Alumni Profiles

Planting seeds: Community Development grad delivers hands-on learning to high school students, new immigrants

July 10, 2017 • Written by

Raymond Ngarboui, Hugh John Macdonald School

To say Raymond Ngarboui has made the most of his time in Canada is an understatement.

Since moving to Winnipeg 12 years ago, the Chad, Africa, native has amassed a list of accomplishments longer than most people do in a lifetime. As a community development coordinator, he works to support fellow immigrants and other residents who struggle to make ends meet, all while sitting on various boards and volunteering for organizations like UNICEF and the United Way.

He’s won countless accolades for his work – including a recent Premier’s Volunteer Service Award – but Ngarboui insists that he’s the one who’s grateful, especially for the education he received from Red River College.

“For me, it’s not about being recognized, it’s about doing what I’ve been doing, and of freeing myself of moral debt that I’ve been carrying,” Ngarboui says.

Like many other newcomers, Ngarboui didn’t speak English when he arrived here on Sept. 27, 2005. The inability to communicate made those early days difficult for him.

“I was feeling loneliness, I was feeling homesickness,” he says.

Thankfully, Ngarboui is a fast learner. Shortly after enrolling at RRC’s Language Training Centre, he became fluent in English and his “life started getting better.”

One of his first priorities at the time was to give back to UNICEF, an organization that had helped him as a child. In civil war-torn Chad, when all the schools had closed, UNICEF was there to provide some education for Ngarboui and his fellow classmates, despite the circumstances. Once in Winnipeg, he located the office and began working there.

“I wouldn’t have been able to graduate to the level that I am today without the help of UNICEF,” he says.

After completing the Language Training Centre’s post-secondary prep course, Ngarboui considered studying agriculture at the University of Manitoba – an area he’d begun studying back home – but wanted to find a way to meld his passion for farming with his devotion to his new community. He discovered RRC’s Community Development/Community Economic Development program, and knew it was the perfect fit. Read More →

International Business grad connects Indigenous communities with clean energy options

July 3, 2017 • Written by

Darrell Brown, Kisik Inc.

Darrell Brown believes knowledge is power, and in his case, clean power.

Brown is the president and owner of Kisik Inc. — a company that provides school, office and health-care furniture to First Nations clients and federal government departments — as well as Kisik Marketing and Communications Ltd.

Brown’s quest for knowledge began at Red River College, where he earned an advanced diploma in International Business in 1998.

In 2013, the Cree entrepreneur earned a certificate of Indigenous leadership, governance and management excellence from the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. The next year, he was back at the Banff Centre participating in a week-long leadership workshop called the Ambassadors Program.

One of Brown’s latest learning experiences was with the 20/20 Catalysts Program. In 2016, he participated in the interactive three-month program, which is designed to support Indigenous communities embarking on clean energy projects.

“Across Canada we have many First Nations that are not connected to the power grids, so they are still burning diesel,” says Brown. “The idea is to connect them with renewable energy and reduce their reliance on diesel.”

“It was an intense course last summer on how to develop and execute an Indigenous renewable energy project for your community. We had layers and layers of support: business mentorship, personal coaching, the staff of the program and non-stop excursions to renewable energy sites. We were onsite for three weeks in three different provinces. We learned firsthand from the people who have done their clean energy projects. These were chiefs and former chiefs and economic development officers who have all executed their own renewable energy projects for their own First Nations.” Read More →

The big picture: Graphic Design grad climbs corporate ladder following ad agency merger

June 26, 2017 • Written by

Robert Mensies, 6P Marketing When it comes to visual communication, Robert Mensies concentrates on the big picture.

Since graduating from Red River College’s Advertising Art (now Graphic Design) program in 1999, Mensies has continually climbed the corporate ladder, from designing ads for a local publisher to owning his own ad agency, Edge Marketing Strategies.

In 2015, Mensies merged Edge with 6P Marketing, where he now serves as Director of Client Strategy, a perfect position for his big-picture thinking.

“Director of Client Strategy is a fancy title that basically means I get to work with our clients on their longer-term marketing and branding business objectives,” Mensies says. “I’m still in the minutia of the day-to-day stuff for some clients who just can’t get enough of me and my winning personality, but mostly I’m focusing on that longer-term game plan for clients,” Mensies says jokingly.

Mensies’ focus may be long-term, but it’s also quite specific. At 6P, his main clients are in the agri-business and food sectors.

“Whenever you can specialize within a certain industry or sector, it really builds your knowledge and your expertise,” Mensies says.

“I know something a lot of firms struggle with is being [a] commodity versus a specialist. We’ve (6P) really been focusing on being specialists within certain sectors. There are many benefits. You can charge more, because you’re seen as a specialist, versus a commodity guy. You focus your energies in a particular field as opposed to being all things to all people. And you just build your own personal brand, and people respect what you do. If someone is looking to sell something or do something within agriculture, they see you as more of a peer versus a supplier.” Read More →

Port of call: CreComm grad promotes Winnipeg as transportation hub to the world

June 19, 2017 • Written by

Carly Edmundson, Centreport Canada

Whether it be by plane, train or truck, Carly Edmundson is doing her part to establish Winnipeg as a central transportation hub.

