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Setting up your virtual team for success

Expert advice for workplaces that have had remote work thrust upon them, without a chance to plan for it.

Woman working on comupter at home
More people are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it's not really a new trend. (Unsplash / Annie Spratt)

Remote work is the “new normal” as businesses navigate the coronavirus situation. But for some, such work isn’t that new. Over the last 10 years, remote work has grown by 91 per cent

More job seekers are looking for opportunities that provide flexibility and work-life balance. Some organizations favour remote work for its cost savings and because it lets them recruit from a wider talent pool. Virtual teams also allow businesses to bring together diverse disciplines, functions and cultures. That said, virtual teams aren’t without their hurdles. 

Smith Business Insight recently caught up with Shawna O’Grady, associate professor of organizational behaviour at Smith School of Business. O’Grady is an experienced team facilitator, formerly serving as director of team facilitation on Smith’s Executive MBA programs for 13 years. She also works with private- and public-sector clients on team building. With so many people now working remotely for the first time, she answers our questions about what virtual teams can expect, and how to make the transition.

What issues do organizations face as their people adjust to working together remotely?

In the best of times, virtual teams face several challenges. With the COVID-19 crisis, many organizations have had to move to remote work without having had the chance to plan its implementation. There’s often a lack of clarity around what people should be doing. The team needs to figure out a new set of norms around how to communicate. Leaders need to act quickly to ensure they connect everyone in the department through clear messaging. They need to help their teams understand the importance of re-aligning to ensure they are on the same page.   

Team members may also not have the right technological tools or skills. The current public-health crisis has many people suddenly working at home and needing to learn new technology in short time spans, with little training and without the traditional forms of support from teammates or colleagues. They may also be contending with the personal and social challenges of feeling isolated and distracted. As employees do their part to stop the spread of the coronavirus, they may also be dealing with the uniquely stressful challenge of having multiple people in the same household all working remotely. Leaders can help with understanding, compassion and empathy, recognizing not all employees face an easy time adjusting to remote working conditions. Providing links to resources available to assist may help employees remain committed to the team during difficult times.

What’s the No. 1 thing managers must do to ensure workplace efficiency?

In any crisis, it’s easy for people to become focused on what’s happening around them. To maintain efficiency, managers need to create a plan for what the department or team will focus on and how to deliver it. Next, they need to help each person understand what their role is in helping the team achieve its objectives. Each person should have a clear set of actions, such as “Maintain the Monday morning team meeting, except run it on Zoom,” or “Complete your one-on-ones bi-weekly by telephone.” Doing this is necessary to ensure employee commitment and results.  

How else should leaders adjust their approach?

Leadership plays a much greater role in this new working environment. Leaders who connect well, and connect often, will have the greatest success. It’s helpful for leaders to meet with employees using overlapping forms of technology. For example, it’s ideal to meet via video to allow for bonding and questions, and then follow up in writing by email to ensure the facts are communicated consistently to all employees.  

It’s also important for leaders to realize that there’s no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to how different employees will respond to their new virtual environment. Leaders who exhibit compassion, understanding and positivity will make their team’s adjustment to remote work much more likely to succeed. Recognizing those who are making progress with appreciation, and providing understanding to those who are struggling, will go far in keeping people united.   

What can individual team members do to stay motivated while working at home?

Employees may appear to lack motivation, when the real issue is that they aren’t clear what they are supposed to do. Or they aren’t trained properly, or they feel blocked because they are isolated and can’t get the answers they need to move forward. That’s why it’s very important for individual team members to “check in” frequently with their team leader and colleagues. If they have any questions or find themselves blocked on a project, they should immediately contact the person most likely to be able to help them. Evidence indicates that people are more reluctant to do this when they are working remotely.

Employees can also help themselves stay motivated and perform at a high level by making a plan and outlining priorities for each workday. They should also get some fresh air and exercise each day, keep the lines of communication—both formal and informal—open with teammates via videoconference, text and phone. Taking measures to limit distractions with a designated workspace or noise-cancelling headphones can also help.

What results can organizations expect in the move to a virtual setup?

The results can be very positive. An increasing number of organizations are already working with virtual teams—with great results. The difficulty in our current environment is that many organizations have had virtual work thrust upon them. They have not had the opportunity to think it through or plan properly. So, we can expect early results may be less than optimal until people learn and adapt. Most employees want to see their organization succeed. If they are given a chance to be part of something, they will jump at the opportunity. These days, it’s a remote opportunity, which is better than no opportunity at all.  

