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The business of making a difference

[Social Innovation Boot Camp]
Ara Dungca (Com’16), Kirsten MacMillan (Sci’17), Adam Beaudoin (Kin’15), John Sibbald (Com’18) and George Henry (EMBA’16) begin discussing their idea for the Social Innovation Bootcamp Pitch Competition. Their team, “Heads Up,” went on to win first prize as well as the people’s choice award in the competition. (University Communications)

Queen’s School of Business (QSB) Centre for Social Impact has launched a new interdisciplinary initiative aimed at creating, invoking and inspiring social change.

Designed to span across faculties and departments, Queen’s RECODE will support the development of a social innovation zone on campus.

“Many faculty and students at Queen’s are committed to resolving some of society’s most pressing needs and challenges,” says Tina Dacin, Director, QSB Centre for Social Impact. “By consolidating and leveraging this activity, we have the potential to put Queen’s at the leading-edge of creating knowledge and teaching social entrepreneurship and social innovation.”

QSB Centre for Social Impact launched Queen’s RECODE with funding from J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and matching private donations. At the end of last year, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation launched the national RECODE program to support the development of social innovation and entrepreneurship “ecologies” within and in proximity to universities and colleges, along with business, community and public sector partners.

With the RECODE funding, QSB Centre for Social Impact will scan existing efforts on campus, convene a steering committee comprised of students, community, faculty and staff, and design interdisciplinary content and approaches to developing a mindset and toolkit for advancing social innovation.

Pitching social innovation

Queen’s RECODE expands the social innovation work QSB Centre for Social Impact has done over the past several years. Those activities include workshops and conferences on social enterprise, Aboriginal issues and design thinking. The centre also hosts an annual Social Innovation Bootcamp. This year’s bootcamp, held March 13-14, also featured the official launch of Queen’s RECODE.

In addition to dynamic and informative speakers, this year’s bootcamp included for the first time a pitch competition where students could work together to identify, design and test their social innovation ideas.

“Heads Up,” the team of Ara Dungca (Com’16), Kirsten MacMillan (Sci’17), Adam Beaudoin (Kin’15), John Sibbald (Com’18) and George Henry (EMBA’16), won the pitch competition and the people’s choice award.

They pitched the idea for a new type of mobile app platform to improve students’ mental health. Students would track their sleep, eating and studying habits and if there were any major deviations from their patterns – often an indication of a mental health issue – the app would prompt the student to reach out to a person they trust, and help set up a method of checking in on the student.

The team also wants to work with universities and ensure the app connects students with mental health resources offered on campus.

Heads Up received $1,250 of seed money – $1,000 for claiming first prize and $250 for the People's Choice Award – to continue developing its idea, but Ms. MacMillan was just as excited about the acceptance they received from the judges and their peers.

“We really wanted to show our passion for mental health. It was exciting that a roomful of people also agreed that mental health is important and it’s something we can talk about openly,” she says. “As we try and move the idea forward, it’s exciting to know that we have the backing of other students who are passionate about the issue.”

Ms. MacMillan says the bootcamp opened up a new world of thinking for her.

“Throughout the weekend, I was exposed to amazing and interesting perspectives. I’ve always thought I would have to make the choice between working with a non-profit organization or a for-profit company. It was eye-opening for me to hear people who are pursuing socially responsible businesses that have a positive impact on the world.”

Visit QSB Centre for Social Impact website for more information.

Putting the tech in technicolour

From left to right, Team Eye3: Zaeem Anwar (Cmp'15), Jake Alsemgeest (Cmp'15), Eddie Wang (Com'18)

Three Queen’s students have developed a way to make electronic technology more accessible for the 700 million people worldwide who are colour blind.

The technology, Ciris, took home first prize in the Microsoft Imagine Cup – an international technology competition.

The winning team, Team Eye3, represented Canada and was made up of Jake Alsemgeest (Cmp’15), Zaeem Anwar (Cmp’15) and Eddie Wang (Com’18). They received first prize in the Blueprint Challenge Phase for the World Citizenship category of the Microsoft Imagine Cup.

"The power of cross collaboration between faculties at Queen's University really shines here,” says Mr. Wang. “We are absolutely honoured to have been selected as the winners for this challenge, and we can't wait to show the world what's in store for Eye3 and the Ciris technology."

