More than 1,600 students receive their degrees from UBC’s Okanagan campus in spring 2014. They each have stories of personal and academic achievements, and carry many varied ambitions for life. Here are three of their stories.
Making French connections
UBC grad studied French dialects in the Magdalen Islands in a bid to preserve cultural values
By helping grassroots movements find their voice, David Lacho found his own.
A fourth-year student in the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences at UBC’s Okanagan campus, his primary area of research is language and culture.
“Not only is there an emotional attachment to your research, but you also carry a deep responsibility to the people who shared their stories and knowledge,” says Lacho, who majors in Anthropology and French. “You feel an obligation to uphold your promise of change or action that was embodied within your research.”
He spent six weeks in Quebec researching French speakers on the Magdalen Islands, a small archipelago in the Gulf of St. Lawrence that has several local dialects. He tried to identify how residents identify with their dialect, both linguistically and socially, and how they viewed their dialect in relation to other forms of French. He hopes his research can help preserve the area’s linguistic diversity.
“The dialects of French spoken in the Magdalen Islands are endangered,” he says, “and their potential loss parallels the potential loss of cultural knowledge.”
He learned that any student, any person, can spark change just by taking action.
“It sounds so cliché, but my university experience transformed me into a better global citizen.”
Turning e-waste into new tech
UBC grad Samuel Schaefer converts discarded electronics into cutting-edge technology
Samuel Schaefer’s path to a master of applied science degree began with a simple invitation by his professor: go find a problem, then think about all the possible solutions.
Over the next five years at UBC, Schaefer spun curiosity and exploration into a portfolio of custom-made technologies.
Schaefer’s path to innovation began when Assistant Professor Kenneth Chau suggested he explore the electronics inside dormant CD drives lying around the lab. By the summer of 2012, Schaefer had repurposed the CD drives’ optical components into an automated, compact microscope—with an eye on making affordable, easy-to-use technologies to benefit low-resource regions. The device won him the prestigious OPTO Startup Challenge at SPIE Photonics West, the largest conference in the field of optics and photonics.
He also created a smartphone sensor and app that can wirelessly measure the three main components of pool water: pH, chlorine and alkalinity.
Chau says Schaefer has become “a master of synthesizing different technologies into something new.”
It takes a village
UBC nursing grad Samantha Waller’s ambition is to work in global disaster zones
Samantha Waller has a burning desire to change the world for the better, one life at a time.
Waller, a fourth-year nursing student at UBC’s Okanagan School of Nursing, went to great lengths to publicize UBC’s fundraising efforts to build a health clinic in a remote village in Ghana that lacked accessible health care. From pitching suits at a Chamber of Commerce meeting to collecting empty bottles, Waller helped fundraisers exceed their $10,000 goal.
Waller, 23, was among several fourth-year students who spent their six-week practicum in remote Ghana this spring, working in adverse conditions to learn and deliver nursing care. She hopes to join the Red Cross emergency response team for global disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and floods.
“I want to get in on the ground and help people,” she says. “It’s important to keep your life in perspective and give back. In Canada we are really privileged. We have a great education system. I have such a great start to my career, thanks to UBC. I know how well prepared you are when you leave.”
Waller’s perspective was also shaped by an earlier practicum at Penticton Regional Hospital, where she attended to terminally-ill patients and their families. “It is a privileged opportunity to be with people and care for them at the beginning of life, at the end of life, and all the trials and tribulations in between,” she says.