inform greener urban design principles. By understanding how vegetation can influence rivers, planners and engineers can create cities that work harmoniously with natural systems, promoting healthier waterways and more livable urban environments.

Dr. Ielpi notes this research can empower communities. By understanding river dynamics, communities can take informed action for conservation and restoration efforts. This enhances recreational opportunities and protects vital ecosystems for future generations.

"The research serves as a reminder of the importance of interdisciplinary science," Dr. Ielpi says. "By combining expertise in spatial analysis and remote sensing, ecology and environmental science, researchers gain a deeper understanding of our planet’s complex systems.”

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OC Coyotes win 2024 Canadian College Baseball Conference regular season championship

man throwing baseball


The Okanagan College Coyotes have won the 2024 Canadian College Baseball Conference regular season championship with a 21-10 record, securing the number one seed heading into the Canadian College World Series.

“It has been a very rewarding season for our program, we have dealt with a lot of adversity with injuries, and to finish on top was a great accomplishment by the players. It is a testament to the depth of our group,” says Head Coach Geoff White.

The Coyotes finished the regular season with a run of nine wins in the last ten games to claim the regular season, their second regular season championship (2022, 2024). In conference they were number one or two in many offensive stats, including runs, on base percentage, and stolen bases. On the mound, several individuals had outstanding seasons, including Teagan Ribbink (RHP, Kelowna, BC), where he finished 5-0 with a 2.35 ERA and tied the school record of strikeouts with 67 in just 49.1 innings pitched. Senior Ryan Dousett (OF, Calgary, AB) led the offense hitting at a .382 clip while leading the team in runs scored and stolen bases.

“We had some outstanding accomplishments as a team, and some individuals had tremendous seasons,” adds White. “More importantly, we have seven players graduating from the program with their respective academic goals achieved.”

The Coyotes will now head to Lethbridge, Alberta, for the Canadian College World Series. The eight-team double elimination tournament will begin on Thursday, May 16 with the Okanagan College Coyotes facing the number eight seed Victoria Golden Tide.

“We are excited for the playoffs, it’s a short tournament where you have to play solid baseball for four games. We have a fantastic group of student athletes, so they are looking forward to the challenge and competition,” say White.

The Okanagan College Coyotes have claimed three National Championships, including in 2018, 2021 and in 2022 when they set the league record with a 25-5 record.

Okanagan College Coyotes baseball summer camps are coming up quick. To get your chance to be on the field with the 3x National Champions, visit juniorcoyotes.ca for more information.

Games are being streamed at hometeamlive.com, and up-to-date scores and stats can be found at cc-bc.ca

EnactusOC back on National stage with cool business ventures

The EnactusOC team.

Okanagan College business students are competing against other students across Canada with the latest venture from its sustainable business the Unusually Good Food Co., at the Enactus Canada National Exposition in Toronto, taking place May 14-16.

Two teams from EnactusOC will compete in the event which brings together business students from post-secondary schools to present unique new ideas and test them against their peers while being judged by industry experts.

OC will present two student led projects: Project Bee, promoting bee conservation through education and habitat restoration, a project that will see OC students work with hundreds of Grade 4 students to promote bee education and produce locally sourced honey. The team will also present the latest iteration from the Unusually Good Food Co., a project that addresses food waste by utilizing discarded apples and includes products such as Unusually Good Cider and gluten free apple flour.

OC School of Business students achieved four podium finishes at the recent Enactus Canada Regional Exposition held in Calgary on March 14 and 15, 2024. With 16 teams across four provinces in Western Canada competing for top placements in four Impact Challenges. The EnactusOC team secured podium finishes in every category. 

OC students attending the Nationals will be Rebekah Dingwall, Katalin Csorba, Linden Webster-Krist, Seirian Major?, Kaitlin Senko, Josh Smith, Andrew Lowken. Mackenzie Friesen, Gurnoor Johol, Elias Rojas, Chelsey Simmons, Reece Lequilloux with help from Kayla Warner. The teams are coached by Todd Gillick, Brad Steinbart, Danielle Robinson, Kyleen Myrah and Mark Ziebarth. 

Last year Enactus OC students captured top spot at the Canadian National Exhibition and placed Top Four at the World Championships.

Part of the Okanagan College School of Business, EnactusOC is a non-profit organization that enables value-driven student leaders to form connections, build confidence and positively impact local communities through social, economic and environmental projects.

Women empowering high school girls to step into trades

female salmon arm plumbing student working on demo at trades center

One hundred female high school students from the Okanagan, Similkameen and Shuswap will be learning from successful women this week at Okanagan College at the inaugural Jill of All Trades event, to be held at OC’s Kelowna campus Wednesday, May 15. 

