VANDERHOOF – On Nov. 30, 2017 Nechako Lakes School District (SD#91) and UNBC celebrated their working relationship on educational initiatives by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
“The MOU is really just a recognition of a partnership that has been going on for quite a while. If we decide to do something, we do it. This is a celebration of what we’ve been doing and it just strengthens those ties. I look forward to working with everybody in the school board to make things stronger and better,” Dr. Dan Ryan, UNBC Provost and Vice-President Academic.
A small group gathered in the School Board Office Boardroom to witness Dr. Dan Ryan and Eugene Marks, SD#91 Superintendent, sign the MOU which outlines their mutual interest in continuing to foster interaction and collaboration between and among students, teachers and faculty of their respective secondary and post-secondary institutions.
All Nechako Lakes schools
UNBC and all SD#91 schools in Fort St. James, Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, Burns Lake and EBUS Academy will continue to work collaboratively to deliver educational initiatives in various disciplines that are beneficial to students of both the School District and UNBC.
Mutually beneficial activities include programs, presentations, workshops, scholarships, awards, broader access to collective grant funding for joint initiatives and developing new experiential/research-based learning opportunities and programming.
Dual credit agreement
The MOU also initates the next steps in finalising a dual credit agreement which will formalise the opportunity for the university to issue UNBC credits to qualifying high school students who participate in projects which span high school and university studies.
The two institutions will continue to seek synergies and celebrate the ongoing successes in quality educational opportunities available in northern B.C., and in doing so increase visibility of both UNBC and SD#91 programming.
Broad vision for growth
“This is truly a partnership that we are very proud of, that we promote very highly. Where ever we go, we talk about our relationship with UNBC and the kind of things that we are exploring together,” says Marks. “I think it speaks highly of the nature of our two organisations. We conduct some formal work where we make sure everything meets protocol, but the people on the ground are very nimble and flexible in looking for opportunities for students. We appreciate that the university has a broad vision for what is good for students, and has reached into our region for some outstanding opportunities for students and we look forward, for many more years, to continue to grow and develop.
“That is one thing about our organisation,” continues Marks speaking about Nechako Lakes School District. “We don’t stick to the old, we are always looking for the new and different and exciting ways to do things, and we know UNBC is as well and we appreciate that. We have a number of UNBC grads who have worked for us, and I’ve had children attend, who know it’s a world class institution and having UNBC as one of our partners; we are grateful for that. Thank you for the work that you’ve done.”
In the north, for the north
Dr. Dan Ryan, UNBC, says “Our mandate is, of course, ‘[a university] in the north, for the north’ and creating leaders for the future. That’s why we are there and that’s why I think it is important that we have these strong relationships. UNBC is only 26, 27 years old at this point. Our founders had an amazing vision and the faculty and staff over the last 20 – 25 years have lived up to that and made it work. So we are very proud of that. In fact, for the last 10 – 15 years the University of Northern British Columbia is the top 1, 2 or 3 [including 19 universities of its size in the country] according to annual rankings released by Maclean’s magazine.
”It’s relationships like this,” continued Ryan, “Where students in the north have the opportunity to really grow and become the leaders that they can be and, more importantly, stay in the community. Because ultimately that’s why we are here; to help students find their niche and find what they are excited about and have the opportunity to succeed at that.”
Seamless K-20 education
Eugene Marks, SD#91 Superintendent says “We have an education system that was broken into two divisions; a K-12 system and then post secondary. But what we have today is really a K-20 system. So we’re not in our silos, we still have the ministries that we have to work within, but on the inside we’re trying to work much more in partnership and try to make things more seamless.
Opens doors for students
“The other thing that’s going on in education is, for a period of time, education is what used to happen inside the walls of institutions. Well, now education isn’t seen as inside anybody’s particular walls. Education is a community event. It can happen anywhere, anytime. And being able to have post-secondary involved with not only our grade 12’s but involved with our elementary students, really opens the doors and expands the vision of our students.
Connecting with expertise
“We want our students to have post secondary opportunities and vision from a very young age and as they have an opportunity to interact with the professors and graduate students and undergraduate students, it starts to open the world for them. One of the things that UNBC is known for is the number of hands-on opportunities that students are able to have and that’s what we really want for our students. So some of the more technical things that we can’t provide, the university has and world class expertise and getting our students connected I think is exciting for all students throughout all of District #91,” says Marks.
Knowledge to action
“Dr. Margot Parkes, [UNBC Professor and Canada Research Chair in Health, Ecosystems and Society] and her Ecohealth Knowledge to Action northern BC Research Group would be a gold standard for what’s been going on in terms of her coming here and allowing our folks to interact with her and just being a presence in our communities,” says Darren Carpenter, Nechako Lakes SD#91 Careers Program Coordinator. “The thinking behind the MOU is taking it to the next level. That is just one example of the projects that have been going on. We’ve connected with UNBC for the last 10 years in various ways, exposing students to programs there.”
Project STEAM, HEALTH
“A lot of focus is on experiential learning for our students and the interaction of our students with UNBC faculty, like SD#91 Career Program’s Project HEALTH, Project STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math] as well as what we did with our Digital Story Telling summer program, is offering more hands on learning and learning something new,” says Sagar Saxena, SD#91 Community Engagement and Partnerships Officer who spoke at the MOU signing. Saxena is credited for instrumental work that has been done over the last two years in expanding SD#91’s educational partner relationships.