Alumni Engagement

Alumni Profiles

Seeds of inspiration blooming in Winnipeg’s Indigenous culinary scene thanks to Red Seal Chef

April 17, 2024

“I still feel like I’m in a dream,” mused Red Seal Chef and 2020 RRC Polytech Culinary Arts graduate Jennifer Ballantyne from the bright and airy Manoomin restaurant located within Long Plain First Nation’s new hotel, Wyndham Garden Winnipeg Airport.

Nestled in the Polo Park area on Madison Street—on Long Plain Madison Reserve in Treaty One Territory—the Wyndham Garden integrates local Indigenous culture, contemporary design, and a boutique hotel experience. Cultural features such as smudging on site, signage in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe), and walls of Indigenous artwork compliment conference and event spaces, a pool area and fitness centre, and full dining to offer a tailored experience for families and organizations alike.

Watercolours in blues and greens guide patrons through the hotel’s amenities and welcoming seating areas. Kookum’s Korner shop sells local Indigenous artwork and handmade goods, while Onishkaan Café offers handcrafted beverages, lighter fare, and bannock. Manoomin, which translates to wild rice in Ojibwe, is at the heart of the atrium, inviting patrons to sit in a lush, sage green atmosphere, evoking prairie fields at the peak of summertime.

At the helm of Manoomin is Executive Chef Jennifer Ballantyne, who has been with the restaurant since its inception. From building the menu, mapping out the patron experience, and pulling together her team, she is now sharing all her hard work with the broader community. Ballantyne’s pride is palatable.

“This is the most exciting time. I truly love the idea that I was able to see something sprout. Essentially, you plant these seeds and watch them grow, investing all these beautiful ideas,” she said. “From the menu, new culinary staff, as well as RRC Polytech students, it’s just nice to see it all come together.”

“There are always hardships and bumps in the road, but to see someone be excited to be in the kitchen, and then to see someone excited to experience the food, that’s an amazing feeling. I just love it.”

It’s that buzzing energy new cooks bring into the kitchen that reminds Ballantyne of her time at RRC Polytech, where learning and experiencing new skills brought joy—and sometimes, a little competition.

“It was so exciting to be a part of the Culinary Arts program at RRC Polytech. The instructors were amazing. It was fun. All of us young, eager cooks were competing to be number one, which was great,” Ballantyne said with a laugh. “We started off pretty early in our careers with that love of cooking and the atmosphere.”

When choosing her career path, she always knew she would go into the culinary field. Ballantyne, who is from Opaskwayak Cree Nation, grew up watching her aunties and grannies cook. She says it just felt organic. She also credits her mother as being an amazing and creative cook.

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Creative Communications grad lands ‘dream job’ working in animal welfare

April 12, 2024

It would be fair to say that Jessica Miller has her dream job.

On most days, one friendly dog or another keeps her company in her corner office at Winnipeg Humane Society (WHS).What Miller likes most about her role as CEO, though, is that she is doing something worthwhile.

“We help people. We help people just as much as we help animals,” she said.

Now in her third year on the job, she has always made her living through meaningful work.

Her career path began at Red River College Polytechnic, where she earned her diploma in the 2-year Creative Communications diploma program (commonly known as CreComm) in 2007.

“My interest has always been in having my work mean something. Whether it was for health care, or animals, or a non-profit, or volunteering,” she said. “I have always wanted to know that my time spent away from my family, and in my career, meant something. I never wanted to work corporately. It still doesn’t interest me.”

Before attending RRC Polytech, Miller modeled internationally as a teenager. As she aged, she wondered how to transition herself from the fashion runways to a more long-term career. Journalism struck her as a possibility, and RRC Polytech could teach her. “I had travelled the world. I thought being a reporter and being on camera would be a good transition from modeling,” she remembered.

She was deferred for one year after being accepted into the CreComm program. So, she went straight to The University of Winnipeg and started on the related bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric and Communications, which she later completed after finishing CreComm at RRC Polytech.

