The Wagner Family

When Shannon Wagner’s brother Bart took her to see UNBC’s brand new Prince George campus during Christmas break in 1993, she was into her second year of university in Saskatchewan, and not looking to switch schools.

She knew UNBC existed but thought it would take decades to become a full-fledged institution of higher learning. What she saw that day changed her mind.

“He walked me around. He had never attended UNBC but was just so proud of this new building we had,” she says. “I enrolled at UNBC that next semester. The buildings were amazing and it was an opportunity to finish the degree without being so far away. It felt like a real university much earlier than anticipated.”

Lynda and Shannon Wagner

Shannon grew up in Prince George and attended Prince George Secondary School. She jumped on the chance to study in her hometown, and says the smaller class sizes were a draw as well. Shannon went from classes of up to 600 students to UNBC classes with as few as six.

The small classes made it easy for Shannon to connect with professors, including Dr. Nancy Higgins, who was so impressed with Shannon’s work she encouraged Shannon to pursue graduate training  in psychology.

“I’d never thought of graduate school before, but someone having that level of confidence in me made me think of a possibility I hadn’t considered up to that point,” Shannon says. “Again it’s that one-on-one connection with faculty.”

Shannon finished her Bachelor’s degree in 1997 with a major in psychology, then went on to earn a Master’s and PhD at UNBC. Being able to pursue graduate studies in Prince George meant her family could help with her children.

“In the end that was one of the main reasons I was able to complete my PhD,” she says. “Certainly having family here to help with my children was a huge component of me being able to continue with my education, probably the biggest deciding factor as to whether I continued on or not.”

Shannon says her UNBC experience opened her eyes to the possibilities that come with higher education. Today she is a full professor and Chair of the School of Health Sciences at UNBC.

This is the 20th year Shannon has spent at UNBC as a student, staff, or faculty member, yet her family’s connection to the university runs even deeper.

Lynda Wagner, Shannon’s mom, signed the petition calling for the creation of UNBC in the late 1980s, one of 16,000 people from Northern BC to do so.

Shannon’s father Barrie was also a supporter of a university in the North, although he thought it would take decades to get established, too late for his daughter to attend.
UNBC admitted its first students in 1992, and the Prince George campus officially opened two years later, just in time for Shannon.

“As someone who has spent most of my adult life at UNBC, I owe an amazing debt of gratitude to the people who developed this institution, especially the original petition signers, including my parents” she says. “The opportunities I’ve had because of UNBC have been invaluable.”

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