2023 BCIT Distinguished Awards: Honouring five extraordinary leaders

On November 2, 2023, the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) will host the 18th annual Distinguished Awards, honouring a total of five recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award and the Outstanding Student Leadership Award. Through their exceptional leadership and achievements, this year’s honourees reflect the values of BCIT and are an inspiration in their fields.

BCIT Distinguished Alumni Award:

  • Dr. Candy Ho, EdD, CDP (Leadership, 2007) – President, Career Connection Consulting and Career Development Educator and Scholar
  • Brian Fry (Marketing Management, 1986) – Chief Marketing Officer, GPE.earth; Tech Entrepreneur and Industry Evangelist; Strategic Shareholder, Iris Energy

BCIT FSA Distinguished Alumni Award:

BCIT Outstanding Student Leadership Award:

About the Recipients

Dr. Candy Ho portrait
Dr Candy Ho Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

Dr. Candy Ho, EdD, CDP
President, Career Connections Consulting
Career Development Educator and Scholar

Dr. Candy Ho is an internationally acclaimed career development educator and scholar, renowned for her expertise in supporting employers and employees with navigating today’s rapidly changing landscape. Her expertise has been shared globally through keynotes, consulting, and guest lectures. She has been featured in prominent media outlets such as BNN Bloomberg, The Globe and Mail, Financial Post, Canadian Business, and CTV News.

As the President of Career Connections Consulting since 2010, Dr. Ho empowers individuals to achieve success and self-reliance in career exploration, job searching, networking, application and interview preparation. Her facilitation expertise in Clifton Strengths, Fierce Conversations, Job Finding Club, and Personality Dimensions also aids organizations in enhancing team development.

In addition to her consulting work, Dr. Ho serves as the Board Chair of CERIC, a Canadian charitable organization advancing education and research in career counselling and development for the betterment of Canadians’ economic and social wellbeing. She also plays an influential role as an Assistant Professor at the University of the Fraser Valley and an Instructor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and Douglas College’s Career Development Practitioner Program.

Dr. Ho has established herself as a trailblazer in her field. Her research aligning career development principles with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals has gained widespread recognition. In 2022, she received the International Practitioner of the Year at the National Career Development Association Conference, was named the Career Development Practitioner of the Year by the BC Career Development Association, and presented with the Rob Shea Research Award by the Canadian Association of Career Educators and Employers. In 2023, she received the Outstanding Career Development Practitioner of the Year from the Asia Pacific Career Development Association.

She has also worked extensively in university student affairs and gained considerable experience in first-year programs, career and academic advising, student life and engagement, and more. Her doctoral dissertation focused on post-secondary career influencers in student career success.

Dr. Ho holds an Associate Certificate (Honours) in Leadership Studies from BCIT, as well as a BA, MEd, and EdD from Simon Fraser University, making her the first in her family to complete a doctoral program.

Brian Fry portrait
Brian Fry Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

Brian Fry
Chief Marketing Officer, GPE.earth
Tech Entrepreneur and Industry Evangelist
Strategic Shareholder, Iris Energy

In 1983, Brian Fry was an up-and-coming ski racer who had been invited up to Canadian National Alpine Ski Team. He was at a downhill speed race in France to prove he was good enough to join the team when he blew off the icy course. His resulting injuries would not allow him to race again and so began his search for his Plan B.

His Plan B turned out to be Plan BCIT. Mr. Fry started in the Marketing Management program in 1984. He says BCIT opened his mind to the technology and entrepreneurial worlds and he and his partner (now wife) started their first tech company before his second term was over. He embarked on a more-than 35-year career as a tech entrepreneur, launching companies such as RackForce, Canada’s first and largest cloud provider (when sold in 2015), and PodTech, which merged with Iris Energy in 2020 and has become a sustainable Bitcoin mining business that is publicly traded on the Nasdaq.

Mr. Fry has played a key role in building BC’s early tech industry to what it is today. In the ‘90s, he was the Chair of Software BC and Information Technology Association of Canada, BC Chapter (ITAC BC) and helped ITAC BC amalgamate with the Electronic Manufacturer’s Association of British Columbia to become the British Columbia Technology Industry Association (now BC Tech Association), where he served as a founding board member. Since 1997, Mr. Fry has been based in his hometown of Rossland, where he started his next round of tech companies and was also a board member of the Kootenay Association of Sciences and Technology. Today, Brian is the Chief Marketing Officer at GPE.earth.

