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Queen’s economist wins second Donner Prize

Award for book on Indigenous rights makes Thomas J. Courchene the first two-time recipient of top Canadian public policy writing honour.

Left to right: David Dodge, Donner Prize, Jury Chair; Thomas J. Courchene; Deborah Donner, Governor, Donner Canadian Foundation (Photo by: Will Putz)
Left to right: David Dodge, Donner Prize, Jury Chair; Thomas J. Courchene; Deborah Donner, Governor, Donner Canadian Foundation (Photo by: Will Putz)

Two decades after winning the first-ever Donner Prize for best Canadian public policy book, economist and Queen’s Professor Emeritus Thomas J. Courchene has done it again. On May 1, 2019, his latest book Indigenous Nationals, Canadian Citizens: From First Contact to Canada 150 and Beyond was recognized by award jurors as a “masterful work on one of the most important themes of our country’s public policy history” – securing Courchene the top prize and $50,000.

“The Donner Prize serves as a beacon for aspiring writers, so when I won it the first time it was truly an inspiration,” says Dr. Courchene. “In being recognized a second time, I sincerely hope the publicity will allow my book to contribute to a greater, broader understanding of the challenges and policies that affect the lives of Indigenous peoples of Canada.”

The book, published by the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations in the Queen’s School of Policy Studies, examines the historical, legal, and socio-economic evolution of Canadian policy initiatives relating to Indigenous peoples. In doing so, Dr. Courchene puts forth a new policy prescription that seeks to reconcile the goal of recognizing Indigenous rights with that of promoting Canadian economic and resource development. Jurors lauded the book’s compelling case for significant change and its vision for a brighter future.

“My work has long been a blend of economic analysis, political reality, and constitutional perspectives, so I always felt that my public policy research had to, at some point, address issues facing First Peoples,” says Dr. Courchene, who is also a founding member of the School of Policy Studies. “In the final chapter of my book I propose we depart from existing models in which Indigenous Canadians are effectively under the control and stewardship of another political authority, and move to one that would give them provincial powers on their own lands.”

The Donner Prize, awarded annually by the Donner Canadian Foundation, encourages and celebrates excellence in public policy writing by Canadians, and acknowledges the role good public policy plays in the country’s success.

“To win the Donner Prize a second time, two decades after being recognized with their inaugural award, speaks to the rich and enduring quality of Dr. Courchene’s academic work,” says David M.C. Walker, Executive Director of the Queen’s School of Policy Studies. “On behalf of the School of Policy Studies, I want to commend him for crafting a truly impactful book; one that not only embodies the spirit of our school’s mission, but that can also inform and inspire public policy that advances the well-being of Canadians.”

The award results were announced during a gala at The Carlu event space in Toronto. Dr. Courchene was selected over four other finalists, chosen from more than 70 submissions. Chairing the Donner Prize jury was David Dodge, who served as Queen’s University Chancellor from 2008 to 2014.

Smith School of Business and Peking University offer new dual-degree program

Smith School of Business at Queen’s University and Guanghua School of Management at Peking University in Beijing, China, have announced a partnership that will see commerce students from Smith study in China and earn two undergraduate degrees: one from Queen’s University and the other from Peking University.

Peking-Smith Partnership
Officials and faculty members of Peking University and Smith School of Business at Queen's University celebrate the launch of a new partnership called the “Future Leaders” International Undergraduate Dual-Degree Program.

Starting in fall 2020, up to five Smith Commerce students each year will be selected to take part in Peking University’s “Future Leaders” International Undergraduate Dual-Degree Program.

The students will spend two years studying in the commerce program at Smith, then two years at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management in Beijing. They will earn a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Queen’s and a Bachelor of Arts in Management from Peking University. Classes are taught in English.

“This partnership will give Smith students the opportunity to experience first-hand China’s fast-growing and dynamic economy,” says David Saunders, Dean of Smith School of Business. “We are proud to partner with Peking University in our mission to develop outstanding leaders with a global perspective.”

