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Alumni Profiles

Community connections: Business grad expands network via volunteer and mentorship roles

November 12, 2019

Kanupriya Sidhu, Red River CollegeKanupriya Sidhu knows that when you help others, you help yourself.

Sidhu came to Canada from Punjab, India in early 2016 to study Business Administration at Red River College. While here, she sought out volunteering opportunities as a way of adjusting to a new country and culture.

“The first year I was pretty much trying to adjust to what was going on. Everything was different,” says Sidhu, 21, who graduated from the program in 2018.

“Studying wasn’t really hard for me. I was a bright student and I was doing well with my courses. I wanted to focus more on fitting myself into this culture and community, to get to know people and feel more comfortable and more at home in this place if I’m going to stay here for awhile.”

Sidhu acted as a Diversity Ambassador at RRC, a role that saw her promoting diversity on campus, providing peer support and assisting in the organization of events and activities.

“I used to volunteer a lot on campus, just because it kept me busy and also helped me interact with new people,” she says.

“I learned a lot about how the community thinks, how it works, and a lot about the culture of Canadian people. I also got to interact with instructors and management while organizing the activites. Volunteering added a lot to my experience here.”

In addition to her ambassador work, Sidhu also co-chaired RRC’s Student Refugee Program (SRP) committee, an initiative of World University Service of Canada.

“Every year, the SRP sponsors a student refugee and we support them on campus,” Sidhu says.

“I went to Ottawa in August 2017 and there was a leadership training program for SRP committee heads. That was a whole new experience because I got a chance to interact with people from more than 100 colleges and universities from all over Canada.” Read More →

Seeing through you: EET grad lands sought-after role repairing diagnostic imaging equipment

October 29, 2019

John Hamilton’s profession is the picture of health.

A 2012 graduate of Red River College’s Electrical Engineering Technology program, Hamilton works as a field service engineer at Philips Healthcare, where he maintains and repairs diagnostic medical imaging equipment. That includes machines related to X-ray, ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scanning, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and nuclear medicine.

In other words, if someone can see right through you, it means Hamilton is doing a good job.

“We’ll get calls from different hospitals around the region. My territory is Manitoba and northwest Ontario, so I’ll go as far as Dryden to do work,” Hamilton says. “Usually we get a call that there’s an issue or something wrong with their system and we’ll go in and troubleshoot, order parts and repair.”

Prior to entering the EET program at RRC, Hamilton was halfway through a computer science degree at the University of Winnipeg, but found it wasn’t the right fit for him.

“I didn’t like it because I was going to be just sitting in front of a computer all the time, doing coding and not working hands-on as much, so when I heard about the Red River program, I signed up for it,” he says. “I really enjoyed the program because it gives you some aspects of that (computer science) but it also gives you a lot of hands-on skills as well.”

“I like that the program covered a lot of different areas. It wasn’t too focused on one stream. I was able to do some biomedical courses in there too, so I got a taste of what I’d eventually do. It was everything from PCB (printed circuit board) design to how circuits work, so it gave me a really well-rounded knowledge.” Read More →

Package deal: Machining grad’s skill set prepares him for range of roles in manufacturing

October 15, 2019

Jesus Bojorquez, Red River CollegeJesús Bojorquez is the total package.

A graduate of Red River College’s Precision Metal Machining program, Bojorquez works as an assistant operator at Winpak Ltd., a company that manufactures and distributes packaging materials.

Bojorquez, who is from Cancun, Mexico, credits RRC with helping him to develop a comprehensive skill-set that has enabled him to be a go-to guy at his workplace.

“What I learned from my teachers is not just how to run the machines, but to respect the machines. You need to take care of them. If you know how they work, you know when something is wrong and you know how to fix it,” says Bojorquez, 36, who graduated from the year-long pre-employment program in 2016.

“I’ve been with Winpak for almost two years, and because of the knowledge that I acquired from Red River, my supervisor always moves me from one area to another to another. I’m one of the few people that knows how to be in every single side of the department.”

In Mexico, Bojorquez worked in the sales department for a hotel and resort operator. With a desire to work with his hands (and hotel/resort work hard to come by in wintery Winnipeg), Bojorquez opted to pursue an entirely different path at RRC.

“I chose Precision Metal Machining because it was the first step for me to go into Mechanical Engineering Technology, which is also at Red River,” Bojorquez says.

“But my family grew — I have two kids now and another coming, so it was not that easy to continue. Then I started working, and everything changes in our life. I want to go back to Red River eventually, but not to go into Mechanical Engineering Technology. Now, I want to do Aerospace Manufacturing.” Read More →

Enhancing awareness: Chemical and Biosciences grad increases supports for Indigenous Peoples

October 2, 2019

Jake Freeman is incorporating her Indigenous culture into her career.

A proud Métis woman, Freeman is currently working in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Indigenous Support and Awareness Office.

