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Alumni Engagement

Alumni Profiles

Distinguished Alumni: Bob Tallman (Business Administration, 1976)

September 4, 2012

He’s built a local business into a national retailer, cultivated a passionate base of customers through a tireless focus on service, and devoted himself to revitalizing his community and helping dozens of young people pursue their own career dreams.

That’s why Red River College is proud to name entrepreneur and philanthropist Bob Tallman as the 2012 recipient of our Distinguished Alumni Award.

Bob Tallman joined the family business, Princess Auto Ltd, in the mid-seventies, shortly after graduating from RRC with a diploma in Business Administration.

“I was the first in my family to be attending a post-secondary school,” he says. ”Our life had been focused around the family business, and I wanted to know something about business in general before I began working there on a full time basis.”

The investment in education paid off, as Bob and his brother Larry grew the small Winnipeg-based firm into a nationwide retail operation through the late-seventies and the eighties. Bob Tallman became the sole owner and CEO of Princess Auto in 1989.

Today, he oversees a network of 34 retail stores with over 1,800 staff specializing in industrial, garage and surplus items. The company prides itself on its diverse product assortment, boasting its one of the few places in the world where you can purchase a gas powered air compressor and an HDMI cable in the same building.

But it’s Princess Auto’s commitment to providing exceptional customer service that has earned it a cult-like following among shoppers, which is something Bob says was inspired by his time at RRC.

“I learned through my experiences at Red River College that a business ultimately is about the people who work in the business, the roles they play and most importantly, how they interact as a team,” he says. “It is probably the greatest lesson I learned at RRC, and has driven much of my strategy in building Princess Auto.” Read More →

Grad profile: Sean Sylvestre (Business Administration, 2008)

August 29, 2012

At Red River College, we pride ourselves on helping budding entrepreneurs turn their business ideas into realities. From simple start-ups to international success stories, our graduates have a knack for leaving their mark on the marketplace.

Just ask Sean Sylvestre, (Business Administration, 2003) a recent grad who’s currently combining the training he received at RRC with the optical insight he acquired while working at his parents’ dispensary in Garden City. As the brains behind Eyewear Evolution, a new company that employs  “virtual mirror” software to bridge the gap between traditional and online retailers, Sylvestre has come up with an innovative solution to an industry-wide challenge.

“What we’ve created is a virtual mirror so that we can actually showcase the product in 3D on (customers’) faces — on either a tablet, their mobile phone, or through their PC,” says Sylvestre, who also works as general manager at Joss Vision Care on Pembina Highway.

“Part of the issue when people come in to try on glasses is they take off their current glasses, put on the demo, look in the mirror and they can’t actually see what they look like — because there’s no prescription in the demo. We deal with that problem.”

The new software also has benefits for brick-and-mortar retailers, who can employ a virtual inventory that allows them to keep pace with online vendors. Since they no longer have to pre-pay for inventory, retailers can sell their product for less, and may be able to cut down on staffing and operational costs, as well.

It’s the type of creative, cutting-edge vision that’s typical of RRC grads, many of whom achieve success in everything from marketing to office management, finance to manufacturing. Whether they’re at the top of the chain of command, or just getting in on the ground floor, RRC alumni tend to be armed with the skills and determination to make a real impact on industry. Read More →

Grad profile: Tod Trudeau (Culinary Arts, 1998)

August 9, 2012

Think you had trouble planning your last dinner party? Try feeding 15,000 hungry hockey fans — more than 40 times a year.

That’s the challenge faced by Red River College grad Tod Trudeau pretty much every time he shows up for work. As executive sous chef for Centerplate — an event hospitality company that provides hospitality services to over 250 sports stadiums, entertainment venues, and convention centres across North America — Trudeau is no stranger to the concept of feeding a crowd.

And since the return of the Winnipeg Jets, there have been more mouths to feed than ever.

“The building is full of guests every single night,” says Trudeau, who graduated from RRC’s Chef Training program in 1998. “We don’t ever have to worry about how many people are coming; we want to provide each guest with an exceptional and memorable experience.”

A St. Vital native, Trudeau has been cooking since he was 14, and honed his skills working in the kitchens of a series of smaller restaurants as a teen. He enrolled at RRC because he wanted to learn how to “do things properly,” and says the smaller class size and stringent standards gave him a definite edge once he entered the workforce.

“It benefited me hugely, just working with real chefs and other students who were really eager to learn,” says Trudeau. “It was a great atmosphere for learning — everyone was always pushing everyone else to do better, and do more.”

After graduating, Trudeau spent five years at the Sheraton Downtown — first as banquet chef, then as restaurant chef — before being hired as a sous chef with Centerplate, which at the time had just taken over the contract at the soon-to-be-shuttered Winnipeg Arena.