This article was first published by Smith Business Insight.

Queen’s alumna helping to protect frontline healthcare providers

Campaign led by Joanna Griffiths (Com’05) has raised more than $150,000 to purchase Personal Protection Equipment.

Joanna Griffiths
Joanna Griffiths (Com’05) is leading a campaign to raise funds to purchase Personal Protection Equipment for frontline healthcare workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Joanna Griffiths (Com’05), was talking with her brother, a doctor working in a Hamilton hospital. He mentioned that masks, gloves, and gowns, also known as personal protective equipment (PPE), were in short supply, and that his fellow frontline health-care workers in hospitals, shelters, and clinics across the country were growing desperate.

Fortunately, Griffiths was in a position to offer support. She is, after all, the founder of Knixwear, a women’s intimate apparel manufacturer, the sixth fastest growing company in Canada.

“My brother said he was really worried about their PPE supplies and wondered if we could help them get access to supplies through my network,” she recalls.

Griffiths and her team sprang into action. They reached out to their manufacturing contacts and vendors, and found them willing to lend a hand. The next step was to find the resources. “We decided to launch a Go Fund Me campaign so that we could just get ahead of things,” she says. “We started ordering supplies so that they could be here immediately while these broader initiatives were taking place.”

The campaign has raised more than $150,000. All money raised is going directly toward purchasing the items to donate. Knix and its partners will cover all costs associated with shipping and distributing the items.

Confronting COVID-19 Read more articles in this series

They are now ordering and distributing PPE items across the country and have set up a registry where health-care facilities in need can sign up. “We’ve had 40 institutions fill out the form and that’s across the country,” Griffiths says. This means hospital workers can safely treat COVID-19 patients without the risk of contracting and spreading the virus.

Griffiths recognizes her responsibility as someone in a position to help others. “We’ve done partnerships with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and different organizations,” she says. “A couple of years ago, we launched a campaign called Faces of Fertility to facilitate conversations around fertility. We also have our Positive Returns Program. When you order a bra from us online, if it doesn’t fit or you don’t like it, we enable you to donate that to a local women’s shelter.”

“I think at the best of times, it’s every leader’s responsibility to give back to society,” she says. “And in times of crisis — and this really is a crisis — I think that responsibility increases.”

This article was first published on the Queen's Alumni website.

How will COVID-19 impact business in Canada?

More Confronting COVID-19 Stories

In a coronavirus world, cash will be king, wearing a mask might not be so bad, and economic recovery will (hopefully) be quick.


Economics of coronavirus

Coronavirus is like a storm about to hit. No one knows how bad it’s going to get — or not. For now, coronavirus looks like a problem that could last months. Across Canada, governments are enacting emergency measures as they prepare for a virus that has so far sickened more than 200,000 worldwide and killed more than 8,000.

As the number of Canadian cases ticks up, businesses and schools are closing and people are hunkering down at home, having cleaned out stores of hand sanitizers, medical masks and soap. Streets are emptying.

On March 20, join Smith Business Insight and Queen’s Executive Education for a free 45-minute webinar offering an in-depth look at the immediate and long-term impacts of coronavirus on Canada. Featuring Smith finance professor Wei Wang, strategy and governance professor Scott Carson, and organizational behaviour professor Kate Rowbotham.
Register now to learn:
• What steps companies need to take to adapt over the next few months
• The biggest risks that businesses will face
• The long-term implications of coronavirus on the economy
• How government can help firms right now
• How to work with employees and keep them engaged
• Strategic opportunities that may be available to businesses coming out of the crisis
• Whether we can expect a quick recovery (or not)
Following the presentation, we’ll have time for Q&A with our speakers

Coronavirus will create a number of challenges for businesses. What are they? And how can companies best handle them? We asked five Smith School of Business professors to weigh in: marketing professors Laurence Ashworth and Monica LaBarge; finance professors Wei Wang and Louis Gagnon; and strategy and governance professor Scott Carson.

Here, they answer our pressing questions:

What impact do you see on Canadian companies in the weeks ahead with coronavirus?