Mentors like Sandy Morris, who has been involved in residential construction for more than 15 years and now owns her own construction business, will be at OC to help introduce careers in trades to young women. Morris will be joined by other female industry mentors, including aircraft maintenance engineer Amanda Kury from KF Aerospace and Krista Ohman-Relph, an electrician and crew chief at BC Hydro, as they inspire young women to find their passion in the fulfilling world of trades.

“I've felt very fortunate to have been able to not just break into the construction industry but end up owning my own construction company,” said Morris.  Being able to take part in the Jill of all Trades program is amazing, working with young girls that are taking an interest in the construction industry is nothing short of awesome.  I hope in some small way I can show the girls where you can take your career – there are so many different areas to go into and progress to, even owning your own business!”  

OC is hosting Jill of All Trades for the first time this year. It is being led by?OC instructors?and?28?female?industry?mentors with workshops aiming to equip young women with the knowledge and confidence to pursue fulfilling careers in the trades.

Sara Cousins, OC’s manager of Trades programming, has been working in OC’s Trades and Apprenticeship department for?almost 10 years?and says OC is committed to supporting women in trades and?promoting?diversity within the industry.  ?

"More than 20 per cent of OC Trades Foundation students are now female, and we have priority seats available to female applicants to help support their access and increase diversity in trades,” said Cousins. “Our goal is to continue to develop the workforce of the future and increase the number of tradespeople overall in our region and the province.”   

“There are currently a lot of job openings in the trades with careers that typically pay well and provide many benefits,” said Cousins. “The average Red Seal tradesperson in Canada’s salary is now $111,500.”  
The Jill of All Trades event will feature a range of hands-on workshops in sectors such as motor vehicle, manufacturing and construction trades, providing the attendees with insight and practical skills. 

The first annual Jill of All Trades event will take place on May 15, 2024, at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus.  For more on OC Trades and Apprenticeship training, visit okanagan.bc.ca/trades-and-apprenticeship.

UBCO's School of Engineering seeks to inspire the next generation

Students in lab coats and protective glasses, wearing latex gloves, perform science experiments using test tubes and pipettes.

High school students have until May 17 to register for UBC Okanagan’s SEED program.

UBC Okanagan engineering student Gurnoor Chawla knew she'd chosen the right educational path after an inspiring summer learning experience at the university while in high school.

Chawla is now a third-year Electrical Engineering student in UBCO’s School of Engineering (SoE), and she encourages the next cohort of high school students to follow in her footsteps and register for the Stewards in Engineering Education (SEED) Program this July.

"I'd been looking into engineering as a potential career," Chawla says. "I enjoyed how realistic and hands-on it was. Connecting closely with professors and graduate students helped me learn skills and understand research in the field."

Participants join in cutting-edge research projects with world-class researchers and graduate students in state-of-the-art facilities, all under the supervision of SoE hosts.

The free program is designed to be a springboard for students planning their education. Chawla is now a student ambassador for the SoE and speaks highly of the SEED Program.

She says stepping into the radioactive materials lab, seeing the electron microscope and interacting with the radioactive materials lab were among the most memorable moments of her SEED experience.

She especially enjoyed the intensity and the collaborative spirit between the students and says that helped validate her decision to study engineering at UBCO.

"Overall, the SEED program provides a very realistic and intensive understanding of work in university research labs,” she says. “It ensures you’re putting effort into the work instead of simply watching from the sidelines. Anyone interested in engineering should come in with an open mind and a will to explore because this is an amazing opportunity and a great way to create a strong network at UBCO.”

Dr. Jonathan Holzman, an Electrical Engineering Professor and SEED faculty lead, says the program offers students a unique, hands-on opportunity.

"Many incoming students will have never seen--let alone actively experienced--a research lab before. SEED can help them better understand the research environment and the many engineering pathways as they make their post-secondary choices," he says.

This year's SEED program runs from July 22 to 26. Applications are open until May 17 and can be completed online.

To learn more about the program, visit engineering.ok.ubc.ca/programs-admissions/outreach-programs

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UBC Okanagan celebrates expansion, innovation during Nursing Week

Nurse holding hands with patient for help, consulting support and healthcare advice. Kindness, counseling and medical therapy in nursing home for hope, consultation and psychology.

To observe National Nursing Week, UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing invites the community to acknowledge and support the pivotal roles of nurses, nurse educators and nursing students.

Their contributions are instrumental in shaping the future of care in British Columbia and nationwide.

"With the support of the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills, we are expanding our existing programs and developing new pathways and courses," says Jacqueline Denison, Interim Director of the School of Nursing. "These new opportunities will shape the next generation of nurses."

