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Alumni Engagement

Award Recipients

Camosun congratulates our outstanding award recipients! Each year, we celebrate a Distinguished Alumni and a Promising Alumni.

Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Camosun's Distinguished Alumni Award is presented annually to alumni who have graduated more than 10 years ago and who have made outstanding contributions in their fields and in service to community. Each of the recipients were nominated and selected for their ongoing and exceptional dedication, success and commitment to their profession. They represent unique educational career paths, and each has donated selflessly to improve the lives of others.

Gowan Armstrong

June 2019 – Gowan Armstrong Forest industry leader, operational controller, and mentor

Forest industry leader, operational controller, and mentor Gowan Armstrong is the recipient of the 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award.

Gowan calls himself an “accidental accountant” – but there’s nothing accidental about the upward trajectory that his career has taken since he completed two Camosun business diplomas (general management and accounting) in 2003.

“What I enjoy most about my work is building relationships and working with all sorts of different people, from operational managers to other finance professionals to senior executives,” says Gowan. “I enjoy variety and human contact.”

While he’s a senior finance team member of Canfor, one of the world’s largest producers of sustainable lumber, pulp, and paper, Gowan’s ability to build relationships and support people has been one of the defining characteristics of his career. He entered the forestry industry after graduation, accepting a position as an accountant at Western Forest Products. Gowan navigated his accounting career through company restructuring and economic downturns, and in 2012 he moved his family from Vancouver Island to Fort St. John to work for Canfor. This year he was promoted within the company and relocated to Prince George.

Gowan has gained a reputation for bringing out the best in people and being generous with his time. He supports the people on his team and throughout the company, and is praised for his work ethic and diplomatic way of handling every situation. His co-workers comment on his composure, respectful manner, and positive outlook.

It’s no accident that Gowan is known within Canfor as a mentor who encourages the leader within everyone. His advice to Camosun graduates is similar to what he tells new finance professionals at the company: “Know how you, as a person, function and process information. Then understand that not everyone is like you and be receptive to other people’s learning styles. Listen to and respect other people, and you will be an effective leader in any organization.”

June 2018 – Grace Salez Artist, educator, community organizer

Multi-disciplinary artist, educator and community activist, Grace Salez is the 2018 recipient of Camosun College's Distinguished Alumni Award. Born in Europe, her parents survived the Nazi occupation of Poland before moving the family to Canada in 1949. She spent her formative years in Quebec and Toronto and later, as a mature student, she began her formal art education in Victoria at the age of 45 with a strong desire to practice social justice through art.

In 1994, Grace graduated from Camosun's Introductory Arts Program (now Visual Arts) before pursuing a BFA in film and multi-media at Emily Carr in 1997. Grace had an independent art practice in Video before working as a sessional instructor at the University of Victoria for 4 years. In 2010, she joined OPEN ACTION, an art performance group, and was invited to participate at the LIVE 2011 International Art Biennale Festival in Vancouver with other national and international performance artists. In 2015, Grace formed the collective Rezka Czasu:River of Time, and the collective created a one-woman performance at Victoria's UNO Festival in 2016.

In 2017, Grace joined an immigration and refugee group at ICA (Intercultural Association of Victoria). She formed a group with fellow artists to sponsor a single Syrian woman refugee through the ICA and they made a commitment to support her during her transition in Canada. That same year, Grace was honoured to be invited, as an artist who is an immigrant, to join the photographic essay exhibition presented by ICA, Bridging Conversations - An Intercultural & Intergeneration Project, at the Royal BC Museum.

Grace was a founding member and President of MediaNet, a not-for-profit organization for film and video artists and independent producers. She was the founding Member and Director of Dance for the Camera Program. She has worked with Antidote (network for racialized girls) using video art practices for engaging the girls to voice their experiences as young racialized girls. For Grace, her introduction to art at Camosun led her to realize she was part of a community of fellow life-long learners. "I'm honoured and humbled and wish my parents were alive to share this honour with me," she says.

June 2017 – Phil Venoit Tradesman, labour organizer, community builder

Untiring promoter of the trades and relentless pursuer of worker advocacy, safety and training, Phil Venoit, is the recipient of the Camosun College Distinguished Alumni Award for 2017.

Phil Venoit graduated from Camosun’s Construction Electrician Apprenticeship (now the Electrical Trades apprenticeship) in 1985. “Camosun helped with my career by providing me with stellar instructors that cared. They were hard, fair and empathetic,” says Phil. His fondest memory of Camosun is the relationships he made. “I still talk to many of the apprentices I went to school with today, 35 years later,” says Phil. He’s quick to add another aspect near and dear to many students. “The cafeteria would be another fond memory, the quality and variety was unbeatable, at starving student prices.”

Phil worked in the construction, shipbuilding and repair industries for 15 years and apprenticed at Yarrows Shipyard in Esquimalt. In 1996, Phil was asked to work in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 230 office and, since 2002, he has served as Business Manager and Financial Secretary, representing almost 1,400 members working at approximately 50 employers on Vancouver Island. He’s also the Chair of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Provincial Council representing 12,000 electrical workers in BC and President of the Vancouver Island Building Construction Trades Council. In 2016, Phil was elected President of the Vancouver Island Metal Trades Council, after serving as Vice-President for many years. Phil has also been elected twice, in 2011 and 2016, to sit as a key delegate to the North American Metal Trades Department of the American Federation of Labour, only the second Canadian in the 110-year history of the organization to hold this elected position.