Laurence Ashworth: The most significant will be a change in consumption habits. Consumers are likely to cancel or reduce travel, delay large expenditures and stockpile essentials. They are also likely to avoid business settings that involves groups, such as exercise classes, bars, restaurants and supermarkets. We will likely see more online shopping, and possibly increased consumption of in-home entertainment. In short, people are likely to engage in what they view as “protective behaviours”.

The extent to which people engage in these behaviours will depend, in part, on their perceptions of the likelihood of catching the disease and the perceived severity of it. These perceptions will not always be accurate. One factor I suspect may play a role in these perceptions will be knowing of someone who has contracted the disease, such as a friend or a friend of a friend. Anecdotal information of this kind is extremely powerful and will have a disproportionate impact on people’s perceptions of the coronavirus risk and exacerbate their protective behaviour.

What are some issues businesses will have to deal with?

Monica LaBarge: From both the customer and an employer/employee side, nobody wants to come in contact with someone who may have the virus. So there is likely to be both reduced demand as well as a reduced ability to provide services if people aren’t wanting to come into work. This may include social service agencies, such as food banks and mental health services, which provide really important services to vulnerable members of our communities. The need for such services doesn’t stop just because there is a virus; in fact, they may become even more important since those populations may not have the ability to either stockpile resources or a safe location to self-quarantine. 

What’s the No. 1 hurdle companies will have to overcome?

Wei Wang: The single biggest issue for firms will be a shock to their cash flows as consumers stop or delay buying. For businesses right now, cash is king. The more short-term liquidity a company has the better it will be able to survive the bad situation. So, companies should start securing lines of credit as soon as possible. Ideally they’ll need a runway that will last two quarters or even longer. Coronavirus will be a lot different than the last crisis because for companies it will be about taking a sudden hit to their cash flows. The longer this situation lasts, the more business failures we are going to see. 

How can businesses prepare themselves?

LaBarge: From a staffing perspective, they have to figure out how they’re going to handle the potential need to close—either because they think it’s the least risky move or if there’s a quarantine. Are they going to pay their workers via their sick leave? Or allow draw-downs on vacation? Or temporarily lay staff off and and potentially allow them to access employment insurance?—if that even will be allowed by government.

From a demand side, it may be a good time to run sales—which could be made available online—so people can buy now and pick up later, so as to maintain some sort of cash flow. For businesses like restaurants, I would suggest they keep one eye on the emergence of cases and another eye on their perishable inventory, so that if they do have to close temporarily they don’t experience significant losses on that front.

What can businesses and government do to ease people’s fears?

Ashworth: Businesses can offer consumers alternative methods of conducting business that don’t involve person-to-person contact. After all, this is the main thing consumers will be trying to avoid. More generally, business and government need to consider how to keep people acting normally—in other words, how to stop people feeling like they need to protect themselves so much, given that most people probably have inflated views of the risk. Information that helps people form accurate impressions is critical.

Contrary to what a good deal of health practitioners have been advising, it may be useful to allow consumers to practise even minimally effective protective behaviour, such as wearing face masks, because such activities will increase perceptions of protection, causing people to act more normally. Obviously we’d like people to practise effective protection too, such as hand washing and self-isolation when necessary, but, at the same time, a good deal of what we need to do is persuade people not to engage in drastic behaviours.

How can government help businesses overcome the economic downturn that coronavirus may cause?

Wang: Governments really need to take three steps to help businesses. First, both here in Canada and in the U.S., they need to contain the virus. If that means shutting down the country, then that’s what they need to do. So far, we’ve seen some businesses closing and others have remained open. If the virus continues to spread, this approach may not work, and more drastic measures will be required. One reason investors in America were so concerned at first was that the U.S. administration did not seem to be taking coronavirus seriously. That, of course, has now changed.

The next thing government needs to do is increase testing for coronavirus. Until we can find out for sure the number of cases, we won’t be able to get the virus under control. So the government should really fund more testing—bring back retired medical staff and set up temporary testing stations. The hospitals already have enough patients with other conditions to deal with.

The third step is financial support for businesses. Governments should be offering tax cuts and giving direct loans to small businesses to help them. We are starting to see fiscal stimulus packages from both countries but up until now what we saw was the Fed in the U.S. and the Bank of Canada cut interest rates. The problem with that strategy is it doesn’t really directly help many businesses. The biggest problem with coronavirus for most companies will be taking a hit on cash flow and a longer cash conversion cycle. Companies will have difficulty paying overheads, paying suppliers and perhaps making payments on their loans. So more direct support for businesses is what is required. If we have these three measures in place, we might be able to get over the worst of coronavirus in two months.

