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Alumni Engagement

News, Profiles and Events

Creative Communications project helps feed students in need

February 19, 2021

Red River College alumni Shelley Cook and Veronica Rosin are helping to promote a project Creative Communications students are working on: a donation drive for the Red River College Students’ Association (RRCSA) Food Bank. The initiative, called Meals in Motion, asks grads and members of the wider RRC community to donate money, food, and affordable meal ideas to help students stretch their grocery budgets.

When Cook was a Creative Communications student, she worked several jobs to supplement her income, while attending school full time. Juggling work and homework is a relatively normal student experience, but Cook didn’t realize how much she was suffering until an instructor reached out to see if she needed help.

“My struggle felt heavy,” Cook said, in a column for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Rosin faced a similar experience when she was a student, working multiple jobs and trying to put food on the table. And even though she knew the RRCSA Food Bank existed, for a time, the stigma of accessing the food bank held her back from getting the help she needed.

“It doesn’t need to be that hard,” said Rosin, in her Meals in Motion impact story. “This resource is there, so it doesn’t need to be that hard for you.”

The second-year Creative Communications students responsible for the Meals In Motion initiative are now reaching out to alumni and the public to help students in need, recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it many financial challenges for students.

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Free virtual event: Challenging Workplace Norms for Better Roles and Opportunities

February 17, 2021

You’re invited! Ten Thousand Coffees is hosting a panel discussion on March 5, 2021 at 12:30 p.m. CST to celebrate International Women’s Day.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #ChoosetoChallenge. Ten Thousand Coffees is on board, choosing to challenge and call out gender bias and inequity in industry, while choosing to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can help create an inclusive world and workplace.

From challenge comes change. Ten Thousand Coffees invites us all choose to challenge our workplace norms and build an environment where women can thrive. Join students and alumni across the country to hear from speakers who have already chosen to challenge the world around them.

This event brings together an illustrious group of women from major brands like RBC, adidas, and IBM to share how they #ChooseToChallenge and how everyone who joins the webinar can do the same. The event is free and open to all Red River College students and alumni. Whether you’re already a member of the Red River College Café or new to our mentoring and networking platform, you’re invited to listen in as these experts discuss how women – and everyone – can thrive in the workplace.

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Creative Communications grad coaches Manitoba’s businesses in diversity and inclusion

February 8, 2021

Sheila North says tapping into her natural talents has been the key to a successful decades-long career in communications and governance.

“I always tell students, ‘Keep in focus the natural abilities you have. Those are hints and clues of the things you’ll be good at that will utilize those gifts.’”

For North, those talents include creative writing and storytelling.

A 2006 graduate of Red River College’s Creative Communications program, North spent the first nine years of her career in television working as an award-winning journalist and correspondent for CBC and CTV, where she reported on issues including missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) and residential school survivors. She also worked as Chief Communications Officer at the Assembly for Manitoba Chiefs.

It was then that her career trajectory changed.

In September 2015, North was elected as the first female Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO). Although becoming a leader wasn’t her original plan, she felt called by her community to step up and take on the role.

She also quickly realized the skills she’d acquired as both a College student and journalist — researching, presenting, media relations, writing and analyzing — were instrumental in her role as Grand Chief.

“I did interviews almost daily as Grand Chief. I had to be able to assess questions coming in and be prepared with the best information on hand to make the most informed comments. That sometimes meant quickly reading, analyzing and understanding documents and budgets,” says North.

“I value my education and work experience because it boded well for what I have to do. Juggling different personalities at once is also something I learned. I had to be accommodating and respectful at all times.”

Following three years in MKO leadership, North spent a year helping to incorporate Indigenous perspectives and knowledge into programming at the University College of the North’s new Centre for Indigenous Community Development. There, she worked on a team to create a proposal that responded to the needs of First Nations with a perspective from the north.

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Civil Engineering grad holds deep RRC roots through support and certification

February 8, 2021

If anyone knows the power of an industry relationship, it’s Robert Okabe.

As CEO of the Certified Technicians and Technologists Association of Manitoba (CTTAM), Okabe leads an organization that certifies aspiring engineering and applied science technicians and technologists, while connecting them to important resources — and to each other.

It’s a role he’s been in since 2015, and one that keeps him close to his Red River College roots.

“Most of our members are graduates of the College,” says Okabe. “So I find it a really good experience for me to interact with future graduates or current students and hopefully, in some way, be able to mentor them and make it easier for them post-graduation.”

A Civil Engineering Technology grad from 1983, Okabe recognized early on in his academic life that he wanted to work in the engineering industry. By changing the path he’d initially embarked on and choosing RRC, he helped project his younger self to where he is now.

