A Stroll Down KPU’s Hall of Fame
Features / May 23, 2016
Studying the habits of highly successful KPU graduates
Last year, Kwantlen Polytechnic University produced 2,990 graduates. At the end of May yet another class of Kwantlen Polytechnic University graduates will leave their institution behind. Some will be entering the workforce for perhaps the first time, others will already be employed in their chosen fields. Many will ultimately prove successful in their pursuits, some will not.
KPU has even launched the careers of a few notable folks throughout the years. By examining the trajectories of their post-KPU lives, perhaps the new graduating class can know what might be waiting for them in this next stage of their lives.
KPU alumna and all around Renaissance woman Andrea Grant, for one, has made a name for herself in the digital and publishing world. She has been based out of New York City and has now relocated to California.
“My passion is mixing creative mediums, and because I always craved an extraordinary life, I took risks,” says Grant.
This intro from an interview with TORO Magazine probably sums it up best: “Andrea Grant is, in no particular order, a poet, comic book creator, spoken word practitioner, fashion editor/journalist, magazine publisher, and businesswoman. I’ve left a few things out, but you get the idea. She’s possessed of what appears to be a somewhat relentless drive to express herself through art, business, and journalism.”
She is the sole proprietor of Copious Amounts Press, a boutique publishing company.
“In 2001, I founded Copious Amounts Press as the business umbrella to support my creative projects in Canada and the United States,” says Grant. “This began with a literary journal called Copious Magazine and expanded to include the Minx graphic novel series, ‘The Pin-Up Poet’, and also the professional digital marketing and freelance writing work that I do for various brands.”
Andrea’s Native American roots have played a major part in her artistry over the years, and inspires some of the elements in her graphic novel series Minx.
“Mythology inspires me. Minx is a graphic novel series that merges the classic superhero motif with traditional Nations mythology, explored through both the conscious and subconscious mediums.”
“I’ve always been intrigued by the fine lines between fantasy, reality, and dreams. Native Americans believe that when we dream our soul is actually traveling to another dimension that’s as valid as this reality. I’ve explored this extensively through a series of mixed media graphic novels that are deeply informed by the cultural heritage of my tribe, the Coast Salish people from Penelakut Island. The Minx stories merge aspects of traditional storytelling with the realities of our contemporary world, unlocking the power of ancient tribal myths and re-contextualizing them into an accessible modern literary format.”
Andrea’s poetry, on the other hand, deals with the complexities of femininity.
“My poetry is a re-invention of classic female stereotypes in a postmodern context, a visually appealing and contextually complex reflection on the cultural perception of women, the evocative exploration of how women view themselves versus how they are viewed by men,” says Grant. “The women in my poems are modern in totality—they drink too much vodka, smoke to calm their nerves, hide behind the armour of black clothing and lingerie. These women are at once lustful and neurotic, they burn cookies and they can’t sleep. They are both predators and victims, empowered by their choices to leave unhappy relationships, but lonely and haunted by the ghosts of old lovers.”
“These revelations are often paired with exquisite, highly stylized images shot in collaboration with top art photographers as part of ‘The Pin-Up Poet’ project, suggesting that a woman wearing garters has a wealth of memories, secrets and love affairs hidden under her veneer of glamour—and the juxtaposition of these components is beautiful and fascinating.”
While at KPU, Grant studied English literature and creative writing, and she credits the teachers she had here for giving her “the confidence to find [her] own voice.”
The range of her projects only seems to grow with every passing year.
“[Currently], I’m working on a memoir called Bleach, adapting the Minx graphic novel series for TV, and a new spoken word poetry album. I’ve recently relocated to California, and have been collaborating with some amazing creative talent on the West Coast.”
When asked about advice for the soon-to-be graduating class of 2016—and in particular, those involved in the arts—Grant says, “Be relentless. The arts is not an easy path . . . but never let anything hold you back if that’s what speaks to your heart.”
Another notable KPU alumnus, Baltej Singh Dhillon, is known for being the first RCMP officer allowed to wear a turban.
“Though I had been successful in all the different requirements for the RCMP, because I wore a turban and had facial hair, which didn’t conform to the uniform at the time, I was offered conditional employment subject to me complying with the uniform policy,” says Dhillon.
“[This] would have required me to remove my turban, cut my hair, and shave my beard. I chose not to do that. I refused the offer of employment, which then caused the issue to be returned back to the RCMP for its own consideration. It was about that time that word got out that there was a fellow with a turban that was applying to the RCMP. As it got out into the public, there was a significant amount of debate and discussion around whether the uniform should be accommodating religious wear and religious garb.”
