Meaningful change through action

Portrait photo of Behrouz Danesh in the Canfor Winter Garden
Bachelor of Health Sciences graduate Behrouz (Bruce) Danesh is the valedictorian for Ceremony 1 at UNBC's 2024 Convocation.

Prince George, B.C. - With a passion for learning, a commitment to contribute to society in positive ways, and an enthusiasm for moving knowledge into action, Behrouz Danesh (known to many as Bruce) is making a difference in the lives of others through his constructive engagement at UNBC and in the community of Prince George.

Bruce arrived in Toronto from his home in Yazd, Iran in 2017. Knowing he wanted to pursue a career in the healthcare industry, Bruce learned of the challenges faced by northern and rural communities in attracting healthcare professionals and was drawn to UNBC. "Prince George seemed like the ideal place – full of opportunities – and I wasn't wrong," he says. "I have loved the small class sizes at UNBC and have been touched by the strong sense of community."

Accepted as an international student in 2018, Bruce quickly became involved in community development at the Prince George campus and in the broader community. The range of his volunteer contributions is wide and impressive, from mentorship roles to establishing cross-cultural groups and creating supports where gaps exist.

"I have worked closely with students, faculty, and various departments to ensure that we are all working towards the common goal of providing the best possible experience for UNBC students," says Bruce, who completed his coursework in his Bachelor of Health Sciences Honours degree last spring and his undergraduate honours thesis over the summer of 2023. His degree was conferred in the fall and Bruce will cross the stage with graduates from the fall, winter, and spring conferrals on May 31.

After completing his thesis, Bruce seamlessly entered the next phase of his post-secondary journey last September and just completed the first year of the University of British Columbia's Master of Occupational Therapy - North cohort program at the Prince George campus, and his connections to the community continue to strengthen.

Bruce initially became involved in student life as a Resident Assistant, providing valued support and assistance to new and international students living in residence. He went on to be elected to represent students on the Northern Undergraduate Student Society, has been a regular contributor to UNBC's independent student newspaper Over the Edge, and has been actively involved in campus-wide activities associated with UNBC, with the most recent one being elected as the Northern BC Graduate Student Society (NBCGSS) Chairperson.

Bruce founded and continues to be involved in the UNBC Iranian Student Association, currently working on a new initiative to connect new students with experienced students and UNBC alumni. As an undergraduate, he partnered with several groups on campus and the City of Prince George to develop an off-campus guide for international students and newcomers to the city with information on housing, transportation, and other local resources. This past year, he completed the initial draft of a campus guide for international students.

"UNBC and the Prince George community have been my foundation, supporting me from the early days when I was a newcomer to Canada," says Bruce. "Today, I find joy in giving back, helping students and newcomers as they start their journeys."

Bruce also connected with the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society while working on his Health Sciences degree, becoming its Prince George Ambassador. With close to 2000 volunteer hours, he helped raise awareness and inform Prince George residents about the disease and established the UNBC Multiple Sclerosis Support Club to support those living with the disease on campus. In collaboration with students, faculty, and members of the Prince George MS community, Bruce has organized national educational webinars.

Additionally, he has worked as a healthcare community support worker at AimHi, supporting people with disabilities. Bruce credits the knowledge gained during his Health Sciences degree and his community involvement with shaping him into the person he has become today as an Occupational Therapy student and the healthcare professional he hopes to become.

He says the breadth of his courses – from health promotion to epidemiology and Indigenous-focused classes – combined with the practical experiences gained through research and collaborative health promotion projects has been transformative. "From healing drumming circles to assisting people to schedule and attend medical programs," Bruce says. "The strong sense of community cultivated in northern B.C. has given me an understanding of the power of community in health and medicine and, additionally, a strong sense of belonging."

It's that power of community that Bruce will emphasize when he addresses the graduating class of 2024 during Ceremony 1 of UNBC's Convocation on May 31. "Our education at UNBC has equipped us with the knowledge, skills and values to make a positive difference in the world. Together we have the power to create meaningful change."