Media Release

Honorary Degree: Lady Sandra Williams

Lady Sandra Williams

Lady Sandra Williams

Her Excellency Lady Sandra Williams BA’86 was born in St. John’s, Antigua on July 15, 1963. She attended nursery school in Antigua before moving to Ottawa, Canada, at the age of three with her family, and later on to Toronto. After returning to Antigua for two years, she then moved to North Wales, United Kingdom and later to Guyana, South America where she completed high school.

Lady Williams enrolled at Saint Mary’s University in 1981, where she pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Department of Modern Languages and English, attaining distinction in her selected double major and minor. She was later awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to pursue a Master of Science Degree in Tourism Management at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom, and earned her postgraduate Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, also in the United Kingdom. She is a full member of the Institute, and over the years has pursued various career-related courses in Japan, Austria, Spain, Germany, France and Barbados.

Lady Williams has held significant senior managerial positions, including Director of Marketing for a regional airline and Director of Tourism in both England and Germany. She is currently the President of the Antigua and Barbuda China Friendship Association. She is also the President and Founder of The Halo Foundation, an umbrella charity established in December 2014 that addresses the needs of 32 charities under the patronage of the Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda.

 Some of the initiatives of the Halo Foundation include:

  • Colours of Charity, an event for the various local charities headlined by HRH Prince Harry on his visit to Antigua in 2017;

  • a two-year anti-bullying campaign currently being executed in six pilot schools;

  • full four-year university scholarships to Saint Mary’s University for students from Antigua and Barbuda who have exhibited acts of kindness or bravery;

  • scholarships to local institutions for children with special needs;

  • the provision of musical instruments to the Youth Symphony Orchestra;

  • part sponsorship of Team Antigua Island Girls’ row across the Atlantic Ocean; and

  • the spearheading of a youth arm of the Halo Foundation, known as Generation Y, which focuses on sensitizing young people to the importance of helping others

In 2018, Lady Williams was given the Faithful and Meritorious Cross for outstanding voluntary service to the nation of Antigua and Barbuda. She is the spouse of the Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda, His Excellency Sir Rodney Williams, and has one son, Brent.

Honorary Degree: Padraig O'Malley

Padraig O’Malley

Padraig O’Malley

Born in Dublin, Ireland, Padraig O’Malley is an award-winning author and expert on democratic transitions and divided societies, with special expertise on Northern Ireland, South Africa, Iraq, Israel and Palestine. O'Malley is the John Joseph Moakley Distinguished Professor of Peace and Reconciliation at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston.

Professor O’Malley has earned a global reputation for breaking deadlocks by bringing together parties in intractable conflicts and opening the way to dialogue. In 2009, O'Malley launched the Forum for Cities in Transition a global forum of divided societies founded on the principle that one divided society is in the best position to help another. In September 2010, he led an intercessional symposium on the Arm Trade Treaty the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, and the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2016, he launched the Global Alliance of Muslim's for Equality (GAME), a movement led by young Muslims across Europe & the United States to redress false perceptions of Islam, counter negative stereotypes, Islamophobia. 

Professor O’Malley was a member of the Opsahl Commission on Northern Ireland (1993), which laid much of the groundwork for peace talks culminating in the Good Friday/Belfast agreement (1998). His fifteen-year documentation of the transition from Apartheid to democracy in South Africa, The Heart of Hope is available at the Nelson Mandela Foundation website. Professor O’Malley is the subject of a documentary by James Demo, The Peacemaker – a film about O'Malley's 30+ years of work at the vanguard of peacemaking.  Professor O’Malley is also the founding editor of the New England Journal of Public Policy. A published author, his most recent title is The Two-State Delusion: Israel and Palestine – A Tale of Two Narratives (2015).

In 2018, Professor O’Malley received the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award. Other awards include the Jean Mayer Global Peacemakers Award, (Tufts University) 2015; The Liberal International Freedom Prize (European Union), 2008; and the Eire Society Gold Medal (Boston), 2008.

