VIU graduate encourages students to embrace opportunity

June 4, 2011 - 9:02pm

Lori-Ann Shibish knows how to make the most of a university education.

Nothing short of remarkable describes her accomplishments at Vancouver Island University over the past four years.

Shibish received a Bachelor of Tourism Management degree (major in recreation) at the June 7 convocation ceremony at which she served as class valedictorian. She also received the Governor General Academic Silver Medal for earning the highest marks in a four-year degree program.

Shibish leaves VIU with high credentials, but she also leaves with an amazing range of unforgettable memories and learning experiences.

For example, she lived at a monkey sanctuary in Ghana, West Africa for three months last summer while studying community-based ecotourism. She also helped reduce poverty and improve living conditions in Ghana during a one-month field school as part of VIU’s Canada-Ghana project.

At the end of her first year at VIU, Shibish was one of 80 students selected from all over the world to participate in an international scientific expedition to the Antarctic celebrating International Polar Year.

Other highlights of her VIU experience included travelling with fellow Tourism students to explore rural and coastal B.C. while researching the challenges and innovations faced by tourism operators. Shibish also worked for two weeks at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

“It’s been an incredible journey,” says Shibish. “It took me a while to follow my heart and pursue my university education, but I’m sure glad I did.”

Shibish grew up on a working dairy farm in Alliston, Ontario. She longed to attend university, but no one in her family ever had, and she lacked the financial resources and support to do so.

“I became a farmer and worked as a labourer for many years but was limited in my ability to develop and capitalize on my full potential. My friends realized this and kept asking ‘what's holding you back?’ Eventually I realized the answer was not having a post-secondary education.”

Shibish was attracted to VIU because of its experiential learning opportunities, natural environment overlooking the ocean and coastal mountains, endless recreational possibilities, Nanaimo’s small town charm, and VIU’s reputation for small class sizes and approachable faculty.

Returning to school as a mature-aged student was daunting, says Shibish, but incredibly rewarding. “To those considering coming back to school, I say once you are here, embrace every opportunity that presents itself. Challenge yourself to explore outside of your comfort zone.

“Get involved, whether it is as a peer helper, student union or campus recreation volunteer, school newspaper or CHLY radio contributor, or member of a club or association,” Shibish says. “It doesn't matter what you do, actively involve yourself in the wider school community. It makes the university experience more rich, rewarding, and memorable.”

Throughout her undergraduate experience, Shibish participated in VIU's Campus Recreation Outdoor Recreation programs, including hiking, kayaking, snowshoeing, surfing, white-water rafting, and camping trips with students from many different disciplines and countries. She was also an active volunteer, both at the Nanaimo campus and in the community.

Shibish is currently producing a short documentary for an introduction to VIU's Protected Areas and Poverty Reduction research project, which has research sites in Canada, Ghana, and Tanzania. She is also working on upgrading a website for a rural tourism project, and hopes to start a Masters in Tourism by Research program at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia by February 2012.


Cutline: VIU graduate Lori-Ann Shibish received the Governor General Academic Silver Medal for highest marks in a degree program. Shibish, selected to be valedictorian at VIU’s convocation ceremony June 7, is shown here with VIU President Dr. Ralph Nilson (right) and Tourism professor Dr. Robert Pfister.

Editors Note:

To view VIU’s June 6 and 7 convocation proceedings (recorded for the first time and shown live on the Internet) click on the following link:

Photos can be viewed at:

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