VIU Automotive Grad Awarded Lt. Governor's Silver Medal Amidst Family Challenges

Ines Alvarado checks out a vehicle’s computer diagnostics in the VIU Automotive program shop.

July 7, 2015 - 9:45am

Ines Alvarado has a vision of one day owning her own automotive shop, where she can employ skills she’s developed in Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) Automotive Service Technician and Management programs.

Alvarado’s positive outlook along with her relentless curiosity, work ethic, and attention to detail are all characteristics observed in the Automotive program graduate, her instructors say. These qualities have also earned the 33-year-old mother of five the Lieutenant Governor or British Columbia’s Silver Medal, awarded June 19 at VIU’s convocation ceremonies for graduates in Trades and Applied Technology programs.

Alvarado has spent the past decade in a career with her Nanoose First Nation, where she worked her way up from secretary to financial controller. With vacation time accruing over a number of years, and with her 17-year-old daughter Mary attending classes at VIU to complete her high school education, Alvarado decided to enrol alongside her daughter and use her time off to learn and expand her skill set in the Automotive program.

In keeping with her vision of owning her own business one day, she also completed courses to attain a Certificate in Business Management, awarded to her at VIU’s June 2 convocation, as well as completing the Management Skills for Supervisors Certificate offered through VIU’s Professional Development and Training.

“I had no experience in automotive, I just knew I liked cars,” said Alvarado. “When I came in, I had no idea what the alternator even looked like. I loved the work in the shop, and I liked working on the bigger trucks because there’s more room and you can crawl up there to work on the engine.”

Dean Cadieux, instructor and chair of the Automotive program, said Alvarado excelled academically and worked hard to master the skills in the shop. Her instructors were also impressed with her safety conscious work habits, and awarded her the Department Safety Award.

Alvarado said she wasn’t sure at first how she would fit into her all-male class, particularly in the shop, but soon found an environment where her learning flourished and her many questions were always answered.

“I would keep the instructors after hours with my questions,” she said with a laugh.

While completing two VIU programs was challenging at times for her, Alvarado and her family were simultaneously handling another serious challenge at home. Her 18-month-old son was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a heart condition that arises from improper electrical activity of the heart.

With her husband staying home with the children, and with support from VIU instructors who allowed her time away from classes to deal with her son’s hospitalizations and medical appointments, Alvarado said it was difficult to keep going at times.

“Two weeks ago he had an attack on a Saturday morning and then Sunday night we were in the hospital. Then I got up and came to school on Monday morning, wondering ‘Is my head in the right place, am I going to remember everything I’m hearing today’?”

Alvarado persevered, applying the same meticulous attention to her schoolwork that she’d been applying in her finance role. As mom to Hector, 18 months, Rita, 5, Danté, 11, Gina, 13 and 17-year-old Mary, she’s also no stranger to the need for an organized life.

“You need to be organized, it’s key, and that also helps make a good mechanic.”

Bryan Webber, one of Alvarado’s professors in a core business course, said his student was confident in her abilities, patient, and showed excellent time management in managing her work load between the two programs.

“Ines has set a great example of what’s possible with vision, commitment and hard work.”


Graduation day from the Automotive program, just a few weeks after she’d collected her Business Management certificate, came with a sense of accomplishment, but also with a strong sense the learning had just begun.

She’s signed up to continue classes towards a diploma in Business Management, and, while many would be taking a rest from studies over the summer, she’s already begun a Finance course as well as a course in French in VIU’s summer session.

Alvarado will be joined by her daughter in the French course, and expects they’ll both find it fun and challenging.

“It’ll be interesting, because I know she’ll pick it up faster than I will.”



Media Contact

Shari Bishop Bowes, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P:250.740.6443  C: 250.618.1535 E:

Tags: Student Success

Sign up for our VIU news and experts email