Honorary Degree: Al MacPhee

Al MacPhee

Al MacPhee

Al MacPhee has been in the auto industry since the early 1960s. Originally from Cape Breton, he is the past Chairman of the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association, is a Past President of the Nova Scotia Automobile Dealers Association as well as the Halifax/Dartmouth Automobile Dealers Association. Currently, he is the Chairman of Leader Auto Resources Inc. a national automotive buying group. During his career, he has served on almost every General Motors Advisory Board and Communication Team.

For over 27 years, from 1983 to 2011, Mr. MacPhee was the owner of MacPhee Chevrolet Buick Cadillac GMC Ltd., the largest General Motors dealership in Nova Scotia and the third largest dealership in Canada. At present, he is the President of MacPhee Ford in Dartmouth, NS.

Currently, he and his wife Mary are very involved with the MacPhee Centre for Creative Learning. The MCCL is a not-for-profit charitable organization whose vision is to provide an alternative education model for youth in marginalized and disadvantaged circumstances. Located in downtown Dartmouth this centre focuses on youths that are underperforming in the conventional school environment and are at serious risk of abandoning their schooling entirely.

In 2009, Mr. MacPhee was inducted into the Junior Achievement Nova Scotia’s Business Hall of Fame. He is also very honoured to be designated one of Atlantic Canada’s Top 50 CEO’.

In June 2013, the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association announced that Mr. MacPhee had won the CADA’s Laureate Dealer Recognition Award for 2013. The Laureate Award is considered to be the highest honour a new car and truck dealer can receive over the course of his or her career.

 On March 22, 2018, Mr. MacPhee was recognized as a Ford Motor Company 2018 Salute To Dealers Honoree. He was one of six Dealer Principals from Ford’s global network to receive this prestigious award which was presented by Edsel B. Ford II. This award recognized his tremendous efforts and contributions to his community throughout his career.

After 58 years in the business, Mr. MacPhee continues to work 60 hours a week in his dealership in Dartmouth.

Canadian Football Hall of Famer and SMU Huskies legend Chris Flynn to have his jersey retired

Chris Flynn’s No.1 jersey to be retired.

Chris Flynn’s No.1 jersey to be retired.

For the first time in the 217 year history of Saint Mary’s University, a jersey will be retired for all-time to celebrate and honour a Saint Mary’s Huskies and Canadian university football legend, Chris Flynn.

“To be the first player to have their jersey retired by Saint Mary’s University, the place where I have made so many memories, is truly an honour,” said Flynn. “I am incredibly proud of what we were able to accomplish as a team during my time at Saint Mary’s. Looking back, I want to thank all my teammates, coaches, trainers, students, and professors, really the whole Huskies community, for their support. We wouldn’t be celebrating this today without you.”

Originally from Buckingham, Quebec, Flynn played football for Saint Mary’s University from 1987 to 1990. During his time with the Huskies, he led the team to two Vanier Cup games as quarterback. He was an integral part of the resurgence of the team in the late 80s and early 90s, which is reflected in the accolades he received from his peers and university sport. The only player to win the Hec Crighton Trophy three times as the most valuable player in Canadian university football, Flynn was a three-time All Canadian with the Saint Mary's Huskies.

To be the first player to have their jersey retired by Saint Mary’s University, the place where I have made so many memories, is truly an honour.
— Chris Flynn
Chris Flynn with the Hec Crighton Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player in Canadian university football. Chris would win the trophy a record setting three times.

Chris Flynn with the Hec Crighton Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player in Canadian university football. Chris would win the trophy a record setting three times.

Following his time at Saint Mary’s, Flynn went on to play professionally in both Canada and Europe. In 2011, Flynn became the first-ever Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) player to be inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. He was also voted the #1 CIS player of the past 50 years of Canadian university football by

“Chris Flynn was a transformational player for the Huskies, whose name is synonymous with university sport success,” said Scott Gray, Saint Mary’s director of Athletics and Recreation. “Chris was a leader for our team and someone who raised the bar for quarterback play in Canada. We are proud to call him a Husky and to honour his legacy.”

