Media Release

Preparing students for the workforce, supporting entrepreneurship focus of new RBC-SMU partnership


A new partnership between Saint Mary’s University and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) will create new co-operative education positions and expand entrepreneurial coaching, skill building and mentoring for Saint Mary’s students.

On Thursday, Feb.14, 2019, Saint Mary’s University and the RBC Future Launch Program announced the establishment of the RBC Talent Hub at the Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneurship Centre. The partnership is supported by a gift of $695,000 over three years from the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch. The new RBC Talent Hub will encompass four initiatives designed to expand cooperative education and entrepreneurship opportunities for Saint Mary’s students.

“As a national leader in business education, Saint Mary’s has a history of driving entrepreneurship and innovation,” said Saint Mary’s University President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray. “Through this new partnership, we are looking to bridge the gap between the needs of our changing economy and what students are learning. Together with RBC, we can better prepare our students for the workforce and support the growth of Saint Mary’s as a key driver of entrepreneurial culture and success in our region.”

Chris Ronald, RBC Regional President, Atlantic provinces and Saint Mary’s University President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray

Chris Ronald, RBC Regional President, Atlantic provinces and Saint Mary’s University President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray

RBC Future Launch is a 10-year, $500 million commitment to empowering Canadian youth for the jobs of tomorrow. With a focus on networking, skills development, practical work experience and mental wellbeing supports and services, the initiative aims to help break down the barriers facing young people.

“Canada is at a transition point, economically, socially and technologically, and universities play an important role in positioning our country for tomorrow,” said Chris Ronald, RBC Regional President, Atlantic provinces.  “Our country’s future prosperity will depend on our young people and their ability to lead us forward, which is why we are so proud to help bring students high quality experiential learning opportunities through the RBC Talent Hub.”

The RBC Talent Hub Program will consist of:

•      Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) program: rotating, nationally recognized EIRs who will coach and mentor students and help connect local entrepreneur-led businesses with co-operative education opportunities.

•      Entrepreneurial Mindset Success Certificate: multi-level skilled entrepreneurship training workshops for Saint Mary’s students.

•      Student Consultant Team: co-operative education students will run this self-led student consulting practice focused on the needs of entrepreneur-led businesses.

•      Talent Fund: fund student co-op placements in the region and support opportunities for students to grow their own business as part of a co-op term.

Gregg Curwin (BComm’90), the inaugural RBC Entrepreneur in Residence

Gregg Curwin (BComm’90), the inaugural RBC Entrepreneur in Residence

Chris Ronald also announced the inaugural RBC Entrepreneur in Residence.  An innovative alumnus and industry disruptor with decades of business experience, Gregg Curwin (BComm’90) is the director, and former president & CEO, of TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture, a company that has created an indoor farming system to grow fresh plants for food and medicines. In his advisory role as EIR, Curwin will work within Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneurship Centre to coach and mentor students and help to build relationships with regional entrepreneurs.

“I am thrilled to be a part of this partnership between Saint Mary’s and RBC,” said Curwin. “This type of forward-thinking approach is exactly what is needed to prepare students for the demands of the workforce and the opportunities they have before them as business leaders and entrepreneurs. Some of the most important things I learned about being an entrepreneur came from my mentors. Being able to share my knowledge with the next generation, and pay it forward, is an incredibly rewarding experience.”

CLARI creates powerful partnerships between universities and communities


On the surface, implicit bias training for police, tidal energy development and bringing the family pet to the nursing home seem to have little in common.

At Saint Mary’s, they represent successful community-based collaborations for CLARI, the pan-university Change Lab Action Research Initiative, based at the university.

This work was celebrated on Tuesday, January 22 when team members from participating universities and community organizations gathered at the CLARI space on campus.

‘“CLARI connects university professors, experts in their fields, with community groups in need of that expertise for community-based projects,” said Adam Sarty, AVP Research and Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.

“These projects are proof of concept and would not have been possible without the partnerships and funding available through CLARI. The demand is there, and we look forward to the new opportunities for collaborations that 2019 will bring,” he adds.

In addition to the projects mentioned above, CLARI has also supported partnerships to:

See the CLARI progress report for more:

See the CLARI progress report for more:

  • promote cultural food security for newcomers,

  • evaluate an arts-based entrepreneurship program for youth,

  • research barriers faced by people living with disabilities through evidence-based solutions,

  • explore what justice means to those who have experienced gender-based violence, and

  • research ways to improve outcomes for incarcerated people returning to the community.

"CLARI has enabled community needs to be addressed by faculty expertise, a truly novel approach to research in Nova Scotia," said Gayle MacDonald, the associate vice-president, research at Mount Saint Vincent University. "‎Faculty learn the complexity of working with community, community groups learn the precision and patience applied research requires, and in the mix, students are direct participants in the process. As a Change Action Laboratory, CLARI has lived up to its claims. The Mount is proud to be part of this initiative."

The CLARI network spans the province, combining the talents and resources of its six founding partner universities: Acadia University, Cape Breton University, Mount Saint Vincent University, St. Francis Xavier University, Saint Mary’s University, Université Sainte-Anne and the Nova Scotia Community College’s 13 campuses. CLARI partners assist communities in all parts of the province to develop social and economic change projects while providing enhanced learning opportunities for students.

Honorary Degree: Scott Armour McCrea

Scott Armour McCrea, Doctor of Commerce, honoris causa
Community builder, real estate innovator and entrepreneur

Scott Armour McCrea

Scott Armour McCrea

A life-long Haligonian, Mr. McCrea's deep-rooted understanding of the enduring impact of real estate development on communities comes naturally to him. He is the second generation to direct The Armour Group Limited, a family-held company whose roots in Halifax are anchored to the integration of the ownership, construction and management of their properties, which include many of the city's historic and traditional spaces.

