Aerial view of VIU campus

Welcome Donors!

Dayln Labrecque

Over the past three years, the Imagine VIU campaign raised $7.3 million in support of our students and transformed the Nanaimo VIU campus:

  • We constructed the new Dr. Ralph Nilson Centre for Health and Science, the new Windsor Plywood Trades Discovery Centre, and the District Geo-Exchange Energy System
  • We created over $2M worth of new student scholarships, awards, and bursaries
  • We acquired almost $2M worth of new equipment and program support

We could not have done it without the help of our community partners like Windsor Plywood, Island Savings, Nanaimo Port Authority, Harbourview Volkswagen, the VIU Alumni Association, and so many more generous supporters who helped us surpass our original fundraising goal of $5.5M. Thank you so much!

Dr. Ralph Nilson Centre for Health and Science

Windsor Plywood Trades Discovery Centre

District Geo-Exchange Energy System

Success Stories

Donors make the success of our institution possible. Whether it be through financial support, partnerships, or positive word-of-mouth, the success of our students, programs, and capital projects are all thanks to you believing in us. Here are some stories about the best, the brightest, and the coolest things happening at VIU!

A Sound Constitution

Bachelor of Science in Nursing students at Vancouver Island University have always cared deeply about providing high quality, accurate, and beneficial medical information to the community, but did you know they’ve been doing it in a very special way for 11 years? A Sound Constitution  is a student-developed and student-lead radio show produced in partnership with CHLY 101.7 FM radio station in Nanaimo, BC that aims to demystify, debunk, inform, and encourage members of our community in learning about health and wellness issues that affect us every day.

Each semester, BScN students who participate in the program engage with it in their own creative ways, working mostly autonomously with some Faculty support. Whether it be pre-recorded lectures, call-in shows, interviews, or even live episodes, the show produces weekly one-hour episodes, eight per season or semester, that separate fact from fiction and improve the health literacy of our community. The program also teaches the students valuable lessons about medical research through credible sources, keeping current on the latest health trends, and training in directing, editing, and producing shows which they bring forward into their careers. They’ve even had well-known guests on in the past, such as famed addiction speaker and author Dr. Gabor Maté.

That’s not all. The program allows the students the opportunity to work in community with organizations like the RCMP, substance use/mental health support organizations, Indigenous communities, and multiple different support agencies. “This is all made possible with the support of VIU’s community partners,” stresses Sandy Alexander, VIU Nursing Professor. “The students develop such fantastic relationships with our community. The students do great work and they’re so proud of what they do.”

Listen to A Sound Constitution

Dr. Shannon Dames

Over the past year, VIU Nursing Professor Dr. Shannon Dames and her team have developed a highly successful psychedelic medicine treatment program for health-care providers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, trauma, and emotional exhaustion. The program uses ketamine, a legal psychedelic medication, in combination with a resilience training program. From the very beginning of the program a year ago, success rates have been unprecedented. For example, of the 16 participants in the first cohort, 11 screened positive for PTSD, and all screened negative by the end of the program.

The program has caught the attention – and support – of major donor organizations like the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, the Lotte and John Hecht Memorial Foundation, and the Jim and Janice Parker Foundation. It has also received support from local health organizations.

“It’s a big deal for our health services to wade into psychedelic assisted therapy,” says Dames. “A lot of influential agencies have come on board, including the Government of British Columbia and the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR).”

Another dimension of the program’s popularity is the creation of a new education certificate in psychedelic-assisted therapy for health-care workers, which goes out for public review this summer. Once approved, VIU will be the only accredited post-secondary institution in Canada to offer this certification. The team has also received approval from the Research Ethics Board (REB) to use their clinical and quality improvement data for research purposes, another first in Canada. The data, which shows the efficacy of the program and improvements they can make, will be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Roots to Thrive

To create a holistic treatment plan for affected front-line healthcare workers suffering from work-related mental health disorders, the psychedelic medicine program has been combined with Roots to Thrive, a group mental health therapy program designed to create safe spaces for those experiencing mental and spiritual distress. The program is research-informed and centres on communities of practice that mirror unconditional positive regard (UPR), which allows patient-participants to trust themselves and others for the first time in a long time.

