UWindsor prepares to mark its 50th anniversary with events September 19 to 22.
A dynamic duo
A passion for business connects Evan Clark and Emilie Cushman
With the most crucial presentation of their academic careers less than 30 minutes away, the University of Windsor students had no time to be nervous.
Fifty judges, including CEOs and executives from some of Canada’s largest corporations, waited for them at the 2011 Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship (ACE) National Exposition, held in Toronto from May 9 to 11, 2011. After two days of intense competition in which teams from 35 Canadian universities competed to give the best presentation, UWindsor had just reached the top five.
ACE is a national, charitable organization dedicated to teaching young Canadians how to create brighter futures for themselves and their communities. Its program, Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), encourages students to form campus teams and apply business concepts to outreach projects that improve the quality of life and standard of living
for people in need.
Thirty members of UWindsor’s 70-member team had trekked to Toronto for the event to deliver a presentation that described a case study of the city of Windsor’s economic woes and how they could help. Their skillful presentation, blending the power of technology and speech, painted an insightful and moving portrait.
When the team’s 24-minute presentation concluded, the audience rose to its feet, cheering and chanting for UWindsor, which claimed third place overall.
Business administration students Evan Clark and Emilie Cushman, part of the five-member final presentation team, called the experience life-altering. Clark, third year, and Cushman, fourth year, both point to the SIFE program as just another reason why they value their education at the Odette School of Business.
Both encountered a few curves on the road to the school.
Clark, who grew up in Fergus, Ont., once toured the world managing a variety of music and entertainment shows. Cushman, born and raised in Windsor, had originally planned to be an engineer.
Today, both find themselves enrolled in a program that has connected their academic aptitude with a fierce desire to prove themselves in the business world by providing practical opportunities to learn and grow.
“I originally accepted a position in engineering at the University of Windsor,” says Cushman, “but I was intrigued by business and switched. I showed up the first day and loved it! I haven’t looked back.”
Clark’s ambition to open his own business prompted him to choose Odette. “I heard that the University had a great entrepreneurship program.”
Despite the very practical nature of their program, a strong artistic streak marks both students. Cushman is a trained pianist who has taught for five years, and Clark’s first passion is music.
“It’s funny,” says Cushman. “We are both very creative people who like to break rules and think outside the box.” Clark agrees and says that their Odette experience has been supportive of this.
“We consider the extracurricular activities offered by Odette as almost another full program. They give you an opportunity to dive into things that you wouldn’t be able to
do just in the classroom. It’s really enriching to the program.”
“Faculty members are very supportive,” he adds. “In particular, Professor Jim Marsh and Dean Allan Conway have been outstanding when it comes to opening avenues for students to discover themselves.”
SIFE recruited Clark in May 2010 for a project called Demo Camp, an event held every other month in which people pitch their business ideas to a panel of business professionals.
“They receive feedback and help in finding financing,” says Clark. “Once I realized how many things SIFE does out in the community, I wanted to be involved.”
In November 2010, Cushman also joined. “I heard it did great community outreach projects and that it combines business with environmental, helping out socially and economically. It gives you an opportunity to help out where you want to and be creative,” she says.
For example, SIFE distributed $100 each (provided by the Windsor Family Credit Union) to five groups of students at a local Windsor high school. Each group used the funds to develop and execute its own business concept.
“It’s mentoring,” says Cushman. “We’re teaching them how to run their own businesses. I thought it was amazing to have the opportunity to share what you’ve learned to date and not only apply it in a realistic situation but to teach it.”
In fall 2011, Cushman takes on the role of SIFE president as well as VP of Philanthropy for the Commerce Society.
January 2012 will see Clark journey to Hong Kong Polytechnic for a business exchange. His long-term plans
are to start an educational technologies company to share quality materials.
“I’ve spent a lot of time travelling the world and found the educational experience outside city centres troubling. There is strong support across the globe from teachers who just want to teach. They want to share their publications and have a positive impact on someone’s life.”
Cushman would like to earn her MBA and start up her own web-based company as well.
They both credit their Odette experience as having taught them how to push their limits and learn who they wanted to be.
“I’ve learned that it’s great to jump on opportunities when they come but it’s better to have something to bring to the table,” says Clark.
Adds Cushman: “I never knew that I could be entrepreneurial. Just being at Odette gave me the tools to learn about myself and push my limits. It tests you every day.”