Within the community, Phil is tireless. He has served on the Program Advisory Committee as the co-chair at Camosun College, on the Board of Directors, and as past President of the Western Joint Electrical Training Society. He has served as a Labour Designee in Victoria on the Board of Referees for Employment Insurance Canada, and he’s a charter member of, and sits on, Victoria's United Way Labour Committee. After the passing of his mother, Phil co-chaired the charter of Victoria's Ovarian Cancer Walk, and has raised funds for many charitable organizations, most notably Diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis.

Currently, Phil co-chairs the Industry Training Authority's Maritime Sector Advisory Group, and is also the designated Canadian putting together a group known as Electrical Workers without Borders, a spin-off of the Doctors without Borders group. Working with several other countries, the organization will provide needed power and communications to countries that experience natural disasters.

Reflecting on being named Camosun’s Distinguished Alumni for 2017, Phil says, “The news about winning this award was incredibly gratifying. Some days, it seems like just yesterday I was that 18 year old electrical apprentice trying to figure life out, and you slow down just long enough to take in a sunrise, and realize you have devoted almost four decades to an industry and trade you truly love and respect. I see the award as a testament to that.”

Clayton Stark

June 2016 – Clayton Stark Senior Vice President of Technology at KIXEYE

Vancouver Island tech leader, passionate advocate and mentor, Clayton Stark, is the recipient of the Camosun College Distinguished Alumni Award for 2016.

Since graduating from Camosun College in 1993, Clayton Stark has had a significant impact on Victoria's technology industry. From employing hundreds of local creative and technology professionals, bringing tens of millions in funding and investment to Victoria to establishing local development studios for two of the largest online gaming companies in the world, Zynga and KIXEYE, Clayton has become a passionate leader in arguably the largest industry sector in the city.

Clayton's journey started at Camosun and the Mechanical Engineering Technology program. Having only elementary school qualifications but industry experience he was able to take advantage of Camosun's Technology Bridging program (now called Mechanical Engineering Technology Access) which allowed him to rapidly upgrade his academic requirements to enter directly into the Mechanical Engineering program. "Without a high school education I had no other efficient means of pursuing post-secondary education," says Clayton. "Camosun made that possible." He chose Mechanical Engineering because he saw it as the best all-around education for his investment.

Clayton has nothing but praise for his time at Camosun. "There were many great things about Camosun," says Clayton. "We weren't just attending lectures, but rather we were in labs and doing projects where we were able to experience hands-on learning." The program was thorough as well, providing a great depth that equipped him to be fully competent in the field alongside university graduates. He also took advantage of Camosun's Co-operative Education program. "The real-world connections made through the co-operative program were also incredibly helpful, allowing me to ply my new trade in interesting commercial settings," says Clayton.

Nowadays Clayton is busy as Senior Vice President of Technology at KIXEYE and a passionate advocate of the technology industry in Victoria. Amazingly, he still finds time to routinely counsel individuals, start-ups and established companies in business development, technology direction, leadership and management. He's been and continues to be a mentor to dozens of local leaders and has been a speaker at numerous Camosun and UVic events. In 2013, Clayton was awarded VIATeC's prestigious Colin Lennox Technology Champion Award acknowledging his business and community leadership.

With all the awards and accolades over the years, being named Distinguished Alumni by his alma mater is still significant. "Winning this award is important to me, and I'm extremely appreciative of the honour," says Clayton.

This award allows him to promote the industry and the city with his almost evangelical zeal. "It's a personal mission to share proof that Victoria can be a global player in a key, modern economy—an economy that helps makes our beautiful city a sustainable place to work and live," says Clayton. "Being able to share the story of what I've witnessed here helps me feel like I'm continuing to contribute to the sustainability and success of our economy."

Ellen Mahoney

June 2015 – Ellen Mahoney Consummate teacher, accomplished nurse, and passionate volunteer

Ellen Mahoney began her journey after being accepted into Camosun's newly developed Registered Nurse Diploma Program. "The program provided the foundation for my nursing career," says Ellen. She graduated in 1983 and went on to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from the University of Victoria. In 2002, Ellen graduated from the Master of Arts in Leadership program from Royal Roads University.

For the first ten years of her nursing career, Ellen worked in the surgical realm with a focus on ENT (ears, nose and throats) and plastic surgery. For many years Ellen held Nurse management positions with VIHA. Later she guided new nursing graduates and helped launch them into positions at VIHA. Currently, Ellen is a Nurse Educator in the BSN Program. "At Camosun, Ellen is able to work with all the students in the class but somehow connects and celebrates the individual student successes," says Ellen's fellow Nursing instructor, Hazell Penn. Ellen still runs into many nurses she has mentored, taught and helped, referring to them as "one of my grads".

Ellen continues to teach and learn, giving professional presentations on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and broadening people's perspective on health and illness. She is continually amazed by new teaching and content that comes to her. She works with small health care facilities to Build Respectful Workplaces.
Ellen is an inspirational community volunteer. She goes above and beyond in her 28 years of service to the community of ALS clients and families on Vancouver Island. As the Client Services Coordinator, Ellen visits every family with a newly diagnosed family member with ALS. "I can't imagine a nicer person, full of the information these families need, to walk through the door," says Hazell. "She combines listening and caring in all her interactions and takes it to the next level." She leads a monthly support group for ALS clients and their families. Ellen is actively involved in activities to create awareness and fundraise to support research and client services. She completed the ALS Ice Bucket challenge twice last year. She is also a Director of the Vancouver Island Multiple Myeloma Society and assists in leading their support group as well.

