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Challenging students to make change

The Faculty of Arts and Science's inaugural Dean’s Changemaker Challenge awards $10,000 in seed money to student-created children’s book series.

Emily Talas sits on the deck of her home.
Third-year Con-Ed student Emily Talas is the winner of the first-ever Dean’s Changemaker Challenge, created by Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science Barbara Crow. (Submitted Photo)

A children’s book series that focuses on mental health topics and provides a resource for teachers to facilitate discussions surrounding mental health within their classrooms is the winner of the Faculty of Arts and Science's first-ever Dean’s Changemaker Challenge final pitch competition, hosted by Dean Barbara Crow.

Letsbloom, created by Emily Talas, a third-year Con-Ed student majoring in Health Studies and completing a certificate in Commerce, claimed the top prize of $10,000 in seed money after being selected by a panel of expert judges during the final pitch competition. The mission of Letsbloom is to equip children with the proper tools and resources necessary to navigate their mental health in a post-COVID world.

Talas, the founder and executive director of the Queen’s Bloom Club, says she has wanted to be an “inventor” from an early age, adding she never thought it was a realistic dream, nor did she think it was an attainable profession until she discovered the ASCX 200/300 courses that comprise the challenge. The two ASCX courses were offered for the first time in the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 terms. Students learned to identify real-world challenges and opportunities, worked collaboratively to develop solutions, and used startup business strategies to establish ventures to make the change they want to see happen.

“I am extremely excited and grateful to have been selected as the winner of the Dean’s Changemaker Challenge,” she says. “This course has truly opened my eyes to the world of entrepreneurship and has allowed me to create solutions for issues that I am extremely passionate about. I am forever grateful that Dean Crow has offered this opportunity to me and many other students as it has allowed me to further my passion for social entrepreneurship while acquiring the skills needed to continue my entrepreneurial journey.”

New initiative

The Dean’s Changemaker Challenge is a new initiative this year for undergraduate students across the Faculty of Arts and Science, designed to help them create meaningful change by learning to start and launch an entrepreneurial venture.

To support student success in the challenge, as well as career development, the teams were mentored by Arts and Science alumni who are successful entrepreneurs in fields such as fashion, entertainment, journalism, social enterprises, global telecommunications, finance, employment relations, human resources, law and legal support, technology, software, sales, distribution, operations and more. These experts supported the student teams as they prepared to showcase their ventures and compete for investment at the Dean’s Changemaker Challenge pitch competition.

To conclude the pilot, the Dean’s Changemaker Challenge final pitch competition for ASCX 300 was held virtually and showcased the three ventures that were developed throughout the academic year.

“The first-ever Dean’s Changemaker Challenge brought out the best in our undergraduate students and I am incredibly proud of them, as well as our faculty, staff, and alumni mentors who supported them in taking it,” says Dean Crow. “A major pillar of our faculty’s strategic plan is enhancing the student experience and the challenge was one of the 50 initiatives listed in it. It was designed to support the success of our undergraduates in becoming changemakers, as well as to provide skills and experience that helps them stand out after graduation. The skills learned through the challenge go beyond the university – students gain in-demand proficiencies including leadership, project management, and entrepreneurship.”

Learn more about the Dean’s Changemaker Challenge.