Our History

North Island College and its students have achieved transformational change and growth since it was established in 1975.

The College that started out of a portable trailer in Campbell River and a few converted school buses now has an international reputation for distance education delivery and for integrating Aboriginal perspectives into the curriculum of nursing schools across Canada. Over the past 40 years, more than 155,000 people have taken a course or completed a program at NIC.

From the beginning, NIC’s mandate was to provide post-secondary education across 80,000 km², an area larger than New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island combined.

That geography, and NIC’s drive to provide high-quality, cost-efficient education throughout the region, has fueled our accomplishments, sparked innovation and provided industry access to a locally trained workforce.


• January 2017: NIC received funding from the federal and provincial to transform its Campbell River campus into a more student-focused campus. The work includes new heavy duty, aircraft structures and professional cook facilities, as well as a new library and learning commons and renovations to Timberline Secondary School classrooms, shops and administrative offices.

• February 2017: NIC welcomed almost 1,000 Grade 11 students to its Comox Valley and Port Alberni campuses to explore post-secondary classes and life. NIC student Taylor Parsons was on hand to demonstrate chemistry in Port Alberni.

• March 2017: NIC received funding for health care assistant, aquaculture TV and Film Crew Training programs across the region, with the first class of TV and Film Crew Training students graduating in December 2017.

• April 2017: NIC and the Alberta College of Art + Design (ACAD), (now Alberta University of the Arts (AUArts)) announced a new fine arts degree partnership to provide NIC fine arts students the opportunity to transfer directly from an NIC diploma into Year 3 of a degree at ACAD.

• May 2017: NIC’s Centre for Applied Research, Technology and Innovation (CARTI) announces the return of robotics camps for students, aged 9-12. Almost 290 students from Port Hardy to Ucluelet participated this year, learning vital science, technology, engineering and math skills with the help of Lego robots.

• June 2017: NIC graduates Sara Baxandall and Kelsey Anglin launched a new alumni association to connect NIC graduates from all program areas.

• July 2017: Registration opened for a new Awi’nakola Land Based Learning program at NIC’s regional campus in Port Hardy. The pilot Adult Basic Education program was developed in response to the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, allowing students in the Mount Waddington region to study Kwak’wala while upgrading English and math and learning culture and language from local elders.

• August 2017: The Canadian Nurses Association honoured three NIC nurses (Elder-in-Residence Evelyn Voyageur, alumna Dawn Tisdale and instructor Joanna Fraser) as being among its top 150 nurses in Canada.

• September 2017: NIC Social Services student Megan Lawrence was one of hundreds of NIC students who shared a record $290,000 in scholarships and bursaries distributed by the NIC Foundation this year. The funds include 15 recipients of the Aitken legacy scholarships, who received $2,500 each.

• October 2017: NIC Carpentry students donate a custom-built greenhouse built for the Prime Chophouse and Wine Bar in Courtenay.

• November 2017: NIC launched a first-of-its kind on Vancouver Island McDonald’s to NIC business degree pathway, which provides NIC degree credit to McDonald’s employees who have completed management training courses.

• December 2017: NIC recognized a millennium of service to NIC with its Retirements and Service Awards. The annual awards acknowledge the many staff and faculty who work hard to ensure students succeed each year.


• NIC marks its 40th anniversary, serving more than 155,000 students since opening in 1975.

• January 2016: NIC’s collaboration with 35 First Nations partners has been singled out nationally by Maclean’s magazine. The article, Colleges Agree to be Accountable, featured a photo of K'ómoks First Nation Chief Rob Everson, NIC President John Bowman and First Nations representatives signing the protocol at the K'ómoks Big House.

• February 2016: More than 1,000 high school students from across the North Island took part in interactive classroom experiences to explore their post-secondary options at NIC’s High School Open House events.

• March 2016: NIC students and community members connected with employers from the business, trades, tourism, education, health and government sectors at NIC’s annual career fair.

• April 2016: NIC received funding for additional trades seats in the electrical, plumbing and truck and transport (heavy duty mechanical) apprenticeship programs as part of BC’s Skills for Jobs Blueprint.

• May 2016: Nanwakolas Council presented an $11,000 cheque to NIC to help grow the Tl’axsam Memorial Bursary in support of Aboriginal students studying at NIC.

• June 2016: NIC's Taste fundraising gala was a great success, raising $20,000 in support of NIC programs and the purchase of new classroom equipment that will benefit students for many years to come.

