Saint Mary’s celebrates business and research excellence at fall convocation

At this fall’s convocation ceremony, Saint Mary’s University celebrates the exceptional business accomplishments of our newest honorary degree recipient along with the recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence in Research.

A mentor for a generation of entrepreneurs, Dr. Rustum Southwell believes in the power of entrepreneurship to build a stronger province. Originally from the island of St. Kitts, Dr. Southwell has called Nova Scotia home for more than four decades. As one of Nova Scotia’s first Black franchise operators, he understands the challenges of starting a business. In those challenges, he saw an opportunity to help others.

“It is a great honour for me to be selected for and offered the degree of Doctor of Civil Law, honoris causa, by Saint Mary’s University,” said Dr. Southwell. “I would not be where I am today without the hard work and collective impact of the Black Business Initiative team. This recognition from Saint Mary’s serves as confirmation and validation that our efforts at the BBI are not going unnoticed and that we are making a difference in the community.”

As the first and founding Chief Executive Officer of the Black Business Initiative (BBI), Dr. Southwell dedicated almost two decades of his life to helping new entrepreneurs.  He has helped develop the entrepreneurial culture we see in Halifax and Nova Scotia today. During this time, he contributed to the creation hundreds of businesses and more than 800 jobs. Dr. Southwell is currently adding even more to his legacy with BBI, in his current role as interim CEO.

“Dr. Southwell is known for his dedication to aspiring entrepreneurs and his business mentorship,” said Saint Mary’s University President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray. “At Saint Mary’s, we share his commitment to fostering an entrepreneurial mindset in Nova Scotia. It is with great pleasure that we present Dr. Southwell with the highest honour that we can bestow, an honorary degree.”

The President’s Award for Excellence in Research will also be awarded at this fall’s convocation. This annual award was established in 1989 and honours outstanding research conducted by a full-time faculty member.

The 2018 recipient of the President’s Award for Excellence in Research is Dr. Renée Hulan, Professor of English Language and Literature.

Dr. Hulan is an internationally recognized expert in Canadian literature and culture. She is a scholar deeply involved in innovative and timely research initiatives related to scholarship on the North or the Arctic. Letters in support of her nominations, submitted by some of the leading scholars working in the field of Canadian Studies in Canada, and researchers working outside Canada, highlighted not only significant accomplishments but also the breadth of expertise and the innovative investigations which cross many disciplinary boundaries.

Dr. David Bourgeois, Associate Professor of Psychology at Saint Mary’s, will the keynote speaker at Saturday’s afternoon convocation. Known for offering students interactive, hands-on learning experiences, and for his commitment to the Saint Mary’s community, Dr. Bourgeois is the 2018 recipient of the Reverend William A. Stewart, S.J., Medal for Excellence in Teaching.

Convocation takes place this Friday, Sept. 28, and Saturday, Sept. 29.

Honorary Degree: Dr. Rustum Southwell

S. I. Rustum Southwell, Doctor of Civil Law, honoris causa
Entrepreneur, Community Builder and Leader, Mentor


A mentor for a generation of entrepreneurs, Dr. Rustum Southwell believes in the power of entrepreneurship to build a stronger province. Originally from the island of St. Kitts, Dr. Southwell has called Nova Scotia home for more than four decades. As one of Nova Scotia’s first Black franchise operators, he understands the challenges of starting a business. In those challenges, he saw an opportunity to help others.

 Honorary degree recipient Dr. Rustum Southwell

Honorary degree recipient Dr. Rustum Southwell

 As the first and founding Chief Executive Officer of the Black Business Initiative (BBI), Dr. Southwell dedicated almost two decades of his life to helping new entrepreneurs. He has helped develop the entrepreneurial culture we see in Halifax and Nova Scotia today. During this time, he contributed to the creation hundreds of businesses and more than 800 jobs. Dr. Southwell is currently adding even more to his legacy with BBI, in his current role as interim CEO.

 The first chair of Hope Blooms, Dr. Southwell has also been co-chair of the African Heritage Month Committee and vice-chair of the Caribbean Association of Nova Scotia. He has worked closely with the Black Cultural Society and was a member of the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children Strategic Planning Workgroup. Dr. Southwell has served on the boards of the United Way of Halifax, the Waterfront Development Corporation, and the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. He is a member of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society Board of Directors and is currently on the Board of Governors of the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) for his second time.  

An experienced and innovative administrator, Dr. Southwell has significant expertise in strategic planning, business and entrepreneurial development and corporate governance. He understands and champions the importance of entrepreneurship in building stronger, more vibrant communities.

Cast your vote for the One World Alumni Awards Gala!

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The award-winning One World Alumni Awards are fast approaching! The gala is presented by TD Insurance and designed to align with the strategic priorities of Saint Mary’s University. Students and alumni of Saint Mary’s are making meaningful impact in their communities, be it on campus or all over the world, which speaks to our strategic priority of value and values, emphasizing the Santamarian values of student leadership, social responsibility, and cultural diversity.

The intentional reinvigoration of our Latin motto, Age Quod Agis, meaning “do what you do” has become a call to action to our entire Santamarian community. The One World Alumni Awards strive to recognize these efforts.