Can we expect a long or short economic recovery from coronavirus? 

Scott Carson: To give some strategic perspective, consider the fundamental structure of business relationships at the industry level. The basic competitive relationships among rival companies within industries are unchanged by the current situation. Businesses still compete on price, differentiation and the strategic use of resources.

What is being harmfully impacted is at the firm level. First, buyer behaviour is highly volatile, largely because of declining consumer confidence. Second, coronavirus is causing havoc with both production and transportation supply chains, requiring adjustments to current-period business plans. 

But these economic shocks are not permanent. They don’t represent structural changes to industries or a major rethinking of long-range corporate strategies. As with pandemics in the past, such as SARS in 2002-03, avian flu in 2006 and H1N1 in 2009, the duration is usually not much longer than a fiscal quarter, and the economic recovery is V-shaped—precipitously down, then rapidly back up. So, we should be confident that business activity will pick up and the economy will recover.

What will be some of the more long-term effects on businesses from coronavirus?

Louis Gagnon: If anything, the coronavirus should be reminding industry captains, such as Apple Inc.’s Tim Cook, that it is simply too dangerous to put all our eggs in one basket and tie our supply chains too closely to any specific country or region halfway across the world. Money managers have known for a long time that diversification across many stocks and sectors makes portfolios less vulnerable and pays off in the long run. This is a lesson which business leaders in other sectors of the economy need to learn as well, especially those who have chosen to export their manufacturing capacity to other countries to drive down their costs. This is basic risk management. 








Women CEOs negotiate better severance than men — for all the wrong reasons

As CEOs, women have it tougher than men. Their severance deals prove it. ​

Woman CEO listens to two other women
 Women CEOs face a much tougher road than their male counterparts. They’re more harshly judged and more likely to get fired.Tim Gouw / Unsplash)

Over the last 20 years, the number of female CEOs leading S&P 500 firms has increased fivefold. But it’s a deceiving figure: among large publicly traded firms, women still only make up six per cent of all CEOs.

One reason is that many qualified women are simply not interested in throwing their hats in the ring. One survey found that 64 per cent of men want to be appointed to top executive roles compared to only 36 per cent of women.

Why do women shy away? Some management experts say female CEO candidates do not feel they are playing on a level playing field, and that they’re more likely to be laid off than their male counterparts.

They are right to feel vulnerable. According to a recent study, female CEOs are 45 per cent more likely to be fired than their male counterparts. Previous research has shown that a man’s competence is often assumed in leadership roles while a woman’s competence is generally questioned. And female CEOs are more likely to be blamed when their organizations struggle, and are much more likely to be targeted by activist investors.

Rougher road

Female CEOs face a tougher road than male CEOs and they know it. You can see this play out when corporate boards try to recruit for the executive suite. Research I conducted with Felice Klein (Boise State University) and Cynthia Devers (Texas A&M University) examined whether pre-employment severance agreements reflect the heightened concern of prospective female CEOs that they are more vulnerable to being dismissed.

Severance agreements specify the amount paid out to the CEO in case of termination, and previous research has shown that they are used to insure the CEO against the risk of dismissal. As such, they offer a good measure of the perceived dismissal risk.

Given the well-publicized gender pay gap, most people would believe the severance agreements of male CEOs are larger than those of female CEOs. But we found that, in this case, the gender gap is reversed. Incoming female CEOs tend to negotiate much better severance agreements than men, but it’s for all the wrong reasons.

Our study was based on preliminary severance agreements between firms and newly appointed CEOs. It covered new CEOs of publicly traded U.S. corporations from 2007 to 2014, in all 870 cases.

We found that female CEOs tend to receive larger initial severance agreements than their male counterparts. The average contractual severance payment for incoming female CEOs is US$6.6 million versus $4.2 million for male CEOs. After controlling for other factors that affect the value of guaranteed severance payments, this “gender gap” remains significant.

You would think that women would be particularly cautious about leading struggling firms, and this shows up in our research. The gap in severance agreements is larger for firms with weakening performance or in cases where the previous CEO was terminated early.

