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Leading Success at Northwestern Polytechnic

Meet Dr. Harrison Applin.

This August Northwestern Polytechnic (NWP) welcomed Dr. Applin as the new Dean of the School of Health and Education. With an interesting story and an impressive track record, Dr. Applin is wasting no time in nurturing student success.

“We are very pleased to have Dr. Applin leading our School of Health and Education,” said Dr. Vanessa Sheane, Provost and Vice-President Academic. “His experience and passion are unparalleled, and a big part of his approach is focused on work-integrated learning in education and healthcare settings.”


Dr. Applin holds a PhD in Nursing, a Master’s of Education degree in Educational Policy and a Bachelor’s of Science degree. He is also a Registered Nurse and a member of the Fellows of the Canadian Academy of Nursing (FCAN), which is a flagship program celebrating accomplished nurses in Canada.

At 19, Dr. Applin joined the military to work alongside medical assistants. There he was introduced to healthcare systems in Europe. After serving several tours and earning his Bachelor’s degree, Dr. Applin pursued a career as an intensive, coronary care and emergency nurse.

“The whole field of health has intrigued me ever since I was a child,” said Dr. Applin. “There are so many scopes of practice that a person can get involved in, and that curiosity and engagement has led to me to where I am today.”

Embracing the Indigenous Community and Rural Opportunities

Now, with 40 years of experience, Dr. Applin has become an unofficial expert in the art of weaving his passions together with his career.

“I was drawn to NWP because it was a totally different realm for me. I see it as an opportunity to ensure sustainability for Indigenous community health and rural community health in the North, which are top priorities to me,” said Dr. Applin.

As a Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation scholar from Newfoundland and Labrador, Dr. Applin has been diligently working to support his ancestry over the course of his career.

“I consider myself an Indigenous advocate whose legacy is to create and role model opportunities to support and help Indigenous youth succeed in their lives,” said Dr. Applin.

“I’m motivated to make healthcare and education more accessible to help my community, so it will be sustainable long after I’m gone.”

Previously appointed as an Indigenous co-chair for the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) Health Canada and the Canadian Indigenous Nursing Association, Dr. Applin has consistently created new ways for rural, Indigenous and global youth to expand their knowledge and enter the world of healthcare.

“After helping establish a new health lab at Northern Lakes College in Wabasca, it made me think, ‘What else can I do?’,” said Dr. Applin. “Now my goal is to create a system where everyone has affordable access to education, regardless of who they are or where they live.”

Engaging Programming

NWP’s School of Health and Education has multiple diploma, certificate, and collaborative degree programs, which are delivered at both the Grande Prairie and Fairview campuses.

With more programs on the way, Dr. Applin is excited for the future. He especially looks forward to the collaboration between NWP and the new Grande Prairie Regional Hospital.

“NWP has two floors in the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital that include contemporary classrooms, high quality simulation labs and direct access to Alberta Health Services and to STARS Air Ambulance- the synergy provides an amazing learning environment for the nursing students,” said Dr. Applin.

As a hands-on leader, Dr. Applin schedules time to interact with students during their labs to show them that “he has their back” as they pursue a meaningful and rewarding career.

“The curriculum comes to life here. Students can experience their future work environments and immerse themselves in their chosen career path, which I believe will prepare them to be a successful practitioner and community leader once they graduate,” said Dr. Applin.

Education for the Future

Dr. Applin is working to drive innovation locally and bridge the gap between rural and urban education and healthcare.

The polytechnic recently added 72 new seats for aspiring health professionals, making room for additional Nursing, Health Care Aide and Practical Nurse students. In January 2023 NWP’s expanded Early Learning and Childcare programming will also launch. This new winter intake means that even more students can earn an in-demand career qualification with the benefit of in-person, online or part-time study options.

“We need to be proactive in our region and think about the future,” said Dr. Applin. “By providing a high level of education that is affordable and accessible, more local students can receive their certificates, diploma, or degrees and continue their careers in the same area where they grew up.”

Since joining NWP, Dr. Applin’s approach as a Dean has been to promote and encourage authenticity, integrity and fun while learning and engaging.

“Someone believed in me once upon a time, and I want to do the same for our students at NWP,” said Dr. Applin.

Dr. Applin has taught at every level in the field of healthcare and is a firm believer in the power of knowledge and education. In an effort to encourage future learners, he plans to collaborate with local K-12 schools and inspire students to join NWP after graduation.

“Our children are the future of our healthcare and education systems. I want them to know they are the visionaries of change, and I want to be the one to motivate them.”

For more information about NWP’s School of Health and Education visit


Photography submitted.

Photo 1: Dr. Harrison Applin, PHD RN FCAN, Dean of the School of Health and Education

Photo 2: Dr. Harrison Applin helping a student

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