We are absolutely honoured to have been selected as the winners for this challenge, and we can't wait to show the world what's in store for Eye3 and the Ciris technology.
- Eddie Wang, Com'18

Ciris is a real-time colour augmentation overlap for desktop computers and mobile devices that allows colour blind people to see more clearly contrasts between different colours. The team has already enabled Ciris on a video app for mobile devices.

"We're really excited about the positive feedback from our professors and the community,” says Mr. Anwar. “We have a real chance to do something helpful for the world and are looking forward to the work ahead."

Using colour in charts, pictures, graphics and clothing can mean that colour blind individuals miss out on valuable information. Team Eye3 wanted to be able to provide them with a way to translate hard-to-see colours into a visual equivalent that is easier for colour blind individuals to identify.

“We are extremely excited and thankful for all of the feedback from the community, professors and colleagues,” says Mr. Alsemgeest. “Our team is very excited to continue pushing our limits to have a finished product we are proud of.  We hope to make the world a better place and hope to achieve it through Ciris.”

The team, which also received a $3,000 prize, was coached by professors Brent Gallupe (School of Business) and Patrick Martin (School of Computing).

“This is a very talented team.  I think that their combination of technical and business skills helped them win,” says Dr. Gallupe. “Ciris addresses an important problem affecting millions of colour blind people around the world who can’t distinguish colours on their smartphone, tablet and laptop screens.”

Next up for the team is the Imagine World Cup Semifinals, where the team will compete to win a trip to the finals in Seattle in July. A $50,000 prize goes to the winner at the World Finals.

“The Microsoft Imagine Cup is a great opportunity for our students to challenge themselves and to apply what they are learning here at Queen's,” says Dr. Martin. “Team Eye3 demonstrated great skill and innovation in coming up with their project and winning the Blueprint Challenge phase. Their project definitely fits the world citizenship theme of the competition.”

Visit the Ciris Facebook page for more information about the app.

A new way to pay GRAs

Current and former graduate students who received payments as Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs) between 2008 and 2012 could be receiving a tax refund from the Canada Revenue Agency in the next few months.

Effective January 1, 2013, Queen’s has changed the way it pays GRAs, who are typically graduate students who take on research positions that support their studies and provide financial compensation.

Historically, the support GRAs received for their studies was taxed as income from employment and a T4 was issued at tax time.

The university’s decision to change its tax treatment of payments to GRAs was made to reflect the fact that GRA positions are essentially research fellowships, funded directly from research grants awarded to the faculty members who recruit and supervise graduate students.

The change in tax treatment, which is in accordance with the Canada Revenue Agency’s guidelines, makes most GRAs eligible for T4A income (fellowship income) instead of T4 income (employment income).

The change, which aligns Queen’s with practices at other universities, also benefits graduate students by reducing income tax payments and increasing take-home pay. It may make some students eligible for a retroactive tax refund for the 2008-2012 period.

The change does not apply to a GRA if the graduate student held or holds the GRA for financial gain and also was or is performing work not directly related to his or her studies. Such students continue to be classified as employees receiving T4 income. If a graduate student simultaneously holds a GRA directly supporting his/her studies as a trainee and is also a research assistant whose work is not related directly to his/her studies, the student will receive a T4A for income received as a research fellowship, as well as a T4 for the income received as an employee.

Where applicable, the Canada Revenue Agency has agreed to issue retroactive refunds automatically to affected students and alumni and there is no need for anyone to re-file a tax return.

Questions should be directed by email to GRAT4A@queensu.ca

Student startup gets TV treatment

William Yin, Sci’15, says he wasn’t an entrepreneur when he first created his company, Scent Trunk, during the Queen’s Summer Innovation Initiative (QSII). It was during the months-long competition — where student teams compete against one another to design and create startup businesses — that he developed the skills he’s using as he continues to market and build his company.

William Yin founded Scent Trunk during the Queen's Summer Innovation Initiative. (Photo supplied)

Scent Trunk, for which Mr. Yin is founder and CEO, is a cologne subscription service that sends monthly samples to its customers. Equipped with a predictive algorithm, the company personalizes and forecasts what scents they think each customer will like best.

“Buying cologne in a store has problems,” says Mr. Yin. “There’s little variety, the selection isn’t personalized and though you can smell the scents, you don’t know how they’ll react with your body chemistry when you actually wear them.”