The increase in the gender gap in these firms is driven by larger severance agreements for female CEOs; the severance agreements of male CEOs were no richer when men were appointed to struggling organizations.

More women in top positions reassures potential women CEOs that there is less risk of being terminated.
More women in top positions reassures potential women CEOs that there is less risk of being terminated. (Christina Wocintechchat / Unsplash)

More women, less risk

On the positive side, women considering a CEO position are apparently reassured by the presence of other female top executives. We found the gap in severance agreements was smaller in organizations that operate in industries with a greater number of female CEOs or that have at least one female director. In these cases, they clearly feel there is less risk that they will face biased evaluations of their performance.

There are messages here for both corporate boards and women considering senior executive positions.

The takeaway for boards is that if they really want to bring women into the executive suite, they can use the severance agreement as a recruiting tool to compensate women for the obstacles that they will inevitably face.

Workplace environment is critical

And as our study indicates, it is not enough to have a pipeline of qualified female candidates for the CEO role — the firm’s environment also plays a crucial role in reassuring female executives that their performance won’t be undervalued.

And for women, our research shows that they have more bargaining power in the employment negotiation process than they may have thought. We found that women are able to secure greater severance guarantees without trading cash — or incentive-based pay for severance. They identify the added risk and expect the reward for taking it on.

There’s also plenty of evidence to show that women CEOs are good for business. According to one study, public companies with women CEOs or chief financial officers were generally more profitable and produced better stock price performance than companies led by men.

Unfortunately for women, that performance does not seem to make their tenure any less risky.The Conversation


Pierre Chaigneau is an Associate Professor at Smith School of Business, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Capturing the Art of Research

Celebrating its fifth year, the Art of Research photo contest is open for submissions until March 12.

  • "Love Under the Microscope" by Dalila Villalobos, MD, Resident (Anatomical Pathology)
    "Love Under the Microscope" by Dalila Villalobos, MD, Resident (Anatomical Pathology)
  • "Santa Fina" by Una D'Elia, Faculty (Art History and Art Conservation)
    "Santa Fina" by Una D'Elia, Faculty (Art History and Art Conservation)
  • "A New Light" by Robert Cichocki, PhD Student (Civil Engineering)
    "A New Light" by Robert Cichocki, PhD Student (Civil Engineering)
  • "Window on a Window to the Universe" by Mark Chen, Faculty (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy)
    "Window on a Window to the Universe" by Mark Chen, Faculty (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy)
  • "Platinum Surface Electrochemistry" by Derek Esau, PhD Student (Chemistry)
    "Platinum Surface Electrochemistry" by Derek Esau, PhD Student (Chemistry)
  • "Keep Cool Boy - The Jets Aloft in West Side Story" by Tim Fort, Faculty (Dan School of Drama and Music)
    "Keep Cool Boy - The Jets Aloft in West Side Story" by Tim Fort, Faculty (Dan School of Drama and Music)
  • "Nano-dendrite Collision" by Hannah Dies, MD/PhD Student (Chemical Engineering)
    "Nano-dendrite Collision" by Hannah Dies, MD/PhD Student (Chemical Engineering)
  • "Exploring Worlds at Home" by James Xie, Undergraduate Student (Engineering Chemistry)
    "Exploring Worlds at Home" by James Xie, Undergraduate Student (Engineering Chemistry)

Researchers … ready your cameras. Returning for its fifth year, the Art of Research photo contest is looking to celebrate and creatively capture the research conducted by the Queen’s community.

Did you know that the university recently launched a new central website for Queen’s research? From in-depth features to the latest information on the university’s researchers, the site is a destination showcasing the impact of Queen’s research. Discover Research@Queen’s.

Hosted by the Office of the Vice-Principal (University Relations) and open to Queen’s faculty, staff, students, and alumni, the Art of Research provides a unique and accessible method of sharing ground-breaking research happening at the university. It also represents the diversity of Queen’s research, with winners representing multiple disciplines and submissions highlighting research happening at all career stages.

The contest is an opportunity for researchers to mobilize their research and spark curiosity. Visuals can create a more compelling and accessible research narrative. By looking at research from a different perspective, it is possible to find the beauty and art in any project.

Eligibility and Prizes

Any current Queen’s faculty, staff, student, or alumni are eligible to participate. Research depicted in the submissions must have been completed at Queen’s or while the submitter was affiliated with the university. More information about contest rules can be found on the Research@Queen’s website.