As the Chief Executive Officer of The Armour Group Limited, he leads one of Atlantic Canada’s largest fully integrated real estate and investment concerns. An essential part of his work is fostering community development. He wants his grandchildren to be able to see the positive impact that The Armour Group’s real estate developments have had on the region. 

Prior to August 2011, Mr. McCrea was Executive Vice-President of Cominar Real Estate Investment Trust (CUF.UN- TSX) and was the founding CEO of Overland Realty; a TSX-V corporation focused on Atlantic Canadian real estate opportunities. Overland Realty was subsequently acquired by Cominar REIT. Mr. McCrea’s 25 years of experience include the development and management of complex real estate projects in the commercial, residential, hospitality and tourism-related fields. He has successfully negotiated hundreds of millions in debt and equity placements and property acquisitions. His achievements include the development of the RBC Waterside Centre in downtown Halifax and the Queen’s Marque district on the Halifax waterfront, which will represent an almost $200 million private investment in the region with a target completion date in early 2020.

Mr. McCrea has been an active participant on various Boards and non-profit organizations within the community; most recently these have included Mount St. Vincent University, Royal Host Inc. and the Halifax Grammar School as co-chair of the Engaging Excellence Capital Campaign.  His accomplishments have led him to be the recipient of several awards including Canada’s Top 40 under 40, Halifax’s Business Person of the Year (2006), and one of Atlantic Canada’s Top 50 CEOs. Mr. McCrea is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto, where he studied business and economics.

Honorary Degree: Hope Swinimer

Hope Swinimer, Doctor of Science, honoris causa
Wildlife champion, animal advocate and rehabilitator

Hope Swinimer

Hope Swinimer

Born and raised in Argyle, Nova Scotia, Hope Swinimer spent most of her time outdoors as a child enjoying everything the natural world had to offer. She knew that she wanted to work with nature in some capacity, and after missing life by the ocean terribly while attending college in Truro, she knew she needed to stay near the ocean.

While working at Dartmouth Veterinary Hospital as a manager, Ms. Swinimer took in her first rehab animal in 1995—a robin that had been attacked by a cat. Researching how to care for the bird inspired her to learn more about injured wildlife, and as her knowledge grew, colleagues began sending wildlife-related calls her way.

Later that year, she became certified in Basic Wildlife Rehabilitation from the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Association. Ms. Swinimer was offered an opportunity to work as a wildlife rehabilitator in Ontario but couldn’t leave behind the place she called home.

With just a few cages in the backyard and a room in her house as a nursery, Ms. Swinimer rehabbed about 40 animals in her first year. By 1996, word of this grew, and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) determined that a permit was required; however, such a permit did not exist in the province at that time. She worked with DNR to establish a licensing process (using the United States as a model), and in 1997, moved to Winnie’s Way in Seaforth where she received her rehabilitator permit. She considered Seaforth as the perfect place for animal rehabilitation.

The Eastern Shore Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre became the first privately owned wildlife rehabilitation centre in Nova Scotia, taking in about 200 animals per year. The centre was in such demand that it soon outgrew its property again, and in 2001, Ms. Swinimer relocated within Seaforth to “the farm,” which was a larger property that would accommodate the rehab’s immediate needs but also leave room to grow.

Hope for Wildlife now accepts over 4500 wild animals per year, and over 20,000 callers are assisted through its wildlife helpline, thousands of visitors are also welcomed to its facilities for guided tours. In December of 2015, Hope for Wildlife moved into a new custom-built facility, which replaced the more than 100-year-old barn previously in use, and in the summer of 2017, opened their onsite Country Clinic which acts as a fully functioning wildlife hospital. In 2019, Hope for Wildlife will install 109 solar panels onsite to reduce their ecological footprint, lower electricity costs, and help move the farm from fossil fuels to green energy.

Ms. Swinimer and her team share their journey through their globally-syndicated television show that follows them as they nurse thousands of injured and orphaned wildlife back to health and return them to the wild.



Saint Mary’s venture capital students invest in haircut house calls


House calls for haircuts proved to be to be a cut above the competition and too good an investment to pass up for Saint Mary’s University’s Venture Grade Fund. They are investing $15,000 in Cribcut, an online booking service that connects consumers with top hair stylists that bring the salon to them.

“Cribcut has a novel business model that we are proud to support,” said Saint Mary’s student and Venture Grade Associate Emma Scott. “We are confident in David’s lean startup methodology and experience as a serial entrepreneur who’s exited three past ventures and one in Silicon Valley. Cribcut is positioned to be a major disruptor in the beauty industry.

Cribcut was co-founded by serial entrepreneur David Howe, who has built and deployed a software-enabled marketplace for hairstylists. Cribcut's solution helps stylists become travelling hairdressers - providing clients with haircuts, colors, and styles at their homes and offices. Cribcut's software solution helps stylists with bookings, travel optimization, payments and ratings. Cribcut also facilitates new client introductions for stylists. Bookings can be made through their online booking app with on-demand appointments available.

 "We're happy to welcome Venture Grade as one of our investors,” said David Howe, the Chief Executive Officer with Cribcut. “We're confident that this investment will help us continue growth and product development and set us up for further funding over the coming months. We look forward to a mutually beneficial partnership with Venture Grade and welcome them with open arms to our growing team."

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 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.

The fund was started by students of Dr. Ellen Farrell at the Sobey School of Business 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.