By analyzing customers’ preferences and responses over time, he says Scent Trunk is able to find the colognes that best match each individual.

The company has had a number of recent successes, winning the Toronto regional competition in the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards and was given a chance to pitch the business on a CBC spinoff of the popular show Dragon’s Den. Called Next Gen Den, the web-based show has young entrepreneurs pitch their early-stage businesses to a panel of industry professionals including Michele Romanow, Sci ’07 and MBA ’08, who co-founded Buytopia, an online discount service.

The episode featuring Scent Trunk is set to air on March 9 and Mr. Yin has to stay tight-lipped until then.

“At the moment, all I can say is that it went well,” he says.

Despite these successes, the company has faced its fair share of challenges, one of which happened while in QSII.

“We fared poorly in QSII and it was one of the biggest defeats I’ve ever had,” says Mr. Yin. “I’d never put so much into something and not had it pan out. I wanted to prove the judges wrong.” Failing to win the competition, he says, was a spark that made him work even harder. “My biggest motivator is being told I can’t do something.”

In the months since he started Scent Trunk, Mr. Yin says he’s made his company’s pitch hundreds of times and that to be an entrepreneur you have to have thick skin.

“You get rejected often, so you have to seize on the small wins to stay motivated. In QSII I learnt that I love growing a business, selling things, crunching numbers and making an enterprise work. The competition prepared me for the challenges I’ve faced, but each day as the business grows, it gets harder,” he says. “But, I’m very competitive, I love a challenge.”  

LIVES LIVED: A key player in increasing QSB’s global reach

David Rutenberg, Emeritus Professor in the School of Business, recently passed away while on vacation in Thailand. He arrived at Queen’s University in the late 1970s from Carnegie Mellon University and would remain here until he retired in the early part of this century.

From the beginning, and continuously over these years, David’s publications, his teaching, his doctoral supervisions, and his influence at Faculty Board and through various admission and hiring committees, had a very real and lasting impression on the school.

David Rutenberg
David Rutenberg

Perhaps the greatest of these impacts was in the student exchange program area, no doubt a natural offshoot of his basic interest in International Business. To understand this more fully one has to recognize that when he arrived, the university was a very insular place having one long-standing, but essentially moribund, exchange agreement with St. Andrew’s in Scotland.

Businesses, and certainly professors of international business, were increasingly turning their attention to international matters in what was to blossom into what we now know as ‘globalization’, and David felt that an important part of preparing students for this new world was a) actually getting them out there; and b) having others come here to give us another perspective; in short an exchange.

So into the fray he plunged and working with John McKirdy, Joan Wright and others David began to expand the offerings hoping to entice students to risk taking some time to go ‘on exchange’ somewhere for a term. At the outset most of these exchanges were in Europe but the destinations and participants kept expanding until today, in this year 2014-15, and thanks also to the efforts of Dean David Saunders who sees the world in the same terms as David, the Queen’s School of Business has agreements with 110 schools, in 39 countries, and will send 485 of its students out on exchange, and receive 466 in return. All this started with David Rutenberg.

Following his retirement he became more involved with the local community serving, for example, on the city’s Economic Development Committee (KEDCO) and with the McBurney Park Neighbourhood Association in that area of the city where he lived. He was also active in the life of Chalmers United Church where a Service of Remembrance was held for him just before Christmas. There people also recalled that he was, among all these other things, also “enlightening, motivating, supportive, inquisitive and genuinely such a nice man”.

He is survived by his wife of many years, Sandra, two sons Andrew and Michael, and numerous grandchildren.

Merv Daub is Emeritus Professor at the Queen’s School of Business and was a colleague of David Rutenberg.


Students test ideas at Startup Summit

  • [Queen's Startup Summit]
    Teams of student participants work on a project during the Queen's Startup Summit, which was held Jan. 30-Feb. 1.
  • [Queen's Startup Summit]
    Student participants discuss the details of their project during the Queen's Startup Summit, which was held Jan. 30-Feb. 1.
  • [Queen's Startup Summit]
    Participating students were divided into separate groups during the Queen's Startup Summit, which was held Jan. 30-Feb. 1.
  • [Queen's Startup Summit]
    Student participants discuss the details of their project during the Queen's Startup Summit, which was held Jan. 30-Feb. 1.
  • [Queen's Startup Summit]
    Teams of student participants work on a project during the Queen's Startup Summit, which was held Jan. 30-Feb. 1.

