On June 29, the second cohort of business students graduated from a unique program offered by Saint Mary’s University and Beijing Normal University-Zhuhai (BNUZ).
Clad in academic caps and gowns, a total of 68 Chinese students received dual degrees that day: a Bachelor of Commerce from Saint Mary’s and a Bachelor of Economics from BNUZ. Among them was 2019 Valedictorian Ms. Yushan Xie, who graduated summa cum laude.
Academics and administrators from both universities attended the ceremony to confer the degrees and celebrate the graduates. Prof. Ailan Fu, Vice-President, BNUZ and Dr. Malcolm Butler, Vice President, Academic and Research served as co-presiders of the convocation.
Dr. Harjeet Bhabra, Dean, Sobey School of Business and BNUZ counterpart Prof. Xin Zhong Dean, International Business Faculty presented the graduands, and President Prof. Qingyun Tu and Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray conferred the degrees.
The presidents of both universities addressed their newest alumni, wishing them well and commenting on the successful academic partnership between the two institutions.
“Your graduation today is a further reflection of the blossoming of our (historic, cross-border) partnership,” said President Summerby-Murray in his remarks, speaking from a podium decorated with small Canadian and Chinese flags.
“You are uniquely positioned for global careers. You have experienced the thinking and the scholarship of both East and West as they relate to business and enterprise. And you value the person-to-person relationships, demonstrated here today, that are and will continue to be the foundation of successful cooperation between our countries, China and Canada”.
Many of the graduates plan to begin postgraduate studies in the fall, with 48 receiving offers from offers from universities in China and abroad. Some well-known schools include Columbia University, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Sydney.
A new partnership between Saint Mary's University and Volta, an innovation hub in downtown Halifax, will see the university become the first post-secondary institution to provide its students and faculty direct access to Volta's community of innovators with a dedicated work space onsite.
Saint Mary’s will have a permanent office space at Volta, dubbed the Entrepreneurship Connector, that can house up to 6 people. The space allows SMU's community to build stronger relationships within Halifax's innovation district, while providing access to resources, help create new experiential learning opportunities, and enable Saint Mary’s faculty, researchers and programs to better reach and engage with the community and local businesses.
Volta, now in its sixth year of operation, tripled in size last year to 60,000 square feet. Spanning across three floors of the Maritime Centre, the innovation hub is creating a place for entrepreneurs and innovators to work, learn and connect with each other.
"Universities play an important role in driving innovation in Atlantic Canada, and they help attract the talent the region needs to thrive," said Jesse Rodgers, Volta's CEO. "This partnership will infuse Volta's community with the creativity, enthusiasm and innovative thinking that SMU students exemplify."
“We are passionate about helping our students, and our region succeed,” said Dr. Rob Summerby-Murray, President and Vice-Chancellor. “We know that it is by working together, with like-minded partners, that we will have the most impact and do the most good…where we will drive innovation and entrepreneurial thinking to the benefit of our province, and far beyond.”
“Saint Mary’s University is excited to have a permanent physical space at Volta,” said Michael Sanderson, Director of the Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneurship Centre. “At SMU, we believe entrepreneurship is for everyone, so this space and partnership creates a direct pathway for students, faculty and staff from across all disciplines within the university to engage in entrepreneurship and help grow and support the start-up ecosystem.”
Global relationships key to healthy startup community says new research
A major research project from Saint Mary’s University suggests Atlantic Canadian startup businesses need to look further afield for innovation, information and funding.
A three-year, $210,000 research project exploring the startup community in Atlantic Canada has delivered its final report. The research shows that while the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is highly interconnected, companies can achieve greater benefit by reaching out globally for information on technology and product solutions. By relying more on “weak ties” or relationships outside of the Atlantic region or Canada, the Atlantic entrepreneurial ecosystem can improve innovation and results. The research also suggests firms explore venture capital availability outside of the Atlantic region.
“Our study looked at the “knowledge-seeking behaviours” of startups. We found that the Atlantic region is highly connected. One great opportunity lies in encouraging startups to extend their global reach for product and technology information, taking advantage of “weak ties” such as acquaintances, because this can help develop new innovations,” said Dr. Ellen Farrell. “As it is, the world is beating a path to our door to purchase our Atlantic Canadian equity,” she says, citing examples like the purchase of Atlantic businesses Radian 6 and Go Instant by Salesforce, and Quintiles IMS’s recent acquisition of STI Technologies.
The report points to more work to be done by mature firms to support growing businesses. A call to action in the report offers a long list of suggestions for ways these firms can support startups, including testing prototypes, lending talent or equipment, and providing an entry introduction into an industry network of contacts.
“Saint Mary’s University is dedicated to fostering both the foundational and community-engaged research efforts of our professors. This project of Dr. Farrell and her team is an excellent example of research that supports our community and directly impacts the health of our region’s economy,” says Saint Mary’s University Associate Vice-President Research, Dr. Adam Sarty.
“This applied research has already helped inform start-up founders, policy makers and other members of the ecosystem it describes. Dr. Farrell’s work complements her teaching in entrepreneurship, and is key in building a culture of innovation with an entrepreneurial approach to both business development and general problem solving.”
A team led by Dr. Ellen Farrell, a management professor at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University, conducted the research, which was based on a study Dr. Farrell undertook in 2014. The team was comprised of eleven researchers plus graduate and undergraduate students from six universities across the region. Federal funding to support the project came from ACOA’s Atlantic Policy Research Initiative.