Through the partnership, Smith becomes a founding member of Peking University’s “Future Leaders” program, alongside 13 other top universities from around the world, including schools in Italy, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Brazil, Singapore, Japan, and Israel. Smith Commerce students will study with students from these countries while attending classes in China.

Peking University launched the “Future Leaders” program in order to develop global leaders equipped with an intimate understanding of China, and who can navigate inter-country exchanges created through China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

“The Belt and Road Initiative has injected new significance into globalization, and Peking University wants to give young people from around the world the opportunity to pursue their dreams while simultaneously making a contribution to the field of education,” says Peking University President Hao Ping.

Earning two degrees from two leading universities will give Smith students with international career aspirations an advantage in the marketplace. Students will have a unique opportunity to develop a broad global management perspective and experience truly cross-cultural learning, both from classmates and professors.

With 115 top international business school partners in 38 countries around the world, Smith provides students across academic programs with the opportunity to study abroad through international exchanges, dual-degree programs and global business projects. 

Facing the AI perfect storm

[Artificial Intelligence]
We are in the middle of a winner-take-all industrial revolution powered in part by artificial intelligence. Many of our leading companies and employers are blowing it.

Artificial intelligence is a game changer. We all know that. But is it good? Is it bad? There’s no shortage of opinions. On one hand, media and social channels are full of dire predictions: AI is killing jobs, robots will soon be in charge…and did you hear about that self-driving car that crashed? But then you learn about new advances in life-saving drugs powered by AI, and how AI is improving customer service and efficiency within organizations.

For leaders and strategists, AI poses both opportunities and challenges. How to choose what to focus on? What to try? What to fund? And is AI even ready for prime time?

Facing the gut-check moment

All this uncertainty is killing AI for many companies. We’ve done it to ourselves by building inflexible organizations and processes. Even worse, we have turned risk management into a core function of most major enterprises.

As a result, many organizations are not set up to handle game-changing and complex technologies like AI. The AI “virus” is often expelled by an unwelcoming corporate immune system that seeks to destroy it in a misguided attempt to preserve the status quo.

Uncertainty around AI’s future is used as a weapon to stop all forward progress. It often sounds something like this:

I would love to invest in AI-technology X. But how do we know it will work? What’s the ROI? What’s the payback period? What if it doesn’t work – will our brand suffer? Show me the full business case. Who else is doing this?

It’s enough to beat even the toughest AI innovators into submission. What we have is a perfect storm: AI prompts reinvention, reinvention takes time, and reinvention success is uncertain. It’s a gut-check moment for strategists and leaders alike.

Risk takers and rule breakers wanted

All one has to do is look at GE’s recent performance and the revolving door of CEOs to see what gut check moments really look like. Jeff Immelt, former CEO now twice removed, set GE on a new path, by refocusing on a few core businesses. He also moved GE from a pipeline (old school) to a platform (new school) business, one capable of offering advanced customer-centric AI products and services.

It seemed like Immelt was on the right track, certainly for the long term. Problem is, neither the market nor the board had enough patience, backbone or belief to stay the course. So, they tried another CEO, but he didn’t work out either (after just over a year on the job). Now there’s a new guy, Lawrence Culp Jr., the first outside CEO in GE’s 126-year history. His remit is turnaround. All of a sudden, we’re not talking innovation, customer centricity and AI, we’re talking about fixing problems. And that’s depressing…or is it?

Entrepreneurs have found a way to capitalize on AI. You don’t see Apple resting on its laurels, milking the iPhone for all its worth. Sure, recent announcements about new credit cards, streaming and news services are risky, but Apple CEO Tim Cook knows well how the game is now played. Apple doesn’t have outdated internal approval processes, and it doesn’t have a board asleep at the switch.

We are in the middle of a ‘winner take all’ industrial revolution powered in part by AI. Many of our old and largest companies and employers are blowing it. But there are glimmers of hope. Even a so-called old-economy player like Hudson’s Bay is figuring it out, so it can survive and thrive beyond its current age of 348 years. We can figure this out. It’s pretty simple.