One World Alumni Awards Gala

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Doors: 6:00pm

Gala Reception: 6:30-8:30pm

Purchase Tickets for the 2018 One World Alumni Awards Gala

2018 Student Society Award

Two Saint Mary's student societies, Enactus Saint Mary’s and SMU Habitat for Humanity, have been selected as finalists for the 2018 One World Alumni Award. One of these societies will receive the $7,500 One World Award to support their charitable work throughout the academic year. The runner-up receives $1,000. See below for videos on the two charities nominated this year!



2018 Charity Award

Two charities, Adsum for Women & Children and FEED Nova Scotia, have been selected as finalists for the 2018 One World Alumni Award. One of these organizations will receive the $7,500 One World Award to support their charitable mission. The runner-up receives $1,000. See below for videos on the two charities nominated this year!

To cast your vote for both the Student Society Award and the Charity Award of your choice, visit the One World Alumni Awards page. Voting is open daily until September 28, 2018! The award recipient will be announced at the One World Alumni Awards Gala on October 11, 2018 at Saint Mary's University.  

New "SMU Cafe" launches Monday, Sept. 17

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To help young Canadians prepare for the future of work, RBC Future Launch and Ten Thousand Coffees have partnered to increase access to alumni networking and mentoring for students at seven post-secondary institutions across Canada.

Saint Mary’s is the only Atlantic Canadian school participating in upcoming launch of Ten Thousand Coffees initiative. Ten Thousand Coffees works with more than 200 leading organizations around the world to connect the students and alumni and provide meaningful mentorship and networking opportunities at Saint Mary’s and beyond. Learn more at: www.tenthousandcoffees.com

Phase one of the partnership, which officially starts September 17, will launch at the following post-secondary institutions:

  • George Brown College – Centre for Business

  • McGill University – Desautels Faculty of Management

  • Saint Mary's University – All Faculties

  • University of Calgary – Schulich School of Engineering

  • University of Guelph – College of Business and Economics

  • University of Lethbridge – All Faculties

  • University of Victoria – Gustavson School of Business

  • University of Victoria – Faculty of Social Sciences

  • University of Victoria – Faculty of Engineering

These schools are providing their alumni and students with the opportunity to join their private communities on Ten Thousand Coffees. Alumni and students will get matches to meet for a “coffee” based on career goals, skills and interests. Whether it’s career advice, job shadowing, or a mentoring chat - participants can get matched based on what interests them most. Students and alumni will be matched based on their career goals and will be provided with simple, step-by-step instructions on how to network effectively.

In addition, Ten Thousand Coffees provides LinkedIn certificates to help participants in their job search and support them during professional development discussion. Students can also include their participation in the program to their co-curricular record, which when combined with their academic transcript, complements their resume and helps youth articulate their skills to potential employers.

We hope that many of our alumni, faculty and staff will be among the first to join this exciting new networking initiative

Questions? Contact Chantal Caissie, Alumni Officer, at chantal.caissie@smu.ca

Saint Mary’s students make their first venture capital investment in international travel start-up

Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund, a student-raised and led venture capital fund, is making its first investment, $15,000 to travel start-up Trip Ninja.

Trip Ninja is a travel-planning software for use by online travel retailers such as Expedia or Priceline. When retail customers are booking plane trips to several different places, Trip Ninja helps online travel retailers find the best price. This multi-destination platform finds the best way to book the trip, whether travellers are flexible in their route or if they need to visit destinations in a particular order.

“It has been great working with Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund, and seeing the confidence they have in our product,” said Trip Ninja Co-Founder, Andres Collart. “Saint Mary’s has helped us through reviewing aspects of our business with their MBA students who have a firm grasp on entrepreneurship and innovation. It’s been great working with an organization who is committed to helping start-ups and entrepreneurs have success.” 

The Saint Mary’s University Venture Grade Fund is a student-raised and run venture capital fund and the first student-raised venture capital investment fund in Canada in which the students raise the capital. Their fund is operating at about $200,000 currently.

The team seems to have chosen well as the fledgling travel tech company has attracted notable local, national and international investors, including East Valley Ventures, Innovacorp and other investors experienced in the travel industry. Innovacorp is also a supporter of Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund’s assessment of Trip Ninja, and provided Venture Grade with half the capital required for their investment.

The team’s faculty advisor and mentor is venture capital expert and SMU professor, Dr. Ellen Farrell.

“This is a win-win-win situation,” said Farrell. “Venture Grade’s donors and partners like Innovacorp get to offer students an unparalleled experiential education experience, the students get the benefit of raising the capital and conducting due diligence, and the start-up spends the investment thus supporting their business.”

Should the company experience a successful exit, meaning if they are purchased for a large sum, the investors, including Venture Grade, will receive a payout scaled to the purchase. Any returns made on Venture Grade’s investments are returned to Venture Grade, the student fund.

The fund was started by students of Dr. Ellen Farrell at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University in fall 2016, with a connection to Silicon Valley’s C100 group, Boston’s Canadian Entrepreneurs in New England, and initial support from Innovacorp. It has expanded to include members at other Atlantic universities including Acadia University, Dalhousie University, and Memorial University.

“Sobey School of Business and Saint Mary’s University are proud to offer students the opportunity to experience the risks and rewards of investing,” said Dr. Harjeet Bhabra, dean of the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University.

“With the School’s strengths in finance and entrepreneurship, the Venture Grade Fund could only have been created here. We’re proud to continue making an impact on our region and on the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”