Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Performing Arts grad set on path to write and illustrate children's books

By Tracey Denofreo, Marketing and Communications Office

Photo: David Denofreo

Sometimes, the best way to start is by simply exploring. Just ask Britt MacDuff, who was fresh out of high school when she first set foot in an eastern philosophy class at Douglas College, eager to learn about the things that mattered to her.

“I studied amazing things: philosophy, film history, art history, anthropology, world religion, French, children's literature, creative writing, music, acting . . . it was all so fascinating," she says. "Art history pulled me in, but then film studies caught me off guard with how interesting it was.”

Britt’s tour through college ended eight years later – “I took a few years off in the middle” – when she graduated in June with an Associate of Arts Degree in Performing Arts. The last two courses she took, creative writing and children’s literature, made her career path clear: writing books for children.

“Those courses really brought out the spark in me,” she says. “It was just the perfect fit for me at the right point in my life.” Britt combined her writing skills with a course on illustrating picture books at Emily Carr University, with plans to write and illustrate her own book.

For Britt, learning more about her chosen craft is as easy as reading the works of her favourite authors. “I love Roald Dahl because he takes you into a whole different world,” she says. “Francesa Lia Block, author of the Weetzie Bat series, is another favourite. Her writing is so beautiful; it’s really helping me release myself from the pressure of writing a certain way. I’m learning to write more magically.”

Britt’s next adventure will see her heading off to on a European expedition, starting with the United Kingdom where she plans to visit Roald Dahl’s writing hut, seek out Lewis Carroll’s birthplace and spend some time at Beatrix Potter’s house.

“I always create themes for things, trying to create the interesting out of the mundane, so this is my ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ trip. And I’m really keeping it to 80 days!” she says.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Abolishing the Canadian Senate: good politics, bad policy

Darin Nesbitt

By Darin Nesbitt, Chair of Political Science

The bandwagon racing to abolish the Canadian Senate is circling around four senators at the heart of an expenses scandal, one of whom – Senator Mike Duffy – is under criminal investigation. Senate scandals are hardly uncommon, but this one is significant because it involves not only the RCMP but also some of the prime minister’s key advisors.

While public frustration with senators is certainly justified, more sober reflection reveals reform, not abolishment, is the best option to deal with the Senate. A recent CBC/Nanos poll indicates 49 percent of Canadians want to reform the Senate, 41 percent want it abolished and six percent support the Senate as it is. The vast majority of Canadians clearly want change, but that will be very difficult so long as they remain deeply divided over what to do with the Senate.

The status quo

Those who support the status quo believe appointed and tenured senators maintain their political independence and thus can provide “sober second thought” to proposed legislation from the House of Commons. In reality, the appointment process – it is prime ministers who select senators – is antiquated, undemocratic and prevents the Senate from performing a more constructive and legitimate role.

The most disturbing revelation in the ongoing Senate scandal is the intimate relationship between senators and the Prime Minister’s Office. Nigel Wright, the former chief of staff for Prime Minister Harper, provided $90,000 to Senator Duffy so he could repay improperly claimed Senate expenses. Senator David Tkachuk, former chair of the Senate committee on internal economy, admitted he was in contact with the PMO concerning an internal Senate report on Mr. Duffy. The claim that senators currently exercise “political independence” is simply implausible.

Abolishing the Senate

Those who want the Senate abolished do not believe the institution can ever play a meaningful role. To get rid of it, however, requires the arduous process of constitutional change, something its advocates usually neglect to mention. This proposal is not likely to meet with success, especially since the last major effort to amend the constitution’s Senate provisions in 1992 proposed electing senators. More importantly, abolishing the Senate would eliminate the only national institution that can address the most pressing problem confronting the Canadian federal parliamentary system: the unyielding grip prime ministers and their unelected advisors in the PMO have on all aspects of national governance.

The desirability of Senate reform

The democratic health of a political system depends upon the vigour of its constitutional and institutional checks and balances. Canadian prime ministers exercise largely unchecked power within the House of Commons. The Harper government demonstrated that even with minority governments – a parliamentary state of affairs where one would expect more limitations on prime ministers – their influence is unconstrained. The Senate was originally designed to serve as a check on the House of Commons (and the Cabinet), although the appointment process undermined that crucial role.

It is good populist politics to call for abolishing the Senate, but it is bad policy. To abolish it would leave a solitary House of Commons completely at the tender mercies of prime ministers. Electing senators would revive the Senate in a way that would ensure its independence and accountability – and provide a desperately needed institutional check on prime ministers. A reformed and elected Senate that represents Canada’s rich diversity is vastly preferable to a proposal that will assuredly weaken the federal Parliament.

Opinions expressed in this story are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Douglas College. Want to write a piece for doug? See our writer's guidelines. 


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nursing grad encourages nurses to volunteer

Tracy Glenn with community members at Kibagabaga Hospital, in Rwanda.

By Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor

Tracy Glenn is encouraging other nurses to volunteer in different parts of the world to provide medical care to people in need.

"I hope that through reading about my experiences, Douglas College student nurses can see that there are many opportunities for different types of nursing worldwide," says Tracy, who graduated from the Douglas Nursing program in 1991.

Tracy is now working in Qatar planning a new hospital, where she's part of the Clinical Planning Department responsible for specific areas of the Perioperative Department, including the post-anesthesia care unit.

In February, Tracy travelled to Rwanda with the International Organization for Women and Development, a charitable organization, to treat women with obstetric fistula, a medical condition in which a hole develops in the birth canal.

During the two-week mission, the team of 30 volunteers, which included top surgeons from the United States, performed 46 fistula repairs. All the volunteers paid their own way.

Tracy went on a similar mission to Guatemala recently with a Vancouver-based charity called Project HANDS. The surgical team did hernia repairs and hysterectomies on rural Mayan women for free.

"I really try to encourage and hopefully inspire nurses to consider volunteering, because these women are really in need of our help," Tracy says. "I hope by telling my story that even a few nurses may be moved."

Read an in-depth interview with Tracy about her experiences in Rwanda in the Gulf Times.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Help people with barriers find meaningful work with the Employment Supports Specialty Advanced Certificate

Looking for a rewarding career helping people with barriers find - and keep - meaningful employment?

Upgrade your skills with the Employment Supports Specialty Advanced Certificate!

This online-only program is the first program of its kind in Canada and fills a training gap for professionals who help youth at risk, adults with disabilities and others with significant barriers find successful employment.

Who should apply?

  • Practitioners who support youth at risk and people with disabilities, mental illness or other barriers to employment
  • Teachers and Special Education Assistants who help youth transition to the workplace
  • Human resource business professionals who want to improve the bottom line by employing a diverse workforce
  • Students in a variety of degree programs who want to kickstart an exciting career

What you’ll study

  • Employment support models (customized, supported and self-employment)
  • Vocational planning
  • Marketing essentials (to find the right jobs for your clients)
  • Specific strategies that work for employers and employees
  • Intellectual, mental and physical disabilities


  • Flexible, online courses are offered part time for students and working professionals
  • Lively real-time seminars will keep you engaged in your learning
  • Individualized coursework allows you to focus on your area of interest
  • Courses are accepted as 3rd year electives in many Canadian degree programs
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Association (VRA) approved for CE credits
  • Practitioners with related coursework and/or 2 years experience can challenge up to 75% of the credential through Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR)
Apply now! Start in January 2014.

For more info, visit the Employment Supports Specialty Advanced Certificate website or email Wendy Sashikata, Instructional Facilitator.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Why you should study Theatre at Douglas College

What's so great about the Theatre program at Douglas College? In this video, Julia Siedlanowska, a recent grad, tells us what she loved about it and how it helped launch her artistic career.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

UNIBUG project grows to more than 300 volunteers

By Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor
Photos by Mikki Herbold

Douglas College is helping fight garden pests the natural way - and more than 300 volunteers are helping us do it!

UNIBUG - the User Network for Insect Biology in the Urban Garden - helps urban gardeners manage insect pests, such as snails and slugs, using biological controls, rather than chemical pesticides.

Beginning with 25 community volunteers in 2011, the project has grown to 324 volunteers who garden in 56 home, community and school plots in North Vancouver, New Westminster, the Tri-Cities, Surrey, Langley and Maple Ridge.

Volunteers work with Douglas College staff to plant plants that are known to attract beneficial insects, such as predatory beetles and parasitic wasps, into urban gardens. The insects feed on pests that harm garden plants.

Veronica Wahl, UNIBUG project coordinator at the Institute for Urban Ecology at Douglas College, says UNIBUG is an opportunity for volunteers – who include a number of schoolchildren – to do something good for the environment.

“There are so many messages of doom and gloom out there,” she says. “So I think the kids get really excited because they learn they can actually make a difference. It’s often a new idea for children and, come to think of it, for many adults, too.”

UNIBUG has had success with two plants, sweet alyssum and yarrow, in attracting beneficial insects. Wahl says that once the results are conclusive, UNIBUG will have larger implications.

“Once we are sure which plants do their job of attracting biological controls, we can start making recommendations to gardeners, nurseries and landscaping companies,” Wahl says. “Chemical pesticides hurt us, our pets, our soil and our atmosphere,” she adds. “If we can figure out a way of getting biological controls to eat the pests, then we can manage the pests.”

For more information, visit


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Video: Theatre grad learns to walk - and sing - again after car accident

Chelsea Stamp-Vincent was a student in the Douglas College Theatre program when, two years ago, she was the victim of a horrific car accident. Her doctors told her she’d be a quadriplegic for the rest of her life. Chelsea didn't listen. This is her story.

Shot and edited by Bill Wu.
Interview by Tamara Letkeman, doug Editor