Shahin Hirji

Shahin Hirji was looking for a program that would help combine her passion for sustainability with her career experience in the mining industry in a way that was practical, hands-on and diverse. She chose the Graduate Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability at the University of St. Michael’s College.

“I think the program is an excellent way to learn about the principles, vocabulary and landscape of sustainability in a relatively short period of time while providing enough of a foundation and practical tools to set you up on a life-long journey of learning and exploration,” she says. “I was very impressed by the breadth of the program, which was reflected in the many different facets of sustainability that were covered, the experience, knowledge and generosity of the faculty, and dynamic nature of the program.”

Today, Hirji, who is a principal consultant at Distill Consulting, is one of the winners of the 2020 President’s Capstone Project Award for her summative project, which won in the category of Social and Environmental Impact.  Break with Tradition examines a disconnect in the mining industry that considers questions of sustainability post-design rather than building sustainability into the life cycle of projects.

Among the lessons she will take away from the program are “the concepts of slow knowledge, systems thinking and understanding that transformational change requires perseverance will stay with me for a long time.”

And as for applying those skills, she says they are used daily, whether professionally, in her role as a volunteer, or in terms of personal enrichment.

“I’ve already started applying what I’ve learned in my professional life, and it’s begun to shape and direct my focus in my volunteering activities,” she says. “The program has also really enhanced my understanding of sustainability and I find myself incorporating many of the philosophies that I’ve learned in my personal life and in my decision-making.”

Visit the Graduate Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability’s Fall Convocation 2020 page to learn more about this year’s graduates and to celebrate their unique achievement. 

David Rutherford

David Rutherford was taking on a new role leading NEI Investments’ ESG Services team when he decided to enrol in the Graduate Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability at the University of St. Michael’s College.

The team, he explains, had more than three decades of responsible investment work and had established itself as the industry leader.

“I had worked closely with the team as the head of marketing for NEI, but wanted to deepen my knowledge and understanding of the sustainability field as I came into this role. The Diploma Program in CSR and Sustainability was a perfect fit,” says Rutherford, who is Vice President, ESG Services at NEI.

Rutherford is one of three winners of the 2020 President’s Capstone Project Award for his summative work in the category of Innovative Practices in Social & Environmental Responsibility, Sustainability and/or ESG. His project, Purpose Enablement,  examines Responsible Investing at a time when both investors and businesses are looking for ways to move toward shared value and social purpose.

He describes the program’s content as “universally excellent” and offers the same description of various presenters, but singles out the program’s leadership. He won in the category of Innovative Practices in Social & Environmental Responsibility, Sustainability and/or ESG for an assignment he called Purpose Enablement, which examines Responsible Investing at a time when both investors and businesses are looking for ways to move toward shared value and social purpose.

“I really have to commend the program’s leaders—Kathryn Cooper and Mimi Marrocco—for taking a curatorial approach to enrolees in the program… the highest value of the program to me was the group of truly exceptional leaders enrolled in the program. They served to amplify my learning, both during the program and since.”

Rutherford describes the diploma program’s style of learning as both “focused” and “often eclectic.

“There is the practical, in-class instruction, hands-on exercises, and online learning you would expect, but there are also strange and wonderful elements—like fiction, poetry and meditation—that help you consider sustainability through non-traditional viewpoints. This approach really enriches the experience.”

But the biggest lesson he says he will take away from this program is that it will take “strong, committed, diverse leaders to solve the sustainability challenges we face. Learning is only part of it and only takes you so far. We need smart and dedicated people in decision making roles to achieve our goals. The 2020 cohort wholly understood this fact. They—we—will carry this forward.”

The skills and knowledge Rutherford gained has been invaluable, he says, noting that he applies them every day in his strategic thinking “as we move NEI’s ESG team and the entire organization forward. But it is the personal enrichment of meeting, working with, and getting to know my fellow classmates that is most important to me. I will continue to learn from them for years to come.”

Visit the Graduate Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability’s Fall Convocation 2020 page to learn more about this year’s graduates and to celebrate their unique achievement. 

TORONTO, November 13  — The University of St. Michael’s College is celebrating the announcement of the three winners of the 2020 President’s Capstone Project Award in its distinguished Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability program.

 

  • Shahin Hirji is the winner in the category of Social and Environmental Impact. Her project Break with Tradition examines a disconnect in the mining industry that considers questions of sustainability post-design rather than building sustainability into the life cycle of projects.

