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Scholarship program takes Olympians into a new game – business

Business School News

Scholarship program takes Olympians into a new game – business

One-year-old partnership between Smith and Canadian Olympic Committee is yielding its first graduates

Gabriel Beauchesne-Sévigny, paddling behind boat partner Benjamin Russell, saw the Smith MBA as a way to transition his career into business after 14 years on the national team.

The Globe's roundup of news at Canadian business schools.

In late 2016, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Smith School of Business at Queen's University announced a new scholarship program for top athletes leaving their high-performance playing careers.

The November announcement left Gabriel Beauchesne-Sévigny just weeks to submit his MBA application for the incoming Queen's class of January of 2017.

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But speedy moves are nothing new for Mr. Beauchesne-Sévigny, 32, a sprint canoeist whose international awards include a gold medal at the Pan American Games in 2015 and top-five finishes at the Olympics (2008), Pan Ams (2011) and the canoe sprint world championship (2013 and 2014).

With his competitive career coming to a close after 14 years on the national team, Mr. Beauchesne-Sévigny saw an MBA as a way to pivot to a career in business. "In the transition I wanted to capitalize on my strengths and abilities and all the qualities I built as an athlete."

Last January, with an engineering undergraduate degree, he joined Smith's one-year MBA program on a full scholarship. Under the partnership with Smith, COC-vetted athletes apply like any other student to a range of Smith postgraduate business degrees but are eligible for special financial support for their studies.

Under the eight-year agreement, an estimated 1,200 Olympic athletes in the COC's Game Plan program (which provides post-sports career assistance) can pursue a variety of scholarship-supported business studies at Smith.

So far, Mr. Beauchesne-Sévigny is one of 25 athletes enrolled at Smith, according to Elspeth Murray, associate dean of the school's MBA and masters programs.

"Athletes have many of the qualities that make for great leaders and managers," she says, citing one rationale for the program, which offers full scholarships. In addition, she notes, the exit from high-performance sports to the next stage of life poses challenges for some athletes. "There was also a recognition that once the [Olympic] Games are done and your time as an athlete is up, a lot of athletes struggle to figure out what next."

Mr. Beauchesne-Sévigny, who wraps up his studies at Smith next month, says he sees parallels between his life as an athlete and the school's team-based teaching approach and use of multiple coaches who work with students alone or in groups. In both cases, he says, feedback, self-analysis and teamwork are keys to success.

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"Right from the get-go, you are surrounded by 80 or so people who are transitioning or trying to augment their careers," he says of his Smith classmates. "I felt right at home with this group of high achievers who wanted to sharpen up and learn new concepts quickly."

As Emerance Maschmeyer continues her hockey career and remains hopeful of a spot on Team Canada for the 2018 Winter Games, she’s taking a semester-long certificate in business through Smith.

Meanwhile, women's hockey goalie Emerance Maschmeyer signed up in September for a scholarship-supported, six-course certificate in business offered online by Kingston-based Smith. A member of Canada's silver medal world championship women's hockey team for the past three years, she is currently an alternate for the roster heading to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February of 2018.

After losing out on a for-sure spot on the team last spring, she moved to Montreal to play for Les Canadiennes, a professional team in the Canadian Women's Hockey League. Given the current uncertainty of her Olympic ambitions – she has been recalled to play with the national team several times this year – Ms. Maschmeyer says the online program gives her flexibility to pursue a long-standing interest in business.

When she heard about the COC-Smith partnership, she says, "I felt like it was calling my name and I applied." The 23-year-old, who graduated in sociology and economics from Harvard University last year, says the online program allows her to study on her own time.

"I have my laptop with me all the time," she says, adding she uses Skype to connect with fellow students who work in teams on projects.

She graduates from her first course in the certificate program and is considering an MBA or possibly starting a company with her hockey-family siblings. Importantly, she has not given up her Olympic dreams for 2018.

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In contrast, Mr. Beauchesne-Sévigny has settled on his post-Olympic career. Through Smith, he landed a job with the Canadian operations of Johnson & Johnson in Markham, Ont., as an assistant product manager.

He sees strong similarities between his past and future careers: Both emphasize the need to analyze data, assess one's own performance, make course corrections and work in teams to achieve larger goals.

One thing won't change, however. After graduation, when Mr. Beauchesne-Sévigny relocates to the Toronto suburb for work, he plans to live close to Lake Ontario.

"I'm very attracted to the water," he laughs. "It doesn't matter what is the craft; I just have to self-propel myself."

Roger Martin has been named the world’s top management thinkers by Thinkers50.

Former dean wins top honours

Thinkers50, a London-based organization that rates the world's top management thinkers every two years, gave top billing this month to Roger Martin, former dean of the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. Prof. Martin is currently director of Rotman's Martin Prosperity Institute.

In 19th spot among the 50 most influential researchers is another Rotman professor, Richard Florida, who is cities director of the Martin institute.

Follow Jennifer Lewington and Business School News by subscribing to an RSS feed here or via Twitter @JenLewington.

Contact Jennifer at jlewington@bell.net

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