Glenna Urbshadt: How this beloved BCIT educator is giving back beyond the classroom and how you can help

A bag of groceries is an ordinary thing. To a young woman in Glenna Urbshadt’s BCIT Professional Sales class, it was an extraordinary act of kindness and faith that helped feed her career success.

“I had a student who was having a very difficult time,” recalls Glenna, a former instructor and program head for BCIT’s Professional Sales program. “She had just broken up with her partner and had no money. She was desolate and she told me on a Friday she wasn’t returning to school on Monday.”

So Glenna went home, opened her kitchen cupboards, and filled a bag with food. Delivering the groceries to her student, she said, “Here’s enough food for the weekend. See you on Monday.”

Her student not only showed up in class the following Monday, she went on to graduate, and launch a successful career in sales.

“For Glenna, it was all about what she could do to help her students,” says Joe Freeburn, a BCIT faculty and a close colleague of Glenna’s. “She always went above and beyond—not out of ambition to move up the ranks herself, but out of a true passion for helping students.”

Life-shaping early experiences

Growing up on a farm in Salmon Arm, Glenna remembers money was scarce. When she became a post-secondary student studying to earn a business degree, she recalls receiving invaluable support.

“I wouldn’t have got through it without the people who helped me,” Glenna says. “Financial aid and some good mentors along the way made a tremendous difference.” For many students, receiving financial aid (bursaries or scholarships) could mean the difference between completing your education and dropping out.

After graduation, she established a successful sales career with high-profile companies before temporarily joining BCIT to teach a part-time sales course in 1985. Three months became 27 years, and this temporary teacher became a long-time instructor of Professional Sales and later the program head of Professional Sales in the Marketing Management department.

Glenna’s early experience as a child growing up and as a student struggling to make ends meet helped shape her teaching style, which was marked by caring and pragmatism all at once. Teaching was her job and she did it exceedingly well—but, in true Glenna form, she wanted to do even more.

Giving back

In 2005, and with the help of BCIT Foundation, Glenna established an endowment to fund an annual graduating award for a deserving marketing student (Professional Sales option). To date, this endowment has enabled the distribution of 13 scholarships.

Adrienne Adams (pictured, right, with Glenna) received one of these scholarships.

“Because of the scholarship, I was able to participate in an exchange program to study in Steyr, Austria,” Adrienne recalls. “I realized how much bigger the world is and how many more opportunities there are for me.” Adrienne currently works as an account manager at the Burnaby office for Hilti North America (headquarters in Lichtenstein). When Hilti was recruiting for her position, she says her international experience, made possible by the scholarship, was a key factor in landing her the job with the global company.

Adds Adrienne, “I wouldn’t be where I am without Glenna. She’s given so much to her students and to me. She changed my life.”

Glenna gives back again

This year, Glenna contacted BCIT Foundation to establish a second endowment of $50,000. This endowment will fund a graduating achievement award for a Marketing Management student going into the School of Business’ Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) program the following year and participating in the double degree program in Europe.

Glenna was instrumental in developing the partnership between BCIT and the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria (UASUA) leading to the establishment of the international double degree. A tireless champion for her students’ success, she feels strongly about giving them opportunities to expand their education and maximize their career potential with international experience.

“What is so remarkable about Glenna is that not only did she passionately deliver an education to her students, but she also built a community by demonstrating her commitment to their well-being,” says Jackie Jacob, executive director, BCIT Foundation. “One of the ways she did this was by making a donation to establish her first endowment to support BCIT students and then, just recently, she made another significant donation to establish this second endowment to support students pursuing the Bachelor of Business Administration double degree in Europe. We are so grateful for her commitment to the success of BCIT’s students and their impact on the wider community and beyond.”

The first disbursement from Glenna’s second endowment will take place in June 2019.

A legacy of giving

“The scholarships that an endowment makes possible can often be the tipping point for a student, showing them that their hard work and perseverance were worth it,” says Todd Cullum, a former student of Glenna’s, a BCIT alumnus, and the senior vice president of Leavitt Machinery.

Throughout the years, BCIT has played a key role in helping Leavitt Machinery, which currently employs more than 90 BCIT grads, grow its business across the world.  He says the company’s success could not have been achieved without a strategic people plan (centred on working closely with BCIT’s Business students and programs) that Glenna helped them develop.

“Glenna has spent her life giving more than she takes and what better opportunity for all of us to pay it forward,” emphasizes Todd. “Nothing would make me prouder than to invite the people I know in the industry to contribute to this new endowment. It will have such a great impact on people’s lives and continue her legacy of caring.”

By the time Glenna retired from BCIT in 2017, it is not surprising that she had become one of BCIT’s most loved educators and known as a fierce champion for students in the classroom and alumni on their career path. To this day, Glenna keeps in touch with several hundreds of her former students. Many of them are now in positions to hire, and continue to seek out BCIT grads from the program Glenna helped build.

“As a faculty member, I find it rewarding to give back,” says Glenna. “You can see almost immediate results. When you provide funding or financial assistance for students when they’re in need, they will give back. They are a credit to BCIT. It’s so rewarding when people come back to tell me how well their careers have gone. I had a very small part in that.”

You can help too—BCIT alumni have already begun

When word about Glenna’s endowment got out, a number of BCIT grads (after all, our alumni are never ones to sit back and watch) quickly mobilized to contribute additional gifts.

Be a part of Glenna’s legacy of caring and join those who have already begun giving. Consider contributing to her endowment to help more students succeed and achieve their dreams. There are many ways to give:

  • By online donation. Use our secure donation form (remember to enter “Glenna” in the ‘Additional Information’ box)
  • By phone. Contact BCIT Foundation Executive Director Jackie Jacob at 604.432.8803
  • By mail. Make your cheque payable to “BCIT Foundation” (please write “Glenna” in the memo section) and mail to BCIT Foundation, 3700 Willingdon Avenue, Burnaby, BC V5G 3H2 Canada

If you would like more information or have questions, please email

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