In addition to promotion across institutional channels and platforms, prizes of $500 will be awarded for the top submission in each of these categories:

Category Prizes

  • Community Collaborations: Research that partners with or supports communities or groups
  • Invisible Discoveries: Research unseen by the naked eye, hiding in plain sight, or only visible by using alternative methods of perception
  • Out in the Field: Research where it occurs, is documented, or discovered
  • Art in Action Prize: Research that is aesthetically or artistically transformed or research in motion as it happens
  • Best Description: To recognize the most creative and accessible description for an image
  • People’s Choice: Determined by an online vote by members of the Queen’s community

In honour of the fifth anniversary of the Art of Research photo contest, four special prizes of $500 each will be awarded to celebrate the diversity of research happening across the university.

  • The Innovation, Knowledge Mobilization, and Entrepreneurship Prize will be awarded to the submission that best demonstrates research that encompasses a spirit of the applied practices of innovation, entrepreneurship, and knowledge mobilization. (Sponsored by Partnerships and Innovation)
  • The Graduate Studies Prize will be awarded to the image submitted by a Queen’s graduate student or post-doctoral fellow that best embodies the School of Graduate Studies’ motto “Create an Impact.” (Sponsored by the School of Graduate Studies)
  • The Health Sciences Prize will be awarded to the image that best represents the Faculty’s mission of “ask questions, seek answers, advance care, and inspire change.” (Sponsored by the Faculty of Health Sciences)
  • The KGHRI Prize will be awarded to the image that best represents patient-oriented and clinical research. (Sponsored by Kingston General Health Research Institute (KGHRI))

The contest closes on March 12, 2020. The submission form can be found here and winning images from previous competitions are located on the Research@Queen’s website

New internal funding for research

Queen's Vice-Principal (Research) launches Wicked Ideas Competition.

Wicked problems are issues so complex and dependent on so many factors that it is hard to grasp what exactly the problems are or how to tackle them. Wicked ideas are needed to solve these problems, and demand the input of multiple disciplines, multiple perspectives, and relevant practical expertise.

The Vice-Principal (Research) has launched the Wicked Ideas competition as a pilot initiative to fund and support research collaborations that respond to local, national, and global challenges. Aligned with the concept of the Government of Canada’s New Frontiers in Research Fund – Exploration program, the competition “seeks to inspire projects that bring disciplines together beyond traditional disciplinary or common interdisciplinary approaches by research teams with the capacity to explore something new, which might fail but has the potential for significant impact.” Along with both disciplinary and interdisciplinary funding streams, the competition offers a “global challenge” stream, featuring climate change as a global challenge area.  Teams of researchers are invited to submit notices of intent by Feb. 3, 2020.

“This funding is designed to remove some of the financial barriers to high-risk, high-reward research, allowing scholars to push the boundaries of knowledge into uncharted territory,” says Dr. Kent Novakowski, Acting Vice-Principal (Research). “I greatly look forward to hearing about some of the paradigm-shifting ideas that come out of this new exploratory opportunity.”

Up to 15 teams will be awarded $75,000 each in the first phase of the competition in spring 2020. The 15 teams then will be eligible to compete for one of an additional five awards of up to $150,000 in the 2021 Wicked Ideas competition. The competition is open to all Queen's faculty across all disciplines. Co-investigators and team members also must be Queen's faculty members.

This is just one of several internal funding programs that have been launched by the Vice-Principal (Research) recently.  Other programs include the Queen’s Research Opportunities Fund (QROF) Post-doctoral Fund, as well as the Catalyst Fund – designed to enhance areas of research excellence by giving scholars an opportunity to accelerate their research programs.

A revised Prizes for Excellence in Research competition, which has recognized scholarly achievement at Queen’s since 1980, is set to launch soon.

More information about all of these programs, including terms of reference, is available on the Vice-Principal (Research) website.