“We are treating physiological responses in the body and mind that come from years of trauma and conditioning,” says Dames. “Patient-participants experience positive, safe connection with others, and many experience secure attachment for the first time. Adding the medicine-assisted therapy is a supportive tool used to help patient-participants overcome barriers that keep them from connecting with themselves and others.”

The program has proved effective and received positive feedback from the group thus far. It is also highly sustainable, as many who finish the program become mentors to new participants. The one drawback is the cost of the program.

“Unfortunately, the program is pricey and we have a waitlist,” says Dames. To offset the cost, program practitioners are fundraising for a scholarship program through donations.

What’s next for the psychedelic medicine therapy at VIU? The team is currently working on a clinical trial to expand the program to include new medications, such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy).

“If approved, the psilocybin will be used to treat those with terminal illness, including opioid use disorder, while the MDMA will focus on treating PTSD,” says Dames. 

CBAIR program students and VIU Faculty

One of the exciting and immersive programs Faculty of Management students have the opportunity to participate in is the Community-Based Applied Interdisciplinary Research (CBAIR) program. This program is an interdisciplinary, collaborative initiative that gives students real-world, hands-on experiences helping an organization in our community solve a problem, complete a project, or initiate a new endeavour. Students in the Faculty of Management work with students from a number of other faculties at VIU including Education, Visual Art, Computer Science, Graphic Design, and Criminology to develop and complete a research project in partnership with a local organization and VIU faculty mentors.

Students benefit by building their networks, getting work experience and enjoying long-lasting employment opportunities in some cases. They learn oral presentation and critical thinking skills, problem solving using multiple perspectives, time and project management, and for international students, how to work in a Canadian environment. Students emerge from the program as empowered change agents to the incredible benefit of businesses in our region.

CBAIR Alum Felicia Fischer was part of the group that made recommendations to the Ecoforestry Institute Society about how they could promote ecoforestry to professional forestry organizations and the community in general.

“It was very interesting dealing with real organizations and getting the opportunity to work with a real client and get feedback,” Felicia says. “We really honed our communication skills through the interviews and other elements of the project.”

In years past project clients have included the Zonta Club of Nanaimo, the Haven Society, Loaves and Fishes, and Nanaimo Association for Community Living. The research conducted by students has had positive impacts on the community. For example, past students have successfully lobbied the provincial government for subsidized housing funding, and created a report that helped gain additional funding for childcare for families in our region.

"The applied nature of the projects is a critical part of their learning," says Joanna Hesketh, one of the VIU Faculty mentors for CBAIR. "Students go through the program with the same team, same charter, and work with the same company across multiple semesters, and the recommendations students make are actioned in the community. The opportunity to work with the students on these initiatives is one of the most amazing opportunities I’ve had at VIU."

CBAIR students created a report to help the Zonta Club of Nanaimo raise awareness about their efforts to end violence against women, and to attract new members.

“The overall experience working with VIU and the CBAIR students was very positive,” recalls Janice Krall, who was President of the club at the time. “The report they produced highlighted gaps and areas where the club could improve. The project findings and recommendations will serve as a resource for the club for years to come.”

Vancouver Island University extends its deep appreciation to all our donors who support our Faculty of Management students and programs. Our students thrive here thanks to your generosity.

For more information about VIU’s Faculty of Management programs, visit https://management.viu.ca/.

Marissa Wright-LaGreca

Meet Marissa, a fourth-year Biology student at Vancouver Island University (VIU). Marissa is researching the first 24 hours of shell development in Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) larvae, with hopes to find out how oyster shell development is impacted by negative seawater conditions such as ocean acidification (OA).