"Volunteering is very rewarding in and of itself and I am humbled and grateful by this acknowledgement from my peers," says Ellen, regarding being named Camosun College Distinguished Alumni for 2015.

And her advice to those thinking about coming to Camosun? "Make Camosun the background setting for the next chapter of your life," says Ellen. "You will not be disappointed!"

Len Wansbrough

June 2014 – Len Wansbrough President of Metropolitan Capital & Westridge Landing Centre

A leader in business and in the community, Len Wansbrough graduated from Camosun's Business Administration program in 1983 with the goal to establish himself as a Certified General Accountant.

Len has been an owner and manager of small and medium sized businesses that varied from start up to growing an established, multi-location company with over 150 employees. In 2001, he decided to focus on his passion for creating real estate communities on Vancouver Island and, since that time, several of Len's efforts and developments have been recognized by the Canadian Home Builders Association, Lee Valley Tools Commercial Award of Excellence and Gold CARE Award. He's currently the President of Metropolitan Capital & Westridge Landing Centre.

In the community, Len is well-known for his willingness to give his time and financial support to varying charities and organizations. He has spent time as President of the West Shore Chamber of Commerce, Board of Governors at Royal Roads University, Victoria Foundation, and Director of the Western Community Seniors Low Cost Housing Society, to name a few. Len and his family generously support students in the BBA program at the college through a bursary established in memory of his father Bill Wansbrough.

When told he was named the Distinguished Alumnus for 2014, Len responded with humility. "I'm very humbled by the award.  Alumni from Camosun make significant contributions to our local and world community.  It's an honour to be recognized and represent them. "

2013 Distinguished Alumni, John Boehme.

June 2013 – John Boehme Artist, Instructor, Camosun College

An enthusiastic and positive force in the Victoria arts scene and respected instructor, John Boehme is this year's recipient of the Camosun College Distinguished Alumni Award.

John's art is eagerly requested by international arts venues around the world. His exceptional talent as one of Canada's leading performance artists has led to numerous awards including being shortlisted for Canada's prestigious Sobey Art Award.

John graduated from Camosun's Visual Arts program in 1994. "Over the past two decades my training at Camosun has helped in developing an art practice that has enabled me to exhibit my work regionally, nationally and internationally, "says John. It also led to participating in events, screenings, exhibitions, biennials, festivals and residencies in the United States, Europe, Asia, South America and Central America.

John returned to the college as a Visual Arts instructor in 2000. His wholehearted interest for learning new disciplines carries into the classroom and is eagerly shared with his students, colleagues and throughout Camosun. He's motivated by an innate enthusiasm and affable accessibility that carries with it compassion and a need to share. He believes every student has a strength or talent that will flourish under the right conditions. "For me it's very important to challenge students with unexplored possibilities while thoroughly investigating the capabilities of each student."

In both the college community and Victoria's visual arts community, John is extremely active. He uses his performing arts skills to act as emcee and auctioneer at numerous fundraising events. John sits on a variety of committees and visits high schools on behalf of the Visual Arts program. He's always the first person to volunteer his services in any situation of need.

On being named this year's recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award John says, "I am overjoyed at being recognized as a distinguished alumni and equally elated at the possibility of assisting others to achieve their dreams."

Photo: Cheri Wu

June 2012 – Cheri Wu Owner, Focus on Dental Hygiene

Cheri Wu is a dental hygienist and founder of her own state-of-the-art private dental hygiene practice in Victoria, BC called Focus on Dental Hygiene. As a single parent she entered the college initially taking upgrading courses and eventually enrolling in the two-year Dental Hygiene program. After graduating in 1992, she transferred to UBC where she completed her Bachelor of Dental Science (DH) degree. There Wu earned several honours including a gold medal for academic achievement, a third-year academic scholarship for her exceptional academic standing, and a certificate of recognition from the Academy of Dentistry for Persons with Disabilities. After UBC she became a dental hygienist for Vancouver Island's Cool Aid Community Dental Clinic which serves persons with mental health and addictions challenges. She began focusing her dental skills on patients with special considerations including those with anxiety, patients with mental and/or physical disabilities and persons with HIV/AIDS.

Wu credits her success to Camosun College and to the first dentist she worked with, Dr. Bill Hunter. "I credit Camosun College for all that I have accomplished throughout the years, and to Dr. Hunter for his mentorship, support and humanity that enriched my education and confidence," says Wu. "At Camosun I was treated as an adult and with professionalism, and I worked part-time establishing the college's student society which really made me feel part of the college. The course load was heavy, but not only did I receive an excellent education, I also learned to believe in my capabilities. Once you graduate from the Dental Hygiene program, you have excellent problem-solving skills and the ability to "look outside the box." The program gave me the courage to say "WHY NOT?" instead of "WHY?" and that has led me on different paths in my career. I love working with my hands as well as my mind. I get great satisfaction from empowering people to be responsible for their oral health and seeing how it contributes to their overall health. Like they say, "a smile is worth a thousand words."

