Having an idea is one thing, seeing it come into fruition is another, but when it exceeds your expectations………………….. Two years ago, Mary Beth Doucette and I sat in my office and we imagined the possibility of finding, encouraging and mentoring Aboriginal students in Canada who may be interested in studying Business at university or who currently are. The Nova Scotia pilot which links Nova Scotia Aboriginal high school students to CBU and Aboriginal volunteer mentors through Blackberries has exceeded our expectations. Young, bright, ambitious, keen, innovative students are tweeting, posting, facebooking and meeting face to face about their business ideas. Nine of them will be with us at CBU on Wednesday and Thursday of this week to explore their options in Business with the Shannon School of Business. Some imagine a future in business.
Two years ago Mary Beth and I wondered if we could connect Aboriginal university Business students from across the country to each other and to the work of the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies. Over a period of six months, we met with, listened to and marveled at the views of students from nineteen universities, representing nine provinces and one territory. They spoke of having few peers who were interested in Business, some spoke of lack of family support while others of very supportive families. Some spoke of lack of mentors and role models and most shocking to me, some students from Western schools spoke of blatant racism in the classroom and friends not self identifying as Aboriginal as a result. When we heard these comments one could only ask is this possible in 2012? I was immediately transported back in time to my days in Oxford House when we took students to Winnipeg for a “cultural exchange”. They learned much but learned far too much about in your face racism if you were a kid from the north in Winnipeg for your first time. I had only hoped that this type of mistreatment had vanished from the landscape but our roundtable participants had other stories to tell.
We have invited all of our Roundtable participants to spend time with us this summer exploring Best Practices in Aboriginal Business, researching materials to publish cases for teaching purposes and a major goal- to begin the process to write what we think will be the first text book in the country to focus entirely on Aboriginal Economic Development. It looks as if we may have seven students working with us for the summer. I expect the country will learn much from these young researchers and they will continue to change the face of Business in the country.