Students Anushka Kamble, left, and Mansi Sharma, right, celebrate Giving Tuesday at VIU.

Vancouver Island University photo

VIU Foundation’s Giving Tuesday campaign

raises more than $350,000 for students


By Jenn McGarrigle,

Vancouver Island University

23-12-01 – Vancouver Island University students have more access to scholarships, awards and bursaries following the university’s annual Giving Tuesday campaign.


The campaign saw the community support students, raising more than $350,000 for scholarships, bursaries, awards and special initiatives with all proceeds supporting students. A record-breaking number of new donors were first-time contributors.


“We are grateful to both our longtime and new donors for the support for students in need,” said Richard Horbachewski, VIU Chief Advancement Officer and Executive Director of the VIU Foundation. “Every day, our students inspire us with their passion, drive and commitment to shaping a brighter tomorrow. However, many face financial barriers that hinder their journey to success. The support not only gives students a financial boost; it also lifts spirits, showing students there is a community who cares about their success.”


Giving Tuesday is a global movement to encourage people to support causes meaningful to them during a season that is heavy on holiday sales and consumerism. Every year, the VIU Foundation selects initiatives to focus its fundraising efforts on. This year, the foundation highlighted the VIU Access Fund, which can quickly assist students in financial distress who are at risk of having to pause their studies. The Spotlight Series profiled special projects to enhance student learning and success. 


“Giving Tuesday at VIU isn’t merely about making a donation; it’s an investment in the leaders, innovators and change-makers of the future. It’s a testament to the community’s belief in our students’ potential,” said Horbachewski. “Our heartfelt appreciation goes to VIU alumni and employees, local businesses and caring community members for supporting a wide range of initiatives and scholarships. Every single donation makes a difference for students.”

Walk down an illuminated path during Milner Christmas Magic

Milner Gardens & Woodland Photo

Visitors can stroll through

the dazzling lights during Milner Christmas Magic

Make memories with family and friends this holiday season during Milner Christmas Magic – the annual festive light display. 


“We’re heartened by the fact that this event has become a staple in so many families’ holiday traditions, so we are pleased to be bringing it back with more lights than ever before. If visiting Milner Christmas Magic is not part of your annual traditions yet, it’s never too late to start a new one,” said Emily Weeks, Operations Coordinator for Milner Gardens & Woodland.


There’s even more cause for celebration this year, as it marks the 20th anniversary of the event. A selection of gifts is available at the Gingerbread Gift Shop and visitors can enjoy hot food and beverages in front of Milner House. Visitors can also buy a pair of Holiday Specs (holographic light glasses) to transform their experience. Don’t forget to stop by and say hello to Santa and Mrs. Claus.


Milner Christmas Magic runs from December 1 to 3, 8 to 10, and 15 to 20 from 5 to 8 pm, with viewing up until 8:30 pm. Admission is by a suggested donation of $8 for adults, $4 for children and $20 for a household, or give what you can. 


While this event is a major annual fundraiser for us, accessibility is at the forefront. This is why it has consistently been admission by voluntary donation,” said Weeks.


Thank you to all the volunteers who donated their time and energy to make this happen and to the generosity of the sponsors. Milner Christmas Magic’s presenting sponsor is Windsor Plywood. Other sponsors include:

  • Coastal Community Credit Union,
  • Ian Lindsay & Associates,­ RE/MAX of Nanaimo,
  • MacLean Pazicka Souchuck­ – Chartered Professional Accountants, and
  • Quality Foods.

Please check Milner Garden’s website before your arrival to confirm the hours of the event. Inclement weather may cause cancellations.


Visitors walk down an illuminated path during Milner Christmas Magic 2022. Photo Credit: Milner Gardens & Woodland Photo


VIU video project acknowledges Nanaimo soldiers’ contributions to the First and Second World Wars.

 23-11-01 – A Vancouver Island University (VIU) video memorial project that tells the story of Nanaimo soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice during the First and Second World Wars will be displayed across the city.


For the 11 days leading up to Remembrance Day, the Nanaimo Remembers project will display the names of more than 200 soldiers in prominent locations across the city. Stories like Private William Armstrong Syer, a miner and resident of Franklyn Street, who served in the 143rd Battalion. He was 34 when he died from wounds received in battle in August 1918 and is buried in the Crouy British Cemetery in Somme, France.


The names have been obtained from the Dallas Square Cenotaph in downtown Nanaimo and a special section highlights the contributions of local Indigenous soldiers, thanks to research conducted by VIU Elder-in-Residence Geraldine Manson.


The project, which launched in 2018, was spearheaded by VIU’s Strategic Communications and Brand and Marketing teams in collaboration with the Canadian Letters and Images Project (CLIP) and Nanaimo Community Archives. Nanaimo Remembers grew out of a desire to localize a project VIU participated in for many years – The World Remembers, a display tribute to soldiers across the world who lost their lives in the Great War.