“Understanding what genes are important in OA may allow for hatcheries to better select oysters that are more resilient to OA seawater conditions,” explains Marissa.

One of Marissa’s career goals is to work in shellfish aquaculture research because of its economic and cultural importance in British Columbia, and for the diversity in the work.

“[On any day, I could be working in the lab, on the computer, outdoors and in a hatchery setting. I hope that my future, long-term career has this same type of diversity because it keeps each day different and interesting.”

In her free time, Marissa enjoys spending time with friends and family (safely, during these strange times, of course!), and being outside and appreciating the BC climate – a welcome change from her upbringing in the cold regions of Northern Alberta!

In addition to being incredibly driven, Marissa is an award-winning student in her field. Between 2020 and 2021, she was awarded the Attariwala Science Award, a Mitacs Training Award, a VIU Reach Award, and two Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) from the National Science and Engineering Research Council! These awards helped pay for her tuition and research projects. The VIU Reach Award helped her attend and present her research at the National Shellfish Association (NSA) conference.

For more information about VIU’s Faculty of Science and Technology programs, visit https://www.viu.ca/programs/science-and-technology.  

annie lehky

Meet Annie Lehky, a second-year Culinary Arts student at Vancouver Island University who has a passion for all things creative. She loves music, reading and writing short stories and poetry, and has recently started dabbling in painting as well.

“It is a lot less scary than it seems for beginners, and so therapeutic,” Annie told us.

Annie has spent the last two years at VIU what it takes to make it in the restaurant industry.

“The first year is all about perfecting the basics of cooking – like how to handle a variety of equipment, coming up with excellent soups and sauces, how to cook different cuts of meat, studying tons of fruits and vegetables, and how to cook an egg to perfection in any form,” she says. “The second year is about honing and focusing those skills, working with more exotic ingredients, and generally building on the first year of knowledge.”

Annie aspires to be an executive chef and plans to pursue a Red Seal in baking as well.

“There’s tons of room for freedom and self-expression in your cooking in the program,” she says. “There is so much time with absolutely outstanding instructors who have so much to teach us. I adore it.”

For more information about VIU’s Culinary Arts programs, visit https://www.viu.ca/programs/trades-applied-technology/culinary-arts.

Mark Gledhill

Mark Gledhill is a first-year Master of Community Planning student at VIU. Mark loves to cosplay, is a huge fan of the Honor Harrington Series by David Weber, and enjoys building and painting sci-fi and WW2 models. Mark is also person with Autism Spectrum Disorder and is using his educational experience to try to find ways to improve accessibility in community for those experiencing visible and invisible disabilities.

“I’m hoping to bring my love of heritage together with my understanding of being a person with a disability to create what I hope will be something unique and helpful,” Mark says. “I plan to do my thesis on strategies to improve the accessibility of heritage buildings and districts. What most Canadians don’t realize is that many cities are getting to the age where buildings are becoming heritage and need to be protected, but also have to be used by all elements of our society. It is my hope that creating something like this can help bridge the gap between old and new as we move into the next Canadian century.”

Mark’s other passion is encouraging those with disabilities to enter the planning profession to increase accessibility in community planning.

“While I don’t have a formal idea of where I wish to work yet, I do have aspirations to create a course or module for the MCP program on accessibility in urban planning. I also want to write a book on accessibility in community planning.” 

For more information about VIU’s Social Sciences programs, visit https://socialsciences.viu.ca/.      

Jonah Woodhouse

During the campus closure of 2020-21, VIU’s Child & Youth Care (CYC) students were afforded a unique opportunity to work remotely with an international partner and build more robust, deep-diving programs for communities abroad. One such initiative is a fully immersive research project in collaboration with international partner PivotPOINT WNC (PivotPOINT) in Ashville, North Carolina, USA. PivotPOINT plans outdoor activities for special-purpose high schools that focus on children and youth recovering from direct or indirect substance use and generational trauma. 

