Student success at Selkirk College is not achieved in isolation and four individuals who have helped bolster outcomes are being recognized for their guidance on the learning journey.
The college’s Board of Governors held its annual awards luncheon on the day after Convocation 2023 in late-April to acknowledge vital contributions. Distinguished Alumni Lennard Joe, Distinguished Alumni Dr. Laurene Rehman, Distinguished Educator Monica Vogler and recipient of an Honorary Diploma in Liberal Arts Robert Watt are this year’s group of eminent recipients.
“The graduates from the Class of 2023 will go on to make a difference in the day-to-day lives of our region and beyond. They will contribute their knowledge, skills and training in a multitude of ways that will provide them personal fulfilment and make us proud,” says Margaret Sutherland, chair of the college’s Board of Governors. “Helping tie all of this together each spring, the awards are a way to recognize remarkable individuals who reflect the college’s core values of community, access, respect and excellence. It takes outstanding instructors, shining alumni examples and committed community supporters to empower and inspire today’s learners.”
The Board of Governors is comprised of external members who reflect the various sectors of the community served by the college and several internal members representing students, faculty, support staff and the president. Board members play an important role in college governance and are trustees of the public interest.
Dr. Laurene Rehman: Academia Meets Physical Activity
From humble academic journey beginnings at Selkirk College more than three decades ago, Rehman’s passion for academia and positive action have made an impact on countless lives.
Currently the director of the School of Health & Human Performance at Dalhousie University in Halifax, she leads a school that is known worldwide for its undergraduate and graduate programs in health promotion, kinesiology, recreation management and therapeutic recreation. A full professor at Dalhousie University with a focus on leisure studies, Rehman’s scholarly activity includes an impressively long list of journal publications, book chapters and conference abstracts. She has supervised dozens of graduate students through their work and is an in-demand presenter on topics such as the importance of physical activity for children.
Rehman first attended Selkirk College in 1989 with an interest in becoming a high school teacher. Realizing her interests lay elsewhere, she withdrew to return to her job as a lifeguard and swimming instructor at the newly opened Castlegar & District Community Complex. Finding a new spark, Rehman returned a year later where she enrolled in the former Leisure & Sport Administration Program based out of the Castlegar Campus.
A member of the Selkirk College Class of 1992, Rehman built on her two-year diploma by transferring to the University of British Columbia where she completed a bachelor’s degree in Leisure & Sport Administration, graduating at the top of her class. After obtaining a master’s degree in Managerial & Behavioral Research at UBC, she moved onto the University of Waterloo in Ontario where she completed her PhD in 2000.
She was an assistant professor at Memorial University in Newfoundland before moving south to Halifax to begin teaching at Dalhousie University. An expert in her field, Rehman is a beloved educator.
“The most common comment from her students is that Laurene genuinely makes an effort to take time to listen and help them,” says one of her nominators.
Outside of academia, Rehman pours just as much passion into building better communities for all ages through an impressive list of volunteer service. Her considerable expertise has helped bring tangible results to organizations focused on non-profit housing and women’s shelters. Having spent a career teaching post-secondary students about the importance of physical activity for young people, she has also spent many volunteer hours assisting youth sport.
Lennard Joe: Leader in Provincial Forest Sector
A leader in the nation’s forest industry, Joe’s traditional connection to the land is what fuels his passion for natural resource stewardship that focuses on increasing self-determination and the role of governance for Indigenous peoples.
Growing up on the Nlaka’pamux Nation near Merritt, Joe (whose traditional name is Suxwsxwwels, meaning Grizzly Man) attended Selkirk College to take the two-year Wildland Recreation Technology Program. He graduated with the Class of 1992 and then went on to complete his bachelor of science in Natural Resource Conservation at UBC’s Faculty of Forestry in 1997 to become one of Canada’s foremost Indigenous Professional Foresters.
