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MBA students assist Aborigional groups

Practical application

(May 18, 2000, Gazette)

By Megret Yabsley

When presented with the opportunity to experience a new culture and apply knowledge acquired in her MBA program, Mary Furey could not resist. This past winter Ms. Furey, along with 11 other Memorial MBA students, participated in the nation-wide program called the Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO) Aboriginal Services. CESO Aboriginal Services helps Canada’s Aboriginal communities achieve their business goals by providing business advice, training and resources through the skills and work of MBA students across the country.

Sponsored by the Royal Bank of Canada, the CESO program provides a unique learning opportunity for all participants. Once accepted to the program, groups of four students are assigned a project and an advisor.

Together they travel to far areas of the country where they immerse themselves in the culture and business problems facing an Aboriginal group. Working with the Aboriginal group, students prepare new venture plans and financing plans, in addition to providing business training to their clients. For their work, students earn a credit towards their degree.

Ms. Furey, the manager of information technology for the Faculty of Business Administration, together with group members Rick Penney, Mark Stuckless, and Gordon Kennedy, were assigned to a project in Whitehorse, Yukon. With CESO mentor, Chris Trunkfield, the group worked with the Kwanlin Dhn First Nations to provide recommendations to the community on how to invest its cash portion of a $25 million land claim settlement for long term security and growth.

“When we were first given the project, we thought that we would be helping with the creation of an economic development commission,” said Ms. Furey. “However, once we met with Burt Perry, director of economic development for the Kwanlin Dhn First Nations, it became evident that this was not the goal of the community. Clearly the establishment of a holding company would meet their needs and objectives.”

The lure of a new culture, the opportunity to apply her knowledge and the chance to see new parts of Canada enticed Ms. Furey and her group members.

“I thought to myself, what a wonderful chance to experience a new culture first-hand,” she said. “Our involvement in CESO allowed us the opportunity to work on a project related to the Aboriginal land claim settlement issue. Our work has allowed us to some degree to become involved in Canadian history.”

MBA student, Tami Hynes, agrees with the Ms. Furey about the lure of a new culture. With her group, Ms. Hynes traveled to Hazelton, British Columbia to assist the Kisgegas First Nations with a new business venture. Ms. Hynes and her group members became immersed in the culture when they stayed with Alice Jeffrey, Hereditary Band Chief for the Kisgegas First Nations.

“As students, we take a great deal away from the project,” said Ms. Hynes. “Not only do we apply the knowledge and skills we have acquired through our education, but we learn important personal skills such as diplomacy which are vital to our future success. As consultants we need to be diplomatic, realistic and attentive to our client’s needs as they work towards creating their dreams.”

Dr. Herb MacKenzie, associate professor at the Faculty of Business Administration and CESO advisor, said this program allows students to use skills acquired in their MBA program through real world applications.

“Furthermore, they experience one of Canada’s unique mircrocultures,” he added.

Memorial first participated in CESO with two teams in 1997. The program continues to grow and for each of the past three years, the Faculty of Business Administration has had three groups selected for the program. The next group of students will begin work on their projects in February 2001.