“I went to university and took the first year of sciences and found myself at a crossroads: is it about the degrees you pick up or the skills that you develop? I was thinking that the Bachelor of Science didn’t prepare me for working out there in industry, so I made the change to go to Red River College. I could see that there was a niche that I knew I could fulfill.”

After graduation, Okabe went to work at the City of Winnipeg, where he was a supervisor of public operations for 31 years.

In 2015, he joined CTTAM — an organization that’s been around for 55 years and has worked in sidestep with RRC for much of that time. Back in the mid-1960s, when the College was still the Manitoba Institute of Technology, it was the first school in the province to graduate technologists.

Both Okabe and CTTAM have generously supported the College throughout the decades. Okabe participates in all nine of the school’s Engineering Technology Advisory Committees — which provide direction and curriculum support from those working on the ground — and in 2008, established the Robert Okabe Achievement Award for Civil Engineering Technology.

His reasoning for the support is simple, as he recognizes how important that helping hand can be in propelling students from the world of academia into a lifelong career.

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Changing the face of construction in Manitoba: Engineering and Construction grad builds on family legacy

February 8, 2021

Almost anywhere Nick Bockstael goes in Winnipeg, he can see the tangible results of his work.

Bockstael, 37, is the Vice-President of Construction for Bockstael Construction Ltd., and part of the fourth generation to lead the family business founded more than 108 years ago by his paternal great-grandfather, Theodore. (His father, John, is the CEO, and his brother, Dan, is the Vice-President of Preconstruction. His sister, Sarah Anderson, joined the company in 2020.)

The list of Bockstael’s recent accomplishments in the city includes the “urban chic” 21-storey Glasshouse Skylofts at Portage and Hargrave, the 62,000-sq.-ft. Richardson Innovation Centre on Westbrook, and the concrete core for the 42-storey residential apartments currently going up at 300 Main St.

Bockstael graduated from Red River College in 2006 with a diploma in Structural Engineering Technology. He acknowledges there was some recognition of his last name, well-known in the industry, among his peers.

“Some of my instructors were active in the design and construction community at the time. They knew my dad and uncles and would ask me about them,” he recalls.

Armed with the technical foundation provided by the diploma program, Bockstael went on to earn his engineering degree at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, after which he worked for a few years as a structural designer at Stantec.

“Most of the work that I did there was derived from the knowledge that I picked up at Red River College,” he says. “For me, the Structural Engineering Technology program really helped with the technical side of things.”

“Today when we have challenges on jobs, or we need to look at a temporary engineering solution to accommodate construction, I do still rely on what I learned at Red River College.”

Returning to the family fold in 2011, he joined Bockstael Construction as a project manager. He was subsequently promoted to the Vice-President of Construction and became a partner in the company in 2016.

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Career path leads through Red River College and back again

February 8, 2021

Like many young Canadians in the early 2000s, Jaime Manness went west. After a stint working in an oil-field camp in Northern B.C., she came home to Manitoba.

Red River College has figured in her career path ever since.

“My sister was in the Health Care Aide program and that occupation appealed to me as well,” she says. “But as soon as I completed the program, I wanted to go further in health care.”

Admission to the College’s (then four-year) Bachelor of Nursing program required Manness to upgrade her high school credits. She’s grateful the College offered a 10-month preparatory course to do just that.

After graduating from RRC with a Nursing degree in 2009, Manness began her career as an Emergency nurse at Health Sciences Centre. Though Emergency is an intensely stressful area for a newly minted nurse, Manness says the program prepares grads to succeed.

“The program concentrates on practical knowledge,” she says. “It builds up students to feel comfortable asking questions.”

“After four years of structured learning, you’re equipped with a cautious, calm confidence. You know your limitations but also how to ask for help and find support.”

Manness counts several of her classmates as friends to this day, adding that College faculty and graduates form a valuable support network throughout a career.

In 2018, Manness returned to Red River College as a part-time instructor, adding an extra dimension to her nursing skill set.

“I had enjoyed mentoring a couple of students in Emergency years earlier but still never imagined coming back as an instructor. A friend thought I’d be a good teacher. It’s nice to develop a different area of my professional practice.”

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Free virtual event: Will Mentorship Get me a Job? A Fireside Chat

January 12, 2021

You’re invited! Ten Thousand Coffees is hosting a country-wide event with two special guests from RBC on January 21, 2021 at 2 p.m. CST.

The event is free and open to all Red River College students and alumni. Whether you’re already a member of the Red River College Café or new to our mentoring and networking platform, you’re invited to listen in as two experts chat about how mentoring helped them get ahead in their careers.