Over the last three decades, Joe has been actively involved in developing new businesses and opportunities in the resource sector within his territory and community, as well as throughout Canada and the world. With leadership that emphasizes respect and excellence, he has helped transform ways of Indigenous governance, built vital relationships with provincial, federal and industry partners, given his expertise to academia, and lead efforts for sustainable forestry certification.
“He is a true inspiration to others, and his dedication to his community is commendable,” says one of his nominators.
In 2022, Joe was appointed as the chief executive officer of the BC First Nations Forestry Council where his experience, mentorship and approach has made an immediate impact. An advocacy organization that works to support First Nations in efforts to increase their role in the management of resources as full partners, Lennard leads and promotes the implementation of processes to sustain the economic wealth and wellbeing. His focus is to ensure the viability and sustainability of forests and lands for current and future generations.
Monica Vogler: Pushing Towards Positive Outcomes
An exemplary colleague who was devoted to her discipline, Vogler is a retired Psychology instructor who brought ongoing innovation to the learning experience for her students.
A universally loved teacher in the School of University Arts & Sciences for almost three decades starting in 1989, Vogler was compassionate and unflinching in her principles. In her career as an educator, she was an unparalleled positive influence on her students by pushing them to think for themselves and engage in rigorous research.
“Student comments about Monica’s engaging teaching always inspired me to work towards her high standard,” says one of her nominators. “She maintained high academic standards for her students, but challenged students in a way that they appreciated. Monica’s students often thanked her for her teaching which often extended to mentoring them to succeed in the next part of their academic journey.”
A recipient of two SCOPE Awards for excellence in education, Vogler was an innovative teacher who embodied lifelong learning and generously shared with her colleagues throughout her time at Selkirk College. In the latter stages of her teaching career, she played a significant role in the development of the college’s Rural Pre-Medicine Program which has provided learners interested in health care careers achieve critical early steps in their education.
Vogler strongly believes that high quality education requires proper working conditions which led her to serve for more than a decade as the chief steward of the Selkirk College Faculty Association.
“Most of all, Monica was an outstanding teacher,” says one of her nominators. “She was superb at making difficult concepts understandable to first- and second-year students.”
Robert Watt: Protecting Sinixt Culture
A Sinixt caretaker, knowledge keeper, educator, advocate and warrior, Watt has shared traditional ways of being, doing, knowing and relating in the region for more than 30 years.
Watt comes from a family lineage of the late Lakes Chief James Bernard, who was known for his political and legal work for the Lakes Tribe (Sinixt) and Indigenous rights in the United States. In 1989, he supported his Elders in the re-occupation of an ancestral Sinixt village site in the Slocan Valley to stop the unearthing of ancestral remains.
Appointed as a caretaker of the village sites and burial grounds in 1989, Watt lived in a teepee and later a small cabin until 2016. As caretaker, he has dedicated himself to protecting remaining ancestral remains and asserting his Indigenous right to protect traditional homelands. He has also been an advocate for water and land protection in the region since the 1990s and worked with biologists from the Valhalla Wilderness Society.
Watt has welcomed, hosted and educated local community members, students and Indigenous peoples from around the world during his residency at the village site. His dedication to authentic and meaningful truth and reconciliation has inspired and touched the hearts of many community members in the Kootenay region.
He has faced racism, oppression and adversity throughout his lifelong battle for recognition and truth, including surviving Native American boarding school in the US, incarceration, isolation from his family and community to protect his ancestors, and removal from his traditional homelands.
Watt has supported Indigenization and reconciliation at Selkirk College, where he has provided support and mentoring for Indigenous Services and strengthened important relationships. He continues to share his voice and perspective to support learning in a holistic way while on the traditional territory of the Sinixt peoples, and he has forged a hard path that is respected by many.
The four recipients now join more than two decades of Board of Governors award recipients who continue to enhance the educational journeys of students and build stronger communities.
Learn more about the Selkirk College Board of Governors.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all