Cheri has been described as having "a generous spirit and a compassionate, gentle approach to her clinical care. Not only has she spent her career helping patients in need, she mentors young students and lectures part-time to students and other dental hygiene schools and organizations. She is an expert on clients with special needs and on ultrasonic and air polishing implementation and continues to be an amazing role model to all in the dental hygiene profession.

Wu says, "I am very proud of Camosun graduates and am thrilled to be considered for the Camosun College Distinguished Alumni Award."

Photo: Shelley Zapp

June 2011 – Shelley Zapp President, UNIT4 Business Software

Shelley Zapp is a 1984 graduate of Camosun's Diploma in Technology in Computing, Business Option program. After graduation, she continued to increase her business skills, taking courses at Royal Roads University and the University of Victoria.

Shelley joined UNIT4 Business Software in 1999 as a systems developer and quickly rose to become President of the company, which is now a subsidiary of one of the world's leading suppliers of business software. Zapp oversees the company's management and operations for North America, and under her leadership, has transformed UNIT4 into a growing, thriving business and one of the top 25 tech companies in Greater Victoria. Her company has been recognized as Employer of the Year from the Victoria Chamber of Commerce and she holds the title of Executive of the Year from VIATEC.

"Camosun taught me three great skills: technical, business and communication," she says. "In my role as President, understanding technology, business and having good communication skills to present, run meetings and manage conflict, is invaluable when you're the liaison between technologists and business groups. When I'm looking to hire new employees, I look to Camosun graduates because of these skills learned in the classroom. It is truly an honour to receive this award and I am proud to be a Camosun College graduate."

When Shelley Zapp isn't travelling the globe on business, she's busy giving back to Camosun as a member of the Computer Systems Technology Advisory Board and is an active member of Victoria's technology and business community.

Photo: Dr. Sarah Sampson

November 2010 – Dr. Sarah Sampson Assistant Professor, Mississippi State University

Dr. Sampson is a 1993 University Transfer Sciences graduate of the College. She started her educational journey at Camosun taking Grade 12 equivalency courses to finish her high school studies. "I wanted to be with a more mature group of students than those I had left at high school, and I liked the idea of being able to get my GED and continue on at the same institution for my first two years of college," says Dr. Sampson. Within three years, she transferred from Camosun to Washington State University (WSU) where she completed her Bachelor of Science Degree in Animal Studies. Always having a love of animals, especially horses, Sarah specialized in Equine Medicine at WSU and completed her DVM (Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Surgeons) in 1999. Over the next four years, she worked as an equine practitioner in Maple Valley, Washington and returned to WSU in a five-year residency program in Equine Surgery and Sports Medicine. She continued to work on her PhD there and completed it in 2008.

Today Dr. Sampson is an Assistant Professor of Equine Surgery and Orthopedic Sports Medicine, in Veterinary Clinical Sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi. She teaches undergraduate and veterinary students about medical and surgical problems and injuries in horses. She has won several scholarships and awards and is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association. She is married with two children.

"Camosun gave me a fresh start and renewed my love of education by providing an environment that encouraged independence and rewarded hard work," says Dr. Sampson. "I am honoured to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award. But also, I really appreciate the recognition of the many years of hard work that have gotten me this far. I hope my story gives some students out there the motivation to pursue their dreams."

Arthur Vickers

June 2010 – Arthur Vickers Artist & Storyteller

Artist. Carpenter. Storyteller. Arthur Vickers is a renowned contemporary First Nations artist whose works of art are internationally sought-after. The Arthur Vickers Shipyard Gallery in Cowichan Bay, on Vancouver Island, displays many of his pieces inspired by his love of storytelling and the people and the natural beauty of Canada's rugged west coast.

Born in Northern British Columbia, his mother was of English and Canadian heritage while his father was of Heiltsuk and Tsimshian First Nations descent. He graduated from Camosun College in 1971 as a journeyman carpenter and today makes his living as a visual poet. "I have such wonderful memories of Camosun and it is a thrill to be recognized for this award."

Born in Northern British Columbia, his mother was of English and Canadian heritage while his father was of Heiltsuk and Tsimshian First Nations descent. He graduated from Camosun College in 1971 as a journeyman carpenter and today makes his living as a "visual poet."

Arthur says many of his insights today evolved from his childhood. As a boy he travelled up and down BC's coast with his Ya'as (grandfather), a canoe carver and fisherman. They would often stop just south of Prince Rupert to work on the boat and spend time amongst the Scandinavian boat builders there. Their use of red and yellow cedar materials would later become very important to Arthur and his artwork.

Today, he lives in Cowichan Bay and honours and celebrates his ancestors, his community and the natural landscape by telling stories through many mediums: sketches, prints, gold relief, sculptural works of glass, granite and gold, and wood carvings. He also created the famous 'Leadership Desk' as a gift to the office of the Premier of British Columbia to help BC's leaders pause and contemplate their great responsibilities to the people of the province. In 1986 he designed and constructed the Eagle Aerie Gallery in Tofino, BC, built for his brother Roy Henry Vickers – a project he considers his greatest accomplishment to date.

In 2008 Arthur Vickers received the Order of British Columbia for outstanding achievement and distinction in his field. Other accolades include the Order of St. John for his service to humanity and an Honourary Doctorate in Fine Arts from the University of Victoria, 2006.

Nella Nelson

November 2009 – Nella Nelson District Coordinator Aboriginal Nations, Greater Victoria School District

Nella Nelson is a 1972 graduate of Camosun's University Transfer program and a recognized leader for her contributions to educational systems for Indigenous students.