As an evangelist for and strategic shareholder of Iris Energy, Mr. Fry is excited about the future for rural industrial towns: “These towns with their deep trades skills and big electrical infrastructure are diamonds in the rough waiting to become high-performance computing centres and significant contributors to the future of our smart grid and needs for lots of clean energy. Just add some great entrepreneurs, tech workers, and financial minds and we’re away to the races. Fortunately, we have BCIT to train them all.”

Dr. Judy Shandler portrait
Dr Judy Shandler FSA Distinguished Alumni Award recipient

Dr. Judy Shandler
Faculty, BCIT School of Energy; Retired Senior Business Analyst, BCIT Information Technology Services

With 40 years’ experience in the post-secondary sector, Dr. Judy Shandler exemplifies her passion for lifelong learning. Not only has she held numerous roles as an educator, she is also an avid learner herself, having earned a Doctor of Education – Educational Leadership and Administration from Simon Fraser University.

In 1988, she began working at BCIT as a Part-time Studies (now Flexible Learning) faculty member teaching AutoCAD. At that same time, she was also teaching drafting at Vancouver Community College (VCC). While working at VCC, Dr. Shandler prepared and ran the “Employment and Education Access for Women” program for two years. In the ‘90s, she led the development of and taught computer-aided design at several women’s polytechnic universities in Mysore, India and then in Peshawar, Pakistan.

After earning an Information Technology Professional diploma from BCIT and becoming a proud alumna, Dr. Shandler joined BCIT’s Information Technology Services (ITS) department in 2000 and worked as a Senior Business Analyst in Enterprise Planning until July 2023. Concurrent to working in the ITS department, she spent five years in the role of Performance Development System Coordinator for the FSA Faculty, Specialty Faculty and Tech Staff, working to ensure that staff and faculty are supported through receiving feedback from students, peers, clients, and managers.

Dr. Shandler has been a Director on the BCIT’s Board of Directors and the Faculty Staff Association. Today, Dr. Shandler is back in the classroom teaching Flexible Learning courses at BCIT and is an Associate Director with the Faculty & Staff Association.

“Working in post-secondary has been such a rewarding career,” says Dr. Shandler. “It has allowed me do what I love all while expanding into numerous areas of teaching and the business side of this sector.”

Samantha Bienias portrait
Samantha Bienias Outstanding Student Leadership Award recipient

Samantha Bienias
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer and Echocardiographer, Guardian Radiology

An inspiring leader by example, Samantha Bienias embodies the values of BCIT. Ms. Bienias completed the Diagnostic Medical Sonography (DMS) diploma at BCIT in 2020. She graduated with distinction and represented the graduating class as the Winter 2021 Convocation Valedictorian. Ms. Bienias was the Student Representative on the DMS Program Advisory Committee. She also notably represented students in the School of Health Sciences at the high-profile 2019 Health Sciences Centre ground-breaking ceremony.

Ms. Bienias holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Queen’s University, where she was committed to several department councils and a varsity team. She is also a published author through her undergraduate research on women’s sexual and reproductive health.

For her early passion and commitment to the practice of sonography and echocardiography, Sonography Canada has awarded Ms. Bienias with the 2022 Early Professional Achievement Award. She was most recently employed by Medical Imaging Consultants in Edmonton, Alberta, and Guardian Radiology in Wainwright, Alberta.

Barbara James portrait
Barbara James Outstanding Student Leadership Award recipient

Barbara James / Ancestral name: Ma̲lidzas
Advocate for Women in Trades & Instructor, BCIT School of Construction and the Environment

Barbara James belongs to the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw people of Port Hardy, British Columbia. A Red Seal Carpenter, she currently works for BCIT as a Flexible Learning instructor for the School of Construction and the Environment. Ms. James also works full time for her community in Port Hardy building their Big House.

A passionate advocate for women in the trades, she also volunteers her time with various committees including the BC Tradeswomen Society as Vice President, Build TogetHer as Co-Chair, and the BC Centre for Women in the Trades as Regional Representative. Ms. James is a trustee for The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, local 1907, and a delegate to the Carpenters Regional Council.

Ms. James aspires to become a full-time instructor one day and to continue working within her community so that the trades may become a more welcoming and safer environment for everyone to pursue their passions. She completed BCIT’s Trades Discovery for Women program in 2006 and Carpentry program in 2023. She enjoys hiking with her dog, traveling, and fishing. Gilakas’la

Read about past BCIT Distinguished Awards:

BCIT gratefully acknowledges our 2023 Distinguished Awards sponsors:

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