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 Indigenous 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.

From the highs of opening the expanded Campbell River campus to the uncertainty that the COVID-19 pandemic brought to the globe, 2020 will be remembered as one of the most challenging years the NIC community has faced. However, the year is also marked by the dedication, hard-work and commitment of the faculty, staff and administration in ensuring NIC students have the support they need.

COVID-19 response

Following the declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, NIC student services and supports were rolled out to digitally to support students and keep students up-to-date on the latest information from the Provincial Health Officer and NIC’s responses to keep students safe. Faculty worked around the clock to transition in-person classes online and support students as they wrapped up the winter term.

The transition to digital delivery was challenging, but also showcased how virtual learning can connect us, with online Indigenous language classes bringing together students from across the region and online marine training benefiting students from Yellowknife to Newfoundland.

NIC annual celebrations transitioned to virtual events, including program-specific events like the DIGITAL Design + Development department virtual grad show, and large events including Grad 2020 and Orientation for the Fall term.

NIC also became the first post-secondary institution in BC to announce its delivery plan for the 2020/2021 academic year, which included fully digital and digital/on-campus blended offerings. Full COVID-19 safety plans and Safe Start Guidelines were put in place for all programs which required students to come onto campus.


Along with the shift to increased online learning, NIC continued to work on developing new, responsive programming to serve its communities. New trades programming included two new coastal forestry programs, Metal Fabrication Foundation trades training returning to the Campbell River campus, and the introduction of Motor Sport and Power Equipment and Parts & Warehouse person programs. NIC’s Carpentry Foundation Harmonized certificate was expanded to the Campbell River campus and NIC also announced new Women in Construction Trades training – a series of tuition-free sessions, which will provide an overview of various trades programs and skills taught at NIC.

A new Community Mental Health Worker certificate was announced in Port Hardy and Port Alberni, which will start in February. An evening/weekend offering of the Health Care Assistant program started in November and new specialty training was launched by NIC’s Continuing Education department, including online Craft Brewing and Malting courses, Small Scale Sustainable Farming and Digital Elevation Expertise.

Student supports

Early 2020 saw NIC host its first-ever Thrive Week. Events were held across all NIC campuses to celebrate community, encourage self-care and promote mental health literacy.

Starting in March, NIC student services went virtual to support students learning digitally. Advising and counselling supports moved fully online along with events like the Library & Learning Commons Late Night Against Procrastination. NIC also joined forces with institutions across Vancouver Island for virtual events to support its students. The 2020 North Island Post-Secondary Tour offered new and current students the chance to learn about transfer and pathway opportunities from college to university. The Beyond 2020 – Vancouver Island Career & Connections Fair brought together students, employers, industry partners, alumni and associations to learn about current and future co-op and career opportunities.

In October, NIC celebrated the adoption of the Okanagan Charter: An International Charter for Health Promoting Universities and Colleges. The signing of the charter signifies NIC’s commitment to supporting the mental health and well-being of its students. The recognition took place on the first day of NIC’s Mental Health Week, with a series of events and initiatives to support students’ mental health and well-being.

NIC students will benefit from more than $1.4 million in donations, thanks to three record-setting gifts to the NIC Foundation. The Mailman Family Foundation’s $1 million dollar gift marks the largest donation in NIC Foundation history. A $285,000 legacy gift from Dr. Allan Duncan Pritchard marked the largest legacy gift and $125,000 from Chan Nowasad Boates was the largest corporate cash gift in NIC Foundation history.


2020 was a busy year for NIC research. NIC biology students worked with Project Watershed to collect samples for fish foraging research. NIC’s Centre for Applied Research, Technology and Innovation (CARTI) was featured in a Maclean’s Magazine article which showcased the importance of connections between colleges and the communities they serve. The article featured the kelp research CARTI is doing with the Kwiakah First Nation. CARTI also took part in two seaweed research projects; one on seaweed processing and one on using seaweed as cattle feed.

2020 also marked the completion of the Raising Student Nurses project, which looked at including immersive, in-community learning for first year student nurses. The research of NIC Bachelor of Science in Nursing faculty Joanna Fraser and Dr. Evelyn Voyageur was published in the Canadian Journal of Critical Nursing Discourse and in the book S’TEṈISTOLW̱: Moving Indigenous Education Forward.

• January 2019: NIC kicked off 2019 with expanding its Kwak’wala Indigenous language course to the Campbell River and Comox Valley campuses. NIC also launched online advising booking, so students can easily book an appointment with an advisor to discuss their educational goals.

• February 2019: NIC hosted its annual Open House, with more than 1,000 Grade 11 students coming to its Comox Valley and Port Alberni campuses to explore what NIC has to offer. NIC also announced its Culinary Business Operations diploma and advanced diploma programs, which combine ITA apprenticeship training with front-of-house and business skills.

• March 2019: The NIC Foundation offered a record $534,000 in scholarships and bursaries to NIC students. NIC also continued to expand opportunities for students to go global with their learning, adding an additional 35 new countries to its study abroad options.

• April 2019: NIC was gifted a Kwak’wala name for its campus in Port Hardy. Mixalakwila means “maker of what’s been dreamt about.” NIC also acknowledged the legacy of former NIC President Dr. Lou Dryden through naming the atrium of the Comox Valley Trades Training Centre in his honour.

