Reflecting on 2016

By Ray DePaul

I've become a huge fan of reflection as a fundamental tool in learning. However, as I reflect on 2016 at the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, it's not the lessons that stand out, but rather the people that I'm thankful to have shared the year with.

I'm thankful for the students who say 'yes'. You are the ones that create a real sense of community. Every time you show up in numbers at events such as Launch Party or ATB Boostr, you remind Calgary what makes us special.

I'm thankful for student entrepreneurs who refuse to be depressed at the economy around them and get to work creating their own future. Zac Hartley of Smoke Barrel, Paul Shumlich of Deepwater Farms, and Ozzy Lang of Green Cup are young entrepreneurs that I expect will never be out of work.

For alumni who stay engaged even though their lives have never been busier. I can't even think of a time when Andrew Browne of TikTiks or Aislinn Taylor of Trout+Taylor (or Derek, Stefan, Zac, Paul, Dustin, …) said 'no' to a request.

For faculty who do all the heavy lifting of teaching over 1200 entrepreneurship students and still find the time to create a new BBA with a 10-course Concentration in Innovation and Entrepreneurship - the first of its kind.

I'm thankful for community partners who shoot first, then aim. With very little notice and planning, Neetu Sidhu from ATB Boostr connected 14 companies to entrepreneurship students in our Art of the Pitch course. Guided by the innovative Carolyn Sterenberg, the results were remarkable for both the students and the companies.

For the Calgary entrepreneurs who tirelessly give their time to benefit our students. Although too many to name, Evan Hu stands out for teaching our Venture Launch course for a masterful five years. We are thrilled that Carey Houston has stepped into Evan's oversized shoes.

For my Designing YOU co-author David Finch, who pushed me way outside my comfort zone and let me achieve the title of Author - a feat that I would have bet heavily against.

For young leaders like Tyler Massie and Nicole MacDougall who put their career on hold to stick around and lead a group of creative students and alumni at Design4Change, a student-run marketing agency.

For gifted colleagues like Jenn Richardson, who puts students at the centre of every decision, and surprises no one when she steps up to new responsibility, time and again.

For Mount Royal, a 106 year old institution who gave the wheel to a somewhat unpredictable, recovering entrepreneur, and then asked me to come back and steer the Institute for another five years.

I'm thankful for our donors. The Institute is 100% donor funded. If it weren't for David and Leslie Bissett, the RBC Foundation, JMH&Co, the BUSY Foundation and other generous donors, the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship doesn't exist. Period.

Finally, I'm thankful that I have been given the opportunity to plant roots in and interact with this wonderful community.