Class Acts

Go big or go home!

Go big or go homeWhen Liam Harrap, BA’14, and Jake Alleyne, BASc’14, received their hard-earned degrees, they wanted to do something “big” before life’s commitments got in the way. But unlike grads who choose to celebrate their academic excellence – and freedom – with a big bash, or backpacking trip around Thailand, the friends opted to take a hike – a 5,500 km hike from Jasper, AB, to Mexico. This trek along the Great Divide and the Continental Divide trails had been agreed upon and sealed with a handshake three years previously.

The hike required months of meticulous planning. The duo pored over maps, dehydrated hundreds of pounds of food and, closer to their departure date, stored food caches along sections of the route. On April 25, 2014, the friends – both former members of the UBC Varsity Outdoors Club and Triathlon Club – strapped on their 100 lb backpacks and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. They conquered the challenging, rugged terrain with skis, snowshoes and hiking boots, covering an impressive 50 km each day. And of course, just like any epic adventure, it had its highlights: skiing down Mt. Clemenceau (fourth highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies); receiving care package deliveries from their parents; meeting fellow hikers; and playing cribbage on the summit of Mt. McLaren (9,350 ft). And its low points: walking 121 km in ski boots; eating fire starter-tainted food; endless blisters; falling down a moraine face-first at 6:30 am; and, tragically, travelling through Pie Town, New Mexico, in the off season when all the pie stores were closed.

On New Year’s Eve 2014, Harrap and Alleyne completed their trek in Puerto Palomas, Mexico, and celebrated with the finest $10 bottle of bubbly from Walmart. The eight month trek not only provided the pair with an epic adventure, but also some clarity regarding their future: Harrap is considering enrolling in a journalism program and Alleyne is actively looking for a job in environmental engineering. Harrap’s advice for recent grads: “Don’t worry if you graduate and you’re not quite sure yet what you want to do. We didn’t. So we went on a long walkabout and had a good ponder about it.” As for any future adventures in store for the friends, there’s talk of hiking from Jasper to the Alaska Highway or Nahanni National Park, NWT, next year… maybe.

Going organic in India

Going organic in IndiaArmed with a master’s degree in entrepreneurship from Brown University and an electrical engineering degree from UBC, Ashmeet Kapoor, BASc’08, initially returned to India in 2010 to work on rural electrification. However, as a consumer and proponent of organic food, his focus shifted when he found it difficult to find genuine organic produce. Naturally, the entrepreneur sought a solution.

After a year of planning and research, including visiting villages and farmers across India and even becoming a farmer himself, Kapoor launched I Say Organic. The business venture is an online organic food company in New Delhi that purchases organic produce directly from the farmer and delivers it to the customer’s front doorstep. Working directly with the farmers, Kapoor has successfully reduced expenditures by streamlining what was previously an inefficient delivery process with four to six middlemen, and substantially reducing spoilage by utilizing cold storage facilities. The benefits from these cost-saving measures are passed on to both the farmer and the consumer. Kapoor pays his farmers 25 per cent more for their crop than the mandi (farmers’ wholesale market) and the consumer receives fresh certified organic produce at an affordable price.

Kapoor explains: “In urban centers, our efforts are focused towards creating a convenient and affordable service for delivering fresh, safe and healthy food straight from the farm to your plate. For rural development, we want farming to regain the respect it once had and become a profitable livelihood option.” Kapoor also encourages participating farmers to make their planting decisions based on signals from the marketplace rather than what generations of their family have grown for years. “We focus on creating a market for organic products and promote a demand-based planning of the fields, so more and more farmers find it profitable to convert to organic,” he says.

The company employs 35 staff and partners with 100 farmers. “Through the progress we’ve made so far, our farmers are earning 40 per cent more than they were earlier, and over 5,000 households in Delhi‑National Capital Region have been able to lead a healthier lifestyle by opting for organic fruits, vegetables, grains, oils, and much more,” Kapoor says.

Follow I Say Organic on Twitter @ISayOrganic.

More nurses and doctors for Nicaragua

More nurses and doctors for Nicaragua
l-r: Sarah Topa, Andrew Wilson, Michael Carlson.

When Andrew Wilson, BHK’14, visited Nicaragua on a volunteer trip in 2010, he witnessed the scarcity of medical care in rural communities. He also met a gifted local student who dreamed of becoming a doctor so he could provide health care in his community, but who would never be able to afford an education. Meeting that student was a game changer for Wilson: “I had no choice,” he says. “I had to do something about it.”