Ms Nelson is a member of the Tsawataineuk Band of the Kwakwaka'wakw Nation, and is originally from the N'amgis Nation of Alert Bay, BC. She attended Camosun College in 1972 and went on to complete her degrees in anthropology/sociology and secondary education at the University of Victoria.

Married for 37 years, Nella is a mother and grandmother. Over the years, she and her husband, Alex, have cared for 28 First Nations young people from their home communities.

While honoured to receive the Distinguished Alumni award, Nella says her 37-year long pathway would not have been possible without the support of her husband Alex and her parents, George and Ruth Cook. "My parents always championed education in our family, and they are now part of the Elders' voices at Camosun College and UVic, where they continue to support other Indigenous students." The Award represents an educational journey and Nella credits Camosun College for providing the springboard to pursue education at the University of Victoria. She says, "I saw my people represented at the college and I knew that First Nations people could create change through post secondary education."

In addition to her full-time work, Nella sits on several boards and, through her community work, supports children, people in need of housing, post-secondary education, sexually exploited youth, and diversity. She strives to ensure that her students are receiving every opportunity available and is an advocate for all students, staff and the Greater Victoria School District.

Onowa McIvor, Director of Indigenous Education at UVic's Faculty of Education says, "Nella's dedication to education is evident in all aspects of her life, and we are constantly inspired by all she does for that cause. Nella continues to be a constant activist around suicide prevention, racism and educational issues. Her years of experience and wisdom hold our education students in rapt attention. The UVic Faculty of Education feels deeply privileged and grateful for all she does to further the cause of education in our community."

Some of Nella's community contributions include the Queen's 125 Commemorative Medal for community service (1994), YM/YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Education, Training and Development (1998) and she has co-authored several papers on developing First Nations curriculum and human rights.

Dr. Brad Nelson

June 2009 – Dr. Brad Nelson Director, Deeley Research Centre

Dr. Brad Nelson is the founding Director and Senior Research Scientist at the Trev and Joyce Deeley Research Centre and a Camosun College student from the early '80s.

An expert on the immune system, Brad and his research team are developing novel strategies to enhance the immune response against cancer as a new form of treatment. The Deeley Centre now plays a significant role in preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer, and is helping Victoria emerge as an international centre for leading-edge cancer research.

Brad was born in New Westminster and grew up in Vancouver. He completed his undergraduate studies at Camosun College, UVic and UBC. From there, he pursued a Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley. He held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre (FHCRC) in Seattle and faculty appointments at FHCRC, the Department of Immunology at the University of Washington and the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, all in Seattle.

In addition to his work as a cancer researcher, Dr. Nelson is committed to education–as demonstrated by the High School Internship Program he developed at the Deeley Research Centre. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medical Genetics at the University of British Columbia, as well as an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Departments of Biology and Biochemistry/Microbiology at the University of Victoria, where he teaches within the graduate program, the Island Medical Program and the Centre for Biomedical Research.

He says, "Camosun is where I found out how much I love biology and science in general. It began with a tide pooling trip to Ogden Point in Biology 100, and grew into a career trying to understand how the immune system responds to cancer. I hope my story demonstrates how much can be accomplished with an inquisitive nature, a personal passion and a great education."

Rob Fleming

June 2008 – Rob Fleming MLA, Victoria-Swan Lake

Rob Fleming is a University Transfer in Arts graduate from 1995. He was involved in the Camosun College Student Society, where he served as communications coordinator. Rob then attained his Bachelor of Arts degree in History at the University of Victoria.

At the age of 28 years, Rob served two terms on Victoria City Council where he was the Chair of the City's Finance and Personnel Committee and the Council Liaison to the Advisory Transportation Committee. Rob held the City's youth portfolio, was Chair of the CRD Health Facilities Planning Committee, and Commissioner for the CRD Water Commission. As Vice-Chair of the Capital District Housing Corporation, Rob helped establish the region's first affordable housing trust fund and created a similar fund at the City of Victoria.

Now a full-time elected MLA, Rob chairs the select Standing Committee on Public Accounts and serves on the Select Standing Committee for Education and the Select Standing Committee on Parliamentary Reform, Ethical Conduct and Private bills.

Distinguished Alumni Award winner Heather Mitchell

June 2007 – Heather Mitchell Registered Nurse, Burn Unit, Royal Jubilee Hospital

Heather Mitchell graduated with a Long Term Care Aide Certificate in 1979 and an Associate of Arts Diploma in Nursing in 1983. She is a Registered Nurse and a member of the Canadian Burn Nurses Association, practicing in the Royal Jubilee Hospital's Burn Unit since 1993. As a volunteer with the Burn Survivor Support Group, Heather implemented the SOAR program at the Jubilee – Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery – helping burn survivors after they leave the hospital. Her patients and colleagues find her a "sincere, unselfish, professional, committed and compassionate nurse."

Distinguished Alumni Award winner MaryLynne Rimer

June 2007 – MaryLynne Rimer Managing Director, Wave Consulting Ltd.

Ms Rimer graduated from Camosun with an Associate of Arts degree in Human Services in 1984, continuing on to complete her BA and MA at UVic in 1990 and 1998 respectively. Prior to her Associate of Arts Degree, she also completed an Early Childhood Care & Education and an Under Age Three Group Day Care Certificate at Camosun.

