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Alumni Engagement

Alumni Profiles

Hospitality grad finds new confidence through volunteer work, extracurriculars

August 28, 2019

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

Bangladesh 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

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 →

Strong medicine: Health Care grad bolsters career training with double dose of certifications

May 21, 2019

Sharmaine San Juan has her finger on the pulse of the Canadian health-care system.

San Juan, who is from Bacoor, Cavite in the Philippines, graduated from Red River College’s Health Care Aide and Health Unit Clerk programs in February 2018.

Upon finishing school, San Juan, 24, immediately obtained employment as nursing assistant at Health Sciences Centre. She currently works as a pharmacy assistant at Keewatin Medical Centre & Pharmacy, as well as at Medisystem Pharmacy.

“In my current career as a pharmacy assistant, (my RRC training) benefitted me a lot because I was exposed to hospital and home-care settings, and that gave me a lot of experience in a fast-paced environment. Also, I gained knowledge of medical terminology and processing physician’s orders,” says San Juan.

“Before, as a nursing assistant, I transcribed medications on a Medication Administration Record sheet. We learned this during the Health Unit Clerk program, the drugs, generic and brand names, the acronyms for drugs, the proper time for administering medications, and also the proper drugs for some diseases.”

Before coming to Canada, San Juan studied pre-med at De La Salle University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology before moving straight to a post-graduate degree from the College of Medicine at the Health Sciences Institute in the Philippines.

In her current role as a pharmacy assistant, San Juan says she performs such tasks as counting and dispensing drugs, maintaining proper drug storage and security, packing and labeling medications, and entering patient information and prescriptions into a computer system.

“I chose to study at Red River College because of what they can offer. They are known for having a high success rate in vocational courses, which is beneficial to people who are seeking fast employment,” she says.

“I chose Health Care Aide and Health Unit Clerk because I think this is the closest to my field, being exposed to patients in a hospital setting. They are also in-demand programs which will benefit me in getting employment fast — that will also help get me through my permanent residency.” Read More →

Perfect match: BIT grad sharpens English skills while juggling athletics and academics

April 25, 2019

Pereira — a native of Santa Vitória do Palmar, Brazil — graduated from Red River College’s Business Information Technology (BIT) program in 2017.

As an international student at RRC, Pereira played soccer and futsal for the Red River Rebels, an experience he says sharpened his English language skills.

“It’s a little challenging when you first get to a new country. You have to interact with people in a second language, which is not easy at first. It can keep people from talking,” says Pereira, 29, who also studied at RRC’s Language Training Centre for four months.

“Having that relationship with all my friends from soccer, you see that people are open to help you and show you stuff, so it gives you a bit of confidence to put yourself out there. It made it easier when I needed to ask for some help in class or do a presentation to my classmates.”

Pereira captained RRC’s men’s futsal team to its first-ever Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference championship in 2017.

After graduation, he continued with the Rebels soccer program for a season as an assistant coach. Last summer, Pereira was named head coach of Canadian Mennonite University’s men’s soccer program, and in the fall, he led the CMU Blazers to their first MCAC championship since 2005.

Pereira also put together the Winnipeg Rovers Futsal Club, which won the inaugural Manitoba Soccer Association Futsal Cup and represented Manitoba at the 2018 Futsal Canadian Championships in Kingston, Ont.

“From there, I was scouted by the national coach for an ID camp with the national team,” says Pereira. “It’s exciting. Everything started as an athlete at Red River. It opened a lot of doors.” Read More →

What’s cooking? Hospitality grad serves up smorgasbord of culinary endeavors

March 6, 2019

Saying Chef Noel Cunningham has a lot on his plate is a colossal understatement.

The owner of catering company Cuisine by Noel seems to have a finger in every conceivable culinary pie — marketing his own Jamaican jerk marinade, writing food columns for multiple media outlets, appearing as a regular guest on CTV Morning Live and the Marc and Mandy Show, and demonstrating his talents at events like Montreal’s Jerk Food Festival and Savouring Jamaica at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City.

