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. 26

Every year exceptional Langarans are recognized through the Outstanding Alumni Awards. Past winners include comedian Colin Mochrie, former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan, and broadcast journalist Simi Sara.

Meet more 49 Langarans.

  • Joseph Abercrombie

    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.

    Read more
  • Stephanie Ovsenek

    Stephanie Ovsenek

    Langara Alum | Nutrition Management Leader

    Stephanie is currently the BC Representative of the Canadian Society of Nutrition Management and a past President of the Pacific Society of Nutrition Management. She completed the Nutrition & Food Service Management program at Langara. Between summer semesters, Stephanie gained valuable experience and insight as a Sales Representative for Charles Masson Inc., allowing her to better understand the needs of food service providers across the healthcare sector. The dedication she showed during her practicum at Vancouver General Hospital led to a supervisor position upon graduation, where she managed a team of twenty people. In 2006, Stephanie spearheaded a program at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, training at-risk women for careers in the food service industry. This experience steered her to a position with Marquise Hospitality as a Quality Assurance Manager and finally on to the WestCana Services/Proadmin team, where she performed various operational roles leading to her current position as Director of Compliance & Quality Assurance. She is a strong advocate for volunteerism and believes that grassroot participation makes a real difference. In the past she was the Board President for both Ray-Cam Cooperative Community Centre in Vancouver and Sunset Heights Cooperative Housing.

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  • Gerda Krause

    Gerda Krause

    Current Employee | Science Educator

    Gerda is the Dean of Science at Langara. She started at the College in 1977 as a Biology Instructor and has gone on to take on roles of ever increasing responsibility, including Biology Department Chair, Math & Sciences Division Chair; Education Council Chair. From her contributions to the Langara Academic Plan process; one of the founders of the 49 Women in Science giving circle; a champion for the creation of the Langara Retirees group; and her committee work as a member of the BC Council on Admissions and Transfer, as well as countless other committees, Gerda has left an indelible mark on Langara. Outside of the College, she is an active community volunteer for education and social justice causes; volunteering her time to run girls’ clubs for local Mennonite Churches; assist transition house residents to access post-secondary education; and do committee work on the bi-national (US & Canada) Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary Board. Gerda holds a Bachelor of Science and a Masters in Botany from UBC.

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