In June 2016, Dr. Brent Mainprize, ACE Program Director, and I headed off on a quick trip to London, Ontario to accept the Alan Blizzard Award on behalf of the Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs Program. I say it was a quick trip because even though it took us almost a full day to get there and almost a full day to get back, we were really only in London for a 45-minute presentation.
It might seem like a lot of time and effort to go to Ontario for a 45 minute presentation and discussion (and it was!) but to Dr. Mainprize, myself and to the ACE Program, it was totally worth it. I say it was worth it, not just because I love traveling or presenting about the program, but because the award is actually a huge honour and it was important to us to accept it in person.
First off, I’ll tell you a bit about the Alan Blizzard Award – I understand that it might be pretty hard for you to get excited about an award if you’ve never heard of it…
The Alan Blizzard Award is presented annually by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. It was established in 2000 (it was presented from 2000 – 2012 by Pearson Canada – a huge education company) to honour outstanding collaboration in higher education. Specifically, STLHE sates that the award exists to “encourage, identify, and publicly recognize those whose exemplary collaboration in university teaching enhances student learning.” The ACE Program applied for the award, and honestly, our application knocked it out of the park! It was put together by a few really hardworking members of the ACE team. It’s a lot of work to even complete an application like that, let alone complete it with so much detail and enthusiasm – go ACE!
The award is usually given to recipients who work with a few partners within a university; usually they are awarded for working with several university-based departments and maybe one external partner. ACE on the other hand (as you all know) works with First Nation communities, industry partners, governments, university professors and university partners, individual entrepreneurs and other ACE employees/contractors! In the end we had 28 partners that qualified as full contributors for the award (though there are more than 28 people who work to bring the program to life including guest speakers, contractors and consultants).
So long story short, ACE won the award; we even had a BBQ at UVic to celebrate the team that works hard to organize and put on each ACE cohort. Then, a few weeks ago, Brent asked me if I’d like to go with him to accept the award on behalf of ACE and to give a presentation about the ACE Program itself. I was really excited by the idea and I, of course agreed.
Brent is always busy; he works closely with all of the cohorts of ACE, he teaches at UVic, he has a family and probably 100 other projects that he manages closely, so it was no surprise to me that he was going to be coming directly from the Terrace ACE graduation ceremony to London and staying only the night. I chose to get there the night before the awards ceremony/presentation and to leave right after the presentation. Because of this, Brent and I didn’t travel together to London, and we didn’t get a chance to practice the presentation before we got to Ontario – so I was a bit nervous about it! Fortunately, we have done presentations on the ACE Program many times before, so in just one or two run throughs we were ready to go!
When we got to the conference at the University of Western Ontario, we quickly looked at the room we’d be presenting in – we were shocked to find out it was a big, open auditorium with a stage and screens coming down from the ceiling! Although we ended up presenting to a smaller crowd than the room could have held, we had an awesome time talking to the attendees about the ACE goals, successes and practices. We told our audience about some of the ACE alumni, some of the current students and the way we operate the program. We made sure to highlight the main partners that ACE works with and we highlighted the awesome students that continue to sign up for the program, cohort after cohort.
At the end of our 45-minute presentation, after having accepted the award on behalf of ACE and its partners, Brent turned to me and said “well that wasn’t very long – we were just getting warmed up!” Even though we had just talked for about 45-minutes straight, to Brent, it felt like 10 or 15 minutes. And really, he was right, we were just getting warmed up. Brent and I could have talked about the ACE Program for another few hours – there are so many important aspects of this program and important lessons we have learned working on and in ACE that we want to share with as many educators as possible. We could have talked until we were blue in the face and we still would have had more to say.
Our enthusiasm for the program accurately mirrors the enthusiasm that everyone on the ACE team feels for its students, alumni, professors and guest speakers; we’re all so proud to be a part of the ACE team. Brent and I were honoured to accept the award on behalf of everyone at home in BC. Although ACE has won awards in the past, this was a very special experience for us. We’re so proud of the collaboration that is behind the ACE Program and it’s nice to have that recognized!
While it was a tiring trip to go to Ontario and back in a day and a half, it was well worth the time and energy; thanks for agreeing to be a part of this program and I hope you as students are getting as much out of it as we are as program co-ordinators!