Wilson saw the potential for young Nicaraguans from rural communities to become a catalyst for change. He recruited doctors, health care professionals and activists, including fellow UBC grads Michael Carlson, BSc’09, and Sarah Topa, BA’08, and founded Doctors for Doctors (DFD) and Nurses for Nurses (NFN) with the Canadian charity Global Peace Network. The project provides medical and nursing school scholarships to rural students in Nicaragua, providing them with an opportunity that would otherwise be out of reach. “We work with partner organizations on the ground in Nicaragua to find high-potential young people in areas where medical care is especially sparse, and build strong relationships with all stakeholders to ensure long term success in these communities,” says Carlson, who is director of Operations.

The first student was funded in 2010, after Wilson biked across Canada and ran a marathon to raise money. And, thanks to a successful fundraising campaign in 2014, the project has recently funded a second student and hopes to open a health care clinic that will specialize in providing maternal and neo-natal health services. “This is just the beginning for us,” says Wilson. “We acknowledge that the problems rural Nicaragua faces are about more than just a shortage of doctors. In addition to helping students become doctors, we want to make it possible for them to provide care in rural areas where facilities and infrastructure do not currently exist.”

What started as a one-man operation has grown to a team of 20 professionals with diverse backgrounds dedicated to improving the quality of life for impoverished, rural communities. Wilson, who recently graduated from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, makes it clear that this project is about removing barriers to health care access, and that support from all types of health care professionals will be vital if it is to realize its full potential. “The ultimate goal is to help rural communities get access to the care they need, and we think every health care profession can assist in that,” he says.

To find out more about the project, or to volunteer, follow Doctors for Doctors and Nurses for Nurses on Twitter @dfd_nfn.

Class Acts

Michael D. Meagher, BSF’57, PhD’76, has been granted life membership in the Association of BC Forest Professionals. Meagher’s career centered on reforestation, including establishing plantations, examining logged or burned land to determine regeneration actions needed, seed‑needs planning, seed production, genetics and tree breeding. After earning an MSc in Toronto, he served as lecturer before returning to UBC for doctoral studies in western hemlock, during which he was a sessional lecturer. Meagher and his wife of 50 years, Birgitte, live in Victoria and raised two UBC Students: Kirsten in Vancouver and Patrick in Victoria, both the parents of boys. Mike’s hobbies include lobbying and educating the public on the virtues of Garry oak, BC’s only native oak tree, and its role in the urban forest, the Forest History Association of BC, tennis, golf and gardening.

Charles Krebs, MA’59, PhD’62, professor emeritus (zoology), has been awarded the Weston Family Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Northern Research. He is one of the world’s preeminent field ecologists, and accolades for his work are numerous. They include Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Norwegian Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Australian Academy of Science and of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales. He has also been awarded the President’s Medal from the Canadian Society of Ecology and Evolution and is an honorary professor in the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Cancer cells feed on cholesterol, and for 14 years, Andras Lacko, BSc’61, PhD’68, professor of integrative physiology and anatomy and pediatrics at the University of Texas, has studied the potential of drug‑carrying synthetic “good” cholesterol nanoparticles’ (rHDL) for cancer‑drug delivery. This unique drug‑delivery method makes it possible to bypass normal cells and go straight to the cancer cells, eliminating the harmful effects of chemotherapy. And now, thanks to funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, Dr. Lacko and fellow researcher Anil Sood, MD, will be able to expedite human clinical trials involving the use of nanoparticles to fight ovarian cancer.

This June Lloyd Burritt, BMus’63, MMus’68, will debut his opera, Miracle Flight 571: An Opera in Concert, at Roy Barnett Hall. The opera is based on the 1972 plane crash in the Andes and tells the true story of survivors Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa who made the trek from the 12,000 foot glacier to find safety and rescue for the remaining survivors.

Last May, James Thorsell, PhD’71, was awarded “honorary citizenship” at the UNESCO conference on sustainable development and protected areas for his work advising on the management of natural world heritage sites in China. In July, he was named to the board of NatureServe in Arlington, VA – a non‑profit organization that provides high‑quality scientific expertise for conservation.

Olympian and long‑time amateur sports advocate, Joy Fera, BRE’72, received the 2014 In Her Footsteps Award from ProMOTION Plus, alongside renowned figure skater Bev Viger. The Celebrating BC Women in Sport event honours female athletes, coaches, officials, judges, pioneers or advocates who have contributed significantly to girls and women in sport. Fera rowed for Canada at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and won bronze medals with the eight crew at the World Championships in 1977‑78. She co‑founded the Delta Deas Rowing Club and has been a rowing umpire since 1989. In 1988 she organized the first Scholastic Regatta on Deas Slough in Ladner, drawing girls and boys from the Lower Mainland, the Interior and Washington State. She competed and medalled at the 2005 and 2010 World Masters Alpine Skiing Championships and has been a member of the Canadian Masters’ ski team since 2008. The Delta Sports Hall of Fame has named Fera Master Athlete of the Year on three occasions. In February 2015, she was inducted into the Canada Games Hall of Honour.

