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University of Fraser Valley celebrates connection to community

Awards presented and supporters acknowledged at event on Sept. 14
University of the Fraser Valley held St’elt’elawtexw: A Celebration of Community on Sept. 14 at EcoFarm in Abbotsford. (UFV photo)

The University of the Fraser Valley celebrated its connection to community on Sept. 14 with a special event at Abbotsford’s EcoFarm that welcomed more than 250 friends and partners of the university.

Showcasing community-engaged UFV initiatives and partnerships, St’elt’elawtexw: A Celebration of Community also launched UFV’s immersive St’elt’elawtexw: UFV Community Report, highlighting many projects and programs featured that evening.

Susan Mide Kiss, UFV vice-president of community engagement, saw the inaugural gathering as a heartfelt example of UFV’s community connection.

“Community is woven into the fabric of UFV, and we’re grateful for the meaningful relationships that contribute to our collective impact. For me, it’s that ability to make a difference together that gives rise to this being a true community celebration.”

Some of UFV’s community partners marked the occasion by announcing new initiatives with UFV.

RBC announced a $150,000 investment in UFV’s Food and Agriculture Institute.

Prospera Foundation announced $200,000 of support for the UFV Student Wellness Centre, being provided over two years.

Auguston and its Abbotsford Tech District project pledged $80,000 toward a joint research, engagement, and planning initiative between UFV’s Food and Agriculture Institute and universities in central Canada.

RELATED: UFV launches Food and Agriculture Institute

That research will help inform the design and programming of the Tech District — in particular the cornerstone B.L. Au Centre for Innovation and Food Security, of which UFV will be the core academic partner.

This will help UFV develop innovation capacity in agricultural research and global agricultural technology challenge programs.

Auguston also increased its commitment to directly supporting students by doubling its scholarship contribution to $40,000 for the upcoming academic year, with a focus on Indigenous education, entrepreneurship, and food security.

UFV also presented several awards at the community celebration.

Dr. Eric Gerbrandt (who earned a bachelor of science degree in 2009) received the Distinguished Alumni award, recognizing his leadership in berry research.

Eryn Braley (who graduated with a bachelor of science in 2019), received the Young Distinguished Alumni award, in recognition of her work ensuring Indigenous Peoples are heard within the health care system.

The UFV Alumni Association also recognized student Alec Zinman with the Outstanding Student Leadership award. He and Manjot Benning, who received her award earlier this year, were the first-ever recipients of this award.

UFV also celebrated two community leaders with Betty Urquhart Community Service awards in recognition of their volunteer commitment to their community.

The award for 2023 went to Brigida Crosbie, who provides affordable food programs through her store, Tydel Foods, and Salina Derish, whose activities as part of the diving duo Trash Mermaids keep the Fraser Valley’s waterways healthy.

Longtime partners and supporters were also recognized with commemorative paddles as UFV Ripple Makers.

Envision Financial received a Loyalty paddle for long-time financial support of UFV, as did Darryl and Joanne Plecas.

Coast Capital Savings received both a Loyalty paddle and a Lifetime paddle, in celebration of more than $100,000 of support.

In addition, long-time supporter and Ripple Maker paddle recipient Dr. Malwinder Dhami pledged to establish a new endowment, which will be his 12th student award at UFV.

The celebration invited guests to experience showcases of community partnerships featured in the 2023 Community Report.

The Community Report features stories that celebrate partnerships, reciprocity, and community impact in a co-creative and inclusive way, reinforcing community engagement principles and UFV’s strategic goals.

St’elt’elawtexw: UFV 2023 Community Report is available to read and download at

Abbotsford News Staff

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