According to AAFC’s website, the office was established in 2017 to enhance the department’s ability to support Indigenous agriculture, by increasing recruitment and retention of Indigenous employees, and enhancing awareness of Indigenous Peoples and cultures through a department-wide training program.

Freeman graduated from Red River College’s Chemical and Biosciences Technology program (now Science Laboratory Technology) in 2000. She went on to work for AAFC for 17 years as a resource technician, where her duties included working with water and soil specialists to support the set-up and operation of field monitoring equipment.

“I’m still at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, but I’m on an assignment right now with our Indigenous Support and Awareness Office as a content developer for the Indigenous Awareness Learning Series that we’re doing within our department,” Freeman says.

“I go through what kind of learning is available through other departments, schools, online, etc. I check and see if there’s anything our department can work with other departments on with some of the learning that they’re doing.

“I’m also one of three co-chairs for our Indigenous Network Circle, which is for Indigenous employees across the country that work at AAFC. Through the network we’ve ended up doing a book club called Indigenous Reads, which is available at no cost to employees through the Canadian Agriculture Library. It’s all books recommended by Indigenous employees and usually by Indigenous authors, sometimes about culture, language, arts, and even traditional agriculture. It’s a way we can help facilitate learning through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.” Read More →

Empathy in action: Culture shock gives way to community support for Health Care Aide alum

September 12, 2019

Saba Tesfamariam, Red River CollegeSaba Tesfamariam cares for the people you care about the most.

A graduate of Red River College’s Health Care Aide program, Tesfamariam works as a health care aide at Extendicare in Winnipeg, helping senior citizens live comfortable lives.

“As a health care aide, I help the residents with their daily living and activities, like cleaning them, bathing them and dressing them,” she says. “I love it. Helping people, I love to do that.”

Tesfamariam, 37, immigrated in 2013 from Asmara, Eritrea. Asmara is the capital and most populous city in the African country, which is located along the Red Sea and bordered by Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

“My husband heard from his friend that Red River College was the nicest college here and that it is acceptable everywhere,” Tesfamariam says.

“My husband encouraged me to attend English for Adults classes (at RRC’s Language Training Centre). I told my teacher I was interested in Health Care Aide because it is the shortest program and the requirement with my English level was easy to access. She gave me the details and after six months attending that English class, I got all the requirements, I got College access and then I took the program.”

Health Care Aide is a 20-week certificate program delivered at six RRC campuses. In the program, aspiring health care aides develop the skills they’ll need to assist clients with their physical, emotional and social needs.

Health Care Aide students also receive on-the-job training with six weeks of work placement in health care agencies.

“The way they taught us was very easy, very understandable. It was a very good course,” Tesfamariam says. “We did practice every other lesson, and the six-week practicum after you’re done (the program) was very helpful.” Read More →

Hospitality grad finds new confidence through volunteer work, extracurriculars

August 28, 2019

Andy Pham, Red River CollegeAs an international student, Andy Pham adjusted to life in a new land by diving headfirst into a range of extracurricular activities.

Pham, who is from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, is a graduate of Red River College’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program.

In addition to his studies, Pham represented his classmates on the College’s Student Advisory Board, participated in RRC’s cultural and language mentorship program and ran for a vice-president position on the RRC Students’ Association executive.

Being an active student “helps international students to be confident, (and gives them) the ability to be different, and to speak out,” says Pham, 25, who graduated from RRC in 2016.

“It was great to be on the board and it was great to run a campaign. It was a memorable time in my life. I never regret going to Red River College because there’s so much opportunity for students, but some students just don’t get to know it well, especially international students.

“My goal is one day I’m going to guide international students to where to go and where to be, and not just in academic life … That’s the best part, to be active and involved. Not just go to school, go home, read a book. No, you have to enjoy every moment.”

Pham, who is openly gay, also created and presided over RRC’s LGBTT* and Friends Club. Off campus, he acted as a tourism coordinator for the Pride Winnipeg Festival and a volunteer coordinator for the Reel Pride Film Festival.

“It’s important to me because it let me know who I am,” says Pham, who was not out before moving to Canada.

“I can be with the community more, because I have no chance to be with the community back home. I see a lot of people at Pride, successful themselves as career people, and now they also give back. They see a responsibility to do something meaningful to other people.” Read More →

Top flight: Aircraft Maintenance Engineer grad parlays technical training into taproom triumph

August 23, 2019

Brewing expert Matt Wolff knows a thing or two about flights.

In 2004, Wolff graduated from Red River College’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) program. Now he’s the operations manager at Torque Brewing, responsible for the production of such beloved brews as What the Helles and The Witty Belgian.

Aircraft and craft beer might seem dissimilar, but Wolff says he’s able to apply his AME training to beer brewing.