Edmundson is the executive director of marketing and communications at CentrePort Canada Inc., the corporation responsible for developing the 20,000-acre tri-modal (air, rail and trucking) inland port anchored by Winnipeg’s James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.

“There are three types of marketing and communications that we do at CentrePort,” says Edmundson, a graduate of Red River College’s Creative Communications program.

“The first is awareness raising. Canada, or indeed Manitoba, is not always top of mind for global investors. So our first job is to educate potential investors on all of the advantages of locating in our province.”

“A second focus of our marketing programs is targeted to businesses that we’re looking to attract, usually from outside of Manitoba and often from outside of Canada. There are six key sectors — agriculture, manufacturing, energy and mines, biomedical, transportation and logistics, and e-commerce — that are well-suited to set up new operations at CentrePort. We’re very precise about who we’re targeting and delivering the type of information that business leaders are interested in to make a decision of that magnitude.”

“The flip side of that would be our local marketing. Obviously developing a 20,000-acre inland port in Manitoba is going to affect those of us who live, work, play, and learn here. We focus on raising awareness on how the inland port’s development is positively impacting Manitoba’s economy and creating jobs.” Read More →

Happy trails for Graphic Design grad

June 9, 2017 • Written by

Some people while away the workday daydreaming about their happy place. Not Kristin McPherson. The founder of Happyland Print Shop mixes business with pleasure — day and night.

As communications manager at urban nature preserve FortWhyte Alive, the 2004 Graphic Design grad spends her weekdays where other people like to spend their weekends. When she goes home after work, Happyland is there waiting for her.

Since 2012, the 33-year-old entrepreneur has been increasingly successful at minding her own business, designing and selling prints, tote bags, pins and patches that celebrate Winnipeg’s quirks and customs — socials and salami shoulder, perogies and “majestic” Transcona’s pink flamingos, to name a few.

But McPherson doesn’t want to give up her day job.

“It’s a great gig. The role I’m in now I’m kind of like a one-person marketing department,” she says.

“I run the social media accounts, so every so often I get to go out and take photos of seasons changing or the wildlife that’s out there. It’s really nice; it’s nice to start my day with a walk on our trails with my camera. It’s a pretty incredible place to work — I like to go to work every day. It’s like going to a cabin in the woods, basically.” Read More →

Business Administration grad provides small-town organizations with high-speed hook-ups

June 6, 2017 • Written by

Arlin Conway, NetSet CommunicationsArlin Conway is connecting the province to the planet.

As Enterprise Solutions Manager at NetSet Communications, a rural high-speed internet provider based in Brandon, Conway criss-crosses the province pinpointing the connectivity needs of rural companies.

Conway is coming up on four years with NetSet, starting at the company shortly after graduating from Red River College’s Business Administration program in 2012.

“My title, Enterprise Solutions Manager, means I deal with anything that doesn’t fall within the regular cookie cutter packages,” Conway says.

“In a case like Altona [Conway’s destination the day after he was interviewed for this story], we’re going down to an agriculture dealer who has multiple locations across the province. When that’s the case, they might have a server at their head office or in downtown Winnipeg, or for the services they provide they need to tap into a certain billing system or POS (point of sale) system, or the manufacturer for their mechanics might have to access a certain portal. We work to make it all as efficient as possible.

“The goal with me sitting down with them? It’s nice to get some face time in and get to know your customer, but it’s also to give them a rundown and go through the different things that we could help them with. Check off the boxes. Then we take a step back, come back to Brandon and figure out how we can do it. We figure out things like if they need symmetrical service, if they need transport service as opposed to internet gateway, all these different things. Then, we wrap it in a bow and present it in a proposal.”

Currently, NetSet Communications is in the final stages of upgrading its entire network to an LTE (long-term evolution) platform, adding 48 tower sites and 20 fibre breakouts to its network as part of the federal government’s Digital Canada 150 initiative. Read More →

Hospitality grads at home on Delta Hotel’s staff roster

June 1, 2017 • Written by

Delta Hotel staff, Winnipeg

Any experienced hotel guest knows the person who holds the room keys also holds the power to make or break your stay.

Kevin Dyck, the Front Office Manager at the Delta Hotel in Winnipeg, agrees it takes a certain personality type to hold down the front desk at a major hotel.

“You need to be warm and genuine,” he says. “The people that have success genuinely want guests to have a good stay.”

And the ability to make a connection with a guest during a two-minute check-in isn’t something that can be taught – not even in Red River College’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program. Dyck, who graduated from the course in 2005, says that’s one of the first lessons he learned at RRC.

“People were weeded out pretty quickly through the program, which is a good thing because the people that are truly committed to working in the industry were left. It’s not for everybody.”

Yes, there’s far more to the job than locating freshly laundered towels. Quick thinking and problem solving skills are essential when you’ve got a medical emergency, an overbooked hotel, a flooded bathroom, a broken elevator or unhappy guests on your hands.

