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Our Alumni

Alumna Shannon Pestun brings down barriers through a gifting circle bursary

Our Alumni - Amanda Hamilton Mount Royal alumna Shannon Pestun knows firsthand that the generosity of others has the power to change lives.

That’s why it was particularly meaningful for Pestun to create the Gifting Circle Bursary for Indigenous Women in Entrepreneurship, aimed at supporting Indigenous women students studying business and entrepreneurship at MRU.

A Business Administration Diploma Marketing Management graduate, Pestun is a proud Métis woman, advocate and entrepreneur who has dedicated her career and volunteer activities to advancing women’s entrepreneurship in Canada. Founder and CEO of Pestun Consulting Inc, she was previously the director of Women’s Entrepreneurship at ATB Financial and is a member of the Government of Canada’s Expert Panel for Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy. The alumni representative on Mount Royal University’s Board of Governors (she is also a former employee), Pestun is also an advisory board member for the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization (WEDO) in Canada and was instrumental in the planning of the first-ever, Canadian-based Women’s Entrepreneurship Day event, which MRU was selected to host in 2019.

Pestun’s passion is working to address the systemic barriers Indigenous women entrepreneurs face and uncovering sustainable economic opportunities where Indigenous women and entrepreneurs can thrive.

Facing obstacles is something Pestun knows a thing or two about. At age 16, Pestun’s life took a hard turn. She left home, dropped out of school and was working 15 hours a day to keep a roof over her head. When she looks back, she recounts the number of people who helped her get back on a better path, including her family and a boss who helped her go back to school to complete her high school education. “My life was influenced maybe even saved by the kindness and gifting of others; 30 years later, I continue to benefit from these gifts,” Pestun says.

“I’m grateful to be in a position now to pay that forward.”

Pestun worked closely with MRU to create the Gifting Circle Bursary. She says, “It was important to me that we used the concept of the gifting circle an acknowledgment that it will be a community of people coming together to support the dreams and journeys of the Indigenous women who receive the bursary.”

With MRU students who receive a bursary being twice as likely to graduate, Pestun’s act will have a ripple effect for generations to come. “I'm excited to see the ways we can continue to change lives, together,” Pestun says. 

Learn more about the Gifting Circle Bursary for Indigenous Women in Entrepreneurship.

Meet Jason

An expression of gratitude opens doors for student entrepreneurs

Sitting at his desk in February, Ray DePaul, director of MRU’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, could not quite believe it when he opened the email from alumna Jenn MacDonald.

“We are thankful for the countless hours of mentorship and support we received from the program, and in particular, from you,” wrote MacDonald. "We all agree that we wouldn't be the people we are today without the program and feel tremendously grateful that it brought us all together.”

Sent from MacDonald on behalf of her and 14 other alumni, the email informed DePaul that the group had come together to make a collective donation of over $4,300 to the LaunchPad program as a way to express their appreciation to DePaul and the Institute. A total of 19 donors have now joined the giving initiative.

LaunchPad is the Institute’s immersive program that helps MRU students validate, build and launch their entrepreneurial ideas. Key to its success has been the creation of an inspiring and supportive community of ambitious students, alumni and mentors that students can remain a part of after they graduate. 

As Danielle Gibbie, chair of the MRU Alumni Council and one of the donors says, “The innovation and entrepreneurship community at MRU has enabled me to take risks in my career and find roles that allow me to bring my passion and knowledge to the workplace.”

The group decided to direct their gift to the annual JMH LaunchPad Pitch Competition, where top students pitch their entrepreneurial venture to a panel of experienced judges for their share of $80,000 in cash and services. You can watch the 2021 event virtually on April 12. 

MacDonald notes that, as well as making a financial gift on an annual basis, the group intends to commit their ongoing alumni support and connections to the student entrepreneur winner.  

For his part, DePaul wants to express his gratitude to the group for choosing to pay it forward.

“Of all the things we’re proud of accomplishing at the Institute, building a strong sense of community between staff, students and alumni is perhaps the most impactful. We are so touched that alumni felt connected enough to our program and MRU to want to support the next wave of student entrepreneurs.”

Mount Royal University is incredibly grateful to the following alumni and other donors who have contributed to this initiative. Find out more about ways to give in support of MRU students.

Priyash Bista, Bachelor of Computer Information Systems, 2017.

Andrew Browne, Bachelor of Business Administration General Management, 2013.

Landon Clost, Bachelor of Business Administration — General Management, 2018.

Haley Daniels

Danielle Gibbie, Bachelor of Business Administration — General Management, 2015.

Zachary Hartley, Bachelor of Business Administration — General Management, 2016.

Wade Lahring, Bachelor of Business Administration — General Management, 2016.

Ozzy Lang 

Jenn MacDonald, Bachelor of Business Administration — General Management, 2014.

Mike MacDonald, Bachelor of Business Administration — General Management, 2014.

Marc Nzojibwami, Bachelor of Business Administration — General Management, 2019.

Tracy Pfeifer

Aneil Rajaram, Bachelor of Business Administration — Marketing, 2014.

Derek Rucki, Bachelor of Business Administration General Management, 2016.

Alistair Shipley, Bachelor of Business Administration — General Management, 2014.

Rudi Schiebel, Bachelor of Business Administration — General Management, 2020.

Paul Shumlich, Bachelor of Business Administration — General Management, 2017.

Brad Williamson, Bachelor of Business Administration — Marketing, 2015.


Alumnus Trevor Chambers looks back on the impact of his work-integrated learning experience as a Mount Royal student

Our Alumni - Amanda Hamilton Did some of your learning at MRU happen through a work placement? Or by tackling a real-world problem in partnership with local community organizations?

If you answered “yes,” you took part in what’s called work-integrated learning, a key component in the personalized learning experience which MRU excels at providing to its students.

Work-integrated learning is a broad term for education that blends classroom learning with applied experiences such as co-operative placements, work terms, community-engaged research, entrepreneurship, live-client case studies and field schools.

For example, in MRU’s Bachelor of Arts — Policy Studies program, students collaborate with a leading law firm to prepare a mock appeal of a Supreme Court of Canada decision and present it at a Moot Court held at the Court of Queen’s Bench. Also, Bissett School of Business students studying supply chain management can seek out and analyze real-time and historical business data from companies around the world through the CN Supply Chain Analytics Lab.

Work terms and placements are a required work-integrated learning component for a number of MRU degrees. Alumni who have participated in such placements often reflect on the competitive advantage it gave them when looking for work after graduation.

Trevor Chambers (Bachelor of Communications — Broadcast Media Studies, 2020) remembers his four-month internship at a local TV news outlet as one of his most impactful experiences as an MRU student. Chambers was hired by that same news outlet just three weeks after the completion of his internship and now works there as a control room technician. “The hands-on experience I received was invaluable — it exposed me to learning that I just wouldn’t have received in a classroom setting.”

Often, full-time work placements that open the door to future employment are unpaid. For Chambers, he had to give up his full-time job as the campus radio station manager to say “yes” to the internship offer. “I was fortunate enough to have other financial support, but some students don’t have this luxury. Four months is a long time to be without income for bills and expenses,” he says.

In response to these challenges MRU has launched the Work-Integrated Learning Innovation Fund, providing students with a stipend of up to $1,000 over the course of a work term placement. Chambers is an enthusiastic supporter of the idea and has even chosen to make a donation in support of the fund, 100 per cent of which goes directly to student recipients. “This stipend didn’t exist when I was at Mount Royal, but I’m glad that students facing limited financial resources today will be able to access it.” he says.

Learn more about the Work Integrated Learning Innovation Fund.