For years, we have been thinking about featuring Tanya Malcolm. We would see the work and change she was bringing to an organization or business which extended to our community, the Valley or the Kooteney region and be like, yes! Let’s talk to her about this! Only then, she would already be shifting to the next thing. From her time volunteering and then working with the Fernie Women’s Resource Centre, to co-creating and hosting the Goddess Rising Women’s Day event for our community. From running the Fernie Craft Fairs, to her position with Wildsight as the Community Engagement Coordinator. From working as the Food Security Coordinator with the Community Connections Society to being instrumental in the Ground Floor Coworking Space in Cranbrook.
When she made her most recent ‘shift’ to her newest role at KAST - the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology, through the GLOWS program, we knew it was time and to get on it! Tanya is a mover and a shaker and we did not want to miss out on the opportunity to learn more about her and this exciting, innovative organization.
Tanya grew up in Oakville, Ontario and moved to Syracuse, New York at ten years old. She came back to Canada for post secondary, attending the University of Ottawa and completed a BA in Environmental Studies. “There were no jobs in that,” she tells me, adding that everyone she went to school with continued on to get their masters. “I was done.” She decided to move to Victoria with a friend who was going to school there, and it was along a road trip that she began her journey to the mountains. “I fell asleep and woke up in Canmore, AB.” They walked around town to see what it was like, and she felt inspired to print resumes and hand them out before heading back out on the road. Tanya was in Jasper, AB when she got the call from Grizzly Paw Brewing Company with a job offer, and it was an easy decision to move to Canmore.
“The next thing you know, I rented a place and my roommate was Dan the Man,” Tanya shares with a smile and warmth that is truly touching. “Dan wanted to pursue woodworking so we moved to the island so he could complete the program. When he was looking for an apprenticeship, I said ‘look for a cabinet shop in the mountains’ and he found River City Woodworks and Willard Ripley. That’s how we got here, and we were married that fall.”
While their kids were young, Tanya worked as a doula and supplemented that with positions in hospitality. “I’m a maternal health advocate, and spent ten years practicing as a doula,” while she did move on, she hinted during our chat that she hopes to direct this passion in the future. “Once a doula, always a doula and I’ve been thinking a lot about how to use it and to be a voice for maternal health care.” She was involved as a volunteer with the Fernie Women’s Resource Centre from nearly the first day they moved to town, it being across the street from their first home. During one tough period, when they didn’t know how to cover rent, she asked the staff at the FWRC for help and they decided to hire her and back pay her for all of the volunteer work she had done. We’re both close to tears as she shared this story, and how it’s such a great example of how generosity and community activism perpetuates. “All of the opportunity that this community has presented to me is through being a connector and wanting to serve.”
It’s clear to Tanya that all of her experiences and jobs were presented by being a connecter. “They just came across my desk,” she says. And as we move through her career path, from each one to the next, it is amazing and inspiring to see this natural flow alongside an obvious drive, work ethic, and willingness to evolve and grow
Tanya is the first to admit she isn’t wellversed in technology. So, why KAST? And how? The organization was interested in moving into the East Kootenays and needed someone to manage a youth program - GLOWS (Growing and Learning Opportunities with Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) for ages five - 19.
“It’s a lot of research, and I’m learning a lot about how grim the future will be for our kids if they don’t step up and learn how to be relevant. The answer is technology,” Tanya tells me. And I just love how diverse and passionate she is. “I’m asking a lot of questions these days, about what is engaging to these demographics and what those aged 16-25 want to learn. There is a risk associated with not skilling up, and we should be demanding it through our schools or encouraging our kids to learn it on their own.”
The events and programming GLOWS provides, including the Robot Week held in June, the Kootenay Contraption Contest currently underway, a series of workshops for girls in grades 10-12 called Quantum Leaps, and the proposed one to three-day summer camp, is exciting. And KAST is working to provide more of a presence in the East Kootenays something we should all be grateful for and take advantage of. Visit kast.com to learn more, you might be surprised by the many opportunities they have for Kootenay businesses.
While Tanya is passionate about the direction her career has taken her, she also recognizes this shift meant some sacrifice. “I had to let go of a lot of community involvement when I started working on my career,” she shares. “There was a time when I sat on five or six boards, now I sit on one.” But don’t be fooled, this woman is still heavily involved. From her continual advocacy to coaching youth basketball to the many, many roles she plays that we didn’t even touch upon in this article… there just wasn’t space! Thank you, Tanya. For keeping our communities ‘moving and shaking.’
1. When did you first arrive in the Valley and what brought you here? May 2007, and I followed my boyfriend, Dan the Man. And he married me, so it worked out.
2. Who did you first meet? Kirk Hampson, he was my next door neighbour and he stuck his hands through the fence to shake my hand, along with his sons Leon and Drew.
3. Do you remember your first general impression of Fernie? I remember, it was a sleepy little town.
4. What keeps you here? Not the cost of living. Good schools, my kids. They love it. And Dan’s got a good job at the City. I like that my kids are growing up here.
5. Do you have a favourite Fernie pastime? Basketball season at FSS! Especially Senior home tournaments. Men’s night is up there too! That’s rec ball on Thursday nights.
6. What time of the year do you love most in Fernie, and why? Autumn, because I got married in autumn in Fernie.
7. Where do you see or hope to see Fernie in five years? I hope that we figure out how to make it more affordable to live here so that young families can stay. And that there is still a diverse demographic of incomes that can call Fernie their home.
8. How do you start your day or what is one of your daily rituals? My workout, then my coffee outside, and then I hit my desk and get my work done.
9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you. I hitchhiked across the country a couple of times, and across the United States a couple of times.
10. Quote to live by: I’m loving the one by Theodore Roosevelt - The Man in the Arena. I’m reading Daring Greatly - if you’re not in the arena.