First class of engineering graduates poised to cross the Convocation stage

After four years of study, the first class of civil and environmental engineering graduates to complete all four years of their education at UNBC are set to receive their Bachelor of Applied Science degrees at the Prince George Convocation ceremony on May 26.

May 24, 2023
Two posed photos at a university campus, side by side with a diagonal line dividing them
Naomi Dugdale and Matthew Doornbos are part of the first class of UNBC engineering students who completed all four years of their education in northern B.C.

For Naomi Dugdale, the creation of the new undergraduate engineering programs at UNBC couldn’t have come at a better time. As a Grade 12 student at Shas Ti Kelly Road Secondary School in 2019, Dugdale had a passion for math, science and problem-solving, which made the new civil engineering program launching at UNBC later that year a perfect fit. 

"I grew up in Prince George and wanted to stay close to home for post-secondary education," she explained. “When the new civil engineering program was introduced, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up."

On Friday, Dugdale will be one of the undergraduate engineering graduates crossing the stage at the Prince George Convocation celebration, becoming the first students to complete all four years of their engineering education in northern B.C.

The new graduates come from both the civil and environmental engineering programs, conducted entirely at UNBC. In addition, there are graduates from the joint environmental engineering program offered by UNBC and the University of British Columbia. The new engineering programs were UNBC’s response to calls from industry groups to create engineering programs in northern British Columbia as a way to attract more engineers to the region. 

Dugdale believes the new programs will help to disperse engineering expertise across the province and open areas of study unique to the region.

"There is so much opportunity for growth here, and we should learn about the environment and the world we are working in," she says. "The program allowed us to take specialized courses, like learning how to build in colder climates, which will be invaluable in our future careers."

Matthew Doornbos will join Dugdale in receiving his Bachelor of Applied Science in Civil Engineering on Friday. Originally from Smithers, Doornbos took a year off education after high school so he could be part of the first class of students in the new program. 

“I wasn't sure if I wanted to work for a year after high school, but once I heard that the civil engineering program would start the following year I decided to wait and I'm glad I did,” he says. “Being in Prince George meant that I could drive home after class on any long weekend and spend time visiting with family and friends.”

Doornbos particularly enjoyed the hands-on projects and work experiences that are integrated into the program. 

“I had the opportunity to work on a road project on Highway 1 near Kamloops, and it was an incredible learning experience to apply my skills on the job,” he says. “I also really enjoyed my capstone project, getting to solve a real-world problem and do some design work for an intersection that I drove through every day during my degree.”

Throughout her time at UNBC, Dugdale cherished the great student-to-faculty ratio that allowed her to get to know her professors and created a personalized experience. 

"The highlights of the program for me were the small class sizes and the innovative teaching approaches employed by the professors,” she says. “We were encouraged to think outside the box and push boundaries, which made our education truly unique."

Dugdale emphasized the significance of the tight-knit community within the engineering program. 

"We all took the same classes together every day, so I came out of this degree knowing every one of my classmates," she said. "Working through problems and studying together was much easier when you have a supportive group of peers who understand your journey."

With their undergraduate degrees completed, both Doornbos and Dugdale are ready for the next phase of their careers. 

Dugdale is taking the summer off engineering to explore some of her other passions including the small business she launched during her studies Baking by Naomi. She will begin her Engineer in Training job with a Prince George-based firm this fall. 

Doornbos is working at Allnorth in Prince George this summer and then will begin an Engineer in Training job with a firm in Vancouver later this year.

“I’ll be working with a company that designs and manages landfills, which will put many of my courses to good use, especially the hydrology courses and the Environmental Impact Assessment course,” he says. 

He’s also looking forward to sharing his experiences with UNBC’s Engineering programs with potential future students. 

 “Now that I’m done, I think it’s very exciting that I will be able to share my experiences with other students interested in engineering,” he says. “I know several students in Grade 12 who are considering the program and I think it’s cool I can offer support and advice.”