49 Langarans

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David Turpin

Langara Alum | Academic Leader & Scientist

This ‘problem kid’ became a university president

How Dave Turpin became a student at Langara College — and then the president and vice-chancellor at the University of Alberta — is an odd story.

Turpin readily admits he started as a student who was “profoundly bored in high school” and not doing well.

“I could be outstanding if I liked the teacher and I found the material exciting, I would be below average and be a discipline problem if I was bored,” he said.

One day during grade 9 Guidance class, the teacher announced that if anyone was interested in graduating early, they should stay after class for more information.

Turpin remembers everyone else leaving the classroom after the bell sounded, but he walked up to the teacher’s desk.

“The teacher looked at me and said, ‘Turpin, what are you doing here? You’re too stupid.’”

Later that night his mother learned of the teacher’s remarks, and by the next day the teacher had changed his tune and told Turpin what he needed to do.

“All of the sudden my marks went up,” he said, adding that by the end of Grade 11, he was only missing one course for graduation.

“Rather than hanging around high school I saw that I could register at Langara, I could make up that high school course, and I did a full first-year load,” he said. “I so enjoyed it that I stayed a second year there, too.”

He went on to complete further schooling and today he has a PhD as well as an established scientific research and leadership career.

“What Langara did for me is provide that opportunity to transition to post-secondary school in a non-traditional way,” he said. “We all have very different learning styles. What I found is I learn best when it’s experiential, really interactive, and when I can go at my own pace.

“High school was simply not motivating to me, whereas I found when I got to Langara there were opportunities to be independent and a self-starter.”

The learning style fits with his career as a scientist, he added.

“It’s not doing what somebody tells you, it’s doing what you recognize is important to learn,” he said. “That’s what any education should do; it should empower you to learn.”

As the 13th president of the University of Alberta and in former leadership roles, including 13 years as president of the University of Victoria, he said he supports courses offering different learning opportunities, such as lectures, readings, and interactive online material.

“Some people want to read a book, others want a lecture,” he said. “And people with different learning styles are now finding it easier to fit in.”

Courtesy of Black Press Media

49 Facts — NO. 39

Langara has a MakerSpace which invites the Langara community to turn their ideas into reality.

Meet more 49 Langarans.

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    Joseph Abercrombie

    Langara Alum | Sustainability Innovator

    Joe is the founder of Humane Solutions Inc., a sustainable, innovative wildlife management company. He has evolved from a student with a vision to a trailblazer in his industry in less than four years. Through his dedication and passion to make positive, sustainable impact, he has successfully grown his business from a part-time venture into a full-time cutting-edge business, offering a full suite of wildlife control solutions across Western Canada with a team of internationally qualified human-wildlife conflict specialists and wildlife technicians. His dedication to environmental sustainability and advocacy work on the discontinuation of poison as a method of pest control has earned Humane Solutions positive reviews in the Lower Mainland and in multiple publications, strategic partnerships with sustainable businesses and organizations across BC, and exploratory research collaborations involving various academic institutions and NGOs. Joe is a budding serial social entrepreneur. Using Humane Solutions as a catalyst, he intends to capitalize on his unique skills and privilege to drive as much social and environmental change as possible.

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  • Christa Belle Walley

    Christa Belle Walley

    Langara Alum | Music Specialist

    Christa Belle is a DJ, producer, and Artist Relations specialist with the music software company Ableton. In her current role at Ableton, she creates initiatives to grow and engage with electronic music economies throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa while offering one-on-one support to some of the most influential artists in the world. In a previous role, Christa Belle was the resident DJ and Program Director at Vancouver’s Fox Cabaret, where she was a champion of the growth of the local music scene through her support of emerging artists. Throughout her career, she has supported artists in Canada and around the world by providing access to opportunities, equipment, and learning resources. In 2017, she was chosen to be one of the jurists for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize, which honours, celebrates, and rewards creativity and diversity in Canadian recorded music. Christa graduated from Langara Continuing Studies Digital Music Production Program.

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  • Gail Bremer

    Gail Bremer

    Retired Employee | Professional Development Advocate

    Gail worked in a number of roles during her time at Langara, including Nursing Instructor, coordinator for the Langara Employee Development Centre, Administrator of the Nursing program, and Manager of Nursing’s professional development funds. A program pioneer, she was part of the College’s first International Nursing program and First Nations Continuing Studies pilot project. An alumna of Langara and a former Falcons volleyball player, she continues to be an ardent supporter of the College and the Falcons. She is an active member of the Langara Retirees Steering Committee, and volunteers more than 900 hours annually to organizations such as the Vancouver Aquarium, Easter Seal, Operation Red Nose, and Soccer Canada. In recognition of her work, she has received the 2012 Langara Leadership Award, Andre Tse Service Award, and multiple Richmond Mayor’s Sustainability and Environmental Awards.

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