The students conducted a thorough literature review and wrote the curriculum to transform one of PivotPOINT’s existing summer sessions into a full, four-month wilderness exploration program for disenfranchised youth. The program teaches compassion, practicing mindfulness, and strengthening their own abilities to self-regulate their emotions. 

“The practicum was heavily research-focused, but this was an awesome way to create something that can be replicated and used to facilitate change in the individuals,” says Jonah Woodhouse, a student in the CYC program who helped develop the program. “Talking about community and practicing mindfulness helps put the children and youth into a position where they can take what they learned back to their communities.” 

PivotPOINT practitioners were even able to use the proposal in a successful $30,000 funding grant application. Best of all, the partner is keen to build on the relationship with VIU for future practicum opportunities. 

Woodhouse is excited about the potential for ongoing opportunities with PivotPOINT. 

“My colleagues and I are looking forward to hearing the feedback from program after it runs this summer. It’s a personal goal of mine to go to Ashville one summer to facilitate the program myself,” he says. 

VIU’s Child and Youth Care program aims to develop relationships with children, youth, families, and communities in various contexts and across a range of settings. This relational work focuses on developing, supporting, enhancing, and promoting positive change that builds upon existing strengths and resources. 

“The CYC for me personally is a way to work with people who need to be person-centered,” Woodhouse told us. “Promoting equality, caring for the well-being of children and the future—that’s what pulled me in.”

Run by the Community Cousins, Thuy’she’num Tu Smun’eem (Indigenous Summer Camp) connects Indigenous youth with peers, Elders, and VIU students to create strong relationships and support their future educational journey.

The VIU Foundation and Office of Aboriginal Education is grateful to The Peter Cundill Foundation, who has provided over $430,000 to create and sustain this program. Hay ch qa’ sii’em.

The Pieter de Reuver Foundation has been supporting various programs at Vancouver Island University since 2009, including a focus on the Post Care Tuition Waiver (PCTW) program. The foundation awards 30 $500 bursaries to PCTW students every year.

"This bursary has helped me to pay for my car insurance, gas money, make sure I have food to eat, get that last bit of money for my textbooks, and support my family. Thank you so much, Pieter de Reuver, for your support. It really helps." - PCTW Student

Get the whole story from our students on YouTube.

Jane and Frank Gregory were some of VIU's most active community leaders. They were with VIU from the very start in the 1960s, ensuring our successful progression from college to university.

The Jane and Frank Gregory Memorial Fund has been created in honour of their legacy at VIU. The fund supports Milner Gardens and Woodlands, Jane's favourite place to be.

Victoria Paulo - Mosaic

Mosaic Forest Management has created a wonderful new set of financial awards for Indigenous VIU students. One of the recipients reached out to tell us her story, and we wanted to share it with everyone! This is what amazing partnerships can do for our community.

“I started in the automotive trade which is where I met welding. It was love at first UV burn! I knew from that class on that I was passionate about welding, and I had found something that sparked my interest in more ways than one. 

Unfortunately, being a young adult and living on my own, finances were tight and I had no idea how I was going to make it to the end of the program without having to work full time and do school full time. Now I can focus more on my education and being the best welder I can be.”

– Victoria Paulo, VIU Welding Student

Katrin

Arnold MacDonald Tedford was a teacher prior to the war, whose specialty was in organic chemistry. In honour of her late husband, Joy Tedford recently created the Arnold MacDonald Tedford Memorial Bachelor of Science Award at VIU, which will provide full tuition plus some living expenses for a female student enrolling in our Chemistry program. Selection will be based on financial need and academic achievement.

Joy, thank you so much for creating such a wonderful legacy for Arnold, one that will give women in science and tech a fantastic opportunity to achieve their academic goals.

To see this award or apply for it, click here and filter to the Bachelor of Science and click on the award.