We need gutsy boards that will truly tolerate risk-taking and even mistake-making. We need resilient rule-breaking CEOs. We need tech-savvy visionaries. We need to find them – or create them. Quickly. We live in extraordinary times. We need extraordinary people. As George Bernard Shaw once said:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

Of course, we now have women to throw into the mix, but you get the point. What we need are a few more unreasonable people.

This column was first published by Smith School of Business.

Elspeth Murray is an associate professor at Smith School of Business, associate dean of MBA and Masters Programs, and director of Queen’s Centre for Business Venturing.


Input sought on future of Smith School of Business, search for next dean

Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Tom Harris announced today that David Saunders’ term as dean of Smith School of Business ends on June 30, 2020. 

Provost Harris will chair a committee to advise the principal on the future direction of the Smith School of Business, and on the selection of the next dean. 

“I encourage all members of the Queen’s community to provide input regarding the Smith School of Business, and to suggest individuals to serve on the advisory committee,” says  Provost Harris.

Please send all submissions and advisory committee suggestions to the Office of the Provost, via e-mail, to provost@queensu.ca, by Tuesday, May 14. Respondents are asked to indicate whether they wish to have their letters shown, in confidence, to the members of the Advisory Committee.

More information about Smith School of Business is available in the Smith Strategic Framework, the Smith Year in Review and on the faculty website

Clean idea a winner

A Smith School of Business Commerce student’s idea to reinvent the car detailing business has won top prize at the Paul and Tom Kinnear Business Plan Competition.

[Sawyer Wildgen]
Sawyer Wildgen (Com’19) recently won the Paul and Tom Kinnear Business Plan Competition. (Communications Staff)

Sawyer Wildgen (Com’19), the founder of Cleen Detailing, says the mobile car detailing company has netted a wide customer base, from car buffs to the “mom who wants all the Cheerios out of her vehicle.”

Customers make an appointment online; then one of the company’s car detailing experts shows up at their home or work to clean their vehicle.

“Our customers appreciate the simplicity – the ability to book online, our reasonable prices and friendly service,” he says.

That service includes what the company calls “little big things” that are meant to delight customers. For example, the company’s own branded essential-oil scent is placed in every car. Cleen postcards placed in the vehicle tell the story of the company and allow customers to learn more about the student who cleaned their vehicle.

A Cleen Detailing bag is also left behind, filled with stray objects found during the clean. (Loose change is left in another bag.)

Wildgen started Cleen Detailing three years ago in Ottawa as a way to create a summer job for himself. Last summer, the company employed 25 student car detailers and one full-time manager.

Wildgen hopes to grow Cleen Detailing through franchising to other university students across Canada.

The Paul and Tom Kinnear Business Plan Competition promotes entrepreneurship among commerce students. It was established in 2008 by Tom Kinnear (Com’66, LLD’02). Teams must have at least one Smith Commerce student as a member. The winner receives $5,000 to further develop their business.

Wildgen intends to use his prize money to write a franchise agreement, develop franchisee-network software, and for online advertising.

The final phase of this year’s Paul and Tom Kinnear Business Plan Competition took place March 28 at Goodes Hall and saw four teams vie for the top prize.

The other three finalists were:

Lunar is a local shopping rewards program. Members earn points for buying at participating stores in their community. The team: Sam Shore (Com’20), Copeland Lucas (Com’20), and Connor Crowe (Sc’20).

SitterNextDoor aims to modernize the babysitting business. An online platform allows parents to find babysitters in their neighbourhood who fit the parents’ specific needs. The team: Jenny Hua (Com’22), Andrea Hersovich (University of Ottawa), and Jenny Shen (Carleton University).

The Positivity Project lets people send handwritten cards around the world. Cards are created, handwritten, and shipped through the Positivity Project’s website. The team: Aaliyan Khan (Com’22), Claire Mikuska (Com’22), Grace McColl (Com’22), Matt Joyce (Com’22), Lily Irwin (Artsci’22), Randy Shao (Comp’22), Zion Oginni (Comp’22), and Emilie Leneveu (Memorial University).