• July 2016: Up to 200 elementary students, aged 9-12, had the opportunity to build, program and operate Lego EV3 robots over the summer across the North Island as the college kicked off a series of Lego robotics camp in Campbell River, the Comox Valley, Port Alberni, Port Hardy and Ucluelet.

• August 2016: Courtenay art exhibit features samples of communication design work and painting by NIC students and alumni as well as a display of NIC’s 25-year old printmaking archives.

• September 2016: A group of eight NIC students were the only representatives from BC to participate in an exclusive video conference with Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

• October 2016: NIC nursing students, elders and faculty shared their experience taking part in NIC’s annual Global Learning Initiative. Each year, NIC Bachelor of Science in Nursing students travel to remote First Nations communities to learn through traditions, culture and relationships.

• November 2016: NIC tourism and hospitality students hosted a Casino Royale themed wine festival, bringing together wineries, craft breweries, distillers and distributers from Vancouver Island and beyond. The college’s Professional Cook students, guided by Chef Xavier Bauby, provided delicious hors d'oevres.

• December 2016: Paramedics and Search and Rescue Technicians from CFB Comox and the BC Ambulance Service simulated a mock disaster at NIC’s Komoux Hall as part of a class project on disaster preparedness and disaster nursing.


• Thirty-five First Nations join NIC in signing a historic Indigenous Education protocol.

• NIC Plan 2020, with a central focus on supporting student experiences and success, is approved by NIC’s Board of Governors.

• NIC's Indigenous and International Foods Project, in partnership with the Kwakiutl Band Awinakola Project and Island Health , concludes with a multicultural community feast at the U'gwamalis Hall in T'saxis.

• Long-time Comox Valley resident Catherine Mary (Mamie) Aitken makes the largest donation in the history of the NIC Foundation. 1.5 million annually will be distributed in the form of student awards and scholarships, meaning 25 NIC students will have their tuition paid each year.

• Dawn Tisdale, Bachelor of Science in Nursing student, is elected president of the Canadian Nursing Student's Association (CNSA), the voice of nearly 30,000 Canadian student nurses. She credits NIC for integrating Indigenous teachings and ways of knowing into its nursing curriculum.


• NIC’s FEED project launches with funding from the JW McConnell Family Foundation and the CVRD to increase local food supplied to public institutions.

• NIC offers Health Care Assistant program on Hornby Island in collaboration with the Hornby and Denman Community Healthcare Society.


• NIC’s fifth President, Mr. John Bowman, joins the College.

• Dr. Stephen Cross joins NIC thanks to NSERC research funding to study sustainable aquaculture.


• NIC offers university partnerships with UVic, Emily Carr, Royal Roads and VIU, giving NIC students more educational options, close to home.

• NIC and VIHA sign Health Education partnership agreement, positioning NIC to be a key provider of speciality health programs.


• Construction of a new Teaching Kitchen at NIC's Port Alberni campus announced, to be completed in July 2012.

• NIC's Remote Web-Based Science Laboratory is awarded a $750,000 grant from Next Generation Learning Challenges, to further develop and replicate the delivery of science education in remote locations around the world.

• NIC opens Trades Training building on the Comox Valley campus.


• in the 2010/2011 academic year, NIC welcomes 100 students from 15 countries.

• NIC launches Alumni Association to continue relationships with students after they leave NIC.

• NIC celebrates the opening of Gathering Places at its Campbell River and Port Alberni campuses.

• Excavators begin preparing the site for the trades training facility at NIC’s Comox Valley campus.


• NIC’s fourth President, Dr. Jan Lindsay, joins the College.


• NIC students approve a $15,000 NISU endowment fund

• NIC President, Dr. Lou Dryden, appointed Honourary Colonel of 19 Wing Comox.


• NIC launches ITA-approved Professional Cook program in response to industry demand.


• Art show features the work of the first 12 graduates of NIC and Emily Carr’s initial partnership.

• NIC launches BC’s first Applied Business degree. The BBA is the first degree established completely by NIC.


• NIC appoints its first Director of Aboriginal Education. Vivian Hermansen is a member of Snuneymuxw first Nation.

• NIC turns 30.

• NIC partners with Emily Carr University of Art & Design to offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.


• NIC’s internationally recognized Remote Web-based Science Labs are developed by Albert Balbon

• NIC’s Aircraft Structures program gets Transport Canada approval


• NIC launches four-year nursing degree. It is the first time students are able to complete a four-year degree on site.


