Pamela Den Ouden

When Pamela Den Ouden looks at the framed certificate hanging on the wall of her home office in Fort St. John, it reminds her she was a part of something that changed Northern BC forever.

The certificate was a thank you to her and 16,000 others, who in the late 1980s signed a petition and donated $5 to support the founding of what would become the University of Northern British Columbia.

It has hung on her wall ever since.

Pamela Den Ouden

Pamela came to Fort St. John from Montreal in 1977. She had always been interested in agriculture, and came to work on a collective farm. She was following the spirit of “getting back to the land” that was prevailing at the time, a spirit that took her from what was then Canada’s largest city to the rural northeast of British Columbia. 

After the farm she began working at the local newspaper, then at the local credit union. People went to North Peace Savings and Credit Union on 100th Street in Fort St. John to sign the petition, and Pamela became a witness to the movement as it unfolded.

“I remember as a teller, people coming in and saying they wanted to pay that $5 and be part of this great thing that was happening in the North,” she says. “It was very exciting, the idea to not have to leave your life to go study somewhere, get your education and finish a degree. It was astounding and everybody was eager to help.”

Another document hangs in her office at work. It’s her master’s, an interdisciplinary degree in English and History from UNBC.

The creation of UNBC in 1990 made getting a degree much easier for Pamela. She achieved her undergraduate degree through distance, where the instructors could only be reached by phone.  While studying for her master’s she could attend classes at the UNBC campus in Fort St. John. She says there was more of a personal connection with her instructors this time; she could stop them in the hall to ask them questions or visit their offices.

Pamela was able to complete most of her degree in Fort St. John. She wanted to be there as she could continue working and living with her family.

She took one semester at the main campus in Prince George, and as a mature student, found it funny to move into residence with the help of her daughter. Her new neighbours thought the daughter was moving in to residence, and Pamela was there to help, when it was actually the opposite.

“I’m so proud to be a graduate of UNBC, I really am,” she says. “I’m thankful for the experiences I had there. I have great memories of learning.”

Pamela now works as coordinator of international education with Northern Lights College in Fort St. John, a job she says she wouldn’t have landed without a graduate degree. She says she knows from personal experience the benefits UNBC has provided the North, especially the accomplishments of the more than 11,000 UNBC graduates out there today. 

That’s why she’s proud to look at her wall.

“I still have this certificate,” she says. “It’s been framed in my office all these years. I helped make UNBC happen. I was part of something. How often does any ordinary individual get to be part of something so big and great?  Not very often.”

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