• May 2019: NIC received provincial funding for Wildfire Crew Training, which ran in Campbell River and Port Alberni, training a new group of firefighters to protect the province through wildfire season.

• June 2019: NIC’s Bachelor of Business Administration program marked a milestone with its 150th graduate since the degree began. NIC also announced the expansion of its Market Gardener training, which launched in Port Alberni in 2019 and will be expanded to the Comox Valley in 2020.

• July 2019: NIC had a busy summer with expanded summer camp programming for kids. The ever-popular Lego Robotics camps expanded to include Level 2 camps and NIC’s science labs were home to a group of ‘mad scientists’ who spent the week exploring chemistry, physics, biology and coding with hands-on experiments.

• August 2019: NIC asked the public to help shape its future years through an online strategic planning survey. Feedback from the community, employees and students will be incorporated into Plan20-25, which will guide NIC’s work for the next five years.

• September 2019: NIC kicked off the academic year and welcomed trades students to their new shops at the expanded Campbell River campus. The $17.6 million renovation included 105,000 square feet of new and renovated space including a new teaching kitchen and bistro, library and bookstore spaces and a new student commons area. NIC also celebrated the grand opening of its new learning space at the former St. Joseph’s General Hospital in Comox. NIC recognized milestones for its ElderCollege partners. Comox Valley ElderCollege celebrated its 20th anniversary with a plaque dedication and donation to the NIC Foundation to support students. Campbell River ElderCollege marked 15 years of lifelong learning.

• October 2019: NIC launched Early Assist, a mental health and wellness program to help connect students to supports and help them succeed. NIC’s Aboriginal Scholars program expanded to all campuses, providing one-on-one support for students as they work toward their academic, spiritual, emotional and/or physical goals.

• November 2019: Port Alberni campus celebrated its 25th anniversary with the opening of a time capsule that was sealed at the grand opening of the Roger Street campus in 1994. NIC culinary alumna and one of Canada’s next star chefs returned to Campbell River with other members of Culinary Team BC for a special dinner as part of their practice for the Culinary Olympics.

• December 2019: NIC announced the return of its tuition-free land-based learning program Awi’nakola, which will run at the Mixalakwila campus, starting in January.

• January 2018: NIC celebrated the opening of its new campus in Port Hardy with an open house that brought together students, faculty and community partners from across the North Island.

• February 2018: NIC welcomed nearly 1,400 Grade 11 students to its Comox Valley and Port Alberni campuses to explore post-secondary life. The month also saw NIC launch a new employment site called Career Central, where employers can post jobs for free. The College also wrapped up its innovative TV and Film Crew Training program, which saw 138 students earn credentials to work in the Island’s growing film industry.

• March 2018: The NIC Foundation offered a record $375,000 in scholarships and bursaries to NIC students.

• April 2018: NIC Elder-in-Residence Dr. Evelyn Voyageur received the 2018 Indspire Award for outstanding career achievement, one of the highest honours within the Indigenous community. She also received an honorary doctorate from Thompson Rivers University, in recognition of her lifelong contribution to health care. Also in April, NIC business student Jessie Gervais became the third NIC student to become a Ch’nook Scholar.

• May 2018: NIC celebrated its partnership with Tla-o-qui-aht Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, Camosun College and VIU in the creation of new energy efficient shipping container homes on the West Coast.

• June 2018: BC Advanced Education minister Melanie Mark toured the Campbell River campus and announced a new Coastal Forestry program. Later that month, NIC hosted several graduation ceremonies.

• July 2018: The BC government announced the expansion of NIC's Early Childhood Care and Education programming, with an accelerated, part-time certificate program starting in January 2019.

• August 2018: Registration opened for two new Indigenous programs and Nuu-chah-nulth language courses, developed in consultation with First Nation communities. NIC developed the programs in response to the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The new Aboriginal Leadership certificate offers First Nations leaders the tools to manage Indigenous organizations across Canada.

• September 2018: NIC kicked off the academic year with Orientation Day at each of its campuses. The project Campbell River welcomed 370 students, including about 45 international students. The campus is home to a $17.6 million expansion and renovation project that will see expanded learning spaces and programs. includes new trades shops, a new teaching kitchen and bistro, a new Library and Learning Commons, as well as renovated spaces for Timberline Secondary students.

• October 2018: NIC announces the launch of a new Aquaculture Technician certificate in winter of 2019 to provide students with technical skills to work with a variety of species in BC’s growing aquaculture industry.

• November 2018: NIC relaunches its Professional Photography program, which will give NIC students the skills, experience and portfolio to kick start their professional careers.

• December 2018: NIC announces it will be able to increase its in-community trades training, thanks to a generous donation from A.B. Edie Equities Inc. owner Allan Edie. Edie donated more than $273,000 in equipment to NIC, including a high-tech welding truck and trailer, which gives the College the ability to bring trades training into remote communities.

• 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 Indigenous 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 Indigenous 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 Ha-ho-payuk School and Ha-ho-payuk Society 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 at the Comox Valley campus.

• 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.

• Dr. Neil Murphy joins the College as NIC's second President, taking over from Dr. Dennis Wing.

• 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.