 

  • Shawna Peddle is the winner in the category addressing Significant Advancement in Social and Environmental Responsibility, Sustainability and/or ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) in a participant’s workplace. Her project, Developing a Theory of Change: The Pathways to Employability Initiative, demonstrates the intersection of social purpose and business by using a cooperative business model to advance a pressing social need (youth employment) during a global pandemic.

 

  • David Rutherford is the winner in the category of Innovative Practices in Social & Environmental Responsibility, Sustainability and/or ESG. His project, Purpose Enablement, examines Responsible Investing at a time when both investors and businesses are looking for ways to move toward shared value and social purpose.

 

Two other projects received honourable mentions: Gina E. Castillo received special acknowledgement for a project entitled Sowing the Seeds of Sustainable Cities, while Paula Murphy Ives was mentioned for her project, Sphere—Reimagining New Ways of Living and Working Together.

“These projects are an excellent reflection of the important work taking place in this program, and speaks to many of St. Michael’s, core values, whether it’s a question of environmental sustainability, social justice, or simply the need to care for one another,” says University  President David Sylvester. “We are proud to see our students produce such outstanding work.”

Those considered for the President’s Capstone Award are nominated by their mentors. Projects must be distinguished in what they achieve or propose in one or more of the following criteria: 1) advancing social and/or environmental impact; 2) introducing innovative practices in social and environmental responsibility, sustainability, ESG and/or 3) significantly advancing social and environmental responsibility, sustainability and/or ESG to the creator’s organization.

This year’s panel of project evaluators included Wendy Mitchell, a 2016 graduate of the program  and the founder of a social purpose consultancy; Yvonne Jeffery, a 2103 graduate of the program and Director of Sustainability, Vermilion Energy; and Jennifer Niece, a 2017 program graduate and Director, Sustainability and Services, 360 Energy.

Thirty-five participants are accepted annually to St. Michael’s program, which attracts students from across Canada and around the world. This “work as you learn” program enables participants to take their career in Social Responsibility and Sustainability to the next level.  Participants tackle and resolve a Sustainability/ESG challenge in their company in a major Action Project under the mentorship of faculty and co-learners; learn from global thought leaders; experience practical “real world” change management through the ExperienceChange™ Simulation and join a prestigious community of St. Michael’s Alumni in continuing education, sharing and networking.  Graduates receive the post nominal letters G.Dipl.SR&S.

The Diploma is now accepting applications for 2021/2022.To apply, please see the Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability Website.  First Intake Deadline is April 30, 2021.

 

About the University of St. Michaels College in the University of Toronto

The University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) is a Catholic institution of higher learning federated with the University of Toronto. USMC strives to offer students a transformative educational experience in a diverse and engaged community, encouraging and supporting students and graduates to share their gifts in the cause of the greater good.

A Business Advisory Committee ensures the Diploma program is relevant and experiential. Sustainability/ESG Leaders representing a broad range of business sectors provide advice and input.

 

 For More Information Contact

Kathryn A. Cooper, Program Manager, Diploma in Social Responsibility & Sustainability

Phone: (519) 855-9491

Website: https://www.csr-stmikes.ca/

 

Visit the Graduate Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability’s Fall Convocation 2020 page to learn more about this year’s graduates and to celebrate their unique achievement. 

The logos for the Graduate Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability program at St. Michael's and Umalia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

University of St. Michael’s College and Umalia Collaborate on Brokering Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships

TORONTO, Canada November 10 / – This week the Diploma in Social Responsibility & Sustainability and Umalia are launching a “living learning laboratory” on multi-stakeholder partnerships.  “This is a win-win collaboration,” says Kathryn Cooper, Program Manager. “Umalia is a leader in developing multi-stakeholder partnerships for social and environmental impact.  Our students will be learning firsthand best practices while lending their expertise to the future sustainability of the project.”

Students from the 2020/21 Cohort of the Graduate Diploma in Social Responsibility & Sustainability will be studying the Climat’Eau project.  This project, led by Umalia for the last three years, is a multi-stakeholder partnership in Benin, Africa involving local Beninese partners, the Sô-Ava municipal government and the Sô-Ava Collective of Civil Society Organizations, the Canadian company Technologies Ecofixe, and Université Laval.  The purpose of the project has been to build resilience of populations against the effects of climate change in Benin.

“The students at the University of St. Michael’s College will be examining five aspects of the project and making recommendations to contribute to the reflection of the long-term sustainability of this partnership,” says Lucie Bourgeois, President and Founder of Umalia.  “Our project team is looking forward to receiving an external perspective on this important project.”

