2023 BCIT Distinguished Awards highlights: an evening of celebration

With more than 300 guests, BCIT proudly celebrated five recipients of the 2023 BCIT Distinguished Awards at the 18th awards dinner on November 2, 2023.

As leaders in their fields, these remarkable alumni represent the best of BCIT. Their inspiring accomplishments tell a compelling story, not only of their unique path to success, but also of the Institute—who we are, what we do, and the impact that BCIT has here at home and throughout the world. The theme of this year’s event, People Powered, showcased how BCIT people, like this year’s award recipients, are critical to powering the Institute into a new era.

“It’s an honour to gather tonight and celebrate the best of what BCIT is all about — our remarkable students, alumni, and staff,” said BCIT President Dr. Jeff Zabudsky. “BCIT is embedded in the fabric of this province, and because of that, we have so many partners who want to give back to BCIT. I want to thank them here tonight. It’s because of your generosity, we can do what we do.”

The Distinguished Awards was an alumni-studded event—from the award recipients to the event’s Master of Ceremonies Kevin Lim (Broadcast and Media Communications – Radio, 2004) to BCIT Alumni Association President Emil Bosnjak (Marketing Management – Entrepreneurship, 1988) who took to the stage to share congratulations on behalf of the Association, to the many alumni guests in the audience.

2023 BCIT Outstanding Student Leadership Award recipients

The evening’s first award recipients received the Outstanding Student Leadership Award: Samantha Bienias and Barbara James.

Samantha Bienias

Samantha graduated with distinction from the BCIT Diagnostic Medical Sonography program in 2020 and holds a Bachelor of Science from Queen’s University. She was the Student Representative on the DMS Program Advisory Committee, the Winter 2021 Convocation valedictorian, and the student representative at the Health Sciences Centre ground-breaking ceremony. Samantha received the 2022 Early Professional Achievement Award and currently works as a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer and Echocardiographer with Guardian Radiology in Wainright, Alberta.

“I have always been driven by passion, and to me passion and pride are one in the same,” Samantha shared. “BCIT has given me skills in a field that I am passionate about, and the opportunity to serve in a career that brings me pride every day. Even on the hard days. For nearly 60 years BCIT has produced well-trained, passionate, and hardworking graduates and I am proud to be one of them.”

Watch Samantha’s video.

Barbara James

Barbara completed BCIT’s Trades Discovery for Woman program in 2006 and the Carpentry program in 2023. As a trades student, she was a natural leader. Barbara taught high-performance building to students and teachers, participated in instructional videos with Nuxalk youth at BCIT, and was involved in the Building a Greener Future pilot project.  She also become a presenter for high-profile trades events at the Institute. An advocate for Indigenous women and women in trades, Barbara serves as Vice President on the Executive Board of Directors for the BC Tradeswomen Society and volunteers with Build TogetHer and BC Centre for Women in Trades. She is currently using her skills to help the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nation—from which she descends—rebuild its Big House.

“I’m feeling so blessed to be honoured with this award … It’s moments like these, that I feel encouraged to keep breaking down barriers … BCIT not only gave me the skills to build a bridge, hospital, or school, but also the confidence to use my voice,” said Barbara. “I believe it’s important to share my story so we can keep moving forward towards reconciliation.”

Watch Barbara’s video.

2023 BCIT FSA Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient

Dr. Judy Shandler

Judy graduated from the BCIT Information Technology Professional program in 2000. A lifelong learner dedicated to student success, she has also held several roles as an educator. Judy has taught AutoCAD at BCIT, drafting at Vancouver Community College, and computer-aided design at several women’s polytechnic institutions in Mysore, India and Peshawar, Pakistan. She was also a Senior Business Analyst at BCIT’s Information Technology Services department and a Performance Development Systems Coordinator for the FSA Faculty, Specialty Faculty and Tech Staff. Judy has also been a Director on BCIT’s Board of Governors and the Faculty and Staff Association. Today she teaches Flexible Learning courses at BCIT and is an Associate Director with the Faculty and Staff Association.

“I have always strived to make a difference in people’s lives and at the same time challenge myself, which is why I have taken on whatever has come across my path,” shared Judy. “This award affirms that the work and the opportunities that I’ve have taken on in my life and at BCIT have made a difference. Whether that is completing a doctorate, sitting on the Board of Governors, or racing in an international event.”

Watch Judy’s video.

2023 BCIT Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

At the end of the event, two individuals were presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award: Brian Fry and Dr. Candy Ho. 

Brian Fry

Brian graduated from the BCIT Marketing Management program in 1986. He has been a technology entrepreneur and leader for many years. He began his entrepreneurial career selling computers to his fellow classmates while a student at BCIT. After graduating, Brian helped build many tech start-ups in Vancouver, the Kootenays and the Silicon Valley. He and his partner Tim Dufour co-founded RackForce, where they created cloud computing infrastructure and led the company to become Canada’s largest cloud provider and leading builder of advanced data centres. Many of the things that people can do in the cloud today are because of RackForce. They also founded PodTech Innovation Inc. (with Brian Fehr), which designs, builds, and operates advance-edge data centres. With his partner Tim, Brian recently launched a new company Great Plains Ecosystems, which will sequester carbon from biodegradable waste and make it valuable.

“BCIT launched my tech career and put me at the leading edge of participating in multiple major technology advancements,” said Brian, who co-founded RackForce, which developed cloud computing infrastructure that enables many of the things people do in the cloud today. “BCIT was pivotal to my successes.”

Watch Brian’s video.

Want to know more about how you can support student success at BCIT. Learn about student awards.

Dr. Candy Ho

Candy completed the BCIT Leadership Studies program with honours in 2007. An award-winning career development advocate and educator who is advancing the field, she has taken her expertise in career development across Canada and around the world. As an in-demand expert, Candy has been invited to speak at conferences across Canada, the US, Asia, and the UK, and has been interviewed by media outlets including BNN Bloomberg and Global News. She is the Board Chair of CERIC (Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling), a charitable organization that advances education and research in career counselling and career development. Candy also holds master’s and doctoral degrees in Education from Simon Fraser University. She is currently faculty at the University of the Fraser Valley, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and Douglas College and President of Career Connection Consulting.

During her acceptance speech, Candy announced the new David W. K. Ho Endowment in Sustainable Global Impact and Leadership, which she and her husband John have generously established at BCIT. The endowment will enable an annual bursary for students from the Sustainable Business Leadership Advanced Diploma Program or the Graduate Certificate in Global Leadership.

“We all need to learn by doing, and failure is okay … Remember that success is built upon both our trials and triumphs,” said Candy.

Watch Candy’s video.

Congratulations to all our honourees this year!

Nominate a leader for a 2024 BCIT Distinguished Award by January 26. Learn more.

 BCIT gratefully acknowledges the generous support of our Presenting Sponsor for the BCIT Distinguished Awards 2023:

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