Sawyer Thor-Larsen was having a stressful week, unsure of the finances that would allow her to transfer colleges, when she received one of those emails that completely changed her day and put a new spin on her school year.
Thor-Larsen learned she was one of about 100 recipients of a $5,000 Transfer Scholarship from the Irving K. Barber B.C. Scholarship Society. She didn’t realize at the time that the honour would prove to be much more than a just financial reward.
The Society offers transfer scholarships to students who have completed one year or more at a public post-secondary institution in BC and are transferring to another degree-granting institution to complete their studies. Thor-Larsen completed a Business Administration Diploma and a year of general studies at Selkirk College before transferring to Okanagan College’s School of Business in September.
The $5,000 awards are granted on the basis of academic merit and involvement in their school or community. In addition to her good grades, Thor-Larsen was also actively involved in her community and volunteered for the Castlegar Minor Soccer Association, Relay for Life and Selkirk College.
“With the scholarship I don’t have to take out a student loan; it took off a lot of the financial burden,” says Thor-Larsen. The scholarship funds also allowed her the financial freedom to take a research assistant position for Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism over the summer.
“It was really nice to be able to do something I enjoyed and not have to worry about money for school,” explains Thor-Larsen. The position challenged her to step beyond her comfort zone and talk to business owners in the community, a skill she has already been applying in her classes at the College. “I’m more comfortable actively participating in class discussions and less nervous in presentations.”
Thor-Larsen completed her non-business electives before transferring to Okanagan College, allowing her the freedom to explore a greater range of courses than were available to her in Castlegar. Okanagan College’s Human Resources Management courses have piqued her interest and she is now considering declaring it as her degree specialization and pursuing workforce experience in the industry.
The Irving K. Barber B.C. Scholarship Society was developed in 2004 to help students obtain degrees while studying closer to home longer and at less cost. The Society’s namesake, Irving K. Barber, was a prominent entrepreneur in B.C.’s forestry industry. Known as an advocate of public education, Barber credited his own successes to a second chance he was given to pursue education and receive a post-secondary degree.
The Society continues to champion that legacy and has awarded over $13 million in awards and scholarships to thousands of B.C. students since 2006. In addition to transfer scholarships, international scholarships and aboriginal awards are given annually.
Thor-Larsen first heard about the scholarship opportunity from her older sister, Samantha, who was also a recipient of an Irving K. Barber Transfer Scholarship. Their mother encouraged Sawyer to apply after her sister’s positive experience. Samantha graduated from Okanagan College’s School of Business in Jan. 2014 with a Bachelor of Business Administration, specializing in marketing.
“Okanagan College students have often received transfer scholarships and moved on to other degree-granting post secondary institutions,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton, who is also a Director of the Irving K. Barber B.C. Scholarship Society. “That is still the case, but it is great when we see students like Samantha and Sawyer come to us from other B.C. institutions to complete their education. I know that is what Ike Barber was hoping to support when he set up this scholarship.”
Thor-Larsen has been enjoying the switch to Okanagan College and the perks of living in a larger city centre haven’t compromised a sense of community at school. “I like that the teachers actually care about what you are doing. My favourite thing is they know you by name.”
Thor-Larsen will graduate in Dec. 2017 with a Bachelor of Business Administration and plans to go on to law school.
She admits that the scholarship application can be intimidating, but encourages other eligible students to apply.
“Definitely do it,” she says. “It looks like a lot of work, but it is worth it.”
The Irving K. Barber BC Scholarship Society also awarded transfer scholarships to Okanagan College students Duncan Gordon MacGregor, Teresa Oyer, Kelsi Layne Taron, Adia Van Buren, and Alisha Wozny. These six students transferred to complete their degrees at the University of British Columbia.
Click here for more information on Irving K. Barber scholarship and 2016 recipients.
The next deadline for scholarship applicants is early 2017.