Finalists were evaluated by a four-person jury: John Arvanitis (Com’93), founder and president of Most Favoured Network; Chuck Dickison, owner of St. Lawrence Pools; David Scrymgeour, adjunct professor and executive-in-residence at Rotman School of Management and advisor with MaRS Discovery District; and JP Shearer, associate director of the Queen’s Centre for Business Venturing at Smith School of Business. 

Queen’s remembers Smith Professor Bob Crandall

Bob Crandall
Bob Crandall

Members of the Queen’s community are remembering Bob Crandall, an alumnus and retired professor of the Smith School of Business, who died Saturday, April 4 at the age of 89, in Kingston.

Dr. Crandall graduated from the commerce program in 1951, before earning an MBA and PhD at UC Berkeley. After returning to Queen’s he served as University Bursar in the late 1950s, and was an accounting faculty member at Smith for nearly 30 years until his retirement. In 2016 he was inducted into the Smith Faculty Hall of Fame.

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, April 14 at the Donald Gordon Centre from 1 pm until 4 pm.  

More information is available in his online obituary.

Queen’s remembers John Purkis (Com’48)

Queen’s University regrets to inform the community of the death of John Henry Purkis.

Purkis, an alumnus (Com’48) and an active member of the Kingston and Queen’s communities, died Monday, March 18, in his 102nd year.

After serving in the Canadian Armed Forces from 1942 to 1946, Purkis enrolled at Queen’s University in commerce, graduating in 1948, earning his CA in 1953. After a distinguished career he was elected a life member of the Institute of Chartered Accounts in 1995. 

At the university he served as president of Queen’s Commerce’48, promoter Commerce’48 Endowment Fund, and was an elected member of Queen’s University Council.

Flags on campus will be lowered on Tuesday, March 26, when a memorial service will be held at St. John’s Anglican Church in Portsmouth, starting at 2 pm, followed by a reception.

An obituary is available online.

Bank of Canada honours Queen’s excellence

​Ryan Riordan receives research grant while three masters students earn scholarships in economics and finance.

Ryan Riordan, an associate professor at Smith School of Business, is this year’s recipient of the Bank of Canada Governor’s Award.

[Ryan Riordan]
The 2019 recipient of the Bank of Canada Governor’s Award is Ryan Riordan, an associate professor at Smith School of Business. 

The Governor’s Award is a research grant for academics who study areas that the Bank of Canada deems important. The grant is worth up to $30,000 a year over two years.

Dr. Riordan, who is also Distinguished Professor of Finance at Smith, says he is delighted to receive the award. While central banks tend to focus on the economy as a whole, his studies delve into the behaviour of individual traders, investors, lenders, borrowers and firms.

“So this award is a confirmation that our research is important to the overall economy,” he says.

Dr. Riordan intends to use the grant to further his research in two areas: the use and misuse of technologies in banking and financial markets; and climate change.

On climate change, Dr. Riordan has teamed up with colleagues from the University of Augsburg in Germany to study how financial markets have responded to the transition to a green economy. They’ve developed a methodology to measure the carbon risk of companies and countries. 

Among their findings to date: the valuation of banks and other financial firms are strongly related to the carbon risk of the firms they finance. And European countries such as Italy, Spain and Portugal, as well as Japan, have lower carbon risk than most countries. Canada, South Africa and Brazil have the highest carbon risk.

The Governor’s Award is part of the Bank of Canada’s Fellowship Program. Lawrence Schembri, deputy governor at the bank, says the program aims to “foster collaboration between our researchers and outstanding academics who are advancing knowledge in fields that support the Bank of Canada’s core functions.”

Dr. Riordan joined Smith in 2014. His research into technology’s impact on financial markets has included how high-frequency traders improve stock market efficiency and studying how automated bidders affect the behaviour of human bidders on electronic financial markets and online auctions such as eBay 

In November, Dr. Riordan received Smith’s Research Excellence Award. The annual prize recognizes outstanding research by faculty at the school.