The Benin project began in 2017 and is funded in part by the Government of Quebec under the International Climate Cooperation Program.  In 2013 Umalia committed itself to the community of Sô-Ava in southern Benin, together with the local municipal government and the Collective of Civil Society Organizations (COSC) for a period of ten years.  Umalia’s objective was to use its experience and expertise to support the community in its development efforts, to build resilience to climate change, to build value-creating partnerships with the private sector and to establish responsible and sustainable collaborative governance.

“The Team at Umalia live their values,” says Kathryn Cooper. “Each Member has committed to volunteer their time to advance this project.  Their passion for ‘making a difference’ through multi-stakeholder partnerships is inspiring.  I hope our students come away from this experience with the skills and enthusiasm to put these types of partnerships to work in their sectors, for social and environmental good.”

About Umalia

Umalia Inc. is a consulting firm founded on the strong belief that profit and societal engagement can and must go hand in hand. Therefore, Umalia helps organizations to design, implement and activate strategies and ecosystems to create sustainable value for both organizations and society.

About the Graduate Diploma in Social Responsibility & Sustainability

Thirty-five participants are accepted annually to St. Michael’s program, which attracts students from across Canada and around the world. This “work as you learn” program enables participants to take their career in Social Responsibility and Sustainability to the next level.  Participants tackle and resolve a Sustainability/ESG challenge in their company in a major Action Project under the mentorship of faculty and co-learners; learn from global thought leaders; experience practical “real world” change management through the ExperienceChange™ Simulation and join a prestigious community of St. Michael’s Alumni in continuing education, sharing and networking.  Graduates receive the post nominal letters G.Dipl.SR&S.

The Diploma is now taking applications for 2021/2022.  Only 35 applicants are accepted.  To apply, go to the Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability Website.  First Intake Deadline is April 30, 2021.

About the University of St. Michaels College in the University of Toronto

The University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) is a Catholic institution of higher learning federated with the University of Toronto. USMC strives to offer students a transformative educational experience in a diverse and engaged community, encouraging and supporting students and graduates to share their gifts in the cause of the greater good.

 

A Business Advisory Committee ensures the Diploma program is relevant and experiential. Sustainability/ESG Leaders representing a broad range of business sectors provide advice and input.

 For More Information Contact

Kathryn A. Cooper, Program Manager, Diploma in Social Responsibility & Sustainability

Phone: (519) 855-9491

Website: https://www.csr-stmikes.ca/

 

Delphine Orfila, Consultant, Societal Engagement, Umalia

Phone: (438) 725-0518

Email: Dorfila@umalia.ca

Website: www.umalia.ca

A cohort in the St. Michael's CSR program pose for a photograph in Charbonnel Lounge.

TORONTO, Canada May 4 – A name change, a new award and an enhanced academic designation mark a season of transformation for the Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability program at the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto.

Graduates of the highly regarded program, now called the “Graduate Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability” receive a Diploma and a designation marked by the post-nominal letters G.Dipl. SR&S (Social Responsibility & Sustainability).

“These changes reflect how the program has evolved since its beginnings almost 20 years ago,” says Program Manager Kathryn Cooper. “Meaningful, long-term social impact of business and not-for-profit partners has never been as important as it is in this time of COVID-19.”

“This program has evolved in response to the global trend toward embedding environmental, social and governance issues in business,” Cooper says. “To survive and thrive, organizations must focus beyond their bottom line, and create positive, long-term social impact.”

President’s Capstone Winners Announced

Graduates at the November, 2019 convocation were the first awarded the new diplomas. This convocation also marked the introduction of the new President’s Capstone Project Award, recognizing exceptional work in summative assignments. The inaugural winners were:

  • Indigenous Impact Report” by Alexandra Biron, recently promoted to Manager, Indigenous, Deloitte Canada.
  • “A CSR Strategy for the Canadian Real Estate Association” by Sarah Thirnbeck, recently promoted to Associate Director, Strategic Impact, The Canadian Real Estate Association.

“The calibre of work produced by our CSR students is truly outstanding,” says University President Dr. David Sylvester. “The ethical concerns being discussed in this program reflect the long-standing values of St. Michael’s. CSR and Sustainability is a great example of how universities can have a transformational impact on society.”

