Student Success

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.”

Two years in a row of podium finishes for Saint Mary's venture capital students

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For the second year in a row, a team of students from the Sobey School of Business took second place in the Venture Capital Investment Competition (New England region), held in Boston.

In early February, the Saint Mary’s students joined teams from Cornell University, Babson College, New York University, Tufts University and Southern Connecticut State University to show their venture capital expertise.

The way the competition works is that two days before the event, teams receive pitch decks from startup companies. The teams are given 38 hours to learn as much as they can about the presenting startups. Then they arrive at the competition, and it begins with the startup pitches. Teams receive 14 minutes of one-on-one time with each startup. Finally, teams have two hours to make an investment decision and submit their recommendations.

Cornell University, narrowly edged Saint Mary’s to take first place. In addition to finishing second place, Saint Mary’s Venture Grade took home the competition's only Entrepreneurs Choice Award, chosen by the startup entrepreneurs.

“The spread between 1st  and 2nd  place was 1.6%,” said Dr. Ellen Farrell, the faculty coach of the Saint Mary’s University Venture Grade Fund. “In the Boston event, there was an entrepreneur looking for $11,000,000 but who wasn’t committed to exiting so the team didn’t feel he met the fund thesis; and another father/son co-founding group offering a new type of incuabator to 3rd world countries that had yet to commercialize.  In picking Language I/0, SMU met the entrepreneur’s elevated valuation expectations with term sheet provisions.  There was a buzz in the room about the team’s defence when they were done.  Brilliant job.”

Competing in the competition were Kory Henn (Entrepreneurship), Emma Scott (Entrepreneurship), Jake Chambers (Entrepreneurship), Maxim Roy (Accounting) and Tahsin Fatin (Finance).

Congratulations on your great showing!

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.