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How to Create Future Changemakers? Give Them Real-World Experience

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Sponsored by:
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Sponsored by:
Keri Damen

Keri Damen

Executive Director, The Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking

The University of Calgary’s Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking is bridging the gap between students and the new economy nationwide.


One of the biggest issues that innovation ventures face is a lack of easy accessibility to skilled talent. Establishing firm connections with talented individuals opens doors for collaboration, economic development, and continued prosperity for Canada. 

That’s why the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking offers many immersive talent experiences and workshops along with its social innovation and entrepreneurship training programs. They instill students from all disciplines with strong collaboration and problem-solving skills, resiliency, and a forward-thinking mindset that’s ready to grow and affect change to create a better future. 

The Hunter Hub creates, inspires, and supports future changemakers through its diverse curriculum, extracurricular, and experiential learning activities and programs. They build innovation initiatives across campus and beyond. They understand the new economy’s needs, which is why they strive to build a community of interdisciplinary innovators within the university while connecting with talent outside it. 

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Honing future-ready skills

A new national initiative, Experience Ventures, is geared toward doing just that by giving students the chance to make an impact alongside real-world innovators. For aspiring student changemakers, these opportunities help to demystify and increase accessibility to the innovation community nationwide. 

Led by the Hunter Hub, Experience Ventures is a national initiative that has partnerships with eight other top Canadian universities so far. Having just launched in July, it’s had over 2,000 students participate in a wildly successful pilot year. 

“Our students are matched with early-stage startups and social ventures. Together they work to solve a defined real-world problem and build a solution,” says Keri Damen, the Executive Director of the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking. “Plus, students are paid for their experience, eradicating any potential financial barriers and increasing access to innovation opportunities from all backgrounds.”

With flexible working models, participants have a certain number of hours they must fulfill, and projects can be tackled as individuals or in teams. Students can apply what they’re learning in the classroom while integrating into local innovation ecosystems and building their networks.

Our students are matched with early-stage startups and social ventures. Together they work to solve a defi ned realworld problem and build a solution.

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Advance your career

“We want to keep our brightest student innovators in our local communities supporting startups,” Keri adds. “Our students are getting hired by these ventures after the program ends.” Plus, the initiative was specially designed to reach rural and underrepresented communities, ensuring that the future of innovation is diverse in thought and representation by being accessible to everyone. 

Experience Ventures opportunities are open to students from 14 faculties at UCalgary and its partner universities — encouraging cross-discipline team building and mutual respect. Everyone gains experience in transferrable skills that will be useful in any industry, including risk management, collaboration, and the ability to spot opportunities. 

The university is actively looking for more partnerships to make this program available to more students. “The University of Calgary is on a very exciting trajectory in innovation,” Keri explains. Offering initiatives like Experience Ventures is why the school ranks number one for research-based startups in Canada amongst university institutions.

Building Canada’s innovation economy

The University of Calgary is also the youngest school to be ranked as one of the top five research universities in the country. The institution believes that research forms the necessary foundation for innovation and economic development. Not only are they finding that more students are going into innovation, researchers are now also increasingly considering the real-world impact their research might have. This crossover into entrepreneurship ensures that the school’s innovation ecosystem will continue to grow and thrive.

Experience Ventures gives students the sense of community that’s been lacking during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly through their upcoming Experience Ventures National Hackathon. Collaborating with interdisciplinary teams, participants will work with industry experts to solve a problem — this one being wellness. Students will build networks, test solutions, and learn how to strategize. The top teams compete at a national competition for $5,000 worth of cash prizes. 

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