“You have to be on your toes and be able to easily adapt because you never know what’s going to happen,” says Dyck.

RRC’s classroom and on-the-job training prepared Dyck – and nearly one-third of his current staff – for such situations. Seven of the 30 employees in his department are Hospitality and Tourism graduates, including Guest Service Agents Star Wang, Kira Clarridge and Claire Yu, Service One Operators Keunjoon Lee and Nina Shi, Assistant Front Office Manager Tiffany Tang, Yuan Chen, who works on the 12th-floor executive lounge, and, of course, himself. Read More →

Workplace practicum puts Business IT grad on the fast track from college to career

May 29, 2017 • Written by

Roy Polvorosa, Imaginet

A successful co-op placement gave Roy Polvorosa a head start in his career.

While attending Red River College’s Information Systems Technology (now Business Information Technology) program, Polvorosa did his work experience practicum at Imaginet, a Winnipeg-based IT consulting firm.

When Polvorosa graduated in 2011, Imaginet immediately offered him a job.

“It was a great co-operative term,” Polvorosa says. “Sometimes companies give students the crummy work, replacing keyboards and what not, but I was actually in the trenches, so to speak. I ended up learning a ton and by the time my co-op was done, I had already covered half of what I was going to do in one of my courses. I had already done it real life versus a lab.”

As a Managed Services and Support Manager at Imaginet, Polvorosa is responsible for leading his team in ironing out IT issues, while also providing direction and support for Microsoft products such as Sharepoint and Office 365.

“Everyday I meet with my team, see what’s going on, give some guidance and make sure everyone is set for their day, and then I proceed to work on my own projects,” Polvorosa says.

“Often, I put on this other hat, where I’ll talk to the CEOs and IT managers that we look after, companies that look to Imaginet as their managed services provider. I talk to them about their concerns with their IT security, [and] what they’ll be planning for in the next five years in terms of their IT infrastructure.” Read More →

Child and Youth Care grad makes lasting impact through decades of commitment to community

May 22, 2017 • Written by

Jackie Anderson, Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre

Jackie Anderson found her calling while she was still in college.

A graduate of Red River College’s Child and Youth Care program, Anderson completed her practicum at Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in 1996. Fast forward two decades, and Anderson is still committed to the North End non-profit family resource centre.

“When I came into the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, I did my placement in the youth program. I was assigned mentorship, one-on-one with youth in the community who were struggling with different challenges and barriers in their lives,” says Anderson, who also completed RRC’s Criminology program.

“When I completed my practicum hours, I asked the organization if I could stay on as a volunteer because of the relationships I established and built with the youth. I didn’t want to just walk out of their lives.”

In 1997, Anderson was hired on at Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in the full-time position of youth mentor. In 2000, she started working in program development for Isobel’s Place, Ma Mawi’s residential learning facility for Indigenous teen mothers. In 2003, Anderson developed Honouring the Spirits of our Little Sisters, Ma Mawi’s safe transition home for sexually exploited youth. After managing the home for seven years, Anderson worked in program development for HOME (Hands of Our Mother Earth), Ma Mawi’s rural healing lodge for sexually exploited youth.

In 2012, Anderson left Ma Mawi to take a position as the provincial government’s sexual exploitation specialist. However by 2015, she was back at Ma Mawi in the position of children in care coordinator.

“That was really good learning,” says Anderson of her foray into provincial politics. “I learned from that part of the system and I’m a stronger advocate now. However, that’s not where my heart lied. My heart lies with the community, grassroots.” Read More →

Carpentry grad finds tools for success while following in father’s footsteps

May 15, 2017 • Written by

Miguel Arpin, Lou-Mig Custom Woodwork

Miguel Arpin is cut from the same cloth as his father — and you can bet that cloth was measured twice.

Arpin is the owner of Lou-Mig Custom Woodwork, a finishing carpentry company his dad (the Lou in Lou-Mig) started in 1993. With his father now semi-retired, Arpin has been taking over the reins of the family business.

“Ever since I was a little boy we always worked in the workshop and I helped build our cabin at a young age,” Arpin says. “It was always ‘swinging a hammer,’ as they say, always wearing a tool belt to help dad out. I always loved it. And the way I was taught was, ‘If it’s not perfect, redo it.’”

Arpin finished Red River College’s Carpentry program in 2003 as a Level 4 apprentice carpenter. Coming into college, Arpin already had carpentry capabilities from following in his dad’s work boots, but he says the program helped to refine and enhance his skills.

“The course is amazing because it’s all the theory behind the knowledge,” Arpin says. “You can know how to do things, but what’s the theory behind it? Why is it done that way?

“The teachers were great. They have prior experience before teaching and I think that makes the difference. They’ve seen the real world. They didn’t just finish school and then go into a school to teach.

“I think you only learn that from being in the trade and doing the work. It’s that type of experience you get from Red River: a little bit of schooling, then go work, then more schooling, then back to work. That to me is the best way to learn, and it should be a part of all higher education.” Read More →

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