These days, the company handles all hospitality requirements at the MTS Centre, servicing not just the concourse kiosks and 250-seat restaurant at ice level, but also catering for the private suites, press boxes and backstage dressing rooms. Read More →

Globetrotting RRC grad embarks on cross-continental adventure

July 6, 2012

Cam Dueck on motorbikeFor much of the last decade, he’s sailed the high seas. But this summer, Red River College alum Cameron Dueck is hitting the highway in search of his latest adventure.

Earlier this month, Dueck embarked on a 25,000-km motorcycle tour from Manitoba to South America, during which he’ll explore the state of modern Mennonite culture. He’s already been commissioned to write a book on the topic; in the interim, he’s documenting his travels on Facebook.

A 1996 graduate of RRC’s Creative Communications program, Dueck got his first taste of the globetrotter’s life while working as a financial reporter stationed in Chicago, New York, Singapore and Hong Kong.

He’s since taken a series of extended hiatuses to indulge his passion for the sailor’s life, touring through Asia and the Middle East, dodging pirates off the coast of Yemen, and sailing through sand storms in the Red Sea before crossing the Atlantic Ocean via St Helena.

Dueck’s recently-released book and film, The New Northwest Passage, details his voyage through Canada’s Arctic — marrying a story of grand adventure with reportage on climate change, and on the political and economic challenges faced by members of the region’s Inuit communities.

Click here to learn more about Dueck, and here to learn more about his travels through the Northwest Passage.

Grad profile: Chevy Peters (Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Diploma, 2003)

May 18, 2012

It’s a high-stakes field requiring a delicate balance of mental dexterity and mechanical know-how. But for aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) Chevy Peters, the work is quite literally in his blood.

“My grandfather and my father are both engineers, so it’s kind of the family business,” says Peters, now an instructor for RRC’s Aircraft Maintenance Journeyperson (AMJ) program. “There’s a lineage there — I’m a third generation AME, and I’m pretty proud of that.”

Peters’ grandfather worked on helicopters in British Columbia (and later, as an instructor at B.C.I.T.), while his father served as an AME before becoming a pilot with Air Canada. In fact, both his grandfather and his father had pilots’ licenses, so Peters logged his share of hours working in and around planes as a kid.

“For a while I was thinking I’d be a pilot, but I found out I enjoyed fixing planes more than flying them,” says Peters. “I’ve always been mechanically inclined, and I actually got started by helping out with inspections, then trading that (work) for flying time. I found out I loved fixing stuff, and that was where my true calling was.”

Having originally enrolled in the Business Administration program at RRC — an experience he found useful, but not quite a perfect fit — Peters returned to take part in the first-ever offering of the College’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Diploma program.

He found his second go-round at RRC to be even more rewarding than the first, praising the equipment and facilities at the Stevenson Campus, the expertise of the instructors, and the ample opportunities for team-building with classmates.

After graduating, took a job with Buffalo Airways in Yellowknife — “If you’ve seen the TV show Ice Pilots NWT, that was my job,” he quips — working first on engine buildups, before moving on to a post with Great Slave Helicopters shortly afterward. Read More →

RRC alum helps care home residents unleash their inner artists

May 16, 2012

Just as the caterpillar transforms itself into a beautiful butterfly, a group of care home residents have transformed themselves into published authors and artists — thanks to the help and guidance of Red River College alum Kaitlyn Callahan.

A 2008 grad of RRC’s Recreation Facilitator for Older Adults program, Callahan recently celebrated the launch of a new exhibit at the Osborne Library — one comprised of eye-catching artwork produced by residents of Actionmarguerite St. Boniface.

The highlight of the exhibit is a series of watercolour and cut-paper pieces that make up a children’s book called The Caterpillar and the Butterfly, written and illustrated by a group of seven residents working under Callahan’s supervision.

“Art seems to be something that touches everybody on different levels,” says Callahan, 26, who partnered on the project with local artist Shirley Levacy. “It doesn’t matter if (the residents) can’t use their hands — they can still take part and produce something beautiful.”

Callahan’s residents call themselves the Creative Expressions Art Group. Members range in age from 33 to 57, and require long-term care due to either head injuries or neurological disorders.

As the recreation facilitator at Actionmarguerite (formerly Taché Centre), Callahan plans a variety of activities for residents. But she says the arts-related programming is especially popular, since it allows residents to channel their creative energies, work together as a team, and tap into skill-sets that might have otherwise gone undiscovered. Read More →

First female bricklaying apprentice paves own way

May 11, 2012

She’s one of few female faces in a largely male-dominated field. And she’s building a reputation as a quick study — one brick at a time.

Meet Nina Widmer, the first female apprentice in the history of Red River College’s Bricklayer Apprenticeship program. The daughter of German-born master craftsman Alfred Widmer, Nina has been working at her father’s side on historical restoration projects since she was nine.