MaryLynne is currently the Managing Director of Wave Consulting Ltd., a company that provides project management, organizational development, strategic planning and research services for community organizations and government agencies in the social services and health care sectors. From 1996 to 2002 she was the Deputy Children's Commissioner for the Ministry of Attorney General. There she was responsible for policy, legislation and program development activities having an impact on government services to children and youth. In 1996 she was the Team Coordinator BC Transition Commission for Child and Youth Services in the Office of the Premier. MaryLynne is described as "bringing a singular passion and commitment to her work on behalf of children, women and all those people in our society that face a steep climb to the bottom line – the ones who need a second chance; the ones who never even get a first chance."

Distinguished Alumni Award winner Wayne Solomon

June 2007 – Wayne Solomon Senior Finance Officer, Nunavut Planning Commission

Wayne graduated from Camosun with a Business Administration Diploma in Accounting, 1995 and followed up with a BBA from Open University. Wayne is currently acting as Senior Finance Officer (SFO) with the Nunavut Planning Commission helping to establish planning policies, objectives and goals for the Nunavut Settlement Area. He has also worked for the Kitnuna Corporation as their CFO. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Qulliq Energy Corporation (formerly Nunavut Power Corp) as Chair of the Audit Committee. Wayne has served as CFO for the Fort Nelson First Nation and taught introductory accounting at Northern Lights College. He is currently working on two Masters degrees in Construction Management and a joint MBA/Master of Commercial Law. While in Victoria, Wayne worked for AIDS Vancouver Island as the Coordinator of Administrative Services. He encourages graduates to "tackle the jobs no one else wants to will learn important things about yourself and you will see the world from new perspectives."

Previous Recipients

  • June 2007 – Lew Williams
  • June 2006 – Nelly Stock
  • June 2005 – Dr. Bridget Stirling
  • June 2004 – Nancy Martens
  • June 2004 – Stephen McCallum
  • June 2003 – Adam McBride
  • June 2003 – Chief Sophie Pierre
  • June 2003 – Art Thompson (posthumously)
  • June 2002 – Barry Dodd

Promising Alumni Award Recipients

Camosun's Promising Alumni Award is presented annually to alumni who have graduated less than 10 years ago and who bring inspiration to other alumni and current Camosun students. Each recipient was nominated and selected for their ongoing commitment to others through community service and career accomplishments with a clear prediction of future successes in their respective field.

Mary-Anne Bowcott

June 2019 – Mary-Anne Bowcott

The recipient of the 2019 Camosun College Promising Alumni Award is Mary-Anne Bowcott, a journeyman plumber, business owner, and advocate for women in trades.

Mary-Anne graduated from Camosun’s Plumbing program in 2013, discovering her interest in plumbing after taking the women in trades exploration course. Before starting at Camosun, she already had five years experience in the construction industry as a roofer but knew that it wasn’t the career path for her.

“I definitely learned a lot in school that I wouldn’t have learned on the job,” says Mary-Anne. “Camosun was a great place to learn and the instructors were fantastic.”

Having already gained a reputation for being a hard worker, Mary-Anne took the skills and connections she made at Camosun and jumped into her career. Within two years of graduation, she was running her own business, Westcom Plumbing and Gas in Sooke, and getting active in local trades organizations.
With women making up only 4.7 per cent of building trades workers in BC, Mary-Anne is aware of the obstacles that she and other women face in the industry. She has stepped up as an advocate for women in trades, giving back by supporting other women through the BC Tradeswomen Society and speaking at events.

Yet her all-women crew at Westcom has turned out that way by circumstance, not design. “People perceive me as hiring only women, but that’s just the way that it’s ended up,” she observes. “I’ve never seen a resume from a journeyman plumber, ever. I think I deter men from applying to work for me because I’m a woman in a male-dominated industry.”

Despite the challenges, Mary-Anne and her company continue to gain momentum and recognition within the industry. Her achievements haven’t only caught the attention of Camosun – she recently received the Canadian Construction Association’s (CCA) 2018 CCA Person of the Year Award; the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce Trades and Skilled Labour Excellence Award in 2017 and 2018; and the 2018 BC Construction Industry Leader Award.

She’s enjoying the recognition, but keeping her eyes on the future. “I really want to grow my company to a larger size and have it run itself. I like being ‘on the tools,’ but the hours are long. I’ve always dreamed of having a company with 50 or 100 employees.”

June 2018 – Don Kattler

Mental health advocate and community leader Don Kattler is the recipient of the Camosun College Promising Alumni Award for 2018. Don graduated from the Mental Health and Addictions (MHA) program in 2014. He lives well with bipolar disorder and has lived experience with addiction. "I made a life decision to work in this field in order to use my personal life experiences to help others," says Don. He came to Camosun as a mature student with years of experience working with Victoria's marginalized community.

After graduating in 2014, Don was hired by Island Health and enrolled in the BA in Health and Community Services program at the University of Victoria. Currently, Don works for the Ministry of Children and Family Development as a Family Consultant for BC's Poverty Reduction Initiative. He's also a Peer Researcher for CrestBD, at University of BC, a Collaborative Research Team to study psychosocial issues in Bipolar Disorder. He is active in the BC mental health community holding many volunteer positions including sitting on the board of the BC Schizophrenia Society, Victoria Branch and as a member of the Mount Waddington Health Network.