In other news, the Bank of Canada marked International Women’s Day by announcing the recipients of the Master’s Scholarship Award for Women in Economics and Finance. Of the four winners, three are from Queen’s University.

Earning scholarship awards are, from left: Vivian Chu, Sanjana Bhatnagar, Stephanie Renaud. 

Sanjana Bhatnagar is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Economics. Prior to this, she completed a BA Honours in Economics from the University of Calgary and worked at the Bank of Canada as a research assistant. Her areas of research include applied econometrics, macroeconomics and macrofinancial studies.

Vivian Chu is completing a Master of Arts in Economics. She completed a BSc in Financial Modelling at Western University and was a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Undergraduate Student Research Awards recipient for two consecutive years. Her research interests include monetary economics and macroeconomics.

Stephanie Renaud is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Economics. She completed her BA in Economics at the University of Ottawa and, as part of the co-op program, she worked at the Department of Finance and received the CO-OP Student of the Year Award for the faculty of social sciences in 2016. Her research interests include macroeconomics, fiscal policy, and monetary policy.

The award includes a $10,000 scholarship and is combined with the opportunity for permanent employment at the Bank of Canada upon successful completion of a master’s degree by a recipient.

Students look to keep graduates in Kingston

Hands-on learning program looks at local employment opportunities for Queen's grads entering labour force.

Student Consultants Ioana Tabra and Yangchen Zhang of the Queen's Business Consulting group.
Smith School of Business student Consultants Ioana Tabra (left) and Yangchen Zhang (right) of the Queen's Business Consulting group.
Are you a current Queen's student or alumni? Fill out the survey now.

Each year, Queen’s attracts thousands of students from across the country and around the world, but once they graduate many choose to leave Kingston to seek out careers elsewhere.

Fourth-year commerce students from the Smith School of Business are now seeking to understand students' perspectives regarding employment opportunities in the City of Kingston, as part of an experiential learning project within the Queen’s Business Consulting Group (QBC). The results will inform the development of a sales and marketing plan the students will present to the Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO), which commissioned the work to support efforts to increase and enhance Kingston’s labour force.

“QBC projects like this one are fantastic opportunities for our students to gain hands-on, industry-facing experience before graduating,” says QBC Director Charles Mignault, who will oversee the students’ work. “Furthermore, they find the work enriching because they are able to see the impact they can make on their clients’ missions. The project with KEDCO, for instance, could provide invaluable insight into how Kingston can continue to grow and prosper.”

Thousands of students graduate from Queen’s on an annual basis, but since 95 per cent of the student population originates from outside Kingston, improving the city’s ability to retain this intellectual capital remains an ongoing priority.

“To keep pace with the growth of local businesses and our success in attracting new international investments to the city, ensuring that Kingston has a strong workforce is essential,” says KEDCO CEO Donna Gillespie. “Retention of graduating students and attraction of alumni back to Kingston to live and work is of increasing interest. We look forward to gaining insights from students and alumni to guide our marketing efforts and talent retention strategies.”

Led by students Ioana Tabra and Yangchen Zhang, the study will seek to identify existing challenges and problems that deter students from considering a career in Kingston, highlight key factors that affect where students choose to launch their careers; and examine student perceptions about opportunities in the city and how they have evolved over the past 10 years. The pair aims to survey 3,000 members of the Queen’s community, including both current students and alumni.

“The university plays a distinctive role in the city culture, as students bring enthusiasm and vibrancy,” says Tabra, who invites current Queen’s students and alumni to fill out the survey. “We have a unique opportunity to give back to the city that has been our home-away-from-home for the duration of our degree and to see it flourish. The research we are gathering will support KEDCO in building engagement and convincing highly-skilled graduates to live and work in Kingston.”

