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'She's been an awesome director'
Denise Bowen inducted into NWT Education Hall of Fame

Emelie Peacock
Northern News Services
Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Denise Bowen has seen the power of education transform people, families and communities.

NNSL photograph

Denise Bowen, left, poses with Education, Culture and Employment Minister Alfred Moses at the Education Hall of Fame ceremony on June 1 at the legislative assembly. Bowen was one of eight inductees this year. - photo courtesy of the Department of Education, Culture and Employment

When she moved to the Northwest Territories to start the first nursing diploma program at Aurora College - Arctic College at the time - the majority of nurses were from the south, with many leaving after only a year or two.

This is something she wanted to see change. Now that the Aurora College nursing program has graduated more than 300 registered nurses, Bowen said about 60 per cent choose to stay in the North.

"With stability, what it does is it bring some positives," she said.

"You have people who have developed a good knowledge base of the community, of the type of people that come to see us. They also then start to do things like volunteer.

They're contributing to life in the city that they're living in, or the town."

After starting up the diploma program, Bowen took on the role as chair of the School of Health and Human Services.

In that role she worked to turn the nursing diploma program into a bachelor of science in nursing degree and helped create social work, community health representative, personal support worker and basic radiology programs.

She also worked to advance education for nurses, including the masters in nursing and a certificate in remote nursing.

On Friday, Bowen was inducted in the NWT Education Hall of Fame alongside Allan McDonald, Annie Felix, Chuck Lirette, Dave Roebuck, Merril Dean, Shane Brewster and Teresa Jaffray.

Many of the teachers Bowen supervised at Aurora College are now heading up health programs at the college.

Sandy Little, senior instructor of social work, said she often hears Bowen's voice echoing in her mind when she mentors her own teachers.

"She's been an awesome director," she said.

"Welcoming us, supporting us, teaching us, sharing nursing resources with us, allowing us the space to grow and really do good social work education."

Wanda Roberts, senior instructor of the personal support worker program, said Bowen was a mentor to her and taught her how to make decisions about students based on compassion and kindness.

"I always think, 'What would Denise say or what would Denise do in this situation?'" she said. "She saw potential in every single student who came through that door."

Bowen said her inspiration comes from the resilience she sees among students facing difficulties and their ability to persevere, graduate and inspire their children and families.

"I see students that are struggling with such heavy burdens and yet they come to school and when they graduate, even now it gets me kind of worked up," she said.

"It's so wonderful to see them graduate and know that it's going to make a difference in their life."

Even with her many successes, Bowen is far from finished. In her new role as executive director of the Registered Nurses Association of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, she is now working to increase the nursing perspective in the governing system.

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