FEATURING: Mila Wagner (Civil Engineering Technology 2020)
In 2016, Mila Wagner (Civil Engineering Technology 2020) left everything she had in Kyiv, Ukraine – her apartment, her job and her family – to move across the world to Canada in search of a better life for her and her then three-year-old son.
Seven years later, Mila was able to celebrate her first Canada Day as a citizen, only a few months after winning a prestigious award from the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET). Her journey to success, however, has been her biggest engineering project yet.
When Russia first invaded Crimea in 2014, Mila quickly realized her home country was not a safe place to raise her son. It took two years of planning before the two of them landed in Calgary. She had friends who had already moved to Alberta and recommended the province for her new life. It wasn’t easy, though. Not only did Mila need to learn English, but her multiple engineering technology-related degrees from Ukraine were not fully recognized in Canada.
“It was a challenge for me to start all over again with just my little boy holding my hand,” recalls Mila, who says her son Nikita gives her the motivation to keep moving forward every day. “I had to take menial jobs, mostly cleaning, to pay for English schooling, rent and food. I wanted to be a good example for my son and show him that you don’t need to be afraid to start all over again.”
When Mila met the man who would become her husband, she made the decision to return to school and was accepted to the Civil Engineering Technology program at Lethbridge College. Her drive and dedication quickly paid off. Mila and two of her classmates wrapped up their final year with a capstone project that was a finalist for ASET’s Capstone Project of the Year Award.
After graduation Mila was hired at MPE Engineering as a civil engineering technologist-in-training, and she’s worked for three years and is on her way to getting her professional designation from ASET as a certified engineering technologist. Mila has also spent a significant amount of time volunteering with ASET as an interview subject for their province-wide media campaign for two initiatives: a fee waiver for engineering technologists with refugee status and its competency-based assessment program. The latter was launched in 2016 to give foreign-trained and other engineering technology professionals a faster route to establishing careers in Alberta. Mila’s work with ASET led to her receiving one of the association’s highest honours as the winner of its inaugural CEO Award – the first handed out in ASET’s 60-year history. This award is bestowed upon an ASET member at the sole discretion of the CEO and celebrates Mila’s contributions to increasing public awareness of their initiatives.
“For me, winning this award is remarkable,” says Mila. “I didn’t expect it, but it was my pleasure to serve my profession and community and help provide information that will give a leg up to people who just arrived in Canada. This is an inspiration to keep going on the road I’ve been heading down.”
Aiding new Canadian citizens is something Mila truly takes to heart. Just as her friends did for her, Mila has now helped both her niece and her best friend come to Canada, and she is working on bringing her parents safely over. She calls them at least once and sometimes twice a day, and she says winning the award from ASET gave her the chance to share good news with them while her successes bring her closer to moving them to Canada.
“I have a wonderful job at one of the top 10 engineering companies in Canada, and I’ve been able to grow as a professional,” Mila says. “But my biggest success is being together with my family.”
WHERE ARE THEY NOW – ALUMNI UPDATES
We love hearing from Lethbridge College alumni! You can find additional updates online at widerhorizons.ca. To submit your news to share with your classmates and the college community, drop us a note at WHMagazine@lethbridgecollege.ca.
Digital Communications and Media
Chase Chambers learned from some of the best in the business this spring thanks to a story he submitted in competition for this year’s Troy Reeb Internship offered by Lethbridge College. Chase penned an in-depth article on the gender inequality of Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association cross-country races – men run eight kilometres while women only run six.
This is the second time Chase has made it to the final phase of the Troy Reeb Internship selection process. As a first-year DCM student, he was selected for the interview round based on a story he had written about farming technology. The annual internship, sponsored by Reeb, has been available to Lethbridge College DCM students for the past 18 years. A 1988 graduate of the college’s Broadcast Journalism program, Reeb is now Executive Vice President, Broadcast Networks for Corus Entertainment. He was also named a Distinguished Alumni in 2003 and received an honorary degree in 2019.
“In addition to a unique and well-researched story idea, Chase has demonstrated a strong work ethic and willingness to learn that made him an ideal candidate for this year’s internship,” says Reeb. As part of his internship experience, Chase took an all-expenses-paid trip to Toronto and Ottawa where he spent 10 days getting hands-on experience with Global’s online news platforms, television and radio stations. Chase also worked on Parliament Hill with the Ottawa bureau of Global National.
Chase says he was excited to put the skills he learned with Global to work during his summer internship at RealAgriculture in Lethbridge and in the fall when he begins the Film and Video Production program at SAIT. “I really enjoy visual storytelling,” he says. “The DCM program here at the college gave me a strong foundation for the media industry and a lot of experience in writing and in journalism. Now I’m hoping to really hone my film and video capabilities to round-out that skillset.”
What began as a quick trip to campus to pay her daughter’s tuition ended with Leanne Veldboom fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse. While she says she was happy as a stay-at-home mom, Leanne admits she had always contemplated going back to school. So, when “the perfect academic advisor” at Lethbridge College encouraged her to take the leap and register, she did. “I went to my first class that afternoon,” she laughs.