In her first year of CreComm, Miller quickly realized journalism wasn’t for her. Public relations, on the other hand, gave her the chance to shape and control the message, which she loved doing.

“Public relations was so ‘me’,” she said. “It was getting out there and talking to people, which I was used to doing. I loved learning how to write press releases. Creating and driving the narrative were what attracted me.”

CreComm was “intimidating”, and the coursework was “hardcore”, she remembers. The instructors often called her out on her mistakes.

“They expected the world from you, and zero mistakes. They put you to the test – in the field and in the workforce. The question was, could you execute what was asked of you?”

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Proud Digital Film and Media Alum launches filmmaking career and production company after graduation

April 10, 2024

Fawnda Neckoway had two paths in front of her in 2021: going to Vancouver Film School to study acting on a full-ride scholarship she won; or dive deeper into filmmaking and attend RRC Polytech’s Digital Film and Media Production program.

Either way, she knew she wanted to start her own production company. With her family and adapting to new changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic both top of mind, she envisioned launching her business and operating from anywhere.

Having already received a diploma from the Academy of Acting in 2008, Neckoway had worked in the film industry as both an actor and casting director. She appeared in the film We Were Children and did the casting for shows like Wolf Joe and Taken.

While in the Indigenous Women in Business program (available through SEED Winnipeg), Neckoway leaned on her experience as a casting director to help build a business plan to launch her own company. When she completed the program, she knew she needed to take things a step further, so she applied to and was accepted to both colleges. In the end, she chose RRC Polytech.

“Part of that was because of my future plans at the time. I was preparing for other life changes, and Iwanted to stay close to my family while still pursuing my professional goals,” said Neckoway. “After seeing what was available with the new Digital Film and Media Production program, I felt RRC Polytech was the right choice—up until then, we hadn’t had a film program quite like this available in Manitoba.”

Neckoway decided to stay in Winnipeg to pursue her dream and build on what she’d achieved so far in her career. She described the Digital Film and Media Production program as amazing but intense. She said she still works with people she met in the program to this day.

“It was everything I anticipated it to be—and then some,” said Neckoway. “We not only had the opportunity to gain confidence with the camera and film our own creatives, there were other areas of study that were really beneficial. It was a pretty diverse curriculum even though it was only a year.”

Neckoway said the Independent Film Project assignment was pivotal for her. Neckoway pitched her story, Kita kiskihtihtakwaw: So They Will Know. Inspired by an innocent question between a child and parent about Residential Schools, So They Will Know provides insight for parents and educators who may be having similar conversations with the children in their lives. The story resonated with her peers and was one of the five projects selected for production.

“I was fortunate enough to be one of the students selected to move forward with my film as the writer and director,” said Neckoway. “I discreetly gripped my son’s feather for comfort as I shared our story, I was nervous”. As a result, this assignment taught me the whole process of writing, pitching, and presenting ideas…it prepared me for what I’m doing now.”

Neckoway graduated in April 2022 and hit the ground running, launching her business Nikâwiy Productions the same month.

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Polytechnic Proud – and all about people for Magellan Aerospace General Manager

April 5, 2024

Technology, innovation, and global connectivity all drive success in the aerospace industry.

Ron Drepaul, Business Administration graduate and General Manager of Magellan Aerospace Winnipeg, cites an additional factor.

“Relationships are the bedrock of our business,” said Drepaul, 58. “We spend a lot of time fostering strong relationships with our customers and our suppliers. And really engaging with the people in our building.”

With a current complement of 700 employees in Winnipeg, Magellan engineers, manufactures, and services components for aerospace markets all over the world. This includes advanced products for defense and space markets, as well as complementary specialty products. Winnipeg is the largest operation for Mississauga-based Magellan, which in 2022 generated $764.6 million in revenue.

Drepaul joined the company in 1988, “pretty much right out of Red River,” taking a job on the shop floor. After a few months, he took on responsibilities in production control and material planning.