Institute for Sustainable Finance launched

  • Executive Director Sean Cleary addresses the crowd during the official launch of the Institute for Sustainable Finance (ISF).
    Executive Director Sean Cleary addresses the crowd during the official launch of the Institute for Sustainable Finance (ISF).
  • ISF board member Pamela Steer talks to event keynote speaker and fellow board member Andy Chisholm (Com'81).
    ISF board member Pamela Steer talks to event keynote speaker and fellow board member Andy Chisholm (Com'81).
  • Smith Master of Finance alumni Emiko Savic and Ayo Olatunji talk with Smith professor and ISF Research Director Ryan Riordan.
    Smith Master of Finance alumni Emiko Savic and Ayo Olatunji talk with Smith professor and ISF Research Director Ryan Riordan.
  • ISF Research Director and Smith Professor Ryan Riordan reveals his 'green' side at the ISF launch event.
    ISF Research Director and Smith Professor Ryan Riordan reveals his 'green' side at the ISF launch event.
  • Guests take part in networking at the launch of the Institute for Sustainable Finance.
    Guests take part in networking at the launch of the Institute for Sustainable Finance.

Marking its official launch on Tuesday, the Institute for Sustainable Finance announced the establishment of the Canadian Sustainable Finance Network (CSFN), an independent and diverse alliance of academics, researchers and educators who will address the most pressing questions of this field, and our time.  

Climate-proofing Canada’s economy’
Housed at Smith School of Business, the Institute for Sustainable Finance is the first of its kind in Canada. With the official launch of institute on Tuesday, Queen’s Chancellor Jim Leech and ISF Executive Director Sean Cleary had their opinion piece ‘Climate-proofing Canada’s economy’ published in the Globe and Mail.

By developing the CSFN the Institute for Sustainable Finance is building upon its mandate to align mainstream financial markets with Canada’s transition to a prosperous sustainable economy.

“The Institute for Sustainable Finance aims to create the most credible and robust body of sustainable finance knowledge in the country,” says institute executive director, Sean Cleary, BMO Professor of Finance and Founding Director of the Master of Finance program at Smith School of Business at Queen’s University. “Establishing the CSFN as a critical resource for Canadian leaders is one way we can help guide the massive transition to a sustainable economy.”

The 44 members from 16 universities of the CSFN, which include Queen’s University, University of Calgary, Dalhousie University, Concordia University, University of Victoria, and University of Manitoba, will serve as an engine and collaboration platform for academia, industry and government to move sustainable finance forward in Canada. Its initiatives include expanding research partnerships and joint funding opportunities, creating a repository of education resources and growing program offerings, and collaborating with like-minded organizations such as the Global Research Alliance for Sustainable Finance and Investments (GRASFI). 

“Climate change is becoming a mainstream policy issue, and increasingly understood to have potentially serious financial consequences as well as being the source of significant opportunity. As a result, it is becoming an increasing focus for the global financial system, given the multi-faceted role finance plays in allocating capital and managing risk within key sectors of the economy,” says Andy Chisholm, a member of the institute’s advisory board and a member of the Canadian Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance. 

“Canada needs to keep up, and where appropriate, take a leadership role if we are to stay globally competitive,” he adds. “The longer we delay the more risk we take on and the more opportunity we forego or cede to others in a low-carbon transition. Universities have an important role to play and will be most effective in this space if they are encouraged to build off of and leverage each other’s strengths and advances. That is why this collaborative cross-country network is critical.” 

In addition to launching the CSFN, the Institute for Sustainable Finance has undertaken education initiatives to foster a deeper base of knowledge and expertise in Canada. In addition to the development of traditional academic courses, the institute and Queen’s Executive Education are launching programs for business professionals. The first program on Sustainable Investing will run April 15-17, 2020 in Toronto with more to follow. These efforts align with the Institute’s overall goal to significantly boost Canada’s capacity – in both the long and the short-term – to implement sustainable finance approaches that will enable the country to thrive through a low-carbon transition. 

“Working collaboratively on sustainable finance solutions, our world-class Canadian talent will help shape the financial system Canada’s future needs,” says Dr. Cleary. 

The Institute for Sustainable Finance is based at Smith School of Business, Queen’s University and is supported by the Ivey Foundation, the McConnell Foundation and the McCall MacBain Foundation. 

For a full list of Canadian Sustainable Finance Network members and to learn more about the Institute for Sustainable Finance, visit: isfcanada.org

Brenda Brouwer appointed Interim Dean of Smith School at Queen’s

Queen’s University is appointing Brenda Brouwer as the Interim Dean of Smith School of Business, effective Nov. 18, 2019.  