Don Alper, PhD’76, retired from Western Washington University on December 31, 2014, after 43 years. A professor of political science, he also directed the Center for Canadian‑American Studies from 1993‑2014 and the Border Policy Research Institute from 2005‑2014.

David Guy, EdD’82, winner of the Coolie Verner Prize in his graduation year, was subsequently awarded a 1990 New Zealand Commemoration Medal for his services to adult education in his home country. Recently, Guy’s been in the UK leading the implementation of knowledge exchange strategies and systems to maximise the impact of research and engagement between those who generate knowledge and those who apply it in public, commercial and community sectors.

Graham Heal, BA’83, is now director of Africa Development for Stonecrest Investment Funds, adding Sub‑Saharan Africa, in addition to SE Asia, as a region of focus. “Stonecrest is building upon its investments in women’s capacity development in Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, to drive impact investments in affordable housing, agri‑business, renewable power generation and ‘conflict‑free’ mineral processing and trade,” says Heal.

Jonathan Reinarz, BA’92, has been appointed professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Birmingham (UK) and is completing the manuscript of his tenth monograph (edited with Rebecca Wynter) – Complaints, Grievances and Critiques of Medicine: Historical and Social Science Perspectives, published by Routledge (London).

In celebration of UBC’s Centennial, Thunderbird field hockey alumna Lesley Magnus, BA’00, BEd’02, and former UBC field hockey coach, Hash Kanjee, MHK’02, have released the book, UBC Women’s Field Hockey – Celebrating 100 Years. The book takes readers on a photographic journey into the minds and hearts of players and coaches as they proudly represent UBC across the years. All book sale proceeds will go to UBC’s Women’s Field Hockey program.

Since publishing a Spanish novel last summer, Reza Emilio Juma, BA’01, has appeared in more than 20 different media outlets. His novel, Mil Besos, won an award and an honourable mention in the Andalucian showcase after being nominated by the highly‑respected Andalucian Centre of Literature. Juma is currently working on finishing his second novel, set to be released this summer.

Internationally-renowned storyteller and best‑selling author Richard Van Camp, MFA’03, is releasing six books this year, including short stories, novels, graphic novels and non‑fiction. Van Camp says they were inspired by his hometown of Fort Smith, NWT.

Gregory G. Forrest, MASc’04 (mechanical engineering) has qualified as a Canadian Patent Agent. Forrest provides patent expertise at McMillan LLP.

Yannick Thoraval, BA’04, recently published his novel, The Current. Commended by judges of the prestigious Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, the novel tells the story of one man’s obsession with saving a Pacific island from the effects of global climate change. Thoraval is donating proceeds from the sale of his book to Adult Multicultural Education Services, Australia’s largest provider of humanitarian settlement, education, training and employment services for refugees and newly arrived migrants.

On June 30, 2014, after a brief but energetic academic career, Jack Miller, EdD’04, retired from the School of Education at Thompson Rivers University (TRU). Miller, whose career as a full‑time instructor at TRU began in 2001, taught in both the Bachelor of Education and Master of Education programs. After completing his EdD, Miller was elected chair of the department. In 2007, Miller served as interim dean for four years and was also acting dean of the School of Social Work and Human Service. Miller was active in campus life, supervising many master’s students, conducting his own research, and collaborating with local First Nations in the search for culturally appropriate methods to assess First Nations language proficiency. He was a long‑time member of the TRU Senate, including a term as vice‑chair, and was also a member and vice‑chair of both the Budget Committee of Senate and the Academic Planning and Priorities Committee. In 2005, Jack started the TRU Cross‑Country Running team, which eventually became a Wolf Pack varsity squad. He continues to coach the Wolf Pack Cross‑Country and Indoor Track teams, both of which are now in CIS competition. For his dedicated service, Miller was awarded professor emeritus status in July 2014. Jack and his wife, Verna, also retired, hope to do more travelling in their motorhome as well as interesting rides on their Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Josh Hergesheimer, BA’04, and his brother, Chris (PhD candidate), take readers on a cross‑continental journey into the meaning of ‘”local food” in their new book, The Flour Peddler: a global journey into local food. The story recounts the brothers’ journey travelling from the lush rainforests of BC’s Sunshine Coast to the farthest reaches of South Sudan. Their goal: to build a bicycle‑powered grain mill in the world’s youngest country and donate it to a women’s cooperative. Along the way the brothers battle overcrowded buses, hazardous roads and impossibly short deadlines, and face their biggest challenge when war breaks out.\

