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Selkirk College Distinguished Alumni Frances Swan Illustrates Outcomes

Bob Hall
By Bob Hall
May 24th, 2024

Humble and determined steps towards creating stronger rural communities that ultimately result in great leaps forward define the impact made by Selkirk College’s 2024 Distinguished Alumni recipient Frances Swan.

A graduate of the Forest Technology Program with the Class of 1991, Swan is a lifelong learner who has made numerous contributions to responsible resource management and wildlife protection based out of her home in Nakusp. With three decades worth of energetic involvement in a wide range of projects that go beyond her formal education, Swan epitomizes the college’s values of respect, access, excellence and community.

“Frances is a truly exceptional individual whose commitment, vision and talents have significantly impacted forest stewardship across our province and community building in the West Kootenay,” says Allison Alder, one of the nominators for the 2024 honour.

“Frances is a superlative example of an alumni who continues to make outstanding contributions to our communities. A professional and citizen who embodies care, excellence, respect, access and community in all that she does.”

A Registered Professional Forester, Swan’s current work includes work with the Arrow Lakes Caribou Society on a groundbreaking maternity penning project and consulting with Interfor’s Castlegar Division based out of Nakusp. A resume thick with professional highlights includes more than a decade as operations manager for the Nakusp & Area Community Forest where she was responsible for everything from wildfire risk reduction to silviculture and First Nations relationship building to educational partnerships.

The Distinguished Alumni Award is an annual honour provided by the college’s Board of Governors to recognize exceptional individuals who make a difference. Swan’s addition to an impressive list of outstanding graduates will be part of Convocation 2024 that takes place on the Castlegar Campus on May 30.

From East to West and Everywhere In-Between

Raised amid the East Kootenay mountains on a farm just north of Radium Hot Springs, a career working in the outdoors seemed inevitable. Swan’s father was a Registered Professional Forester starting in the 1960s and instilled values on his children that have lasted a lifetime

“Over many formative summers, my dad would take us out into the bush where we would explore these wild and wonderful places,” says Swan. “That’s where I got my love for being outdoors and ultimately working in the outdoors… I fell into this career honestly.”

After high school, Swan headed to the big city where she entered the University of Calgary looking to become a school teacher. Realizing the timing for post-secondary was not right, she left formal education for almost a decade. While working summers in a number different forest industry capacities and several winters with CMH Heli+Skiing in the Bugaboos, Swan traveled extensively around the world.

A return to post-secondary was spurred by a summer supervisor who was a Selkirk College alumni and encouraged Swan to build on the knowledge and skills she was developing on the job. In 1989, she arrived to the Castlegar Campus in pursuit of formal education.

“The Selkirk College program was a really good first step to build a strong foundation to then move onto my degree,” says Swan. “It was a less traditional trajectory through education, but it worked for me.”

Already possessing more than a decade’s worth of hands-on experience in the industry,
Swan became a leader within her program and at the college where she served a term as
the student representative on the Board of Governors.

“We had such a great cohort and we were very close,” she says. “I still keep in touch with many of them on a regular basis and certainly have run into many during my career. It was a great foundation for building a career and it helped to have such a great group going through it with me.”

Making an Impact on Community

Working in the West Kootenay region for a couple years after graduating from Selkirk College in 1991, Swan moved to Prince George to complete a Bachelor of Science with a Forestry Major at the University of Northern British Columbia. Completing the final semester with a new baby in her arms, Swan and her husband—who is also a Registered Professional Forester—moved to Nakusp in 1997 to work for Interfor.

Swan’s work has made a difference in both her own region and across the province. Her work with the community forest and the caribou society has provided leadership to others who focus on sustainable resource management.

“Frances is a consummate professional who is extremely well regarded by her peers,” says Alder. “She knows how to dig in and make things happen by working as a team with those around her. Frances has inspired and shepherded many young people in forestry and environmental studies, including summer students who became valued co-workers and team members through her guidance.”

Swan’s contributions to community extend well beyond her work in the forest industry. While   balancing the complexities of working mom, Swan has spent countless hoursvolunteering for the Summit Lake Ski Hill, Summit Lake Racers, Nancy Greene Ski Program, School District #10 Parent Advisory Committee, Arrow Lakes Cross Country Ski Club, Community Futures Central Kootenay, Options for Sexual Health and the Nakusp Music Festival.

A proud Selkirk College alumni, Swan encourages those who are entering into careers with new credentials to feel the satisfaction of contributing to strengthening communities.

“Take what you have learned at Selkirk College, it’s a great foundation to a wonderful career in whatever direction you go in,” says the 61-year-old. “It’s really just the beginning of a lifelong journey in learning, so appreciate the opportunity and mentor others who are starting out in their own careers. We want those coming up to make good decisions, so we need to give opportunities to learn, understand and grow.”

Categories: EducationGeneral

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