Learning to Make a Difference in a Rapidly Changing World

Participants in the Graduate Diploma in Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability work full time while earning this university credential through a blended learning approach. Participants:

The Diploma is now taking applications for 2020/2021. Only 35 applicants are accepted. Join participants from Deloitte, Secure Energy, Tata Group Retail, SMART CENTRES, Dundurn Press, Chevron, Genuine Health, Civic Works Consulting, Candela Strategies, Children’s Hospital Foundations and more in the upcoming 2020/2021 Cohort. To apply, go to the Diploma in Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability Website. Second Intake Deadline is June 30th.

Participants start their learning in July, 2020 through an online Learning Management System and monthly live learning seminars. Module 1 in class will be held in Toronto, Canada, October 14 to 16, 2020. Module 2 and 3 in class will be held May, 2021 and November, 2021 respectively. To apply, go to the Diploma in Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability Website. See the program schedule, testimonials, past graduates and news about the program.

About the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto

The University of St. Michael’s College (USMC), federated with the University of Toronto, is a Catholic institution of higher learning founded by the Congregation of St. Basil, whose motto, “Teach me goodness, discipline and knowledge,” sets the tone for campus life.

A Business Advisory Committee ensures the CSR & Sustainability program is relevant and experiential. CSR and Sustainability Leaders from a broad range of industries from insurance to mining, including: The Co-operators, BMO Financial, Scotia Bank (ret.), Vermillion Energy, Centerra Gold , Aurora Cannabis, Kin&Co and Rotman School of Management (University of Toronto) provide advice and input.

For More Information Contact

Kathryn A. Cooper, Program Manager, Diploma in Corporate Social Responsibility & Sustainability

Phone: (519) 855-9491

Website: https://www.csr-stmikes.ca/

With a new name, award, and enhanced value, St. Michael’s longstanding program in Corporate Social Responsibility entered a new phase last fall. The changes came not long before COVID-19 would create a context in which working for the common good — a signature emphasis of the program — would take on a new meaning.

“The Corporate Social Responsibility program is a vital offering at the University of St. Michael’s College, helping business and institutions focus on ways to become better — and more effective — global citizens, whether environmentally, socially, or economically,” says St. Michael’s President David Sylvester.

While today’s global citizens uphold the common good by practising social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, the changes wrought by the virus will create new context and opportunities for creating social impact in a post-pandemic world. Graduates of the St. Michael’s diploma program will be among the first to imagine new possibilities for our life together when social distancing is no longer required. 

The CSR program is featured in the latest issue of St. Michael’s Alumni magazine, and reproduced below.

 

St. Michael's President David Sylvester speaks at a CSR event.

A Season of Transformation for St. Mike’s CSR Program
Updated name, new award, enhanced value all signs of program’s coming of age

No matter what stage of life you’re at, icebreakers can help the first day of school seem a little less daunting. But when the school is St. Mike’s, and the subject is corporate social responsibility, you can forget about standard tension diffusers like ‘tell two truths and one lie about yourself’ or pinning your birthplace on a giant map.

As participants in the 2019/2020 Graduate Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability cohort met for the first time this past October, students were asked to chat with a seatmate and then present that person to the group by naming their core values. As the introductions circled Charbonnel Lounge, words like honesty, gratitude, compassion, respect, integrity and humour surfaced, indicators that this is not just any classroom.

For close to 20 years, University of St. Michael’s College has been the go-to school in Canada to study Corporate Social Responsibility, an operational philosophy also known by a variety of other labels, including ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance), Corporate Citizenship, or Social Purpose and Social Innovation.

The common thread is an institution’s commitment to action that enhances the common good by adopting strategies such as environmentally friendly processes, fair labour practices, or corporate volunteer efforts. Proponents of CSR argue that a strong strategy can have multiple benefits, from answering shareholder concerns and aligning with a board’s ethics through to self-preservation and furthering employees’ sense of participation in something valuable, all factors that can contribute to a stronger bottom line.

“Corporate Social Responsibility is not just a set of [business] tools but a new outlook,” Program Manager Kathryn Cooper explains. “CSR helps you look at people in a more human way and, as such, it is transformational.

“When we talk about Corporate Social Responsibility or Citizenship, we talk about social and environmental impact. Today investors, consumers and global citizens want to know that organizations are not causing social or environmental damage. In fact, there is an expectation that companies are making a positive contribution to society and the planet.”

As an example, she cites athletics apparel giant Nike as a cautionary tale. When negative media reports on its international labour practices surfaced in 1996, stock value fell by 50% from $38 to $19 per share, while sales dropped almost 10%.