And that’s just for starters. The 28-year-old go-getter spent the past two years upping his business game as a full-time student in Red River College’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program, where he majored in Hotel and Restaurant Management — an undertaking that some of his colleagues found perplexing.

“They would see me on CTV and say, ‘Hey Noel, why are you going to school? You’re already established, why are you doing this?’” he recalls. “For me personally, I just believe in education and that you can’t limit yourself.”

Born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, where he trained at Runaway Bay Heart Hotel and Training Institute and earned his chops in high-end restaurant kitchens, Cunningham wanted to master skills that will serve him well over the long term, particularly since he aspires to be a restaurateur.

“As a chef, I believe it’s good to be able to cook well, but it’s also good to be able to manage an operation very well,” he says. “It’s the tiny details that separate the professionals from the amateur and the average cook from a truly great one.” Read More →

Sharing the health: Pharmaceutical grad balances veterinary career with herbal tea sales inspired by his homeland

February 22, 2019

Veterinarian Dr. Meshack Kusa has devoted most of his career to keeping animals in good health, but recently he’s turned his focus to humans, as well.

Driven by his passion for nutrition, the Red River College alum partnered with three other local professionals on YOMM Beverages Inc. in 2011. Specializing in hibiscus teas, the company was among the first of its kind in North America — and put hibiscus beverages on the map long before Starbucks added the herbal brew to its lineup.

Kusa, who graduated in 2006 from RRC’s QA/QC in the Pharmaceutical Industry program (now called QA/QC in Pharmaceutical and Food), was raised on herbal beverages in his native Nigeria. His mom would bring him herbs to drink every morning, and he’s seen their benefits firsthand. YOMM is about sharing that goodness, he says.

“Hibiscus has a lot of health benefits. First of all, it’s caffeine free, which means it’s good for everybody — adults, kids, anyone. It’s a natural dietary antioxidant, and published reports have shown it helps prevent bladder infections, may help in weight loss, can strengthen the immune system, and is very good for those who have high blood pressure.”

Kusa describes hibiscus tea as a super-food, citing one study that shows drinking three cups a day can have the same effect as anti-hypertension drugs.

YOMM Beverages’ product lineup includes pure hibiscus tea bags, dried hibiscus loose flowers and four flavours of ready-to-drink hibiscus iced tea (original, lemon, strawberry and unsweetened). The hibiscus flowers YOMM uses are grown by Nigerian farmers in need of an economic boost.

“While you enjoy our products, you are helping the underprivileged in Africa,” Kusa says. Read More →

Happy trails: Mechanical Engineering Tech. grad makes it big in snow-biz

February 12, 2019

Most people don’t relish taking work home on weekends. For Andy Beavis, it’s a fun part of the job.

As an engineer and Mountain team leader at Arctic Cat in Thief River Falls, Minn., the 1998 Mechanical Engineering Technology grad is encouraged to take new snowmobile models and prototypes for a spin whenever he can.

“We’re a relatively small group of people, but we build pretty exotic toys from the ground up. The exciting part of it is we design the parts, we test the parts, we build the vehicles and we have access to the final product — which is a pretty exciting product.”

One prototype Beavis has been trying out since 2011 just arrived on the market, and it’s making headlines and earning rave reviews for its revolutionary single-beam rear suspension system — an industry first that also happens to be his brainchild.

Cover of American Snowmobiler magazine, December 2018 issueThe M8000 Alpha One system was featured on the December 2018 cover of American Snowmobiler magazine, which called it, “one of the greatest turning points in the history of snowmobiling.”

But while his name is on the patent, Beavis says the glory isn’t his alone.

“It’s satisfying on the one hand because it was my concept and my idea,” he says. “But on the other hand, I’ve got a whole team of people that work for me or work with me on that stuff, so I get a lot of the credit sometimes when the final product is really the result of a team.”

An inventor or co-inventor on several patented components, Beavis has designed chassis, drive tracks and steering assemblies — basically everything but engines — since he joined Arctic Cat as a design engineer in December 1998.  Read More →