Tabra and Zhang are two of many QBC students currently working to provide high-impact consulting advice to businesses, government, and non-profit organizations across Eastern Ontario.

Last year, students completed an operations plan for the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at Kingston Health Sciences Centre to help them take steps to lower wait times for diagnostic procedures and increase accessibility to clinics for women across the region. Recently, others created a digital marketing plan for the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs, which resulted in one of the student consultants being hired by the organization. This semester, another group of students is working on an affordable housing demand analysis for Prince Edward County.

“The QBC program always partners with clients who work in an area that supports social impact,” says Mr. Mignault. “In that space, the senior-level students not only gain the practical, problem-solving experience and client management skills that could accelerate their career readiness, but they get to make positive contributions to society.”

Participating in the Queen’s Business Consulting Group is open to all Queen’s students – not just those in commerce or other business programs.

To learn more about the program, visit the website.

Survey shows more work needs to be done on diversity and inclusion in workplaces

A new study commissioned by Smith School of Business and Catalyst Canada found that while a majority of working Canadians have positive attitudes towards diversity and inclusion programs (69 per cent), many employees don’t know whether their companies even have D&I initiatives (40 per cent). Further, men are significantly more likely than women to believe that organizational diversity and inclusion initiatives are no longer necessary (33 per cent of men vs. 20 per cent of women) and that Canadian society is sufficiently inclusive (58 per cent of men vs. 43 per cent of women).

Smith surveyAs an important step in solving organizational diversity and inclusion challenges, and to develop more inclusive leaders, Smith School of Business and Catalyst Canada, a global non-profit organization dedicated to advancing women in business, have announced a strategic partnership. 

“As a leading business school, we know the importance of developing leaders who can create and manage diverse and inclusive teams,” says David Saunders, Dean, Smith School of Business at Queen’s University. “We are proud to partner with Catalyst Canada to accelerate our shared goal of creating a more inclusive workforce.”

The survey, which polled 1,000 working Canadians, also found that women working in organizations without D&I initiatives are less likely (65 per cent) than men (79 per cent) to report that they can be authentic at work without pretending to be someone else to fit in. This difference disappears in organizations that have diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Overall, attitudes towards D&I initiatives are positive, with 70 per cent of surveyed employees believing that such initiatives help encourage all employees to reach their full potential.

“At Catalyst, we know that an increasingly diverse workforce powers innovation and measureable success,” says Tanya van Biesen, Executive Director of Catalyst Canada. “And while companies may be investing money in diversity and inclusion initiatives, they can’t achieve their full impact if more employees don’t know about them. We need to help companies tell the story of the impact of D&I inside their organizations. Partnering with Smith enables us to reach a broader audience of Canadian managers and leaders – and now students – with training and thought leadership.”

The partnership will focus on three key areas: a corporate discussion forum, research, and training.

A membership-only corporate discussion forum will bring industry leaders, Smith faculty and Catalyst experts together to share best practices and challenges, with the aim of achieving greater inclusion in the workplace. A new research hub, led by Smith faculty, will harness the input of corporate Canada to create research on the new frontiers of diversity and inclusion. Participating companies will get first access to research findings.

Catalyst Canada will also help develop diversity and inclusion programming for working managers, which will be delivered through Queen’s Executive Education

Additionally, Smith will integrate core content from Catalyst’s inclusive leadership training into the academic curriculum for current students, including courses on building inclusive communication skills and how to manage unconscious bias in the workplace. Smith School of Business is a market leader in developing students’ personal capabilities through SmithEdge. An important set of skills to help students thrive in the workforce, SmithEdge comprises three critical dimensions: insights on human dynamics; self-awareness and resilience; and experiential opportunities. This new content from Catalyst will help Smith students develop the interpersonal skills needed for leadership roles in today’s business environment.

“In order to make sustainable change, we need to activate many inclusion initiatives concurrently. There is no one silver bullet solution to creating more diverse and inclusive workplaces,” says van Biesen.

More details on training programs and how companies can join the corporate discussion forum and research forum will be announced later in 2019.


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