Nicole L. Vaugeois was born in Alberta and spent most of her youth on a mixed family farm near Wildwood. She was born with a passionate love of critters and was fortunate to be raised with horses, dogs, cats, cattle, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits and even hamsters. She learned at an early age to take on responsibility, work hard and care for others. The lessons learned on the farm have permeated the rest of her life and she continues to farm on Vancouver Island. They also inspired her passion for rural areas, western culture and heritage preservation which have influenced her research passions, teaching practices and service roles.
She left the family farm and initially went to college at Red Deer College in 1988 where she did a 2 year diploma in Recreation Administration. She then continued on to the University of Alberta to complete her undergraduate degree with a BA in Recreation and Leisure Studies in 1992. She continued on to do her MA at the World Leisure Centre of Excellence in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands representing Canada in first cohort of the program and with a full scholarship from the Dutch government. Her passion for research started at this time when she completed an internship with the USDA Forest Service in Puerto Rico and when she was involved in State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Planning. Her first independent research involved a 3 year economic impact study of special events in the town of Sylvan Lake, AB. Later in her career, she completed her formal studies by taking her PhD at Michigan State University in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources where she focused on tourism planning in regions experiencing economic transition.
Nicole began her formal career in municipal recreation in two rural regions as a recreation programmer and supervisor with the Evergreen Recreation Council and the County of Lac Ste. Anne. Here, she was responsible for coordinating recreation programs for regions that spanned 300-400 km in distance with relatively few facilities and sparsely populated areas. She later worked in the City of Spruce Grove where at a young age she became the recreation supervisor and was responsible for leading 26 staff to provide services throughout the city as well as urban parks planning.
She transitioned to working in the academic world by teaching a few courses at Red Deer College. Inspired by her mentor Ken Hammer, these early experiences ignited an interest in teaching. She was offered a full time faculty position at Malaspina University-College (now Vancouver Island University) in 1995. In her early years, she helped a small team of close colleagues expand the Department offerings from 2 diploma programs in recreation and tourism to a include a Bachelor of Tourism Management in 2000 and a Master of Arts in Sustainable Leisure Management in 2010. Her early years in the Department were heavily focused on international engagements where she led fieldschools to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala and Malaysia. She taught courses for VIU in China and conducted research in Thailand. She continued offering study tours for students within rural areas of Canada and became convinced of the “power of places” to teach students due to their ability to immerse learners while stimulating multiple senses. Her emphasis on place-based pedagogy influences her teaching and research philosophy and approaches.
In 2008, Nicole was nominated as the BC Regional Innovation Chair in Tourism and Sustainable Rural Development at Vancouver Island University. In this endowed chair position, she had a mandate to support rural and remote regions of BC to develop sustainable tourism by providing applied research, innovative ideas and insights from other destinations. She worked extensively with diverse stakeholders throughout the province and across Canada to ask critical questions, experiment with new models and share best practices to enable communities and the industry to make informed decisions about tourism. After a successful 5 year term, she was successfully renewed as the Chair by the BC Innovation Council and held this position until 2017. Her research contributions were made in sustainability, innovation theory, labour market assessments of tourism and resort communities, amenity based rural development, agritourism, the artisan economy, trail and circle routes, visitor experience, cultural mapping and place based learning strategies. She dedicated herself to mentoring undergraduate and graduate students in her research and her teaching was recognized with a Provost Award of Excellence for Teaching Design and Practice that engaged students in community based learning in 2014.
In 2010, Vancouver Island University formalized a partnership with the World Leisure Organization (WLO) to house a World Leisure Centre of Excellence (WLCE) with a focus on sustainability and innovation at VIU. Nicole was a Co-Director of the Centre from 2010-2017 leading strategic initiatives for the new entity. In these formative years, the WLCE became a recognized leader in the WLO’s Centre’s of Excellence launching a successful graduate degree, developing an innovative visiting scholars program, hosting speakers events and an annual publication of innovative leisure practices.
Nicole transitioned to a leadership role as the Associate Vice-President, Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity at Vancouver Island University in 2017. In this role, she is working to create a culture where students and faculty are encouraged and supported to ask and answer the questions that they are curious about and to share their knowledge within society in ways that create positive change.
In her non work life, Nicole is also a visual artist who works with acrylic paints, pastels and charcoal pencils. She is an active member of the Canadian Federation of Artists and hosts painting workshops in her barn. Inspired by the need for good source photos, she invested in some camera gear and became a hobby photographer that does occasional shoots for friends, family members and the horse community. Her love of horses remains and she has enjoyed many miles of smiles with her own as a competitive trail rider, driving buggy, and jumping. She and her husband run a small farm where they have horses and raise Australian Cattle dogs, free range laying hens, meat chickens. They also have a large organic garden which they share with visitors to their guesthouse.
The shortened version…
Nicole Vaugeois is the Associate Vice-President of Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity at Vancouver Island University and previously held the BC Regional Innovation Chair in Tourism and Sustainable Rural Development from 2008-2017. Nicole also served as the Director for the World Leisure Center of Excellence in Sustainability and Innovation from 2010-17. Nicole has a PhD from Michigan State University, a Master of Arts from the World Leisure Center of Excellence at CHN, the Netherlands, and a BA from the University of Alberta. Her research contributions have been centered on understanding sustainable development, innovation theory, tourism labour markets, rural, amenity and place-based development, agri-tourism and the artisan economy. She has successfully experimented with innovative research models to measure and describe visitor experiences and to identify and profile cultural assets using cultural mapping. Nicole has been involved in organizing and hosting numerous conferences including the Canadian Congress on Leisure Research (2005), the BC Rural Tourism Conference (2010-11), Sustainable Indigenous Tourism Conference (2017) and a Cultural Mapping Symposium (2016). Nicole is currently a Director on the Board of the Travel and Tourism Research Association (Canadian Chapter), Innovation Island, and the BC Rural Network. She has held past Board positions on Tourism Vancouver Island, the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation and the Tourism Leadership Committee for the City of Nanaimo.