UBCO Nursing's new and expanded programs are pivotal in adapting to and meeting the complex needs of today’s health-care landscape.

"Nurses perform vital work in our clinics, hospitals and communities. The new and expanded programs at UBC Okanagan will create more training opportunities for nurses looking to grow their knowledge as they care for British Columbians and their families," says Lisa Beare, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills.

New Micro-Credentials in Primary Care

UBCO Nursing launched the first of four micro-credentials, which will together comprise a Primary Care Practice Essentials Certificate. The certificate will build nurses' knowledge and skills in team-based primary care, which is crucial for health promotion, early disease detection and managing chronic disease.

Specialty Nursing Pathways

In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills, the school is supported in integrating specialty nursing education pathways--including critical care, perinatal and perioperative nursing--into the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. This will allow new graduates to move quickly and competently into specialty nursing practice.

Indigenous Graduate Education in Nursing Program

The Ministry and the Canadian Institute for Health Research are supporting the development of the Indigenous Graduate Education in Nursing program. The program is a collaboration between several Indigenous communities and five BC post-secondary institutions.

The goal is to meet the health-care needs of Indigenous people through the mentorship and training of Indigenous nurse leaders.

Two Indigenous nursing students have completed the pilot MSN Research Methods course on Indigenous Health Nursing Approaches to Wellness at UVic as part of their pathway. Four new Indigenous Master's students are set to begin the pathway at UBC Okanagan this month.

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Students discuss cultural diversity and community involvement

Asian Heritage Month 2024 panel discussion members

The Asian Heritage Month 2024 opening event hosted by the OCCA Communities Association showcased diverse discussions and captivating performances. Okanagan College was a proud supporter of the event alongside UBC Okanagan. The event celebrated cultural diversity and emphasized community involvement.

The panel discussion was led by Dr. Shirley Chau, Associate Professor at the School of Social Work at UBC Okanagan. Students of Asian heritage from Okanagan College, UBC Okanagan, and OKM Secondary joined the discussion, sharing their stories of belonging and integration in the Okanagan. They also discussed lessons learned and strategies to co-create a more inclusive community, engaging in lively exchanges with the audience. The event also showcased performances including choir, vocal solos, musical instruments, and piano.

The panel discussion was attended by MLA Norm Letnick, MLA Ben Stewart, Mayor Tom Dyas, and Councillor Mohini Singh were present, alongside Okanagan College President, Dr. Neil Fassina and Marten Youssef, the Associate Vice President of University Relations at UBC Okanagan. Elder Grouse Barnes delivered the territory welcome. 

The OCCA is a longstanding community partner with Okanagan College in providing immigrant skills training and services for international students.

The Asian Heritage Month event is not only a celebration of Asian heritage but also aligns with broader societal trends towards equity, diversity, and inclusion. It empowers the community to embrace cultural differences and encourages action through voices of younger generations. 

The upcoming Asian Heritage Showcase at Parkinson Recreation Center on Saturday, May 25 promises to continue fostering diversity, inclusion, and cultural appreciation. 

Are you ready to take the next step to studying as an international student at Okanagan College? International applications are now open, to apply click here. 

Robocup Junior takes over Kelowna Campus

Western Canada Robocup Junior participants

For August Beetlestone, a lead educator at the Okanagan Robotics Academy, seeing his students compete in Robocup is an incredible source of pride.  

Beetlestone’s students meet weekly to design, build and program robots while fostering lifelong friendships centred on a love of robotics, electronics and engineering. 

The Okanagan Robotics Academy brings educators together with a goal to enhance student experience in real-world robotics, electronics, and engineering through competition and project-based learning. Young people are encouraged to explore, have fun and develop the skills that will prepare them for a rapidly changing world. And one of those events is the long-running Robocup event held each year at Okanagan College.  

“Robocup is so impactful for our students because it gives them an opportunity to get hands-on and explore electrical engineering and mechanical engineering,” said Beetlestone. 

The battling robots took over the OC Kelowna campus on Friday, April 26 for the 16th annual Western Canada Robocup competition. Competitors from elementary, middle, and secondary schools throughout the Okanagan participated in competitions showcasing students’ technical prowess. 

Seventeen teams competed in rescue missions, soccer games, and innovative dance demonstrations. Robots navigated obstacles, scored goals, and entertained spectators.  

Students competed in teams with members of the Okanagan Robotics Academy claiming three first place showings. With great experience in a growing field, all of the students gained valuable experience. 

Okanagan College Dean of science and technology, Dr. Halia Valladares spoke to the incredible impact Robocup has on empowering young people to pursue careers in science, technology and math (STEM).  

