Gustavson School of Business
Did you know that Heather Ranson, ACE instructor, is Associate Director of the Centre for Social and Sustainable Innovation (CSSI) at the Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria?
With expertise in business communications; cross-cultural communications; meeting and event management; social and sustainable innovation; the business case for sustainability; and tourism marketing and development; students in the ACE Program have the opportunity to learn from Heather’s extensive business experience and develop the necessary tools for starting and building a sustainable business.
Heather graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of British Columbia and after graduation, she went on to work as a sales and marketing manager for events at Tourism Victoria before teaching tourism management at Camosun College in Victoria, B.C. Heather spent seven years teaching at Camosun College before joining the Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria in 2004. In 2005, Heather achieved her Masters of Business Administration from the University of Guelph and continued her role at the Gustavson School of Business.
At the Gustavson School of Business, Heather is an assistant teaching professor where she shares her expertise about launching businesses, developing business plans, tourism event planning, marketing and service excellence with her students. Heather also teaches business communication classes to exchange students at the Gustavson School of Business. Heather has received recognition for her service and innovative ideas through awards, including the 2015 Gustavson Excellence in Service Award, the Gustavson School of Business Award twice (2012 and 2013), and the Gustavson School of Business Innovation Award in 2011. Heather has also presented at notable conferences including Academy of Management in 2015 and 2016, UN Global Compact North American Meeting in 2014 and 2016, Edulearn in Barcelona in 2011, and the Tourism Educators’ Conference in 2010.
In addition to teaching students at the Gustavson School of Business, Heather is responsible for leading the annual reporting of sustainability commitments to the United Nations Global Compact as part of the Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) for the Gustavson School of Business. Through her role with the Centre for Social and Sustainable Innovation, Heather collects data and reports on the provision of sustainability topics in courses at Gustavson. Heather also conducts research to provide information to teachers at the business school with the components of sustainability for their courses: journal articles, lesson plans, cases, slide decks and assignments.
Heather’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond her work with Gustavson. When we asked Heather if there was something other people may not know about her but should know about her, she shared her passion for biking.
“Most people know I ride my bike to work, but most people don’t know that I like to road bike (because I like to go fast) with a couple of ladies groups where we meet early in the morning and ride for 60-80 kilometres. I also like to mountain bike (because it is a challenge to get over rocks and roots while staying on my bike) and spend most of my holidays travelling around BC with my bike, riding in really cool places. So of course, I’m just waiting for an entrepreneur to start a bike company!”
Heather’s focus on sustainability and social responsibility is also evident through her teaching, as shown by her work with Our Place Society while teaching students in service management at the Gustavson School of Business. Our Place Society is a community center that serves Victoria’s most vulnerable community members. Our Place provides community members with services including hot showers, clothing, counseling, and outreach, in addition to serving over 1600 meals each day and providing 45 transitional housing units to community members.
In the fall of 2014, Our Place Society contacted the University of Victoria for assistance and feedback regarding their service design processes. The University of Victoria connected Our Place Society with Heather, who organized a project for her service management students to help Our Place Society with their service design. Heather’s students were able to integrate skills and concepts learned during their courses through the Gustavson School of Business to help examine areas of the Our Place Society experience and ultimately help the organization better meet the needs of its community.
Heather’s students generated reports for Our Place, and director of operations at Our Place, Le-Ann Dolan, described Heather’s students as “very professional,” and noted that “they came in to sponsor and serve a breakfast themselves” (University of Victoria, 2015, Students Serving). Dolan also noted that the reports from Heather’s students were “fantastic,” and explained that due to the value in the reports, Our Place Society applied for a grant to hire a summer student to deliver these changes shortly after (University of Victoria, 2015, Students Serving).
Heather’s approach to sustainability and social responsibility is evident in her teaching of the ACE Program as well. Heather started with the ACE Program at the very first program that took place in Prince Rupert in 2011. In the ACE Program, Heather is a member of the teaching team in the fourth course students take, which is focused on helping students launch and grow their chosen business. Heather uses her business and teaching experience to help her students learn techniques they can use to launch their venture and continue to build it, creating a sustainable business long-term.
Heather loves teaching the ACE Program for many reasons, including the diversity of business ideas that come with each program. Heather describes that; “from products to services to social innovations there is always lots of variety. I also enjoy seeing the progress of each participant. There is personal transformation that goes on during the program, and it makes me proud to see the progress that each participant makes during the program.”
This progress opens up a world of opportunity for students and their community. By working through the program, “students are more confident and have greater awareness of how much goes into developing a business idea. Even buying a franchise takes intense research and development of the idea. Doing that research develops the entrepreneur so they become an expert in that area.” This progress is key to the impact that the ACE Program has on the community and vice versa, which Heather explains is “the most powerful part of the ACE Program.”
“Of course we have the budding entrepreneurs themselves, but the guest speakers, panelists, local business owners who are part of the students’ research all build a supportive network for entrepreneurship in the community. This is really important because starting a business is difficult and time consuming. A supportive community will help nurture new and innovative ideas.”
Going forward, Heather has advice for current and graduated students of ACE Programs.
“Keep working on your business idea. It is very difficult to get an idea up and running in just six months. Real life (family, jobs, education) all take up time and take away from the business idea. It is critical to carve out time (even just 30 minutes every night) to work on the business plan. Nobody is going to write the plan for you, so get to it!”
Heather also tells students who are thinking about applying to the ACE Program to “build a good support network before you even start the program. Friends and family who can help you with childcare, building renovations, creating a spreadsheet, or even getting groceries for you will help you so much during the program. A great idea is just an idea if you can’t build the business. Get people around you to help you make the idea into reality.”
Heather Ranson is an educator of the Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs Program. 202 Aboriginal Entrepreneurs have graduated from the award winning ACE Program, which focuses on bridging Aboriginal culture with the key elements of entrepreneurship and business creation. The ACE Program is made possible through the collective efforts of our partnering regions, communities, institutions, and faculties.
Interested in learning more about Heather and her work? Visit: