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This year's edition of the student-run MBA Games, an annual event that tests the academic, athletic and school spirit of graduate business students, set a number of firsts. Among them was a record fundraising campaign for a legacy project – violence prevention on Canadian university campuses – designed to last long after the Games' conclusion this week.
As first-time hosts of the Games, the student organizing committee at Vancouver Island University's faculty of management was determined to present a memorable event, held in Western Canada for the first time in 30 years. "Our leadership style is to do things with meaning and purpose or not do it at all," says Omar Karim, the chairman of the MBA Games organizing committee who graduates with his MBA this spring from Nanaimo, B.C.-based VIU.
This year, in consultation with university officials and aboriginal philanthropic organizations, the Games named the Moose Hide Campaign, established five years ago to end violence against indigenous and non-indigenous women and children, as its designated charity. Student organizers secured a pledge from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation of Montreal to match up to $150,000 raised through the Games – the first time a matching donor had been recruited.
At the conclusion of the Games, organizers announced they had raised $100,000 (almost $45,000 alone from VIU students) from the 19 registered schools and two 11th-hour donations ($25,000 each from B.C.-based Vancouver City Savings Credit Union and an anonymous donor) to ensure the full matching grant from McConnell and a $300,000 total. The previous MBA Games fundraising record was $69,000.
With funds from the Games (and matched by McConnell), the Moose Hide Campaign plans a "safe space, safe place" initiative to support violence-prevention activities on Canadian university campuses. Up to $7,500 will be available for projects such as night-time courtesy walks for female students to return safely to their dorms or monitoring campus parties to prevent sexual assaults. (Men sign a contract not to date any women they are assigned to assist.)
"We have taken it to a whole other level," says Mr. Karim, of the successful fundraising drive. "We are so happy we can create safer spaces and places on university campuses across Canada."
Prior to the Games, Moose Hide Campaign founder Paul Lacerte, the former executive director of the B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, praised the students' efforts. "It's incredible what they are doing."
Mr. Lacerte, now executive director of the Moose Hide Campaign Development Society, says the interest shown by business students in indigenous and violence-prevention issues is timely. "The issue is the right time and place and the right alignment with all that is happening," he says. Speaking in advance of the Games, he said, "If they raise only one dollar we are thrilled."
To date, the B.C. charity has distributed more than 500,000 squares of moose hide (cut and prepared by unemployed aboriginal women) to First Nations communities, government, education and community groups to raise awareness of violence issues faced by women and youth.
Mr. Karim says the selection of the Moose Hide Campaign as the charity of choice for the Games coincided with Canada's 150th anniversary and calls for meaningful reconciliation with First Nations communities by the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission. "We wanted to see how we could take the importance of what the Moose Hide Campaign is doing and take it to a whole other level," he says.
In a press release before the Games, McConnell foundation president and chief executive officer Stephen Huddart stated "creating a safe society for everyone, including women and children – indigenous and non-indigenous – is the responsibility of all," citing collaboration with the Games as contributing to the Moose Hide Campaign's "important mission."
Mr. Karim described his university as the "backbone" of the student-run event.
Beyond the immediate economic contribution of the MBA Games to the local economy, Vancouver Island University president Ralph Nilson sees potential for lasting impact on the students themselves.
"These students, by virtue of being involved with their peers across the country, are developing networks and friendships that will last them when they are in industry," he says.
In addition, he says the designation of the Moose Hide Campaign as the Games' charity signals the interest of a new generation of soon-to-be business leaders in reconciliation on aboriginal issues. "All of a sudden we have these future industry leaders involved in something [the Moose Hide Campaign] where they will have the opportunity to learn, grow and make a significant contribution."
As the final icing on the cake, the student team from VIU's faculty of management took first place in the overall competition, with York University's Schulich School of Business and the University of Alberta's school of business in second and third place, respectively.
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