“Nanaimo Remembers brings to life the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for our freedom,” said Dr. Stephen Davies, Director of VIU’s Canadian Letters and Images Project. “The project shares details of each soldier’s life, revealing the people behind those names on the cenotaph. You get a deeper sense of what remembrance means.”


Information shared about each soldier, where available, includes their name, rank and battalion, when they died and at what age, where they were buried, their occupation and their connection to Nanaimo.


The video presentation will run continuously from November 1 to 11, 2023, on the large screen in the Welcome Centre (Building 300 at VIU’s Nanaimo campus). It will also be played on screens at several locations in the community on varying dates: 

  • City of Nanaimo: Beban Park and Oliver Woods Community Centre (November 6 to 11)
  • Port Theatre
  • Nanaimo Museum (November 1 to 10, museum is closed November 5,6 and 11)
  • Vancouver Island Regional Library: Nanaimo North branch
  • School District 68
  • Rogers tv (starting Sunday, November 5)


Check out the project at one of the participating locations above or visit VIU’s YouTube channel.


VIU's board of governors falls short in

oversight of cybersecurity risk management

23-08-01 – The Vancouver Island University board of governors needs to improve its oversight of the university's cybersecurity risk management practices, says a new independent audit report from the Office of the Auditor General.

The audit found deficiencies in the board's training, and their oversight of policy and strategies that are critical to protecting VIU's information systems and data.

"Cyber attacks are common and they're evolving," Auditor General Michael Pickup said. "B.C. university boards, including the VIU board, play a critical role in ensuring management is protecting their institutions from the rise of ransomware and other cyber threats."

University boards oversee cybersecurity risk management by holding university management accountable for identifying and mitigating risks.

The Office of the Auditor General found the VIU board has defined roles and responsibilities for risk management, and it sets expectations of VIU's management. However, the audit found three areas where the board has not provided oversight of VIU's cybersecurity risk management practices:

* First, the board has not adequately overseen the university's risk mitigation strategies. "Last year the VIU board only did a review at the end of the year. It should be done throughout the year - especially in a field that changes as quickly as information technology," Pickup said.

* Second, the VIU board lacks training in cybersecurity risk management. VIU board members should receive cybersecurity risk management training when they join the board, and then annually.

* Third, the VIU board had not approved an updated risk management policy in over 10 years. "Outdated policies become ineffective and weaken accountability," Pickup said.

The VIU board has accepted the report's four recommendations focused on cybersecurity risk mitigation and responses, board training and development, and keeping policies updated.

"I'm pleased that the VIU board has committed to acting on our recommendations and I hope other university boards can learn from our report," Pickup said.

VIU stores the personal information of 12,000 students and 1,500 faculty and staff who are located at its campuses in Nanaimo, Duncan, Parksville and Powell River. The 15-member board includes: eight members appointed by government; five members elected by faculty, staff and students; the university chancellor; and the university president.

The National Cyber Threat Assessment, issued by the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, says ransomware is a persistent threat, and Canada's critical infrastructure is increasingly at risk from cyber threats.

Related links:
Board Oversight of Cybersecurity Risk Management at Vancouver Island University

Report: (

Audit at a glance:

Video: (

Markus Batraki, an Inside-Out program alum, is one of many students who have had their lives transformed by this innovative course. Vancouver Island University photo

Northpine Foundation donates more than
$1 million to VIU

A program on Vancouver Island that allows university students to learn alongside incarcerated people in provincial correctional centres will expand, thanks to a $1.1-million gift from the Northpine Foundation.


This generous gift will expand Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program to other BC communities. It will also support formerly incarcerated persons pursuing post-secondary studies and enable the development of employment training at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre (NCC).


The Inside-Out program offers post-secondary criminology courses to classes composed of both incarcerated students (“inside” students) and university students (“outside” students). The course is taught within the correctional centre and offers students a powerful academic and experiential learning opportunity that puts a face and voice behind what it means to be involved in the justice system in a way that fosters mutual understanding, compassion and shared experiences.


“The Inside-Out program has had a tremendous impact on my life,” said former inside student Markus, who is now enrolled full-time at VIU and plans to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree. “Through the program and the connections made with others, I have come to believe in my ability to become a university student. I now understand that even though I have spent time in prison, I can overcome past adversity and tackle new goals in life with hard work and perseverance.”


VIU began offering Inside-Out classes at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre in 2016. Three years later the program expanded to the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre in Victoria. More than 250 students have taken the course, including 118 inside students.


“I’ve had the privilege of observing enormous growth in participants’ compassion and mutual respect for each other,” said Criminology Professor Dr. Elizabeth McLin. “They learn that we have much more in common than we ever thought, recognizing our shared humanity. And, once that happens, all those assumptions we’ve held about each other cease to wield power over how we view others – and that change transcends the classroom.”