Leanne started with General Studies and upgrading classes in the fall of 2019 and began the Practical Nurse diploma program the following year. She took a year off during the COVID-19 pandemic and returned for her final two semesters in the fall of 2022. This past spring, a panel of Leanne’s instructors named her the first recipient of the Katharina Martha Herbst Practical Nurse Award. It’s given to a graduate who has demonstrated exemplary care and kindness to their patients and who has an interest in lifelong learning. (Read more about the award, and the family of nurses behind it, in our Families in Focus story.)
“There were a lot of well-deserving students, so that was a huge honour,” she says. “And it affirmed my decision to go back to school and successfully finish the program.” Leanne says she’s “slightly terrified” to be done with school and applying for jobs, but she is eager to get started. “It’s a great privilege to be invited into people’s lives – often when they’re sick and feeling their worst – so I’m looking forward to it.”
Aaron is the owner of Aaron Lowe Massage, which is located inside Body and Soul Chiropractic in Lethbridge.
Agriculture Sciences – Plant and Soil Sciences
Emily was among the Farm Family Outreach team members who were featured in a May article in Greenhouse Canada. She is currently farming with her family near Bow Island and says before being part of the outreach team, she worked at a crop inputs store and for a seed canola company. “I feel very excited about the opportunity to help farm families through the Farm Family Outreach team and subsequently Family and Community Support Services,” Freiberg says. “Having grown up on a farm and currently being involved in my family’s farm, I know that farming can be an extremely beautiful but also challenging lifestyle. My background in farming is also what created my passion for this position, and ultimately led me to apply for the job. I know that this program holds great potential to enrich farm families’ lives, and I am very thankful to be a part of this and work towards creating a better future for my family as well.”
Bachelor of Ecosystem Management 2020; Renewable Resource Management 2017
Nolan was featured in an April story in the Calgary Journal that shared how the Bar None Ranch south of Calgary, where Nolan works as the lead aquaculture technician, is raising barramundi – also known as Asian sea bass. Barramundi is a white-fleshed fish native to the Indo-West pacific region, but the Bar None Ranch raises them for provincial markets here in Canada. While at the college, Nolan worked as a student aquaculture technician as part of the college’s Aquaculture Centre for Excellence.
Business Administration – Marketing 2020; Information Specialist/Office Assistant 2000
Sarah is a co-owner of Lethbridge Tactical Supply, which has been supporting southern Alberta first responders and the well-prepared for more than 11 years.
Justice Studies 2020; Criminal Justice – Policing 2018
Victoria has been accepted into a master’s degree program in Human Rights at the University of Manitoba.
Bachelor of Nursing
Alysha was a nursing student in the Bachelor of Nursing program offered by Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge when, at age 25, she was diagnosed with cancer. She fulfilled her academic requirements, including submission of a final assignment, and received her degree in March 2020 in a special convocation ceremony in a hospital. Alysha lost her battle with cancer on July 15, 2020. Her family granted Canadian Nurse permission to publish a three-part essay on her final words to the profession. Her essay can be viewed at learn.lc/ramus.
Bernard White Man Left III
(Eeetoomoo/The One Who Leads) Open Studies
Bernard was featured as a “shining graduate” at the University of Lethbridge’s graduation, and was a speaker at his ceremony as well. He said it was humbling and an honour to be chosen to address his peers at a pivotal moment of their lives. “I wish for the next set of graduates that come after me… I hope that all the opportunities that I have achieved, that they will achieve it but in their own capacity, their own state of mind.”
Digital Communications and Media
Josh runs Vinyl Spin YVR (formerly “YQL” before relocating to Vancouver in 2021), a pop-up shop and online blog for vinyl records and collectors. The business has grown to become a reputable source for learning about, sharing and buying vinyl records.
General Arts and Science – Psychology and Sociology
Keiran was featured as a “shining student” at the University of Lethbridge, where he has taken every opportunity to engage in research. After graduation, he hopes to continue studying in a master’s program in clinical psychology.
Business Administration – Accounting
Jonathan is the founder of SoNormal Print, a Lethbridge-based company that was founded in 2020 with a vision to provide the local community with high-quality custom printed shirts. The company opened its flagship store in 2023, bringing its passion for direct-to-garment printing to life. The company uses state-of-the-art technology and premium materials to create exceptional designs with meticulous attention to detail.
Noelle is the owner of Driftwood Balance Massage and Wellness, which is made up of a small, inclusive and caring team of massage therapists and other health practitioners who specialize in deep tissue barefoot massage (Ashiatsu), therapeutic, medical and relaxation massages.