The 2019-2020 cohort in the CSR program poses together for a photo.

It is precisely the goal of positive change that makes St. Mike’s a logical host for the program, says University President David Sylvester, because the program’s goals and outcomes represent the long-standing values of St. Michael’s. There is a clear correlation, for example, between the topics studied in the program and the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching, whether the issue is environmental stewardship, concern for the marginalized or a driving interest in the common good, he explains.

As it approaches its third decade of operation, the St. Mike’s program is undergoing its own transformation, a sign of a coming of age not only of the program but also for the concept itself.

This past Fall, the program name of Corporate Social Responsibility was changed to the Graduate Diploma in Social Responsibility and Sustainability. Corporate no longer appears in the program name because the core concepts’ appeal reaches far beyond the business world. While the idea began with financial institutions, it is now being embraced by a variety of sectors, including health care, education, NGOs, and not-for-profit organizations, notes Cooper. Recent graduates from the St. Michael’s program have come from a diverse group of employers, including Toronto Hydro, Manulife Financial, the University of Calgary, and UNICEF.

“The idea of social responsibility used to be viewed as a public relations issue or the way to earn a ‘social licence to operate’, but it’s got far wider applications,” she says.

Sustainability has been added to the program’s name “in response to a global trend toward embedding environmental, social and governance issues in business,” Cooper adds. “To survive and thrive, organizations must focus beyond their bottom line, and create positive social impact.

“We make a lot of personal connections between values and ethics and urge people to take their whole selves to work.”

The name change also signals the program’s upgrade from a certificate to a diploma. Graduates of the 2018/2019 cohort were the first to receive diplomas at their November convocation, and are eligible to use the post-nominal letters G.Dipl.SR&S. The upgrade is a result of the increasingly academic nature of the program, says Dr. Sylvester, who notes that when the motion to change the program to a diploma was put before St. Michael’s Senate, it was unanimously approved.

The changes to the CSR program come as St. Mike’s engages in its own strategic visioning exercise, notes Dr. Sylvester. St. Mike’s 180, Rooted in the Future seeks input from community members, asking how St. Mike’s can create a dynamic and abundant future as the school looks to its 180th anniversary in 2032.

St. Mike’s, like many other Canadian post-secondary institutions, is beginning to think more about the social impact of universities, and is looking to imbed related language and goals, examining everything from purchasing and infrastructure to examining a school’s relevance and how it engages with the community, he adds.

“We want to turn research and teaching on the community as a vibrant force, because universities must be engaged in the community to have relevance,” Dr. Sylvester says.

The Social Responsibility and Sustainability program at St. Mike’s runs over 13 months, and consists of three sets of in-class sessions throughout that period, for a total of 11 days on campus. In between the three on-campus sessions, participants engage in reading assignments, participate in webinars, post reflections, meet with mentors who provide advice and guidance on a capstone project, and stay in touch as a cohort through a special web portal. As each cohort is capped at 30 students, both participants and instructors get to know each other well, with plenty of time for discussion.

On-campus sessions include workshops on everything from making the business case for social and environmental responsibility to how to apply CSR and sustainability strategies in the workplace through the development and implementation of diversity and inclusion, community investment, ethics and reporting and communication policies and procedures.

The program draws three types of participants, Cooper notes. Some are tapped on the shoulder by employers wanting participants to develop their company’s CSR or Sustainability Strategy. Others are looking for a purpose-focused mid-career transition, while a third group consists of younger people who have graduated with theoretical knowledge about sustainability and CSR but are looking to learn from mentors and program participants with practical experience.

Participants have two major assignments, as well as a capstone project where they work with a seasoned CSR and sustainability mentor to undertake a practical social responsibility and sustainability project. Students identify their project’s outcomes and methodology, as well as how to socialize the plan with key stakeholders, she explains.

Past projects have included Community Investment Strategies, Volunteer Programs, Environmental Sustainability Initiatives, Indigenous Impact and Sustainability Reports and CSR/Sustainability Strategies.

The ability to connect with experts, as well as to meet others in similar fields grappling with similar questions, is one of the big draws for the program, graduates note.

“It’s a top-notch program, the only one of its kind in Canada connecting like-minded people with similar passions in Corporate Social Responsibility,” says Alexandra Biron, who is Assistant Manager, Corporate Responsibility at professional services firm Deloitte in Toronto. She looked at online offerings from other schools but was drawn to St. Mike’s both because of the in-person sessions, as well as what she heard from former students.

