Northeast graduates benefit from education close to home

Group photo of all graduates from the Northeast campus in Fort St John. Graduates are wearing cap and gowns, photo is outside.
Graduates from the Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Social Work programs completed their education in Fort St. John.

Fort St. John, B.C. - The graduates from the Class of 2024 at UNBC’s Northeast campus in Fort St. John are already making a difference in their communities. 

From a nurse returning to her home community of Fort Nelson to work, to a social worker continuing her career in Dawson Creek, and a nurse who moved from Ontario for her studies and is staying in Fort St. John to work, the graduates are empowering others by putting the knowledge they gained at UNBC to use early in their careers.

The graduates from the Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Bachelor of Social Work programs were joined by family and friends on Friday evening at the Pomeroy Hotel to celebrate the completion of their programs and reflect on their achievements.

Person in academic cap and gown walks in procession

“The last two years have seemed like a whirlwind of assignments, late nights, studying, and doing group projects,” Social Work graduate Elizabeth Nicol says. 

She credits her classmates with helping each other get through the program. 

“As a cohort, we were supportive and genuinely cared that each of us was successful and made it to graduation. We mainly bonded over the fact that all of us had been out of school for a number of years and went back to become students at a time when our lives were very busy, and squeezing in time to do schoolwork was a challenge.”

Nicol commuted from Dawson Creek. Despite the winter drives, having access to the program close to home allowed her to balance school, family, and other obligations. 

"If the program was not offered in Fort St. John, I likely would not have decided to go back to school when I did," she says. "Despite driving from Dawson Creek being a challenge, especially in the winter, I am grateful that the Fort St. John campus makes space for social workers.”

With her undergraduate degree complete, Nicol will continue her career working on the child protection team at the Ministry of Children and Family Development. 

“Eventually, I would like to complete a Master of Social Work degree and would love to spend part of my career doing international humanitarian work with refugees or victims of human trafficking.”

Two people at podium

For Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduate Rebecca Landry, it was a similar story. Driven by empathy and compassion, Landry was motivated to pursue a career in nursing, but after starting a family, she wasn’t sure what her options would be.

“When this program became available, it didn’t take much time to decide that we could move my family from Fort Nelson and join the program,” she says. “If it wasn’t for the Northern Baccalaureate in Nursing Program, it would not have been feasible for me to go to school with two small children. I would not be standing here as an RN if it wasn’t for this program.”

Landry enjoyed her practica working in a rural setting and post-graduation has accepted a job working as a nurse back home in Fort Nelson.

Landry and fellow Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduate Nurcan Saber addressed the class at the graduation celebration.

Saber came from further afield to attend UNBC’s Northeast campus. She already had four years of post-secondary education under her belt, but after her family moved from Ontario to Fort St. John, she heard about the nursing program and jumped at the chance to continue her education at UNBC. 

“I had been wanting to go into nursing for a long time, and I loved the idea of a smaller group,” she says. “I wanted to be in a small cohort and really get to know my instructors. I wanted to graduate and build a connection in a community where I felt I could make a difference. It has been the best decision I’ve ever made.”

She is grateful for the faculty who supported the students along the way, particularly Senior Laboratory Instructor Amanda De Smit, who provided ongoing guidance throughout the program. 

“The biggest thing that changed both who I am as a person and the confidence I now have in myself was one of my instructors,” she says. “Your journey matters to the faculty, your education matters to them, your mental and emotional health matters to them.”

Saber got a job with the Birthing Centre in Fort St. John and will be continuing her education to get certified in labor and delivery. She is also considering furthering her education as she explores options for medical school or nurse practitioner programs, but for the time being, she’s looking forward to putting the knowledge she gained at UNBC into practice. 

“I think this is going to be a continuing journey, but I’m really excited to graduate and enjoy nursing,” she says.