Don has some good advice to Camosun students. "Take advantage of everything the college offers," he says. "Do volunteer work and be active in the community you live in." For him, Camosun is more than a learning institution. "It's a community that supports and encourages students to succeed. It's a school that cares."

June 2017 – Matthew Vaillant

Hard-working and talented marketing specialist and entrepreneur Matthew Vaillant is the recipient of Camosun College’s Promising Alumni Award for 2017.

Like most of his fellow classmates graduating in 2014 from the Bachelor of Business Administration, Marketing, Matt Vaillant applied to many jobs. He received his first interview soon after with Latitude Geographics and thoroughly impressed them. Unfortunately, because of circumstances beyond his control, he wasn’t hired. But that didn’t last long because weeks later Latitude Geographics created a new position specifically for him and his skill set.

Initially hired as a Marketing Specialist, Matt quickly became integral to the sales team for his support. His understanding of both the technical and sales side of the business has led to Matt becoming a vital part of Latitude’s RFP response team that brings in a substantial amount of business every year. At the beginning of 2017, Matt was promoted to Digital Marketing Lead at Latitude, where he’s responsible for developing and executing Latitude’s digital strategy.

Matt is committed to his community and donates his time to Big Brothers Big Sisters Victoria as a Community Mentor. Matt also runs the Salesforce user group for Victoria where he runs monthly meetings to keep Salesforce users and himself up to date on the technology. In what little downtime Matt has, he furthers his learning by reading business and personal development books, articles, and blogs while continuing to learn from the successful individuals around him.

“It may sound cheesy, but it's the relationships I built,” says Matt, recalling his time at Camosun. “I met my future wife in a second year class, made friends that I'm still very close with, and built relationships with awesome professors that I keep in touch with to this day.” He cites the applied curriculum and the structure of his classes as being a big part of his success. “Business and marketing was what I was passionate about, and being able to hone practical skills starting in my first semester helped build out a strong skill set,” says Matt.

On being awarded the Promising Alumni Award, Matt says, “I'm honoured and humbled. I went to school with a lot of brilliant people that could easily be in my place.”

Jessica Cruise

June 2016 – Jessica Cruise

Young fitness CEO and entrepreneur, Jessica Cruise, is the recipient of the Camosun College Promising Alumni Award for 2016.

As the founder and CEO of Victoria headquartered Vibes Fitness Inc. Jessica came to her current position in a very indirect fashion.

Originally from the Okanagan, Jessica grew up loving golf and wanted to pursue a career that mirrored her love. As Camosun was one of the few colleges that offered the Golf Management program she made the move. "The city itself—and the weather, of course—also attracted me to Camosun," says Jessica. In a program and industry where she was one of only a few women, Jessica saw an opportunity as a young female in the golfing industry.

After graduating from Camosun in 2008, Jessica moved to Kelowna where she certified as a realtor and began selling real estate. Having always been very physically active and health conscious, she began looking for a realistic solution to remaining in shape while working within her busy and challenging career. Her search revealed minimal options and a gap in the fitness industry. In 2009 she founded Vibes Fitness Inc. in Victoria. "Camosun provided me with the foundation I needed to be confident in opening my own business," says Jessica. At the age of 27, Jessica has expanded the business to 5 locations in Vancouver and Victoria.

Jessica also shines with her involvement in the community. Since 2008 she has worked with Junior Achievement BC, teaching young people about financial literacy and entrepreneurship. In 2013, seeking increased involvement in her community, she became a member of the Board of Directors for Community Options, an organization that seeks to improve the lives of those living with developmental disabilities.

Jessica is still connected to Camosun. She volunteers her time by advising various courses in the Business Administration department at Camosun. "Jessica has come back on numerous occasions to speak to different classes," says Troy Dunning, Camosun instructor, Hospitality, Tourism and Golf Management. "She has had classes tour her facilities and given them the opportunity to try them for free."

Jessica's hard work has been recognized. She was runner-up for the Victoria Chamber of Commerce award for Young Entrepreneur in 2013. In 2014 she was recognized as one of the top 20 under 40 on Vancouver Island and was a finalist for BC Business Magazine's top 30 under 30.

Even after all the accolades she's received, Jessica remains humble. "I am extremely honoured to be recognized as Promising Alumni!" says Jessica, "I'm very grateful for the opportunities I've been blessed with over the years as well as the tremendous level of support I've received from my community and mentors."

Heather Bray

June 2015 – Heather Bray

Heather Bray graduated from the Criminal Justice program in 2005. From that moment she hasn't stopped learning.

The first of her family to attend post-secondary school, Heather completed a Bachelor of Justice Studies at Royal Roads University, moved across country to complete a Bachelor of Laws at the University of New Brunswick, gained her Master of Laws in Business Law and Taxation from Western University in Ontario. She headed south to pursue a doctoral degree in Arizona but moved on to the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg, Germany where she works as a Junior Researcher. She's currently a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, a Juridicial Science (S.J.D) candidate at the University of Arizona and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellow. With the goal of becoming a law professor, Heather continues to dedicate herself to life-long learning.

"Camosun was an incredibly intimate environment, which allowed me to grow," says Heather. "With small class sizes, exposure to encouraging teachers, and students with diverse professional goals, I experienced a mosaic of diversity, differences, and perspectives that helped me establish a holistic view of the criminal justice system."