A CSR cohort gathers in Charbonnel Lounge on the St. Michael's campus for an on-site session.

“You can find a lot of information online but the network of professors and speakers is what’s most valuable. You are a cohort with a diverse group in terms of age, sector, experience, background, and even with those who might not come from a CSR background but are looking to change fields,” Biron explains. “These people share their struggles and high points, especially as so much can happen in 13 months. These are people with similar values and passions in a variety of jobs.”

Biron was one of the two winners of the inaugural President’s Capstone Award this past Fall for her project, entitled Deloitte Canada 2019 Indigenous Impact Report, which examined the impact [Deloitte has] made with Indigenous communities through pro bono work, volunteering, donations, sponsorships or serving as directors on boards.

“This report was the first of its kind for the firm. We publish an annual CR report but this was the first time we looked at the impact we were having with Indigenous communities. It’s led to an even bigger project, which is the firm’s Reconciliation Action Plan, which is set to launch in 2020 and will set the stage for how Deloitte will move forward on implementing TRC recommendations into its corporate life.”

Like Biron, Sarah Thirnbeck credits the program with offering her the skills to lead change in her workplace. Thirnbeck, who is Associate Director of Strategic Impact for the Canadian Real Estate Association in Ottawa, says of the program, “It changed my life.”

When moved from handling social media into her current duties this past Fall, Thirnbeck sought a program to help her create a vision for her new role.

While seeking resources online, she found mention of the St. Mike’s program “and it fulfilled all my expectations. I arrived on Day 1 knowing I wanted to develop a CSR strategy for my organization but I became like a sponge, soaking up information.”

Thirnbeck was the other winner of 2019 President’s Capstone award. Her project was titled “A CSR Strategy for the Canadian Real Estate Association.” It has already had an impact, as the Board of Directors of CREA agreed to include ethics, sustainability and social impact as a new priority in its strategic plan, based on her recommendation.

Now, she will begin implementing ideas from her project, including a green strategy, in her own office, with an eye to rolling them out to various local boards and offices across the country.

Program graduate Robert Waite now serves as a CSR mentor, working with and inspiring other students. Waite found himself in the program in 2008 while working at Canada Post, after he was asked to lead the effort of Crown Corporations in the area of environmental stewardship. Deciding he wanted an academic understanding of the program, he chose St. Mike’s because “I liked the structure. …It was more humanistic and less technical, with more emphasis on the soft skills. The program gave me the tools I needed,” says Waite, who went on to produce the first CSR report of any Crown Corporation, and hosted a meeting of various Crown Corporations to share best practices.

Waite, who now teaches at Seneca College and does consulting, says he decided on the St. Mike’s program for several reasons, including the fact that the small program, on a small campus within the enormous University of Toronto campus, had an intimacy to it.

The very nature of a liberal arts college is another, he adds.

“Climate change, for example, can be positioned as a moral issue, a philosophical one,” he says.

A few years after graduating, he was invited by a United Nations official to lecture on CSR to a group of postal agencies from 10 Caribbean countries.

“The materials I used were materials I gathered from St. Mike’s. It was a great feeling, as many participants’ countries were small and didn’t have the resources to take on issues like environmental stewardship. My ability to say yes can be tracked to my participation in the program. I have nothing but praise for the people who run the program.”

One of the influences he cites is Dr. Mimi Marrocco, who started the program in 2002, when she ran St. Mike’s continuing education program. In chatting with various stakeholders, it became clear to Dr. Marrocco that “the liberal arts had something to contribute to business, including creating the time to think,” she recalls. “Liberal arts allows for reflection.

“Sometimes, work environments can become siloed, but this program creates a forum to talk to like-minded people, and it presents the opportunity to make connections inside and outside.”

One of Dr. Marrocco’s first ideas for the program was to introduce a novel study to allow people to use their right brain, the hemisphere associated with creativity and innovation.

The first year, participants read E.M. Forster’s Howards End, which bears the epigraph Only Connect, a message she says underlines the program.

“We need slow knowledge, slow movements. We are busy people in business and

sometimes we fall into busyness, which doesn’t allow us to use the whole person.”

New grad Alexandra Biron agrees.

The program “provided me with a platform to combine my professional life and one of my passions…. My career may not have progressed the way it did so quickly without this experience.”


By Catherine Mulroney

From St. Michael’s Magazine: Winter 2020