The Widmer family moved to Canada when Nina was just six weeks old, after Alfred was commissioned produce ornate plaster mouldings and statuary at Fort Garry Place. In the ensuing years, father and daughter have worked together on such projects as the University of Winnipeg’s Wesley Hall, the A.A. Heaps Building (Bank of Nova Scotia), and the Union Bank Tower — soon to be RRC’s Paterson GlobalFoods Institute.

“It’s keeping history alive,” says Nina of her passion for restoration work. “You walk into some of these buildings, and they just take your breath away. And it’s really phenomenal if they can be brought back to their original state — which always looks so much better than plain old drywall.”

Since opportunities for historical restoration work are limited, Widmer entered RRC’s Apprenticeship Bricklaying program on her father’s advice. Given her background in masonry, she hoped it would give her an increased understanding of bricklaying, so was pleasantly surprised to discover there was still much to learn. Read More →

Donor Appreciation Keynote: Desiree Mendoza (Creative Communications, 2011)

February 28, 2012

Mendoza, right, with RRC President Stephanie Forsyth.

“My life has certainly changed for the better and it is because of the support that I had received from generous people like you”.

So ended the inspiring words of Desiree Mendoza (Creative Communications, 2011) at the annual Red River College Donor Appreciation Reception in October 2011.

As the keynote speaker, Mendoza shared her story of moving with her husband and children from Brunei to Winnipeg in 2005.  With the encouragement of her husband to pursue her studies in Canada, she applied to the two-year Creative Communications program at Red River College.  Although it would be financially challenging to leave a job that helped pay the bills, Mendoza entered the program.

She applied for and was awarded the Enterprising Women’s Conference Award which helped defray the costs of her tuition and other school expenses. Because of the financial support the award provided, she was able to focus on successfully completing the program, including providing public relations and fundraising support to a Winnipeg homeless shelter, as part of the CreComm program’s Independent Professional Project (IPP). Read More →

RRC Grads Find Success at CGA Manitoba

February 23, 2012

But if you want to find work at CGA Manitoba — the self-regulatory body responsible for 2,000 CGAs and almost as many students in this province — there are other avenues open besides a straight business background.

For proof, look no further than the above trio of Red River College grads, who followed divergent career paths on their way to the Donald Street employer: Bruce Granke (Business Administration, 1982), Director, Professional Regulations; Marni Russell (Business/Technology Teacher Education, 1999), Manager, Communications; and Zachary Minuk (Creative Communications, 2008), Coordinator of Marketing and Communications.

Of the three, Granke was the first to pass through RRC’s doors, having seen the College’s Business Admin stream as a good gateway to the CGA program.

“I thought for me it was going to be a terrific learning environment, and I thought from an educational point of view it would be a very hands-on, practical education,” says Granke, whose roles in professional regulations — and communications and recruitment — help ensure the CGA Association’s membership is properly qualified, and held to a code of professional, academic and moral standards.

Granke worked in the private sector after graduating, and says he benefitted as a student from the program’s Entrepreneurship Project, in which teams spend nine months building a model company from the ground up.

“It was a great example that I found out afterwards was a very realistic exercise,” says Granke, noting some of the companies that arose from the project are still in existence. “Those are the types of skills and tools that were a huge help to me going into the workforce and into the CGA program.” Read More →

Rob Williams (Creative Communications, 1997)

February 13, 2012

Entertainment reporter Rob Williams, a self-professed “music nerd”, has more than just enthusiastic expertise and humble attitude to recommend him. He also juggles an insanely busy work schedule, and even manages to have fun while doing so.

Keeping one step ahead of the game (or even two or three, if possible) is Williams’ winning strategy. Strict deadlines at the Winnipeg Free Press keep the Red River College grad in a constant state of writing and researching. His copy must be filed at least three days ahead of when it’s due to appear in print, meaning each week is a balancing act of scheduling and conducting interviews, composing feature stories and concert reviews, and compiling daily entertainment briefs.

A music critic and reporter, Williams, 38, also interviews non-music-minded celebs such as William Shatner, noting he “likes talking with people who are my heroes and figuring out what makes them tick.” Oh, and for the last 11 and a half years, he’s hosted a radio show every Friday morning for campus station UMFM.

Williams, a 1997 grad of RRC’s industry-renowned Creative Communications program, says technology has made things a lot easier since he landed his first job at the Selkirk Journal in the 1990s.

“Three of us had to literally cut and paste stories onto a wax table,” he explains. “A 48-page paper took us 12 hours to complete. Now, that just sounds ridiculous.”

The biggest change arrived with the transition from modem-based internet hook-ups to high-speed and WiFi. In the past, hard-copy concert reviews had to be delivered personally to the Freep’s offices by 11 p.m., for the next morning’s paper.

“Now, sometimes I haven’t finished the final version before it appears online and the concert is still going on,” Williams says. Read More →