Brenda Brouwer

Dr. Brouwer recently completed a secondment with the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence as Head, Academic Partnerships. In this role she developed and led the talent development initiative cultivating relationships between the academy and industry to support a talent pipeline of master’s graduates with the skills, competencies and knowledge that organizations at the forefront of AI in Canada seek. Her time at Vector illustrated the importance of building networks between academies and organizations to promote knowledge and talent mobilization.

Prior to her secondment, Dr. Brouwer was the Vice-Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies at Queen’s for eight years, preceded by five years as the Associate Dean in the School of Graduate Studies. During her tenure, she provided academic and administrative leadership which saw the expansion and development of graduate credentials including professional and applied advanced degrees, the development of resources that support academic excellence, and student well-being. She also led the introduction of innovative and professional programming to meet the evolving needs of students entering an increasingly diverse labour market. As president of the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies from 2015-2017, Dr. Brouwer also played a key role in providing national leadership in graduate education.

Dr. Brouwer joined Queen’s after completing a PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Toronto. She holds a B.Sc. in Kinesiology (University of Waterloo) and an M.Sc in Biomechanics (McGill University). She is a professor in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy with cross appointments to the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies and the Centre for Neuroscience. Dr. Brouwer maintains a successful research program that focuses on quantifying the biomechanical, neuromuscular and metabolic demands of mobility in healthy aging and stroke.

Dr. Brouwer has served on numerous Senate committees, Council of Ontario Universities’ committees and working groups including the Council on Quality Assurance and the Highly Skilled Workforce Steering Committee. She has also been a member of the U.S. Council of Graduate Studies Advisor group for completion in STEM master’s programs.

“Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane and I extend our thanks to Dr. Brouwer for providing leadership to Smith during this period of transition,” says Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Tom Harris. “A special thanks also goes to Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion), for her support and guidance as Interim Dean of Smith School of Business during the past month.”

Dr. Brouwer is replacing David Saunders who is returning to his role as a faculty member at Smith and is enjoying a well-earned administrative leave (sabbatical) after 16 years as dean.

“Dr. Saunders led the school through tremendous growth including significantly expanding the portfolio of education programs to serve the evolving needs of business, and fostering areas of research and specialized expertise such as analytics and artificial intelligence, entrepreneurship and innovation, social impact and sustainability, leadership and teams, and more,” says Provost Harris. “Under his leadership, Smith established more than 100 strategic international partners and strengthened its reputation as one of the world’s pre-eminent business schools. I would like to thank Dr. Saunders for his significant contributions to Queen’s while heading up the Smith School.”

Smith School of Business at Queen’s is renowned for its excellence, innovation and leadership in business education. From establishing the first undergraduate business degree a century ago to creating groundbreaking programs and courses in emerging areas including artificial intelligence, fintech, analytics, cultural diversity, entrepreneurship, team dynamics, social impact and more, Smith is at the forefront of preparing students for the business marketplace. In addition to its rich tradition of academic and teaching excellence, Smith is known for delivering an outstanding learning and development experience. 

Smith Master of International Business first for North America in Financial Times ranking

The Financial Times has released the FT 2019 Masters in Management ranking, with Smith School of Business ranking first in North America and top 50 overall. 

The Smith Master of International Business (MIB) placed 48th out of 100 ranked programs from across the globe. The ranking saw Smith move up five spots over its 2018 ranking.  

The FT 2019 Masters in Management ranking is based on a wide range of criteria, including program design, value for money, student career progress, diversity of both students and faculty, and international experience and reach. 

Smith MIB ranked top 10 for international mobility, highlighting its commitment to providing students with a truly global experience during the program and after graduation.   

“This is a great tribute to the quality of our Master of International Business program,” Elspeth Murray, Associate Dean MBA and Masters Programs, says. “Our focus on providing cutting-edge business education, strong personal skills development, and great career outcomes carries across all our Master of Management programs at Smith.”

View the full FT 2019 Masters in Management ranking here.

Search begins for Interim Dean, Smith School of Business

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane announced on Tuesday, Oct. 15 the appointment of Teri Shearer, Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion), as Interim Dean of Smith School of Business.

The appointment follows the resignation of David Saunders, who had served as dean for more than 16 years. Dr. Saunders will now begin an administrative leave and will return to his faculty position in 2023. 

Dr. Shearer, a Smith faculty member, will hold the position until a more permanent Interim Dean is appointed, an announcement that Principal Deane expects to make within the next month. 


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