Undergraduates with an entrepreneurial spirit are gathering on campus this weekend for the Queen’s Startup Summit (QSS). The summit, which runs from Jan. 30-Feb. 1, brings together developers, designers and product managers who are given just two days to build a startup company and pitch their idea to a panel of judges. At stake is a cash prize to help make their idea a reality.

Klaudia Litwiniuk (Artsci ’15) and QSS co-chair, has been involved with the summit’s executive team since it began in 2013. She says that the intense environment serves as great learning experience for the student-delegates.

“They’re getting opportunities to network with industry professionals and other students while testing out an idea and seeing how other people react to it,” she says. “Delegates are learning the ins and outs of team dynamics and getting a taste of what larger conferences are like.”  

After pitching prospective products to the group, delegates vote on their favorites and form teams around the ideas they think have the most potential. After that, it’s two busy days spent making a business model, marketing plan and a prototype of their product. Working out of Goodes Hall, the teams have access to a group of mentors who have volunteered their time to offer guidance and advice to the students. Once time is up, they have 15 minutes to pitch their company to the judges and respond to critiques and questions.

Though many of the companies created for QSS don’t continue into the future, Ms. Litwiniuk says the benefits are in the experience and through meeting other students. Among QSS’s nearly 90 delegates, 30 are from universities other than Queen’s. 

“This is more about developing skills than finding a permanent career path,” she says. “That’s why we open the competition to students from first to fourth-year, from all over, we think everyone can make a contribution and learn something.”

Queen’s Innovation Connector is a founding partner and sponsor of the event which is meant to give students a brief foray into the life of an entrepreneur, along with its rewards, challenges, successes and failures. It’s just one part of an innovation network that includes seminar series, SparQ Labs and the Queen’s Summer Innovation Initiative.  

More information and the eventual results of the event can be found on its website.

Queen's MBA ranked in global top 100

[Queen's School of Business]
The Queen's School of Business' MBA program is ranked among the top 100 internationally by the Financial Times (University Relations)

The Financial Times has released its list of the top 100 full-time global MBA programs with Queen’s placing 86th in the world and third in Canada.

This marks the first year that Queen’s School of Business (QSB) has participated in Financial Times’ ranking of full-time MBA programs since 2009.

“We made significant, market-driven changes to our full-time MBA program over the last few years, and wanted to wait until those program enhancements were established before reentering the ranking,” said David Saunders, Dean, Queen’s School of Business. “We are very pleased to be recognized as one of the top 100 programs in the world by the widely respected Financial Times.”

The Financial Times global MBA ranking is calculated based on 20 separate criteria, such as value for money, career progress, international faculty and faculty research, but is heavily weighted to salary measures (worth 40 per cent of the overall ranking). Six Canadian schools made the 2015 ranking.

Visit the Financial Times 2015 Global MBA ranking to view the full ranking.

In October 2014, Queen’s MBA was ranked in the top 10 in the world outside the U.S. in Businessweek’s Best Business Schools ranking. QSB also topped the list for Canadian Business magazine’s ranking of Canada’s Best MBA Programs. The Canadian Business “Top 10” focuses on value for money, citing “a big return on investment” as the key reason Queen’s MBA secured the top spot in the 2014 ranking.

Queen’s School of Business is one of the world’s premier business schools — renowned for exceptional programs, outstanding faculty and research, and the quality of its graduates. Canadian executives regard Queen’s as Canada’s most innovative business school, offering students academic excellence and a superior overall experience. Queen’s School of Business — where Canada’s first Commerce program was launched in 1919 — is located at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. The School also delivers programs at locations across Canada, as well in the U.S., the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and China.

Young entrepreneurs make their pitch at QEC

[Queen's Entrepreneurs' Competition]
Zoe Keirstead, Com'15, and Jane Mills, Com'15, are the co-chairs for the Queen's Entrepreneurs' Competition, a student-run business plan contest. (University Communications)

Some of the top student entrepreneurs were in Kingston this past weekend to compete for the top prize at the Queen’s Entrepreneurs’ Competition (QEC).

In its 27th year, the undergraduate business plan competition receives submissions from around the world. Judges then select the top 15 teams for the final weekend to compete for $43,000 in prizes.

The student-run event is gaining more attention and competitors each year and it’s not only about the money.