Then, a big change: Drepaul became a contract administrator. Now he was preparing long-term pricing proposals, negotiating pricing, reviewing existing contracts, explaining terms to stakeholders, analyzing risks, and maintaining contract records.

“That job was in line with my education. I was in the role for eight years. It helped me understand the business.”

Drepaul’s ascent continued. He became responsible for Magellan’s relationship with one of its major customers, General Electric Aviation.

Next, with a move into purchasing, he went from dealing with the customer to dealing with suppliers.

“It’s really a natural extension when you think about it – the supplier is another kind of customer.”

Drepaul rose in this area to become Magellan’s Director of Corporate Procurement. He became involved with strategic sourcing, agreements, and standardizing processes across a globally expanding organization.

Among his accomplishments, he led a team that established and implemented a proprietary system to build consistency in manufacturing across Magellan’s divisions.

The job took him all over the world.

“I was getting involved with our emerging market strategy. I was dealing with our own company, key suppliers, and joint ventures.”

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Polytechnic education sparks creative fire for luxury candle brand

April 4, 2024

When you think of Winnipeg-based luxury candle brand Coal and Canary you likely think of great scented candles with cheeky names and beautiful branding. What you might not know is that founder and CEO, Amanda Buhse, is still the one designing the packaging of each product.  

“Nowadays, my job and primary role is more the visionary and the leader to an amazing team that works so hard,” said Amanda. “But I do still do the graphic design work for Coal and Canary,” she said with a chuckle.

“It’s really fun because I save a lot of my money by not hiring someone else to do it and save time, but it’s also my passion and what I love doing, so to be able to do it for my own company is pretty special and very cool,” she added.

As a graduate of RRC Polytech’s Advanced Graphic Design program (now, Communication Design) in 2006, Amanda knows her way around Adobe Illustrator and has had numerous roles in the industry.

“RRC Polytech definitely provided me with an environment where ideas weren’t just encouraged, they were also celebrated. It was a safe space that encouraged technical mastery, but also the ability to navigate through those uncharted territories of innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Amanda

Right out of college Amanda found herself employed at a print house as a production designer, where she learned the basic skills you need to succeed as a graphic designer in the industry. She went on to work for an ad agency and as a freelancer until she worked for national fashion agency as their lead designer and eventual art director.

“I had a career I was really happy with and really loved and I was never thinking about opening up my own company that hires people – that was never on the radar for me,” said Amanda.

In 2014, Amanda and her best friend, who was in nursing school at the time, were looking for a distraction and got into making candles as a hobby. They began posting their passion project on Instagram as a way to connect over creating something as friends. It wasn’t long before stores began to reach out asking to sell their products in stores.

“We had no idea what a wholesale catalog was, but luckily Google was a thing, so we googled it and being a graphic designer, I could fake it till I made it. I stayed up all night making this beautiful wholesale catalog and made it look like we were this really established, well-known company that knew what they were doing. But we had no idea, you know, so having a graphic design background really helped in those moments,” said Amanda.

Amanda wasn’t always considering a career in graphic design; she had looked into going into performing arts schools or school for interior design. It was through Vincent Massey’s high school guidance counselor that Amanda found herself enrolling at RRC Polytech.

“I couldn’t really decide, I’ve always been very artistic and he asked if I had ever thought about graphic design and I didn’t really know what graphic design was, because it wasn’t talked about a lot back then.  After he explained what a graphic designer does, I thought, oh my gosh, that’s perfect,” said Amanda

“I say it all the time that my experience at RRC Polytech really was a catalyst for my success today in so many ways. It was honestly one of the best times of my life – both fun and challenging and prepared me for where I am today.”

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Creative Communications grad returns to CentrePort Canada, this time at the helm

September 5, 2023

Get to know Carly Edmundson and you will soon see that she is a natural-born leader. She just gets things done.

Having finished her coffee and a business meeting, Edmundson leans over her table in the Hargrave St. Market food hall to tell you about herself.