“Robocup shows what is possible in robotics, inspiring the next generation of engineers and highlighting the importance of academic institutions in nurturing STEM education,” said Valladares. “We have many great programs in Science and Technology in careers that are in need of workers and we look forward to being able to introduce more students to these rewarding careers. 

Support for the competition came from Tekmar, Okanagan Robotics Academy, Anodyne Electronics Manufacturing, TFA, and Lovbot. 

Applications for science and technology programs at Okanagan College are currently open. Take your first step towards a rewarding career in STEM today.  

Okanagan high school students Experience OC

Students at an Experience OC event.

This years’ Experience OC events across OC campuses continue this week with events in Vernon (May 8) and Penticton (May 9). 

OC campuses will welcome more than 750 local high school students from Okanagan Valley school districts as students will get a firsthand look at college life. OC teams will be helping guide students through the maze of career options available beyond high school.

Experience OC details here.

Experience OC is designed to address one of the most pressing challenges faced by students today: the uncertainty of where to begin their career journey. By providing a taste of various academic disciplines and engaging with professionals in these fields, Experience OC helps students discover their passions and potential career paths that allow them the opportunity to study in a place they know and love.

"With over 500 students from Vernon and 250 from Penticton registered, we are thrilled at the opportunity to open up new pathways for our future leaders," said Mehgan Cabrera, Associate Director Recruitment & Enrolment Management at OC, who noted previous events were held in Kelowna and Salmon Arm.

“While OC is renowned for our cutting-edge business programs, well-compensated trades programming, and comprehensive health care careers, we are eager to broaden students’ horizons by showcasing the diverse array of other educational opportunities available here.”

Join us at Experience OC to discover the breadth of innovative and exciting programs that can shape the future of every student.

"Our mission is to illuminate the wide array of career possibilities that many students are often unaware of—from Sustainable Building Technology to Water Engineering Technology, Kinesiology, Animation, Food, Wine, Tourism and Computer Science," said Cabrera.

For information on any OC programs, find information on our website or email [email protected].

Recsky gift to Recreation and Wellness Centre honours family passion

Alex and Ruth Recsky

If there was anyone who would understand the need for a Recreation and Wellness Centre at Okanagan College (OC), it would be Alex Recsky.

Recsky was hired as OC’s first recreation and intramurals programmer in 1986. It was a job he loved and pursued with passion until his retirement 10 years later, introducing thousands of students to sports and recreational opportunities.

Now, Alex’s family are honoring him and his wife Ruth, who are both in their 90s, with a $30,000 donation to the Thrive Here campaign for the Recreation and Wellness Centre at OC’s Kelowna campus.

“My dad’s life philosophies were to build lasting relationships and to serve the community,” says Keith Recsky, Alex’s son. “One way to do both was to get involved in recreational and sporting activities.”

Keith adds that his dad also worked and volunteered with many sports organizations and events since arriving in Kelowna in 1985 and continued that practice well into retirement.

“All four generations of our family have been involved with sports of all kinds in Kelowna, some more serious than others. Many of our most memorable moments come when we are at arenas, gyms, and outdoor spaces,” says Kyle Recsky, Alex’s grandson.

“It is very meaningful to know that our gift will create more opportunities for people of all ages to learn valuable life lessons through sports and recreation,” adds Alex’s grandson, Bryce Recsky.

During Alex’s tenure at the College in the late 80s and early 90s, Alex was active in the fundraising for a gymnasium for Okanagan University College, and one was in fact successfully built on the north campus in 1994. With the transition to two post-secondary institutions in 2005, the gym became part of UBC Okanagan and the need to build a gym at Okanagan College remains to this day. 

Today, recognizing the need for a facility at OC, Cliff and Lois Serwa, honorary chairs for the Thrive Here campaign, are offering to match all donations up to $500,000. The matching gift opportunity felt right to the Recsky family.

“My parents have known Cliff and Lois for a long time. It's not a secret that both families believe in supporting and giving back to the community. My mom and my dad are thrilled and humbled to be associated with the Serwas’ generous matching pledge for this needed project,” adds Keith.

Alex and Lois were both honored with the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002. The recognition is awarded to Canadians who make outstanding and exemplary contributions to their communities or to Canada as a whole. For his service to students and the greater community, Alex was also honored with OUC’s first Distinguished Service Award in 2003.

“We are moved by the Recsky family’s thoughtful gift,” says Helen Jackman, executive director, Okanagan College Foundation. “They understand how a space like this will teach students how to build friendships, overcome challenges and truly discover who they are. The Recsky family’s passion for what recreation does for people will come to life in this new Centre.”

The Okanagan College Foundation has raised $9 million towards its $14 million campaign goal to build a Recreation and Wellness Centre. To learn more and to have your gift matched by the Serwas, click here.  


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