Saint Mary’s University is proud to celebrate and honour the achievements of Chris Flynn and retire his No. 1 football jersey forever at this year’s homecoming, October 2-6, 2019.


Michael Durland named Chancellor of Saint Mary's University

Dr. Michael Durland

Dr. Michael Durland

Saint Mary’s University’s Board of Governors is proud to announce that alumnus Michael Durland BComm’87 DComm’10 (SMU), PhD (Queen’s) has accepted the role Chancellor of Saint Mary’s University.

“As an institution, we are incredibly honoured and proud that Michael Durland is taking on the role of Chancellor of the University,” said Saint Mary’s President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray.  “His long and successful career in corporate Canada and as an entrepreneur and investor positions him as an excellent role model and inspiration for our students and our community. This appointment builds upon his loyal and generous support of our students as a mentor, university champion and through the Durland Innovation Fund. Today is a great day to be a Santamarian.”

Durland is the former Group Head and CEO, Global Banking and Markets, for Scotiabank. He retired from Scotiabank in 2016 to pursue a variety of business, philanthropic, and academic interests. Today, he is the CEO of Melancthon Capital.  

“Every time I walk through the front door of Saint Mary’s, I see a group of passionate students and professors thinking beyond the problems of today to what is on the horizon,” said Durland. “The university’s innovative, interdisciplinary approach to learning, teaching and research places them on the forefront of educating the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs. To serve as Chancellor at this special university that has played such a critical role in my life and for my family is an honour.”

In addition to his role as CEO of Melancthon Capital, Durland is:

  • a founding principal in Cabot Links;

  • Chair of the Board of Directors of Price Street Inc.;

  • Chair of the Board of Directors of TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture;

  • Chair of the Board of Directors of Dessa;

  • Chair of the Board of Directors of Receptiviti;

  • a member of the Board of the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation;

  • a member of the Board of the True Patriot Love Foundation;

  • a professor of global practice, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.

In accepting the role of Chancellor, Durland takes over from Paul D. Sobey, DComm’11, former President and Chief Executive Officer of Empire Company Limited, who served in this role since 2014.

“While his time as chancellor has come to a close, Dr. Paul Sobey continues as an active and engaged leader in the Saint Mary’s community,” said Summerby-Murray. “We are incredibly grateful for his continued commitment to Saint Mary’s and his exemplary leadership during his tenure.”

Durland will be installed as University Chancellor at a convocation ceremony on May 15, 2019.

Student entrepreneurs from across Atlantic Canada at Saint Mary’s for business development conference


Student entrepreneurs from across Atlantic Canada will be working closely with experienced entrepreneurs to help develop their businesses at the Starting Point Entrepreneurship Conference taking place at Saint Mary’s University.

The conference begins on Tuesday, Feb. 19, and will bring student entrepreneurs from post-secondary institutions and high schools from multiple provinces together to work with entrepreneurs, CEOs and startup experts. The students have the chance to work directly with the entrepreneurs to help brings their business ideas to fruition or grow an existing business. Events include keynote speakers, master classes with successful businesspeople, funder speed dating and the Iron Entrepreneur Tournament.  At the end of the conference, students have a chance to win cash investments for their businesses.

This year’s conference theme is “From Vision to Venture.” The theme is about encouraging and inspiring students to bring their ideas to reality by giving them the confidence and tools to do so. Conference proceedings such as master classes, the iron entrepreneur competition and the keynote speaker will focus on helping students to realize that vision and help them to bring it to fruition through actionable advice and inspiration.

Since it began in 2015, the conference has hosted 590 student entrepreneurs from post-secondary institutions and high schools from across the country and given over $40,000 in funding and prizes. The conference is organized by the Saint Mary’s University Entrepreneurship Centre. Over the past five years, SMUEC programs have provided opportunities to more than 4,500 students, allowing them to be engaged in curricular and extra-curricular activities. 

To learn more about the Starting Point Conference visit

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.

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.”