After a decade spent trying to climb the career ladder in British Columbia’s wine industry, Stephanie Van Dyk realized that not having a university degree was keeping her from becoming a head winemaker at a larger winery.
“I had a working knowledge of how to do things in the winery, and experience making wine,” Van Dyk said recently, “but I wanted to understand the ‘why’ behind the actions we take.”
After considering her options, the reputation of Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute led her to apply to its Oenology and Viticulture (OEVI) degree program.
It was not an easy decision. Upgrading her assistant winemaker certificate from Okanagan University College meant uprooting her husband and two children and moving across the country to make a new home in St. Catharines.
But now, two years later, it’s all paying off. Van Dyk is close to completing her OEVI degree, and was recently named the winner of the prestigious 2016 Ontario Hostelry Institute (OHI) Oenology and Viticulture Award.
The OHI, an organization dedicated to recognizing top Ontario hospitality industry achievers, selects the recipient of this $3,500 scholarship based on academic excellence as well as the student’s achievements and experiences outside the classroom.
“This award is reinforcement that the decision I made to move my family was the right one,” Van Dyk said. “It also justifies the time spent away from them working on this degree.”
Now in her final year of the OEVI program, Van Dyk is working on her undergraduate research thesis, examining the fermentation of red table wines with yeast isolated from local grapes — Brock isolate Saccharomyces bayanus — under the supervision of CCOVI director and researcher Debbie Inglis.
With most of her coursework now complete, Van Dyk realizes the OEVI program’s strong science background is an invaluable asset that will open up future opportunities and address those obstacles on the career ladder.
Van Dyk isn’t sure if she’ll stay in Ontario after graduating next spring or return to B.C., but wherever she ends up, she knows she has the knowledge and confidence needed to leave her mark on the industry.