Over the next three years, VIU will assist with the startup of programs with other universities in the province. The funding also allows VIU and NCC to collaborate with a local non-profit on more employment training for NCC residents and supports for Inside-Out alumni as they continue their educational journeys.


“At VIU, success is determined by how wide we can open our doors to allow as many people as possible to access life-changing educational experiences,” said Dr. Deborah Saucier, VIU President and Vice-Chancellor. “This program has enabled inside students to see a different path forward for themselves. The program breaks down stereotypes, creating kinder, more compassionate human beings. This partnership with the Northpine Foundation will offer fresh perspectives and help create a deep connection to communities our students serve.”


“Over the past seven years during which the Inside-Out program has been offered at NCC, I have witnessed the participants grow in so many meaningful ways,” said Teri DuTemple, Warden at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre. “Both inside and outside students are allowing themselves to be vulnerable, to consider the perspectives of others, to show empathy, and in some cases develop a sense of passion for creating positive change to address social issues. I have been inspired at each graduation upon hearing the stories of the graduates as to how life-changing their participation in the course has been. I am incredibly proud of our partnership with VIU and look forward to many more years of Inside-Out graduations.”


The Northpine Foundation invests in innovative projects for underserved and underinvested communities in Canada. Through risk capital through a mix of grants, donations, loans, equity investments, or a hybrid of all these, they aim to catalyze scalable outcomes for these communities. Northpine will also provide expertise, networking and other non-financial supports to the Inside-Out program at VIU and the employment training at NCC.


“Incarcerated people have limited access to post-secondary education, and what’s available is often prohibitively expensive,” said Sara Tessier, Impact Manager for Formerly Incarcerated Persons at the Northpine Foundation. “Our investment in the Inside-Out program will help remove some of the barriers to gainful employment by opening access to career-focused education, reducing recidivism in the process. We hope this investment will prove the value of VIU’s model, boosting possibilities for scaling and expanding to serve communities across Canada.”

VIU accepts return of Honorary Doctorate

of Laws from Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond

Vancouver Island University has accepted the return of an Honorary Doctorate of Laws given to Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond in 2013.


Turpel-Lafond informed VIU of her decision to voluntarily return the honour after receiving correspondence from the university that it would be moving forward with a process regarding her honorary doctorate. VIU initiated this process following requests from members of the VIU community and calls from the Indigenous Women’s Collective to review Turpel-Lafond’s continued eligibility to hold VIU’s highest honour. As this matter is now concluded, VIU will not provide further comment on Turpel-Lafond’s specific case.


More broadly, VIU condemns Indigenous identity fraud and will continue the consultation process that is currently underway to develop and implement an Indigenous Identity Policy. VIU will also be reviewing its policy and procedure for nominating, awarding and rescinding honorary doctorates. 


“False claims of Indigenous ancestry cause harm to Indigenous peoples,” said Dr. Deborah Saucier, VIU President and Vice-chancellor. “This is why VIU’s future policy on Indigenous identity will honour the contributions of Indigenous students, faculty, staff and community leaders and will include safeguards to confirm Indigenous identity going forward.”


Dr. Kyle Duncan has an NSERC Discovery Grant of $125,000 over five years to pursue his research. VIU Photo

VIU Chemistry Professor gets grant to help develop new mass spectrometry imaging technology

23/01/04 – Vancouver Island University Chemistry Professor Dr. Kyle Duncan is developing mass spectrometry technology that could help discover new treatment options for cancer.


Dr. Duncan is building custom mass spectrometry imaging technology to help get a more accurate picture of metabolites in tissue. Metabolites are small molecules that control the metabolism of our cells. Changes in the presence or number of certain metabolites in specific regions of tissue can result in disorders or be a sign of serious and chronic diseases such as diabetes or cancer.


Current methods to examine tissue metabolites require cutting out specific regions for analysis by a mass spectrometer, but this means information from the adjacent cells is lost. Duncan’s method is to image metabolites directly in specific regions of tissue, which gives a more accurate and detailed picture. To apply this technology, he is currently collaborating with other members of MetaboBC to help understand how metabolites are distributed in healthy and cancerous tissue with the aim of discovering potential treatment options to disrupt cancer growth and progression.


Duncan received a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grant of $125,000 over five years to pursue his research. He also received a Discovery Launch Supplement, a grant for early career researchers, of $12,500. 


“Our body’s metabolic processes are highly dynamic and can compensate or react to changing conditions at the molecular level, creating a moving puzzle with many intricate pieces,” said Duncan. “The fundamental research enabled by this grant allows me to pursue my passion – exploring this boundary between chemistry and biology.”


Duncan’s state-of-the-art technology provides images similar to those a camera produces. A camera has a combination of red, green and blue pixels to create the image. Instead of colours in each pixel, mass spectrometry image pixels provide a simultaneous snapshot of different metabolites in tissue, anywhere from one to thousands. This more detailed picture will allow scientists to determine if metabolites are higher in particular regions of tissue, and if so, why.