University of the Fraser Valley

50 Remarkable Alumni: Jackie Rea helped forge a path for thousands of degree students

50 Remarkable Alumni: Jackie Rea helped forge a path for thousands of degree students

Of the 50,000 alumni who have graduated from a UFV program since 1974, 17,000 of those have earned a four-year bachelor’s degree. But if it weren’t for a determined group of students and community members who advocated for degree-granting status in 1991, UFV might still be a two-year college. 

Jackie Rea was one of the students who founded a community coalition to support transforming Fraser Valley College into a degree-granting university-college.   

Jackie started at FVC as an upgrading student and then entered the Office Careers program, hoping to build a better life for herself and her son. After earning a certificate, she enrolled in university-transfer classes with the goal of completing a degree at UBC or Simon Fraser, her only options at that time. 

She recognized the challenges she would face leaving the Fraser Valley to complete a bachelor’s degree. What’s more, she knew many other mature students with families were facing the same predicament. For many, a degree would be out of reach. 

“One night, I was reading a bedtime story to my son — Horton Hears a Who, by Dr. Seuss,” she recalls. “The message in that story — that everyone’s voice is important, and working together we can make our voices heard — really struck me.” 

So, in February 1991, Jackie organized a small group of FVC students to found the Community Coalition to Support the UFV Proposal.  They made it their mission to bring degrees to the Fraser Valley.   

It was a frantic time, during which Jackie balanced parenting, studying, and co-leading a community campaign. With email and social media not yet part of a community organizer’s toolkit, Jackie made a lot of phone calls, wrote letters, and held  face-to-face meetings with service clubs, schools, media, and politicians. She also organized student and community rallies, getting people out to make their voices heard.  

“We really shocked the politicians with the support we were able to generate,” Jackie recalls. After six months of hard work, the campaign was successful, and the province announced the creation of the University College of the Fraser Valley on July 5, 1991. 

Jackie Rea received the Governor General’s medal in 1993.

Jackie became one of the first students to enroll in a four-year degree at UCFV, eventually earning a BA in history and English in 1995, when she graduated with a close-knit cohort of 27 other arts degree students.  

She continued her education after UCFV, completing master’s and doctoral degrees from Simon Fraser University. In 2009, Jackie joined the faculty at the University of British Columbia and is now an associate professor in the School of Journalism, Writing, and Media. 

“At UFV I always knew my professors cared about me. They made me feel that I belonged in post-secondary, and that helped me succeed. Now the course I teach most often is one of the few chances that first-year students have to be in a small class, where interactive and engaged learning occurs, just as it did when I was a UFV student.”  

Jackie Rea (far left, middle row) and other BA degree grads at Convocation in 1995.

Dr. Eric Davis, retired Provost and VP Academic, says Jackie deserves a lot of credit. “All that Jackie achieved was possible because of what she first achieved for others: a degree-granting university-college in the Fraser Valley.” 

Jackie is modest about her legacy.

“Access to degree programs was so important for communities far from the urban centre, especially Chilliwack, Agassiz, and Hope. Our success opened up doors that students would have otherwise struggled to open. I’m humbled that I was able to contribute to that success.” 

And her message for those students, especially first-generation ones?

“You belong in post-secondary. Don’t let your doubts or anyone else tell you otherwise.” 

More than 50,000 people have graduated from UFV since 1974. Over the next year, we’ll be introducing you to 50 remarkable alumni.