“Our panel of judges is phenomenal,” says Jane Mills, Com’15, one of the QEC’s co-chairs. “The structure of the competition is a 20-minute pitch but then it’s 20 minutes of question and answer and feedback. That 20 minutes is invaluable because we have a diverse panel of judges that have experience in marketing, tech, finance, and that’s when they can provide their expertise. All of these people we have invited back as judges are industry experts as well as entrepreneurs who have been very successful. So that really is the value proposition.”

After making their initial pitches on Friday, the final six were selected by the judges. The final group then presented to a new panel of judges on Saturday, with the top three receiving prizes. The final presentations were open to the public. 

There is a wide array of businesses such as a smartphone app for restaurant-goers with dietary restrictions to a wine company to hemodialysis filters used in the treatment of kidney disease.

While submissions come from around the world, the final 15 are all from North America this year, including a team from Harvard University, another from Cornell University and five from Queen’s: SimplyFeed.me; Qbliss; Mitigating Advertising; Clutch; and Connectivity.

The quality of the competition is heightened each year as well.

“I expect there to be a lot of high-calibre business plans that are coming from people who have really thought through their ideas,” says co-chair Zoe Keirstead, Com’15, before the competition got underway.

The top prize this year was $25,000 thanks to the support of the Queen’s MBA Class of 1970, which has sponsored QEC since it started in 2011. Members also provide mentorship and act as judges.

For more on QEC visit theqec.com.


First place at the Queen's Entrepreneurs' Competition was awarded to the Harvard University team Quorum, which presented an online legislative strategy platform that uses big data to identify potential supporters by
processing and displaying 800 million points of data about the U.S. Congress.

Second place went to Queen's University's The Brockington Group - Mitigating Advertising Abuse and thrid went to Sparkgig from the University of Waterloo.

Other teams to make the Top 6 were: Clutch (Queen's University); GrooveDish (University of Alberta); and Repair Quote (Carleton University).   

Loran Scholars recognized by Queen’s

[Loran Scholars]
Queen's University recognized its Loran Scholars at a special event on Monday. This year's scholars are: front, from left, Emma Clark (Artsci’18) and  Jena Hudson (Artsci’18); back, from left, Sean Davidson (Com’18), Callen Hageman (Sc’18), Terry Zhang (Com’18) and Kit Dashwood (Sc’18). (Photo supplied by Loran Scholars Foundation)

A group of exceptional Queen’s University students were recognized Monday with a special reception that highlighted their activities.

Queen’s Loran Scholars gathered along with supporters, mentors and representatives from the university and the Loran Scholars Foundation.

Only 30 students nationwide each year are selected to receive the multi-year scholarship and of the most recent group, six are attending Queen’s for their first year of studies. Overall, Queen’s has 22 scholars covering such programs as Arts and Science, Commerce and Engineering.

More than a scholarship, the students create a bond with the foundation, the university and each other says Devon Jackson (Artsci’15) who spoke at the event.

“It is at Queen’s that we find and nurture our communities and it is through Loran that we are pushed to improve them,” he says. “While there is certainly merit in alone-time, Queen’s and Loran ingrain it in our mindset from the first September that this is the beginning of four years of partnership, not only with them, but with the people you will meet at the university. Both institutions support us, root for us, and challenge us.”

Thousands of students apply each year and scholars are based on a mix of academic achievement, extracurricular activity and leadership potential. The program provides students with a tuition waiver and a living stipend.

Loran Scholars also receive personal and professional development opportunities, participating in enterprise-related summer employment, a professional development experience (often an international volunteer experience) and an opportunity in a public policy environment.

The program also connects the students with a mentor for the duration of their undergraduate studies. The mentors are generally individuals who are influential in communities, government or various disciplines.

For more on the Loran Scholars Foundation, go to loranscholar.ca


Queen's receives Canada-China business excellence award

Queen's in the World

Queen’s School of Business was honoured as a recipient of a Canada-China Business Excellence Award, in the Educational Excellence category, at a Toronto luncheon in November. The awards, bestowed by the Canada-China Business Council, recognize organizations that play a leading and innovative role in growing and expanding business relationships between Canada and China. Fifteen awards were presented in five categories to private and public sector organizations from seven provinces and territories.

Professor Wei Wang (centre), Director of the Queen's-Renmin Master of Finance program, accepted the CCBC Award for Educational Excellence on the school's behalf.


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