A year of building stronger futures at Selkirk College

It was a year of getting back to being in-person at Selkirk College. In the first graduation ceremony on the Castlegar Campus since 2019, students were all smiles at Convocation 2022 that was held in late-April. Photo: SubmittedIt was a year of getting back to being in-person at Selkirk College. In the first graduation ceremony on the Castlegar Campus since 2019, students were all smiles at Convocation 2022 that was held in late-April. Photo: Submitted
A perfect-fit for rural post-secondary, in late-spring Dr. Maggie Matear was welcomed as the new president of Selkirk College. With a passion for providing the best opportunity for learner success, Matear became the tenth president of the local college when she took over from the retiring Angus Graeme. Photo: SubmittedA perfect-fit for rural post-secondary, in late-spring Dr. Maggie Matear was welcomed as the new president of Selkirk College. With a passion for providing the best opportunity for learner success, Matear became the tenth president of the local college when she took over from the retiring Angus Graeme. Photo: Submitted

Submitted by Selkirk College

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With almost 3,000 students and staff active in the Selkirk College community, the life-and-times of the regional post-secondary is very much a reflection of broader society. Expanding horizons and building tangible futures is the focus, while overcoming challenges and vanquishing obstacles is what ultimately creates exciting outcomes.

After all our society has been through in the last two-plus years, it’s more important than ever to look forward rather than glance in the rearview mirror. The COVID-19 challenges and struggle proved our strength as a community, but it’s completely natural to shudder when reminiscence rears its head. We’ve come a long way in the last 12 months and 2022 will be remembered as crawling out of the pandemic and into better days.

As Selkirk College closes another successful 12-months of regional post-secondary education, here is a look back at five storylines that stood out in 2022.

The Welcome Return of Community

The year began under the uncertain clouds of COVID-19 with masks, vaccine cards and restrictions still very much part of the post-secondary landscape. As the winter semester progressed, the patience, diligence and strength exhibited in all corners of the college over the previous two years would be rewarded with a gradual easing of pandemic pressure.

As the semester hit its climax in March/April, in-person events that left a yawing void in the previous two years were back. School of Business students held the Business Plan Tradeshow, learners in the Contemporary Music & Technology Program returned to stage for semester-end showcase concerts, Digital Arts Program students invited the community to check out eye-popping outcomes at Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus, the Mir Centre for Peace invited Dr. Raven Sinclair to a lecture series event and graduating students in the Fine Woodworking Program displayed their budding talents at the Year-End Show.

“Student life and community involvement is an essential part of the college experience,” says Director of Communications & Public Engagement Maggie Keczan. “Instructors and staff did an incredible job throughout the darkest days of the pandemic by continuing to deliver programs and outcomes despite the massive shift in how we operate.

“But the element of celebrating success and education together was certainly missed. Returning to more normal semester-end activity made our appreciation for these outcomes even greater.”

The peak of hugs and high-fives arrived in late-April when the first in-person Convocation ceremony since 2019 returned to the Castlegar Campus with graduating students walking across the stage to receive their credentials and journey onward towards exciting new beginnings.

Change at the Top

A new era of leadership at Selkirk College began in late-May when longtime president Angus Graeme handed the reins of regional post-secondary to Dr. Maggie Matear.

Arriving from Yukon University in Whitehorse where she was vice president, Matear’s three decades of diverse leadership experience focused in rural Canada fit perfectly into the position of guiding hand for students, staff and the greater community. Spending much of the first seven months getting acquainted with the complexities and demands of the role, Matear’s approach of openness, consultation and kindness was a terrific start.

“What became immediately clear to me when I started to meet instructors and staff here, is just how passionate everyone is about helping learners succeed,” says Matear, who was hired in February after a nation-wide search. “It’s that institution-wide commitment that ultimately leads to success. We’ll have plenty of opportunities and challenges in the next year, and we have the team in place to make some great things happen.”

The ebb-and-flow on the leadership team didn’t end at the president’s office. In the fall, longtime Selkirk College instructor and administrator Taya Whitehead was named the new Vice President of Education & Students. Replacing outgoing vice president Rhys Andrews, Whitehead is an alumna of Selkirk College, a beloved educator, and a respected leader both locally and beyond.

Bricks, Mortar and Organics Diversion

A key component of the college’s Strategic Plan 2019-2024, the modernization of facilities, technology and operations is a constant objective that ensures students are learning in an environment that leads to success. Important strides both big and small were made over the course of the last 12 months.

From the college’s purchase of the Greater Trail Community Centre in the spring to breaking ground on two new student housing facilities in Castlegar and Nelson in the fall, the commitment to continual improvement didn’t falter.

“Our facilities and infrastructure form the backbone of what we offer students,” says Director of Facilities & Business Services Donna Drover. “Whether it’s new technology and equipment or larger capital projects, the focus is always on how to best serve the learner with both expectations and outcomes. It was a busy year that was full of tangible projects and we are looking forward to continuing that momentum into the new year.”

Other than the major capital projects and purchases, 2022 saw the opening of a new physics lab on the Castlegar Campus, the addition of a biomass boiler on the Silver King Campus that turns waste wood into winter heat, a commercial foodcycler pilot project on Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus and dozens of other projects that help keep Selkirk College looking forward for both students and staff.

Delivering the Data

Building a mighty reputation as a rural leader in research and innovation, the capacity and collaboration at Selkirk Innovates expanded further into all corners of the region.

Over the last three years, there has been more than $10 million worth of research and innovation support fueled by 225 partners in the private sector, non-profit and government. In that time, more than 230 faculty and students have worked on a diverse range of projects in a multitude of sectors. In the last year, there were 90-plus research and innovation projects actioned as the college cemented itself as a go-to for problem solving and vital data used for decision-making.

“We are building and expanding talent while at the same time delivering results,” says Dr. Terri MacDonald, the Director of Applied Research & Innovation. “It’s incredible to see how far we have come over the last few years. We have established partnerships with local government, community organizations and private industry that prove what can be accomplished when you bring all of these passionate faculty and students together to advance the priorities of excellence in education and community development.”

Examples of success were many at Selkirk Innovates, including putting the wraps on a $2 million Natural Science & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) grant that resulted in a variety of tangible outcomes for the regional forest sector. In October, researchers began a $360,000 project funded by the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) that is bringing together 17 supporting partners for a deep-dive into the complex issues surrounding homelessness in rural BC.

Spreading Wings of Possibility

With more than 80 programs available for learners, Selkirk College offers education, skills and training that leaves few areas of the economy and society untouched. As workforce demands continue to evolve and change, the college continues to introduce new opportunities for students.

From the new two-year Practical Nursing Program that begins in January to the five-month micro-credential Drone Technology Program to the freshly adjusted Blacksmithing & Metal Art Program, Selkirk College is helping lead the way for in-demand careers.

“Program development and continuous improvement is an ongoing cycle at the college,” says Vice President of Education & Students Taya Whitehead. “Our communities look to us for providing energetic and confident graduates who are ready to make a difference in their careers and take on new opportunities. Adding new programs that make sense and ensuring those that are already established continue to be relevant will continue into the new year.”

KootenaysPost-secondary Education