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The University of Alberta's School of Business team participating in the campaign to raise awareness about youth homelessness. (Univeristy of Alberta)
The University of Alberta's School of Business team participating in the campaign to raise awareness about youth homelessness. (Univeristy of Alberta)

Students get a taste of homelessness Add to ...

At 24 universities across Canada this week, teams of students (mostly from business schools) tried to get a small taste of what it is like to be homeless.

They slept outside in sleeping bags, wore the same clothes to class every day, took no showers and relied on the kindness of strangers for spare change for food. They even gave up their cell phones.

Their short-lived deprivation was part of a national campaign to raise money for – and awareness about – youth homelessness. The campaign got its start in 2005, with undergraduate students from the University of Alberta’s School of Business.

“We are really not trying to try to mimic the hardship that homeless youth have to go through,” says first-year business student Kristiann McCool, one of two co-chairs for U of A’s campaign this year. “We just want to experience a tiny bit of what they might experience and push us outside our comfort zone to make people on campus aware.”

To boost publicity for the cause, she and fellow co-chair Nicole Cayanan, a third-year undergraduate commerce student, asked interim dean Joseph Doucet to join them. He agreed to bring his sleeping bag on Thursday if they could raise $20,000 of their $25,000 goal by Wednesday.

They did, and he joined them.

By Mar. 16, as the U of A students packed up their sleeping bags, they had raised more than $22,000 – 90 per cent of their target. At the same time, the national campaign has raised $160,000 so far, about 56 per cent of its goal.

“They are generally interested in giving back in some way,” says dean Doucet, of the U of A business students. “They see themselves as future leaders in society and leaders in what they are doing.”

Like students at other universities participating in the homeless campaign, the eight-person U of A team spent the last few months signing up corporate sponsors and running on-campus fundraisers.

At the school’s annual gala this week to honour a business leader in Alberta, the two co-chairs took a short break from their sleep-out to solicit donations from the 800 attendees. At each place-setting, they left a package of oatmeal with a provocative question: “Do you know where you will be sleeping tonight?”

Ms. McCool and Ms. Cayanan say the charitable event has taught them lessons applicable to their future careers.

“It’s teaching me how a team of people can change lives financially and emotionally,” says Ms. Cayanan. “It is the more human side of business we are not really shown in class.”

Being in business, adds Ms. McCool, “is not all about getting rich and making money for oneself.”

The U of A campaign directs its donations of about $20,000 a year to Edmonton’s Youth Emergency Shelter Society, which annually provides crisis housing and longer-run support for 3,000 youth aged 15-20.

Sue Keating, associate executive director of the youth agency, says the students “are going to be business leaders in future years and this is something they will carry with them throughout their careers.”

Based on her contact with students in past campaigns, she has some inkling of how the volunteers will feel after their week outdoors this week. “They tend to be enthusiastic going in but at the end of five days they are haggard…and physically and emotionally exhausted,” she says.

Fast track for CAs

Amid growing demand for financial executives with an MBA, York University’s Schulich School of Business is making it easier for more chartered accountants to fast-track their graduate business studies.

Since 1998, Schulich has offered direct entry to the second year of its MBA program to those with undergraduate degrees in business administration or commerce and a minimum B-average grade. The accelerated entry means they can finish their studies in eight months instead of 16 months, while part-time MBA students can complete their program in 20, not 40, months.

About 85 per cent of chartered accountants have undergraduate business degrees, so they already qualify for the accelerated MBA.

The new rule change applies to about 15 per cent of chartered accountants with non-business degrees (say in history or English) who later acquired the requisite credits for membership in the professional accountancy bodies. As with chartered accountants with traditional degrees, those with non-business undergraduate degrees will qualify for direct entry to the second year of MBA studies, assuming they meet the school’s minimum GMAT score requirements.

“These are really attractive candidates because they bring to business analysis a broader perspective,” says Marcia Annisette, an associate professor of accounting at Schulich. “We need to take on far broader societal perspectives when making business decisions.”

New Award

The Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University has established a new professorship to promote excellence in research and teaching. Carolyn Egri, a professor of management and organization studies, is the first William J.A. Rowe EMBA Alumni Professor, named for a former student and long-time adviser to the executive MBA program who died in 2010.

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