May 23, 2018

Research passion leads students to enriching experiences outside the classroom

How the renewed Academic and Research Plans shape learning at University of Calgary; share your perspective

Nursing student Suzanna Crawford, pictured above, stared at the classroom whiteboard that would soon be the window into her future as a successful entrepreneur. It yielded nothing. Then she turned to her project partner and told him she saw a huge gap in health care that needed to be filled. Yes, he said, nodding, that could work. That aha moment has bloomed into a thriving, socially minded business.

The really cool thing, says Crawford, is that her experience can be a spark for other students at UCalgary to embrace entrepreneurship and make a positive impact in the wider community, especially if they don’t view themselves as entrepreneurially minded — she didn’t at first.

“Once we had the idea, we filled that whiteboard with coloured sticky notes and then started contacting all the people we thought could help us launch the business,” says master of nursing student Crawford, BSc’10, BN’13, recalling that winter day two years ago when she and biomedical engineering graduate Michael Purdy, BSc’13, MSc’17, worked together in ENTI 785, the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation's New Venture Development course.

Startup creates greater sense of community for all Calgarians

The Hunter Centre course, available to non-MBA graduate students, offered Crawford and Purdy the opportunity, along with some 30 other graduate students, to create and launch a business idea. That idea became Enable, a startup that has created a greater sense of community for Calgarians of all abilities by matching people with disabilities to student caregivers, currently employing Crawford and 40 support workers. Crawford and Purdy developed Enable with training, mentorship and space provided by Summer Inc., an incubator program started by the Hunter Centre and now funded by the Hunter Hub and the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

“I was always intrigued by entrepreneurship and even though it seemed to have nothing to do with nursing, I took the course,” says Crawford, who works at Alberta Children’s Hospital as a registered nurse, operates Enable and continues to work on her graduate thesis. “Eyes High suggests to me that any student can become an entrepreneurial thinker and be a champion for important projects and themselves.”

The knowledge she and Purdy created has solved the problem of ensuring people with disabilities are paired with the right support workers, while improving the quality of life for both groups. It shows the value of creating and reinforcing cross-faculty collaborative initiatives and programs. The Enable project won the top prize of $10,000 last year at the Graduate Students’ Association Inaugural Innovation Development Awards.

Crawford received the Faculty of Graduate Studies’ Entrepreneurship and Innovation scholarship for two years, worth a total of $20,000, and is now embarking on a second term with Summer Inc. “It’s such a pivotal time to be part of this move towards entrepreneurship and innovation at the University of Calgary,” says the enterprising Crawford, who considers working on her laptop at a downtown café a productive hobby. “The Faculty of Nursing has been very supportive, as has my graduate supervisor. It’s a faculty that traditionally you wouldn’t see students creating a business venture, but I’m proof you can combine a love of nursing and social impact into a sustainable business venture.”

Kate Anderson's interest in analyzing old and rare books got a boost from PURE, the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience.

Kate Anderson's interest in analyzing old and rare books got a boost from PURE.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

English undergrad breathes new life into old books

While Crawford is driven partly by her passion for entrepreneurship and the impact it can make in health care, English undergrad Kate Anderson is bent on breathing new life into old books, mapping them so they come alive for others. An avid reader motivated by intellectual curiosity, Anderson has been working on the cutting edge of research in the growing field of book history.

During the summer last year, Anderson spent hours and hours in the reading room of Special Collections in the Taylor Family Digital Library, working in the rare book collection. While she loves to dive deep into old books, she balances her life as a student researcher with being a student athlete for the Dinos cross-country and track teams.

“Provenance is a new focus scholars are using to analyze hand press books,” says Anderson, who plans to begin work on her master's in English this year. “My examination of our collection’s unique items adds to this scholarship. In my research, I am attempting to stretch the boundaries of what a book is and pushing for a movement beyond literature into the lives of books.”

Research seeks to reveal artifacts' personalities, history

By exploring the marks of provenance in the collection, she is trying to reveal the personalities and histories of the artifacts. “I want to bring a bit of humanity back into these old pieces of literature trapped in our vaults and give these books the attention they deserve.”

Her research was enabled by a Program for Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE) award that provides undergraduate students with opportunities to experience research beyond the walls of the classroom. The renewed Academic and Research Plans give her and other students the opportunity to participate in groundbreaking research, she says, and she’s hoping the number of students who are provided research opportunities continues to grow.

Read more about the energized Eyes High Strategy or watch videos about its origins.

Read more about the energized Eyes High Strategy or watch videos about its origins.

About UCalgary's Academic and Research Plans

Students, faculty, staff, and postdoctoral scholars at the University of Calgary move us forward every day in the work they do supporting our Eyes High Strategy 2017-2022. People in the Plans, a series appearing in UToday, explores how our people drive the success of the renewed Academic and Research Plans — the road maps to Eyes High.

The refreshed Academic and Research Plans are based on an integrated model, one that acknowledges the connection between teaching, learning and research. Each plan has three priorities with identified major goals and strategies. Both plans are connected through the value propositions of student experience and impact, and share a common priority of driving innovation. The five priorities included in the Academic and Research Plans will drive human, capital and financial resource allocations over the next five years at the university.