Our UBC Learning Exchange team is made up of a talented and experienced group of people committed to building greater ties between the University of British Columbia and Vancouver communities.
For us, learning is a two-way street.
This means we work to bring about new connections and partnerships that lead to new experiences for community members, students, faculty, and staff – learnings we never could have discovered on our own.
Learn more about us through the short biographies in this section. Contact information is also listed if you have specific questions or are interested in learning more about a Learning Exchange program or initiative.
- Angela Towle, Academic Director
- Kathleen Leahy, Director
- Chris Koch, Operations Manager
- Dionne Pelan, Coordinator, Computer and Drop-In Programs
- Suzie O’ Shea, Community Animator
- Spring Gillard, Coordinator, English Conversation Program
- Katie Forman, Student Learning Coordinator
- Eliza Javier, Operations Assistant
Angela Towle – Academic Director
Angela was appointed as the first Academic Director of the Learning Exchange in February 2013. Her role is to serve as the academic champion for the Learning Exchange, taking a lead role in ensuring that it is linked effectively with UBC’s academic mission.
Angela is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine and Senior Scholar in the Centre for Health Education Scholarship in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC. She is also Co-Director of the Division of Health Care Communication in the College of Health Disciplines, which has a focus on patient/client involvement in health care decision-making and in the education of health professionals. Angela was previously the Associate Dean for undergraduate medical education and part of the leadership team that implemented the expansion of the medical school and its distribution province-wide. Angela brings to the team over 25 years experience of university-community engagement at UBC and in the UK.
Kathleen Leahy – Director
Kathleen Leahy is the Director of the UBC Learning Exchange. Having first joined the Learning Exchange team in July 2007, Kathleen brings over 20 years of experience of community development work with children, youth, families and social profit organizations. She is delighted to be playing a leading role in developing community-university engagement initiatives and programs in collaboration with the Learning Exchange staff team and patrons, UBC faculty, students, and staff and community organizations.
Kathleen holds a diploma in Social Sciences, a diploma in Counselling Skills, and has completed three years of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Women’s Studies at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia University. Although her professional involvement in community organizations has provided her with a variety of rich learning experiences, Kathleen has also benefited from her volunteer leadership in the community. These experiences have provided her with a range of non-traditional, experiential knowledge and skills with which to lead the Learning Exchange team.
Chris Koch – Operations Manager
Chris joined the UBC Learning Exchange as Operations Manager in the spring of 2009. He manages the budgets, communications, facilities and administrative processes of this dynamic unit. Previously a student life coordinator with SFU Student Development and an analyst with UBC Student Financial Assistance and Awards, Chris enjoys creating synergies between organizational systems and the people they serve.
Chris holds a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from UBC and is a frequent student of the French and Italian culinary arts programs offered by UBC Continuing Studies.
Dionne Pelan – Coordinator, Computer and Drop-In Programs
Dionne is the Coordinator of the Learning Exchange Computer and Drop-in Programs. She has worked at the Learning Exchange since it opened in the fall of 2000. In addition to overseeing the afternoon Computer Drop-In, Dionne develops and facilitates computer skills training. More recently, she has been training volunteers to lead their peers in learning and enhancing computer skills. Dionne stresses the effectiveness of facilitating learning in a rewarding and fun environment.
Dionne holds a certificate for Native Criminal Justice and is working towards her BC Provincial Instructors Diploma.
Suzie O’ Shea – Community Animator
Suzie O’ Shea
Suzie is the Community Animator at the UBC Learning Exchange. Suzie first joined the team in 2012 as a Program Assistant for the Computer and Drop In program, bringing over ten years’ experience working in the social care and youth-and-community fields. Suzie’s current role at the Learning Exchange supports people to organize and lead all kinds of educational activities. If you have any suggestions and would like to discuss your ideas further, Suzie welcomes you to contact her.
Suzie is proud to be part of an organization that realizes the potential of collaboration between community members, students, faculty and staff.
She holds a Masters of Arts Degree in Youth and Community Studies from Brunel University in London (UK) and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Studies in Social Care from the Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland.
Spring Gillard – Coordinator, English Conversation Program
Spring Gillard is the coordinator of the English Conversation Program. Spring’s role involves developing and delivering innovative programs that support language learning among immigrants/refugees and provide educational opportunities for local Vancouver residents.
Spring’s previous work experience includes leading English conversation classes for students at the University of Quebec in Trois-Rivieres. She has also developed and delivered numerous environmental education programs including a tour-based course in applied sustainability at Simon Fraser University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in French and linguistics from the University of Victoria and a Master of Arts degree in Adult Education from UBC.
Katie Forman – Student Learning Coordinator
As Student Learning Coordinator, Katie supports a variety of UBC students at the Learning Exchange. She facilitates volunteer positions for UBC students and supports students who come to the learning exchange for course-related placements and projects.
Katie has experience working in community and grass-roots organizations, and in University settings. In 2015 she completed a Master of Arts degree in Anthropology at Simon Fraser University and also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and English Literature from UBC. She also loves art, film, and travelling.
What excites Katie most about working at the Learning Exchange is the potential for creating new connections between UBC students and the Downtown Eastside community. Any students who are interested in getting involved with the Learning Exchange should feel free to contact Katie.
Eliza Javier – Operations Assistant
Eliza is the Operations Assistant at the Learning Exchange. She joined the team in 2011 and has a wealth of experience in administration and marketing, including in community organization settings. Her role at the Learning Exchange supports a broad range of administrative, financial and operational activities, and she is thrilled to be part of a team that contributes to and facilitates community-university engagement.
Eliza has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing Management. She has also worked in Manila and Los Angeles, and enjoys forming new ties in every community she is a part of.