Tell us about your educational and professional background.
I graduated from Saint Thomas University with a Bachelor of Arts and then pursued a Master of Arts in Calgary.
At the end of my undergrad I had a few majors and minors, sociology being the passion. The methodology I specialised in, which I think is quite relevant for the Springboard network, is called institutional ethnography.
I graduated with my Masters in 2010 and started working at Bow Valley College, which is in downtown Calgary, and I have been working within college applied research offices since 2011.
Can you elaborate on what “institutional ethnography” is?
Institutional ethnography is a branch of social research that examines organisations and institutions on how they're structured, how decisions are made and how they collaborate with other institutional bodies either private, government, non-profit, etc. The focus is on people and how their experience is structured based on the organizations and systems they find themselves in.
It’s about understanding how that larger context relates to actual individual people who work and live within those organizations. That part of my background serves me well in this current role with the New Brunswick Community College (NBCC).
You started at NBCC somewhat recently (2018), what were some of the differences you noticed between doing this work in Calgary versus New Brunswick?
I understood [research and commercialization] in a larger urban context, but not so much in the rural and start-up context that is so prevalent in New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada. I had to learn a lot of new skills, specifically the industry focused community relationships that are more acute here compared to when I was in Alberta. When you are working in a downtown core, like I was in Calgary, relationships can be less personable, but that’s not the case here in New Brunswick.
What kind of opportunities do you see in NB?
Workforce development. I’m with colleges by choice because I think they add great value to society and are increasingly being recognized for their potential in applied research, innovation and commercialization. I’ve seen this grow from very little to a much broader network of colleges across Canada conducting amazing applied research with industry and often in collaboration with our universities and technical institutes.
The thing I think colleges can claim as their strength would be that workforce development side. Companies routinely come to me with projects, wanting to bring in college students through work terms or internships, with the expressed intent to grow their own teams and hire them after they graduate.
What sectors do you see potential for in NB?
The IT sector is on the rise, especially in New Brunswick. We have our new cyber park opening soon, a national research centre for cyber security, and a growing workforce with our partnerships with IBM, Siemens and others. And all at the same time, we’re building more local industry connections.
How does being a part of Springboard support you and your institution.
The simple existence of the network is an asset for the Atlantic business community. I still interact with my colleagues in Calgary and when I talk about the Springboard network, I speak to the benefits of working with so many like-minded people. [Springboard] brings us together in the same room (when that was possible!) to talk about common issues and I find that so valuable because I can see what other strategies my colleagues are using.
As I mentioned before, I am a nerd for organizational models so with Springboard I get to see at least 19 different structures other Atlantic Canadian institutions are using—that level of perspective would not exist without the network.