GPRC I&E Challenge Team Profile: Team #1 (Growing the North)

(L-R) Elizabeth Vidrih, Holly Thiessen, and Zachary Grinnell meet to discuss their project for the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Challenge.

GPRC’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Challenge is well underway for the seven students who are competing this year.

In this GPRIN-sponsored challenge, teams of students work collaboratively with a business in the community to tackle a professional project or identify solutions to a challenge faced by the business. The first team of four is working with the Growing the North business conference to develop a promotional video; the second, a team of three, is working with GPRC’s National Bee Diagnostic Centre to improve the design of a piece of diagnostic equipment.

Introducing Team #1: Growing the North Promotional Video

GPRC business administration student Elizabeth Vidrih says participating in the challenge hasn’t just enhanced her learning—it has changed the course of her education.

“The challenge inspired me to switch my major from accounting to management,” Vidrih said. She explained that after exploring her creative side and acting in a leadership role on her team, she realized a management major suited her strengths and interests better than the orderly, numbers-governed world of accounting. “Rules are very important in accounting, but I’ve realized that I don’t like to follow the rules,” she laughed. “This project was a great way for me to dip my toes into that world of management.”

Vidrih is working on a promotional video for Growing the North with three of her classmates from GPRC’s Business Administration program. Vidrih, along with teammates Zachary Grinnell, Holly Thiessen and John Wanotch, first developed an interest in Growing the North when they attended the event last year. All four teammates are looking forward to shedding light on what Vidrih called “an extremely beneficial conference.”

Teams did not have to tackle their challenge alone – they were given access to resources and expertise in the community and the College. Vidrih’s team was able to draw from the wisdom of local filmmaker and business owner Len Morissette, who is the founder of CIA Solutions Inc., and from GPRC video production instructor David McGregor. “We had so much support,” said Vidrih. “When we first started, I was worried our team was going to be thrown to the wolves a little bit, but it didn’t feel like that. It was so helpful to have access to all that material, equipment, and expertise. It was amazing. I think I can speak on behalf of my team when I say to our mentors, thank you!

Teams will have the opportunity to present their challenge solutions in January, when a Challenge winner will be announced.

Learning by Doing: GPRC Instructor Gifts his Students Axolotl Eggs for Study

Learning by Doing: GPRC Instructor Gifts his Students Axolotl Eggs for Study

Besides the students, staff, and faculty who frequent it, GPRC Fairview campus is also home to a group of unusual residents. If you attend this campus, you’ve probably noticed them in fish tanks in the offices and classrooms: tiny, aquatic salamanders known as axolotls, whose unique biological properties make them the perfect subjects of study for animal health students.

Dr. Chris Mizzi, Animal Sciences instructor at GPRC, has been breeding and raising the amphibious creatures as a hobby for around twenty years. He first became interested in the axolotl when his university chemistry instructor introduced him to them. “It kind of started my fascination with amphibians,” Mizzi said. “I’ve been involved with them ever since.”

An axolotl egg rests in a jar of water.

Students in Dr. Mizzi’s classes are always offered the opportunity to care for axolotl eggs during the two- to four-week incubation period. Mizzi notes that the students would probably never otherwise get an opportunity to see the rare creature up close. Axolotls are of special interest to the medical research community for their regenerative properties. “They can regenerate most of their body parts,” explained Mizzi. “If they get a leg cut off, they can regrow it. Eyeballs, parts of their liver – they can even heal their own spinal cord.”

Axolotls are also excellent case studies for embryotic development. “The eggs are so large you can actually see them develop with the naked eye,” said Mizzi, adding that the transparent membrane allows a clear window to the inner workings of the egg. “I’ve seen them change from one cell to two cells to four cells. You can see them form gills and the head and you can just watch everything.” Because most organisms go through a similar process in utero, studying axolotl eggs can teach students a lot about fetal development.

A young axolotl. So cute!

“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen these guys,” said Kaytlin Evans, first year Animal Sciences student. “They started out looking like a tiny little bean. Now they’ve developed gills on the side of their face. Yesterday I noticed them moving.” Evans values the opportunity to work with an axolotl up close: “It’s a great experience to be able to deal with different types of animals, especially amphibians and reptiles. I hope to specialize in exotics, so this was a good learning experience.”

First year animal health student Kaytlin Evans (left) holds submerged axolotl eggs next to classmate Kaylee Shmyruk.