Heavy Equipment Technician, Parts Technician
A Lethbridge College-trained apprentice has been named AGCO Corporation’s 2022 North American Technician of the Year after an intense test of skills over three days against four other top technicians. Cody Erman works at Hanlon Ag Centre in Lethbridge. In early March, he and technicians nominated by their AGCO dealerships from Manitoba, California, Idaho and South Dakota travelled to Hesston, Kansas, where they were tasked with diagnosing and repairing six different machines. They had just 2½ hours per machine. Their work was judged by a three-person panel representing the customer, the service manager and a technical support person. Their scores were based on the way they interacted with each judge, the questions they asked and their diagnosis and repair skills.
Cody says the time limit was stressful, and he was worried after not completing the first six tasks. He later found out none of the competitors completed the first project. With that experience, he settled in for the rest of the competition, winning the title and a $5,000 grand prize. The prize is just the latest highlight in a trades career Cody says he’s never regretted pursuing. “I enjoy hands-on work and dealing with people in the field,” he says. “It’s rewarding to be able to fix something. You’re always problem solving, and there’s so much technology involved now. A problem could be mechanical or electrical. You have to be able to talk to the customer, find out what was happening when the problem started, and then systematically figure out the cause.” Success in the trades is more academic than people realize. “I am a lifelong learner. I take training every year to keep up on all the new technology that’s being introduced. Every year, there’s more to learn.”
Civil Engineering Technology
Blake was named the Municipal Energy Manager of the Year by the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre. From 2021 to 2023, he had worked as the municipal energy manager for the Town of Taber, where he helped the town develop an energy management plan and supported significant projects. For example, Blake helped bring 13 electric vehicle charging stations to Taber and supported the Aquafun Centre’s combined heat and power half million-dollar installation. He also made LED and smart thermostat upgrades in several facilities, enrolled Taber in the Demand Response Program, and helped procure an electric ice resurfacer. He recently moved into a new, full-time position as facilities and energy manager for the Town of Taber.
Neil Sharp Adze
Business Administration – Management
Neil, who was one of eight people elected to the Piikani Nation Council in January 2023, brought greetings from the First Nation to the graduates of F. P. Walshe School in Fort Macleod in May.
Criminal Justice – Policing
Jordan is the CEO and founding partner of Youth One, a youth and family centre offering mentorship-based programs, meals and support services for youth. Programs are designed to give students a community of belonging, support and guidance during their most formative years. Youth One was launched in 2014 to provide more affordable, quality driven, mentorship-based programs supporting youth after school. Since then, Youth One has supported thousands of individual young people through their middle school and high school years through afterschool drop-in programs, support groups, leadership training, food services, life skills development and more.
Business Administration – Management
Chris is the principal consultant and human resources business partner at UpSourced HR, which is a fractional human resources company specializing in delivering comprehensive, scalable, and personalized HR solutions for organizations of all sizes. UpSourced HR provides a one-stop-shop for organizations seeking to streamline their human capital management processes.
Dan Van Harberden
Automotive Service Technician 2003
When Dan Van Harberden was about to graduate from high school, a counsellor suggested university. That didn’t feel like the right choice, though, because “I didn’t know what I would be doing there, and I didn’t have a goal,” he recalls. “But the trades were something I was interested in – and I’ve never regretted it for a moment. In my opinion, it’s one of the best ways to learn.”
After completing the program, Dan went to work in the industry for more than a decade, until the opportunity in 2016 to return as a teacher to the high school he had attended – Calvin Christian School near Monarch – was too good to pass up. So, he enrolled in a “bridge to teaching” program at the University of Alberta, where he received credit for his previous credential, completing it in 2021 and thriving in the classroom along the way. He now teaches shop, mechanics, robotics and science in the secondary school. “I really enjoy it,” he says. “It’s always great to solve problems with the students. I still get to do the hands-on work in the shop, so it’s not as if I stepped completely away from my toolbox.”
He remains grateful he started off in the trades – and now encourages his own students to consider those options for rewarding careers. “It gave me a huge step in the right direction at a young age, and it gave me the financial stability to even consider switching into teaching,” he says. “For students who are like I was – and are unsure what they would do in university… I tell them a trade is the way to go.”
General Studies student
Kip finished in fourth place in this year’s Vancouver Marathon, crossing the finish line in 2:25:29. When Kip was running for the Kodiaks, he won every race he ran his first year at the college – including those at the provincial and national levels.
Engineering Design and Drafting Technology
Wayne is the owner of eSkape Drafting and Creative Services, which provides mechanical drafting services and specializes in 3D modelling using SolidWorks software to create prototypes or final manufacturing drawings.
Lowa received this year’s Chief David Crowchild Memorial Award from the City of Calgary’s Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee. The award is presented each year to honour demonstrated leadership in building relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities in Calgary; displaying a commitment to building bridges between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities; supporting and encouraging effective engagement and activities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities; and creating and supporting positive changes in their community. Lowa currently works as a manager of Indigenous Services at MNP LLP and is the recent co-founder of The Path Forward. This innovative firm is a 100 per cent Indigenous women-owned entity offering corporate education on reconciliation and Indigenous intercultural competency through a variety of courses, events, and expert consultations.