“I grew up in the community of Pierson, in the southwestern corner of Manitoba. The population there is about 175,” she explains. “I came from a place where, if you wanted something done, you had to act. I wasn’t going to have other people do something for me. That wasn’t a button I could press. It made me self-sufficient.”

Edmundson has taken herself from humble beginnings to become one of Manitoba’s most dynamic business leaders. As President and CEO of CentrePort Canada Inc. since May of 2023, she oversees North America’s largest trimodal inland port and Foreign Trade Zone.

The path to her corner office went through Red River College Polytechnic, where she earned her diploma in Creative Communications (commonly known as CreComm) in 2006, specializing in Advertising.

Established in 2008, CentrePort is a hub for transportation and distribution businesses. It covers 20,000 acres located west of Brookside Boulevard in Winnipeg and the municipality of Rosser. “That’s an area larger than Manhattan (14,600 acres),” Edmundson points out. Currently, more than 2,300 acres are in active development at CentrePort.

She worked at CentrePort for six years, climbing to Executive Director of Marketing and Communications by the time she left in 2019. After that, Edmundson was Senior Vice-President for four years at Cushman & Wakefield Stevenson, a real estate firm with dealings at CentrePort, before returning to the inland port corporation last spring.

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Aircraft Maintenance alum flying Perimeter Aviation into new era

August 24, 2023

In a high-flying career that took off thanks to the Apprentice Aircraft Maintenance Journeyperson program at RRC Polytech, Joey Petrisor feels like he’s landed the plane with his new job title: President and CEO of Perimeter Aviation.

“It’s always been a goal of mine since starting,” said Petrisor. “My hope was to eventually lead an airline and this is kind of getting to that pinnacle of my career.”

Joining Perimeter last fall, Petrisor brings a wide range of aviation experience to the leading role. After graduating from Aircraft Maintenance in 2003, he built extensive maintenance cargo experience before taking on different leadership roles, including Vice-President of Maintenance and Cargo at Calm Air and Director of Maintenance at Transwest Air.

In Petrisor’s most recent role as President of Alliance Maintenance, he helped merge Keewatin Air, Calm Air, and Perimeter Aviation’s maintenance departments under a new Approved Maintenance Organization (AMO) in Thompson, Manitoba. The reorganization helped streamline air travel in the north, which is work that continues for Petrisor at Perimeter and something he’s quick to highlight.

“The one thing from the last three or four companies I’ve worked at is that they’ve all served the north, and I’m proud of that. We’re working to ensure Indigenous people in the north have access to reliable, on-time air transportation in a safe and efficient manner. All four companies that I’ve been in a leadership role with, that’s a lot of their mission.”

Petrisor’s passion for aviation began in high school, but he’s the first to admit he “came into it a little by fluke.”

While exploring a high school program centered on youth internship, where hours spent working within a co-op program would count toward a future apprenticeship, Petrisor was asked what he wanted to do specifically.

“I wanted to be a mechanic,” he said. “They responded with ‘Okay, but which kind? Heavy duty, automotive?’ I said ‘airplanes?’ and the instructor just happened to have a student who recently joined the flying club in Regina as an instructor. So, they put me into this program for 240 hours.”

“I’ve just never looked back from there. My first few bosses and my experience at RRC Polytech made me feel at home – they really helped a young kid try to get his ticket to the industry.”

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Part-time program launches exciting next phase of career for three-time grad

August 16, 2023

Three-time RRC Polytech graduate Colin Szewaga, C.E.T. (Shuh-vah-gah) will tell you that learning never stops.

And with that mindset, neither do the career opportunities.

“To look at where I was 36 months ago, compared to where I’m headed, my career-growth potential has skyrocketed,” said Szewaga, who completed the Project Management certificate program in 2021.

Szewaga grew up in Winnipeg’s Garden Grove neighbourhood and graduated from the automotive discipline at Technical Vocational (Tec Voc) High School in the city’s West End.

Having a strong mechanical aptitude, he entered RRC Polytech’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineer program in the early 2000s. With a downturn in the aviation industry limiting job prospects during the program, a second Red River stream drew Szewaga’s interest.

