Tuesday, August 19, 2008

AIESEC Canada: Nurturing Young Leaders for 50 Years

I was fortunate enough to get Maroon and White, SMU's alumni magazine going out to over 27,000 alumni, to write an article about AIESEC. After all, it's our 50th anniversary! Below is most of the contents of that article. Special thanks to Cheryl Bell for writing an awesome article, and Helen Dolan for pushing our cause.

AIESEC Halifax is something of a hidden gem on the Saint Mary’s campus. Yet for those who have participated in its programs, it has been the gateway to life-enhancing experiences both professionally and personally.

AIESEC was established after World War II to help foster cultural understanding between countries. Today, it is the world’s largest student-run organization. It works in partnership with business and higher education to send students on internships around the globe and to give internationally aware young leaders valuable leadership and cultural experiences. Its programs are designed with the aim of giving its participants hands-on experience of running a small business long before they graduate from university.

Members proudly display their Nova Scotia tartans at the National Leadership Development Conference held at Ryerson University in 2007

At the time of its inception, AIESEC stood for “L'Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales." However, as fourth-year Science student and local alumni coordinator Adam Harris explains, the organization is now known solely as AIESEC. “The original name was appropriate when the organization was formed, but we are now inclusive of all Faculties – not just economic sciences and commerce. We continue to use the acronym AIESEC because of the well - established brand and history that it has.”

This year, AIESEC Canada is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a National Congress in Montreal, which will bring together more than 300 alumni to talk about the organization’s past and future, and to launch a new strategic plan. As part of its anniversary celebrations, AIESEC Canada is profiling 50 alumni, including Karyn (Mathieu) Power, an alumna of Saint Mary’s University. Karyn studied for a BComm at Saint Mary’s in the late 1980s. With her interests in business and working abroad, AIESEC was a perfect fit. Starting as a member, Karyn then worked on the special projects committee and served as vice-president of marketing between 1987 and 1989. To be a part of AIESEC, she explains, was to be involved in “running a not-for-profit organization on campus. We had to sell the concept of AIESEC to businesses in Halifax, manage the money coming in, run special projects, and attend conferences. For me, it was a chance to take the theoretical knowledge I was learning in class and apply it.”

After graduation, Karyn was one of six people chosen to run the organization in Montreal for a year where she was involved in encouraging Canadians to take traineeships in developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America. She then moved to the Dominican Republic to help give AIESEC a firm footing there.

In addition to providing her with a wealth of experience, Karyn also credits her involvement in the organization with helping her to land her first sales and marketing job with a manufacturer of medical diagnostic equipment in Halifax, a job she held for 17 years. “I know that I got my first interview because I had AIESEC on my resumé. Someone who had been with AIESEC himself saw my resumé roll off the fax machine and said that I would be a good person to interview. And when it came
time to do a mock sales presentation, I did it on AIESEC because that’s what I knew and believed in passionately.”

AIESEC members gathered for an alumni event at Your Father’s Moustache in Halifax. Left to right: Kim Yu, Bryan Ching, Adam Harris, Carol Cooley, John Sewuster, Sheena Francisco, Shani Pearson, Linda LeBlanc, Michelle Paradis, Sean Kavanaugh, Huay Woon Chee, and Johnnel Adderley.

Karyn’s work has seen her travel widely, both in Canada and abroad, and over the years fellow AIESEC participants have continued to crop up in unexpected places. Karyn has also continued to lend her support to the AIESEC Halifax group in particular, explaining to local businesses why they should hire students from abroad. “I say to them that if they are looking to do business with another country,
what better way to give their company a cultural awareness of their target market than to hire a student from that country.”

To mark this special year, AIESEC Halifax is planning its own anniversary celebrations, including a time capsule to which alumni can donate items such as pens, stickers, pictures, songs, and even old cheers from the last few decades. Alumni can also contribute to the timeline that is being assembled as the backdrop to a reception that will be held in the university art gallery early this

Looking to the future, local alumni coordinator Adam Harris maintains that the cultural understanding and business skills that AIESEC promotes continue to be relevant for both the students and the companies for which they work. And for Saint Mary’s alumni, hiring an AIESEC intern from another country is the perfect way to “give back” to an organization that means so much to so many.

AIESEC Halifax alumni can reconnect with the organization by contacting Adam Harris at 902.491.8673 or by emailing halifax.ca@aiesec.net

A greener view from the top - My thesis abstract

Incase you were at all wondering what my thesis was about, or maybe even a little bit interested in green roofs. Feast your eyes on this literary masterpiece, haha

Urban areas continue to expand as more people move into cities; there will be a further increase in environmental problems in these areas. Green roofs are one method to help mitigate some of the environmental problems which arise in urban areas. These problems, such as the urban heat island effect and storm water runoff, can be reduced by installing vegetated roofs. In Halifax, there has been minimal installation of green roofs. Previously installed green roofs in Halifax date back as early as the 1850’s (Citadel Hill National Historic Site), while most were built in the 1970s or in the past decade. The goal of this study was to find and classify the existing green roofs in Halifax, Nova Scotia as well as those roofs planned or under construction. The study took place from May to October 2007. In total, 46 roofs were found in Halifax, and over 50 roofs including the city and other parts of Nova Scotia. Temperature loggers and a hand-held thermometer were used to measure soil, roof surface, and air temperature for green roofs and paired conventional or non-green roofs in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Temperatures were compared between conventional and green roofs. Green roofs showed, on average, a 3.5°C reduction in roof surface temperature compared with the conventional roofs. Temperature loggers were also placed in urban areas of the city as well as the forested countryside to test for an urban heat island effect. While the majority of the results from the urban heat island effect were not statistically significant, a clear increase in air temperature of urban areas compared to rural areas is visible.

Green roofs and Baltimore

Back in May, between getting back from Cuba and starting my new job at SMUSA, I headed to Baltimore to present some interesting findings on my green roof research. Myself and Melissa, a Masters student, co-wrote a paper with our supervisor to present at the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities' conference called Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities...got all that? haha

The best part was I was leaving Halifax for NYC/Baltimore about an hour after we got back from Cuba, so I was a little pressed for time. At the stop=over in TO they told us we weren't on the flight back to Halifax, "didn't you pre-select you seat?"...oh you mean in Cuba, where there's lots of Internet? So we made it on stand-by, thank god, and got to Halifax on time. I made all my connections and survived US customs.

Baltimore is a really cool city I probably never would have visited otherwise. It's only about 30 minutes from Washington, DC. which we also got the chance to visit. We checked in and went right to a free Orioles game at Camden Yard once we got there. The GRHC people got us VIP in the Bullpen, but crap is baseball boring, and we didn't stay the whole game. I pretty much hadn't slept since Cuba either, after a full night of travelling and finding out I was on stand-by during the time I was supposed to sleep and then another full day of travelling kinda messed all that up.

The conference was really interested. I met a lot of people I cited in my thesis, and saw a lot of very cutting edge research in presentations and posters.

We saw a lot of random tourist stuff in Baltimore. I can't really compare it to any other city I've been in. It was very "American", and had lots of monuments and historical sites and all that. Washington was nuts. It sucked I was in the US capital before Ottawa. There was security everywhere, even the streets had big spikes the jolted up from the pavement to control car traffic. In a whirlwind tour of only a few hours, we walked all around downtown seeing all the major land marks.

Flight home to Halifax took us to Chicago first. Which was a cool coincidence, because Chicago is the green roof capital of North America. The skyline was sweet to see from the plane, and I swear I saw the Family Matters house. Once we got back in NS, it was nice to settle in and not travel...for a little while at least.