“The debate largely swirled around this fear into thinking that, by allowing the uniform to be changed and to allow religious garb and religious wear to be included in the uniform, that somehow that would dilute our identity and lessen the symbolism and the iconic status of the uniform. That really was the crux of the debate.”
“There was a sliver of people who surfaced through this debate who I think are appropriately labeled as racists. And labeled as folks that have no interest in growing their knowledge and their understanding and acceptance of anyone that does not fit into their idea of being Canadian. The adversity, for the large part, came from them.”
These types of people threatened Dhillon through editorial comments and commentary through the local and national newspapers, on radio and TV shows, spewing hate wherever they could. That adversity followed Dhillon right through training, up until he got into Quesnel, B.C, where he first served, and it continued there as well.
“I think overtime and through perseverance and support from the RCMP, many of those things were overcome,” says Dhillon. “I’m now 25 years into the force, having done all that I’ve done, and come this far. I think we’ve overcome much of that and we now have many more police officers that wear turbans and are serving.”
“I think we’re becoming much more sophisticated in our understanding of and relating to people that are not traditionally fitting into our own idea of what a Canadian should be and what a Canadian is. Individuals who took a huge risk to come into this country, to start a new life for themselves and their families, they are the true heroes.”
“We must be diverse in our thinking if we are going to be able to overcome and explore new opportunities as a nation,” adds Dhillon.
While at KPU, Baltej studied criminology.
“I have a lot that I owe Kwantlen, as far as helping me establish my career path and entering into law enforcement and the RCMP.”
When asked about advice for the upcoming grad class, Baltej says, “My advice, very simple, is never take anything for granted, work hard at every job that you secure and find yourself at, and build your references as though they are the most important reference that you’ll ever have.
“In this age of information it’s very important that you have a 360 plan to live life in integrity and with dignity.”
One member of the graduating class this year is english/counselling student Calvin Tiu, also known by his Rapper name Kalvonix. Tiu is a rapper, songwriter, and producer who was born with cerebral palsy, but he has never let that stop him from going after his dreams. Now, on the cusp of a major milestone in his life, Tiu shares his thoughts on his time at KPU, and what’s in store for him after convocation.
“[Graduation] feels crazy because KPU is basically my safety net, it’s all I know and it feels weird to [not] be enrolled in any classes,” says Tiu. “But it feels good that I’m entering another chapter of my life.”
At convocation, Tiu will be presented with the George C Woolton award.
“Luckily, I had professors at Kwantlen who were willing to take time out [of] their day to listen to me and my ideas. I got a rap album and essay published for a third-year English course,” says Tiu. “Without the English faculty and Kwantlen supporting me, I wouldn’t have gotten this award. It just shows how supportive and warm the KPU community is and that’s what I really appreciate about Kwantlen. It feels good to be recognized for everything that I’ve done and this award shows me that I’m doing something right and I’m on the right path.”
Tiu’s goal is to be a post-secondary counselor—or rap star, if possible.
“I plan to work on more music. I just put out an album in February called I’m me, Be you. Which is, I would say, my most personal and best work yet. I also have an LP coming out in August, in time for my birthday, called Phonograph Rap, where it basically sounds like rap if it existed in the 1960s. I kind of have this thing right now, this phase I’m going through, where I love Marilyn Monroe movies.”
When asked about advice for his fellow graduating classmates, Tiu says, “I encourage everybody at Kwantlen, and anybody graduating, or [who] has yet to graduate, just to be themselves because that’s all I’ve done. I [didn’t] come into Kwantlen thinking ‘I’m going to do all this amazing stuff.’ It just kind of fell into place because I was being myself and I wasn’t afraid to be different, so I encourage people to do the same.”
Lindsay Civitarese, chairperson of the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Alumni Association, is constantly hoping graduates join up with them.
“We have a variety of affinity partnerships with various merchants in the Lower Mainland and it’s constantly expanding,” says Civitarese.
“Our alumni are welcome to take advantage of those discounts and deals and they vary [from] travel to banking services, and getting your car fixed. Other benefits alumni have are workshops that we offer. We generally try to put on four major events or seminars a year.”
“Networking is really amazing because a lot of the time, especially in the career world, it’s who you know, not what you know,” she says. “The people that you meet can help you along these avenues and lead you to better success.”