• Albert Balbon and Ron Evans pioneer a remote telescope system for distance astronomy students to explore the universe from home.

• NIC Tourism & Hospitality students welcome 350 guests to NIC’s first Wine Fest, showcasing local industry representatives. The festival is a sell out nearly every year since.

• NIC obtains a T-33 Silver Star jet from the Department of National Defence for use in its aircraft structures program.


• NIC is 25 years old. Its Board of Governors implements Strategic Plan 2000-2003 to enhance the quality of life of the residents and communities of the North Island and Central Coast.


• Dr. Jim Anderson takes his anthropology class to Jordan. They contribute to an archaeological dig which excavates two major sites along the Dead Sea.

• ElderCollege launches in the Comox Valley, inspired and run by volunteers Elizabeth Smith and Betty Emery.


• NIC partners with the Haahuupayuk First Nation to offer the Nuu-chah-nulth language in two dialects to 36 Port Alberni students.


• NIC’s third President, Dr. Lou Dryden, joins the College.

• NIC opens a joint high school/college facility in Campbell River in collaboration with School District 72.


• Jack Shadbolt officially opens NIC’s 7,200 square foot Fine Arts studio in his name.

• NIC Nerds Ski Team takes part in Mount Washington Coca-Cola Classic.


• Richard Krentz’ ‘Pole of Choice’ is raised outside Discovery Hall at the Comox Valley campus.


• New Port Alberni campus opens on Roger Street, amalgamating programs held at Smith Memorial School and high school workshops.


• NIC’s Comox Valley campus opens for classes. At 60,000 square feet, it is one of the largest wood frame construction projects in BC.

• NIC president Dr. Neil Murphy signs an official twinning agreement with Mrs. Chiyoko Koike, Principal of Koike Gakuen College, Ishikari, Japan.


• NIC signs its first collective agreement with CUPE Local 3479, providing comparable wage increases, benefits and provisions found at other BC colleges.

• NIC students vote 92 per cent in favour of creating a united, democratic students’ union; the North Island Student Association (NISA).

• NIC Foundation is incorporated as a non-profit society.


• A 45-foot Mobile Gas Training Trailer provides training throughout BC – in partnership with federal and provincial governments and the BC gas industry.

• NIC’s second president, Dr. Neil Murphy, joins the College.


• BCCAT is established. The BC transfer system makes it easier for NIC students to complete their credentials at institutions throughout BC.

• Dr. Dennis Wing’s contribution to distance education is awarded by the Commonwealth of Learning.


• Faculty and staff raise $800 to $1,000 annually through community donations to support upgrading, university studies, business administration and business office training students in Port Alberni.


• NIC’s Port Alberni campus increases its support staff to four at the Smith Memorial campus. Space is so tight support staff still remember the bruises from bumping into desks, typewriters and computer equipment.


• between 1986 and 1989, more than 30 courses were offered via personal microcomputers. NIC became renowned for its computer instruction methods and a model for institutions in Canada and abroad. Courses were delivered on floppy disks or by mobile training facilities.


• NIC signs an agreement with BCIT allowing NIC students to complete year one of the registered nursing program at NIC.


• NIC courses are offered via television and on videotape at learning centres as well as via satellite and cable on the Knowledge Network.


• NIC wins federal support to teach critical skills needed in the workplace – including the use and programming of computers.


• NIC’s Business Office Training program offers secretarial training with specialized business machines available in NIC learning centres.

• The first NIC welding programs in modular form are offered at the Comox Valley campus. Additional programs run in smaller communities.


• Samarinda II, a 160-foot ex-whaling ship brings NIC to remote coastal communities not accessible by road.


• NIC develops Forest Resource Skills courses in cooperation with three major forest companies.

• A second NIC mobile unit is added to serve the North Island.


• students at NIC’s Alert Bay centre take part in NIC’s first aquaculture program.

• Central Coast School District (SD49) joins NIC and the Bella Coola Centre is born.


• The first NIC mobile learning unit begins service to west coast communities.


• NIC learning centres open in Gold River and Port Hardy.

• Port Alberni School District (SD70) joins NIC, opening in a leased Catholic school facility on 8th street.

• Fall term classes commence in NIC’s first full year of operations.


• BC’s Department of Education approved the establishment of North Island College, serving School Districts 71, 72, 84 and 85. Dr. Dennis Wing is appointed as principal of NIC.