“My role is operations manager so I’m in charge of all the production, a good portion of logistics, facility maintenance, equipment maintenance, everything,” says Wolff, 35, while prepping for Torque’s third anniversary party on Sat., Aug. 24.

“Every day there’s something that will just not work properly, where someone will have to find the source of the problem and repair it or you’re not going to meet your production quota. I have that ability to get in there and get my hands dirty, do the repair or find the solution to it.”

“Whether it’s an aircraft or a car or a brewery, the fundamentals are the same, from electrical to pneumatics to mechanical. If you have that understanding, you shouldn’t have a problem putting that into different locales.”

Wolff got into the beer-brewing business at age 18 through his brother’s future father-in-law, who had recently launched Two Rivers Brewing. In 2003, Two Rivers amalgamated with Fort Garry Brewing.

“I was young, I didn’t have anything lined up, and they said ‘You know we have a part-time position here. Are you interested in working at brewery?’” he says.

“The first question that came to mind was, ‘Is there free beer?’ And the answer was, ‘Yeah, you’re working at a brewery.’” Read More →

Strictly business: Move from South Asia to Manitoba leads to accelerated career in accounting

July 31, 2019

Anika Maria, Red River CollegeBangladesh to Canada is quite the trek, but for Anika Maria, the long road was the shortest route.

Maria is an accountant at MLT Aikins LLP in Winnipeg, a law firm with offices throughout Western Canada.

Originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital city, Maria chose Red River College’s Business Administration program to accelerate her career in accounting.

“I chose Canada because the education seemed more practical to me,” Maria, 25, says.

“Back home, people actually get a degree and then a masters and then they join the field. I didn’t like that approach. I wanted to start early, I wanted to gain some experience, so I chose to come to Canada because I like the structure better. Here you can do a two-year diploma, get into the workforce, and continue your studies as you’re getting experience.”

A two-year diploma program, Business Administration is structured so second-year students declare a major in either accounting, administration, financial services, marketing or human resources.

Maria majored in accounting and completed the program in 2015. In May 2016, she was hired at St. John’s Music as an accounting manager. She moved into her current position at MLT Aikins in March of last year.

Maria believes the heavy workload in the Business Administration program has helped her move up the accounting ranks quickly.

“It’s intense. Doing six courses in every semester is intense. It doesn’t matter what major; six courses are a lot. Time management was the main thing I learned,” Maria says.

“I was actually working when I was at Red River. I was a full-time student and a part-time worker (as a cashier), so that life is what led me to prioritize things. I have these many hours in a day and I have to crunch in my assignments and go to all my classes. I have to do all of these things and then work as well.” Read More →

Instructors’ experience proves invaluable for Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic grad

June 17, 2019

Charles Lu, Red River CollegeCharles Lu helps drivers to keep on truckin’. 

A native of Shenyang, China, Lu works as a truck and transport mechanic at Custom Truck Sales in Winnipeg, where he diagnoses, maintains and repairs big rigs and medium duty trucks. 

Lu started at Custom Truck Sales shortly after graduating from Red River College’s Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic program in 2013. He says the hands-on style of learning he received at RRC set him up for success in the shop. 

“I gained a lot of really valuable knowledge and experience,” says Lu, who also goes by Yibo, his Chinese name.

“I learned a lot in the shop class at Red River College. In the school they have a real truck that you work on. You can do brake jobs, transmission overhaul, engine overhaul, same [as in] the real world. That’s fantastic.”

Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic is a one-year certificate program offered at RRC’s Notre Dame Campus. The entry-level program prepares aspiring mechanics to service and repair heavy mobile equipment, with 60 per cent of the program spent doing hands-on work on heavy machinery.  

Lu, 40, says the instruction he received in the program was top-notch, taught by teachers with plenty of experience and grease on their overalls. 

“I think pretty much all the instructors had been working in this trade for a couple decades, so they were really well-educated and experienced,” he says. “They talk about the real stories that they have been through, and they shared that with us.” Read More →

By the books: Interlake grad lands library role after returning to school later in life

May 27, 2019

Darlene Phillips says going back to college in her 40s was an adjustment, but she wanted to be better equipped to re-enter the workforce.

She already knew she liked numbers and had prior experience working in office jobs, so she decided to attend Red River College’s Interlake Campus in Selkirk to update her training.

Between June 2014 and December 2015, she completed a total of five courses: Bookkeeping and Small Business Office, Business, Accounting and Management, Human Resource Management, Business and Administrative Studies, and Management Development.

She said the course load was exhausting, but worthwhile.

“It was very overwhelming in the beginning, but as time went by I adapted to college life. I really liked the smaller classroom setting where everyone had a common goal,” says Phillips.

“You can never give up on yourself,” she continues. “When you feel overwhelmed you must remember your goals, and gather your inner strength to succeed from that.”

“I know now there’s nothing holding me back.” Read More →