Join RBC Olympian and Professional Athlete, Sam Effah, and RBC’s Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer, Mary DePaoli, as they share industry tips for landing a job at a top brand like RBC, and how to stand out in a pile of resumes. Learn directly from Sam and Mary as they give inside tips and advice on finding a mentor and job in 2021, and learn the importance of becoming a mentor yourself in this critical time.

Why join?

  • Hear tips to land a job at a top brand like RBC
  • Learn how to find a mentor—and why you’d want one
  • Ask our hosts your top questions about mentoring
  • Network with hundreds of students and alumni across the country

Don’t miss this intimate conversation hosted by Ten Thousand Coffees for Mentoring Month 2021. Registration will be closing soon, so reserve your spot now.

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Resilience on the frontline

December 1, 2020

This time of year is when we normally share milestones achieved by our students, faculty, and alumni over the last twelve months. And even though this year looks unlike anything any of us could have imagined, there is no doubt that 2020 will always be a year we remember. Read on for exciting alumni updates, as well as how Red River College is preparing frontline workers to fight against COVID-19 and help rebuild Manitoba’s economy.

Many of our alumni can reflect back on their time at RRC as an important part of their personal journey, and the stepping stone that helped them reach their career goals. Whether is was an instructor who took the time to give you constructive feedback, a work placement that connected you with your current employer, or a classmate who showed you a different way of doing things – the connections you made at RRC have helped you to be where you are today.

Will you support our future leaders?

Building a Better Future – Giving Tuesday

RRC has an unmatched legacy of responding to urgent industry and community needs. As Manitoba’s leading institution of applied learning and research, this is what we do — and in this critical time of need for our province, we require your help to keep that legacy alive for future learners.

Today is #GivingTuesday, a global initiative that reminds us to think of others and to give back to our communities. When you give to Red River College, you are empowering students to grow their skills and confidently graduate into an ever-changing workforce.

Your gift will provide today’s students with the same mentorship, guidance, and hands-on training you received as a student, and allow RRC to continue its role in training the leaders of tomorrow.

Donate Now Read More →

Thanks for entering our contest by joining Ten Thousand Coffees!

November 18, 2020

Ten Thousand Coffees is RRC’s free online networking and mentorship platform that connects Red River College students and alumni through virtual coffee chats. More than 1,700 current students and alumni members have signed up, and more than 14,000 connections have been made so far in 2020!

Learn more about how Ten Thousand Coffees works >

*Contest Now Closed*

Thank you to everyone who joined Ten Thousand Coffees and entered this contest!

Congratulations to our winners:

  • Dustin Pernitsky – Creative Communications, 2015
  • Iryna Lazar – Management Development, 2020

If you didn’t win, don’t worry – you can still join RRC’s hub on Ten Thousand Coffees to start working your network today. Also stay on the lookout for future opportunities to win great prizes.


Have you made a great connection through Ten Thousand Coffees? Send us an email to share your story!

Killer concept: Grads serve up hair-raising thrills at horror-themed escape rooms

October 27, 2020

The thought of starting a business in the middle of a pandemic would send chills down anyone’s spine. But that doesn’t mean the timing can’t be eerily, utterly right.

That’s certainly how it feels for Lisa Bernstein and Chris McMillan, two Red River College grads who opened the horror-themed Killer Noob Escapes at the start of October.

Not surprisingly, Killer Noob is a perfect match for the spookiest month of the year. After their shared love of all things scary led to some business-idea brainstorming, Bernstein and McMillan served up a fresh spin on the escape-industry standard.

“We’ve always loved escape rooms,” says Bernstein, who graduated from RRC’s Creative Communications program in 2010. “Three years ago, we went to a horror-themed escape room in Las Vegas and we could not stop talking about it. We loved the aesthetics, we loved how it looked. It was like walking on to a movie set.

“But we also talked about what we would do differently, partially because we found the puzzles to be lacklustre. So that started the ball rolling of planning what types of rooms we were going to do, what our theme was — and in January 2018 we bit the bullet and created the business, and slowly started chipping away at props and puzzles.”

While Killer Noob’s room names (“The Funhouse,” “Buried Alive,” “The Chamber,” and soon “The Upstairs”) might make the squeamish nervous, the goal isn’t jump scares or dumping guests into a haunted house. Rather, the set-ups require visitors to make skillful escapes, solving all manner of puzzles to get out of stressful situations.

As long as group sizes are limited, escape rooms can provide a safe form of COVID-era entertainment — so business at Killer Noob has been steady, with over 100 bookings in the first month. Read More →