Partnerships

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

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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.”

Saint Mary's and Yale partner for experiential learning in Northern Ireland

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A group of Saint Mary’s students and professors departs Halifax on Tuesday, heading overseas to share peace education workshops with children in 16 schools in Northern Ireland.

It’s the 14th annual trip to Belfast through the Northern Ireland Conflict Resolution Program, which provides unique experiential learning for students in SMU’s Faculties of Arts, Science and Commerce.

This year for the first time, an undergraduate Yale class studying political science with Dr. Bonnie Weir is collaborating with the SMU students, thanks to technology.

“They’ll have a chance to Skype into what we’re doing in real time,” says Bridget Brownlow, SMU’s Conflict Resolution Advisor and President of Peaceful Schools International.

“Our colleagues at Yale recognize Saint Mary’s as a leader in this type of experiential programming linked to civil conflict in Northern Ireland. Yale is interested in the model we use to engage with schools and communities, and has an interest in replicating our efforts in the promotion of peace education and exploring the various connections we’ve developed with schools, ex-combatants, community leaders and academics over the past 14 years. We anticipate developing a long-term, meaningful partnership.”  

The Yale students will have the chance to share questions beyond the school programming as they join in the SMU team’s discussions with ex-combatants who are now working toward peace.

Brownlow and Weir have been exploring ways to collaborate for some time. Their efforts were enhanced in November, when Brownlow and SMU President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray took part in a symposium at Yale, co-hosted by Queen’s University Belfast. Titled “Twenty Years of Peace: Progress and Possibilities in Northern Ireland,” the conference brought together academics, community leaders, politicians and architects of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, which in 1998 marked a formal end to the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Another twist for this year’s trip to Belfast is the new series of storybooks launched in October by Peaceful Schools International, with support from SMU and SMUSA. Already shared locally with more than 1,000 elementary schoolchildren, the books were written and illustrated by three Halifax junior high students.

The Saint Mary’s students have created interactive workshops based on these books. To date, their efforts have been very well received by local children. One of the books, Animal School, has just been translated into Irish (by Prof. Neil Ó Briain of the Department of Irish Studies at Saint Mary’s) and will be presented to a Bunscoil An Tsleibhe Dhuibh, a long-term Irish medium school. Plans are underway to translate the other two books.

The Saint Mary’s team, including 25 students and four faculty members, will return to Canada on February 25. It’s the most diverse group of students to date, says Brownlow, adding it includes international students from as far away as Bangladesh, Yemen, Nigeria, Brazil, India and Jamaica.

The faculty members involved are conducting research while in Northern Ireland:

  • Dr. David Bourgeois, a Psychology professor, is studying the impact of the Peaceful Schools International program on our own student participants at SMU, as well as initiating research on the motivational profiles of Loyalist Youth involved in the ongoing activities associated with bonfires in Belfast and surrounding areas;

  • Criminology professor Dr. Ashley Carver is conducting research on Republican and Loyalist internees; and

  • Dr. Catherine Loughlin, Associate Dean of Research and Knowledge Mobilization for the Sobey School of Business, is collaborating with Dr. Carver on the role of women internees in Northern Ireland.  

For updates on the initiative, please follow Peaceful Schools International on Twitter at @PeaceatSchool and Facebook at @peacefulschoolsinternational.     

Service Learning adds value for students and our community

Students present their projects to residents during their final visit to Northwood’s Halifax Campus.

Students present their projects to residents during their final visit to Northwood’s Halifax Campus.

There was excitement buzzing in the lounge on the on the top floor of Northwood’s seniors home as residents awaited a presentation from Terry Goldsmith’s CSCI 3428 Software Engineering class.

The students took part in a Service Learning project, which combines course curriculum with community-based experiences. Their task over the fall term was to create inclusive software for residents of the long-term care facility in Halifax.

After speaking with residents and occupational therapists to discover their unique wants and needs, the students worked in groups to come up with concepts such as voice-activated software, messaging apps, and an online calendar for use in the facility. They then made modifications based on feedback from their clients.

“As a professor, and a continuing care assistant, I witnessed something truly amazing when this bright and energetic group of residents worked with my class of 30 software engineering students,” said Goldsmith.

“I saw software engineers taking on the role of continuing care assistant, and residents taking on the role of software engineer. They could learn together, because of the opportunity service learning provided,” he said.

Feedback from residents included suggestions to use voice-activated commands, face recognition capability, and requests for colours that work best for people with vision issues – black and yellow is a popular combination, explained Margaret Szabo, Director of Business Development at Northwood.

“Memos are also a useful feature, easing anxiety for people who have memory issues,” she said, adding that being able to complete any tasks in two clicks or less is also ideal.

“It’s amazing how quickly the students learn to take feedback, reflect, and change; there’s a big difference from when we started in September to the final presentations in November,” said Sarah Bray, Service Learning Placement Coordinator, Student Affairs & Services at Saint Mary’s.

Saint Mary’s students help Northwood resident Trudie Helmke.

Saint Mary’s students help Northwood resident Trudie Helmke.

Northwood resident Trudie Helmke was particularly impressed by the team that built a voice-controlled virtual assistant that they named Ellen.

When asked if she would use one of the apps if it were made available, Helmke said she would.

“I’ve been telling others about Ellen who would love to use it because they don’t want to keep spending money on [other similar products]… I’ve been spreading the word,” she said.

The benefits of service learning, the networking, and the connections with clients can last long after the courses end.

“It becomes real, you have to get out of the classroom and out of your comfort zone,” said Bray.

“These are skills that will serve these students in other classes and in future careers, while encouraging them to reflect on personal values, assumptions, and issues of social responsibility,” she said.

To learn more:

Service Learning opportunities for students
Service Learning Courses
Information for Faculty

 

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

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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.