“I had a dream to design homes in 3D and virtually walk clients through them,” he said, describing his decision to enroll in Civil Engineering Technology. Choosing Architectural/Engineering Technology as his specialization, he gained practical skills integrating knowledge of architecture, engineering, and building construction.

The program included an applied technical project during his final year.

“I did a cost-benefit analysis of three distinct levels of insulation of an identical home by upgrading the insulation levels, and then looking at the energy savings and greenhouse gas emission reductions. Later I designed my own home in St. Vital with upgraded insulation levels, which quantified my thesis.”

The program—and that final project—opened doors for Szewaga. There was contract work for the provincial government, looking at energy- and water-usage efficiency in the building and plumbing codes. Later he worked for a glazing contractor on the first two towers at True North Square, having a chance to help transform Winnipeg’s skyline and learn critical project management skills.

“There’s a sense of satisfaction seeing these two buildings come out of the ground and knowing you had a small part in it.”

As he was finishing his involvement with this development, Szewaga felt the need to upgrade his skills once more.

“I wanted to stay competitive with my peers and with younger workers coming up. My driver was to become more marketable. I was investing in myself.”

The part-time Project Management certificate program—round three for Szewaga at RRC Polytech—proved ideal.

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Vic of All Trades

August 3, 2023

At just 32 years old, Vic Savino is the Director of Communications for the Treaty One Nations.

It’s a dynamic role, one that allows him to serve community members from the seven First Nations in Treaty No.1 territory and dive into projects like the development of the Naawi-Oodena urban reserve. Such a prominent director position at age 32 is certainly not the standard. But then, Savino’s life has been anything but.

A proud graduate of RRC Polytech’s Business Administration program (class of 2016), Savino joined the team at Treaty One Nations in July 2022. Prior to that, he was a digital content programmer for SkipTheDishes, a communications officer with the Southern Chiefs’ Organization, an owner of a successful hot dog cart business, a freelance journalist, and an advocate for criminal justice reform.

Savino balances his professional endeavours with fatherhood—a delicate juggling act that he chronicled in The Projector in September 2015. His inspiring life journey has attracted the attention of national outlets, including CBC.

“Learning how the business world works.”

Savino credits RRC Polytech’s Business Administration program with many of the skills he uses daily in his current director role—including public speaking, effective networking, and learning to work within tight deadlines. One instructor in particular, Murray Moman, had a tremendous impact on his early career development.

“He always encouraged us to do a little extra,” said Savino. “He would encourage us to not just do the course work, but to look at everything.”

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Ceiling tiles and memories

May 24, 2023

It’s 2003 and the Design and Construction Technology graduating class have decided it’s time to leave their mark at the College. Did they carve their names in a tree? No. Did they sign a wall they weren’t supposed to? No. Did they create an elaborate time capsule that had multiple locks and keys? No (thankfully). Instead, this class decided to take a ceiling tile from their classroom in A4-12 and sign their names and attach a class photo to commemorate their hard work and dedication to be found one day in the future.

Fast forward 20 years to 2023 where Design and Construction Technology is now called Architectural/Engineering Technology and the classroom in A4-12 is being demolished to make space for the newly announced Interdisciplinary Health Sciences and Community Services Simulation Centre (SIM Centre).

“I walked up there Monday afternoon to check to see how they were making out, and leaning against the wall was this tile. I saw “2003” and well, that was my graduation year. As I looked closer, sure enough, I had signed the tile and saw a picture of our whole class,” said Curtis Jones, Senior Project Manager, Environmental Stewardship & Campus Renewal and 2003 graduate of Design and Construction Technology.

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RRC Polytech campuses are located on the lands of Anishinaabe, Ininiwak, Anishininew, Dakota, and Dené, and the National Homeland of the Red River Métis.

We recognize and honour Treaty 3 Territory Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, the source of Winnipeg’s clean drinking water. In addition, we acknowledge Treaty Territories which provide us with access to electricity we use in both our personal and professional lives.

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