She continues to use what she learned at Camosun, tackling problems from as many different angles and viewpoints as possible. Summing up, Heather says, "becoming an effective problem solver, a skill that was appreciably cultivated at Camosun, has been a pillar of my academic and professional success."
"Heather is creative and inspiring—rare qualities in the legal field," says her husband, Devin Bray. "In everything she does, she includes a bit of herself. If the past is a predictor of the future, she's on a path with an incredible trajectory."

Heather is incredibly honoured with receiving the Promising Alumni award. "Winning this award has provided me with the opportunity to reflect on the beginning of my academic journey," says Heather. "I come from a modest upbringing and Camosun College acted as a springboard to a path that I never thought possible. I am very thankful to Camosun College and the momentum that it allowed me to develop. "

Jenny Shaw

June 2014 – Jenny Shaw

Youth worker and role model Jenny Shaw graduated from Camosun's Associate of Arts program in 2005. Since then she has garnered respect from the kids she works with and her peers in the community.

As a life-long learner, Jenny is currently pursuing a PhD in Anthropology at Simon Fraser University. She received the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for her PhD research project Interrupted Lives: Youths' Experiences of Transnational Migration and Prolonged Family Separation in 2013.

Jenny is a Neonology Facilitator and former Youth Worker for the North Shore Multicultural Society in North Vancouver where she develops and implements strategies to engage newcomer youth in a variety of after-school programs.  As a Neonology trainer and facilitator, Jenny puts on anti-oppression, anti-discrimination workshops that engage elementary and high school students in discussions on how to create more welcoming, inclusive communities. She's also self-employed as a yoga instructor with over six years of experience. Yoga has given her the means to manage her busy lifestyle.

"I have always been very proud to tell people that I started my academic pursuits at Camosun College," says Jenny about being named Promising Alumnus for 2014. "Winning this award reminds me just how much Camosun supports students' success even years after they graduate. This award is a great honour and deeply meaningful to me as a Camosun alumnus."

2013 Promising Alumni - Avery Graham

June 2013 – Avery Graham

Recent Business graduate and aspiring community leader Avery Graham is the recipient of the Camosun College Promising Alumni Award for 2013.

While attending Camosun, Avery consistently remained on the Dean's Honour Roll and was chosen for the Executive Network Inc- Donald Family Leadership Award for her strong leadership abilities.  She also competed at the Western Canadian International Business Competition against university and college students from across western Canada winning bronze with her team. "This was definitely a highlight along my degree path."

Since graduation Avery has taken on the role as Business Manager for her family's Mobil 1 Lube Express  outlet in Duncan, which opened in September 2012. Under her leadership, in just six months, the business was nominated for a Duncan-Cowichan Chamber of Commerce Black Tie Award for exceptional customer service. Companies nominated are usually long-established with deep ties to the community and this recognition is a direct result of the hard work and commitment Avery, plays in the local community," says Nadeem Dhalla, National Account Executive for Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil Canada.

The accolades don't stop there. In A recent billboard advertising campaign design for Mobil 1 so impressed the Jim Pattison Group that they now recommend it as 'best practice' to other clients. "The knowledge gained at Camosun has enabled me to be where I am today. I couldn't run a business without knowing the foundations", says Avery.

A true measure of Avery's character is her devotion to community service. She has been instrumental in cancer fundraising activities on Vancouver Island and would like to organize support to help build a school in the developing world.

On being named this year's recipient of the Promising Alumni Award Avery says, "I feel so honored to be acknowledged and I hope it inspires other upcoming graduates. The sky is really the limit for them. They might not get their dream job out of college but hard work really does pay off."

Dorothea Harris; 2008 Promising Alumni

November 2008 – Dorothea Harris

A 2007 graduate from the First Nations Family Support Worker program, Dorothea often quotes instructor Robert Wells who says, "Education is therapy and therapy is education."

A bright and inquisitive young mother of five with a drive to make the world a better place for marginalized people, Dorothea began her post secondary education by taking one course at a time. Her strong orientation to social justice led her to Camosun's First Nations Family Support Worker program. Although she is not Indigenous, she was raised in, and later married into, an Indigenous family and was the first non-Indigenous student in the program, graduating last year with an "A" average. Dorothea says, "I learned with my head and my heart. My teachers were phenomenal, bringing personal wisdom and life experience to the table."

Upon graduation, she was accepted into UVic's School of Social Work and also hired as Specialty Program Coordinator and Aboriginal Liaison with Reverend Al Tysick and Our Place Society, where her goals include more involvement in social justice issues.

Although Dorothea graduated only one year ago, she is already affecting change for the marginalized and homeless population of Victoria. She continues to raise her family, attend university and follow through on her commitment to make the world a better place.

Previous Recipients

  • November 2008 – Kyle Weston
  • October 2007 – Scott Thomas
  • October 2006 – Nzola Swasisa
  • October 2005 – Carol Sachowski
  • October 2004 – Joseph Gelinas & Sandra Carr (joint award)
  • October 2003 – Rob Dunsmuir
  • October 2003 – Duane Freeman
  • October 2003 – Leanne Montgomery
  • October 2002 – Neil Klompas
  • October 2002 – Elizabeth Manville
  • October 2002 – Troy Sebastian
  • October 2002 – Paul Welle
Contact Us
Camosun College Lansdowne
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Victoria BC V8P 5J2
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4461 Interurban Rd
Victoria BC V9E 2C1
  • 250–370–3000
  • 1–877–554–7555 (toll-free)

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