Troy Conrad Therrien, BASc’05, was recently appointed curator of Architecture and Digital Initiatives at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation in New York. As the first person to hold this new position, Therrien will contribute to the development of the museum’s engagement with architecture, design, technology, and urban studies, in addition to providing leadership on select new projects, including the Guggenheim Helsinki Design Competition. His appointment follows the announcement of a record‑breaking number of architectural submissions to the open and anonymous competition and the launch of the project’s popular, interactive, online gallery of entries. Therrien will help organize an exhibition of six shortlisted submissions to be held in Helsinki in the spring of 2015, and will play a key role in developing and articulating the programmatic elements of the proposed museum.

After graduating from UBC, Dylan Murphy, MSS’06, and Yuanyuan Yin, BEng’08, got married three times – twice in New York and once in China. They both quickly became leaders in their fields working for IBM and, although they were off to a great start in the corporate world, something was missing from a personal perspective. After the loss of a family member and an unexpected hospital stay, Dylan and Yuanyuan left their jobs at IBM and started the company SuperHealos, with the mission to empower kids who are facing challenges. Their first book, Adventures in the Hospital, introduces some of the things that the kids might see in hospital and teaches them that it’s not so scary when you’re a SuperHealo. For more information visit:

Tyler Mifflin, BFA’08, is the co‑creator, writer, and co‑host of the award‑winning series, The Water Brothers. Now in its third season, the show features Tyler and his brother, Alex, embarking on adventures around the world to explore the most important stories surrounding the planet’s water resources. The series is available in more than 40 countries including the US, where it is now available in 50 million homes on Pivot, and will soon be broadcasted in BC on The Knowledge Network and in Quebec on Radio‑Canada.

In November 2014, UBC creative writing alumna Christine Leclerc, BFA’08, MFA’10, received the bpNichol Chapbook Award for Oilywood (Nomados Books). The award recognizes excellence in Canadian poetry published in chapbook form. Oilywood draws on research conducted on the beaches of Burrard Inlet and Kinder Morgan’s tar sands pipeline.

Last summer, Zoe Shipley, BA’11, studied the stunning ecosystems, diversity of life, and fascinating array of unique desert plants at the Bahía de los Ángeles UNESCO World Heritage site, and in the crystal blue waters of the Sea of Cortez. Shipley, a SUN AmeriCorps member at Clear Creek Middle School in Portland, OR, took the graduate course in pursuit of her master’s degree from Miami University’s Global Field Program.

Paul Davidescu, BCom’12, and Jonathan Hill, BASc’12, pitched their pocket concierge app, Tangoo, on the CBC’s Dragon’s Den, and made it out alive. The app organizes a night out based on the user’s mood. Users select the occasion and their ‘moods’ and the app recommends a curated selection of restaurants and bars based on the criteria selected. Although Dragon Arlene Dickinson has made them an offer, Davidescu and Hill politely declined, confident they could find more suitable investors who’d give them a better valuation.

Willie Kwok, BSc’13, is co‑founder and CTO of SeamlessMD, named one of Canada’s Top 20 most innovative companies in 2013 by CIX (Canadian Innovation Exchange). The mobile software platform enables healthcare providers to engage, monitor, and care for patients across surgical episodes of care.

This fall, Sara Eftekhar, BSN’13, DipEd’14, will be pursuing a master’s degree in international studies, peace studies and conflict resolution at the Rotary Peace Centre at the University of Bradford, UK, after receiving a Rotary Peace Fellowship. Eftekhar was one of four Canadians selected for the program and the youngest recipient to date. She has worked and volunteered in nine countries around the world and has represented Canada at the United Nations University and International Youth Conferences. The 25‑year‑old has initiated several projects for refugee and immigrant youth within her role as the BC ambassador for the Canadian Council for Refugees and the executive director and co‑founder of Civic youth group, and has represented Canada at the UN Headquarters on a youth program with the UN Alliance of Civilization. Most recently, Eftekhar worked with refugees in Cairo and represented Canada at the First Global Forum on Youth Policies. In recognition of her work, Eftekhar has received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, an Outstanding Youth Award, the YWCA Vancouver’s Young Women of Distinction award and is the youngest person to be named as one of Canada’s Top 25 Immigrants.


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