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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. 34

Langara played host to a TEDx conference in November 2011.

Meet more 49 Langarans.

  • Glen Coulthard

    Glen Coulthard

    Langara Alum | Academic Writer

    Glen is an Associate Professor in the First Nations and Indigenous Studies and Political Science departments at the University of British Columbia. He has a PhD in Political Science from the University of Victoria and is an accomplished writer in Indigenous and contemporary political theory. His book Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition has won multiple awards, including the Caribbean Philosophical Association’s Frantz Fanon Award for Outstanding Book, the Canadian Political Science Association’s CB Macpherson Award for Best Book in Political Theory, and the Rik Davidson Studies in Political Economy Award for Best Book. Glen is also a co-founder of Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning, a decolonial, Indigenous land-based post-secondary program operating on his traditional territories in Denendeh (Northwest Territories).

  • Lynn Carter

    Lynn Carter

    Retired Employee | Faculty Leader & Social Advocate

    Lynn was a Social Services instructor at Langara for 35 years. While at Langara, Lynn served as Department Chair, was Langara’s first Education Council Chair, and the President of the Langara Faculty Association from 2007 until her retirement in 2018. Her influence on the College can still be felt in the policies and processes she helped to guide and develop, including her work to bring the University of Northern British Columbia Bachelor of Social Work program to the Langara campus. An advocate for children and families she was a leader within the social services community through her work with various government organizations and commissions, including the Ministry of Children and Families, the Gove of Inquiry into Child Protection Commission, the Board of Registration for Social Workers, Open Learning Agency, and Family Services of Vancouver. A passionate volunteer, Lynn has chaired BC Benefit Tribunals; as a Chairperson for Vocation, Rehabilitation, and Disabled Persons Appeals; and as a member of the Panel Roster of the Complaints Division, of the Children’s Commission. In addition, she served as Chair of the Board of the Greater Vancouver Community Services Society. She currently serves on the Board as Vice Chair of the RainCity Housing and Support Society.

  • Wawmeesh Hamilton

    Wawmeesh Hamilton

    Langara Alum | Journalist

    Wawmeesh is an Associate Producer with CBC Radio Vancouver. He is a contributing writer for CBC Indigenous, CBC Radio, The Tyee, and the National Observer. Wawmeesh was also a reporter and photographer at The Discourse, where he wrote about reconciliation and urban Indigenous people and issues. A graduate of the Langara Journalism program and the UBC Graduate School of Journalism, Wawmeesh is an advocate for increased deeper journalism in Canada about Indigenous people, communities and issues. He has worked with Journalists for Human Rights to cover Indigenous youth projects across Canada and he lectures nationally to journalism students about deepening their knowledge about Indigenous people and communities and about creating relationships with them. He was the architect of and contributor to the 2018 Jack Webster Award-nominated The Discourse — CBC Indigenous Series Reconciliation in small towns: Is it happening? He has also won multiple awards for both his writing and photography from the BC-Yukon Community Newspaper Association and the Canadian Community Newspaper Association.

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