Ernest Barbaric recognizes trends and changes. “In Calgary,” he explains, “We haven’t had marketing conferences. It’s nice to have a grass roots initiative like SocialWest.” Being connected with Calgary social media guru Mike Morrison of @MikesBloggity has put Barbaric once again in the speaker’s spotlight for the sold-out event.

Founder of the Social Media for Business certificate program at Mount Royal University Continuing Education, Barbaric notices that there’s a change of behaviour happening (literally) under our noses. People are constantly connected to their digital devices. His presentation, “Trends that are defining digital marketing in 2016 and beyond” on June 16th at 11am sets out to identify and explain this shift and how it affects the way businesses and individuals communicate.

Ernest Barbaric – MRU Instructor & Social West Speaker

“This connectivity is changing our priorities,” Barbaric suggests. “If you have a phone and it’s not connected to wifi, there’s a sense of loneliness even in areas where there are other people.” Recognizing how most have adopted this perpetual dependency on digital technology, he offers, “People would rather have someone steal their wallet instead of their phone.”

This not only changes the way people speak to people, but also drastically affects how businesses and other organizations or brands speak to people, which is why his SocialWest audience is there. “There’s a movement towards social becoming a media buying platform.” he says, “There’s more focus on paid (advertising) and a big rise in automation.” This affects the role-responsibility of a traditional marketing team for any organization. “As things progress, it changes what marketing teams do to maintain these systems.”

If a marketing team were Aretha Franklin’s band, you would have a standard line-up of drums, bass, guitar and keyboards with Aretha wailing the message to your audience. Now, with new tools and audience expectations, Barbaric explains that social media is like adding, “a triple-necked guitar with a keyboard on it that plays itself,” and ups the ante, “with a DJ who samples Aretha Franklin – and 50 other artists – and adds a light show.”

There are some for whom digital media is the bright light in an economic downturn in this city. Barbaric concurs, “Business who can sell their services online have global access regardless of where you’re from. Locally,” he touts, “there is still money, but it becomes a more competitive environment.” Survival is for those who can evolve. He identifies, “those who are squeezed out are people relying on the status quo.”

12317711_158670411161516_286234621_aThose leaving his SocialWest presentation will glean, “a sense of what they need to do to prepare for the future.” According to Barbaric, the future has much potential and we’re not too far behind to catch up. “There’s a lag… between American and Canadian markets, between different generations and between big and small businesses.” But to those willing to make the changes, he estimates that there’s “a decent amount of runway.”

Connect with Ernest at SocialWest.

Connect with others who are growing their digital brands too.

And remember, you’re not alone… if you’re connected to the internet.


  • by JLove




Teaching International Professors

FDP Lima 2016
Kathy Dawson teaching professors in Lima.

“There’s nothing better to remind you of how difficult it is to learn another language than to be placed in the same situation,” says Kathy Dawson, Program Administrator in Teacher Education for MRU’s Languages Institute. She lists a few of the challenges one must overcome, “struggling to communicate, watching yourself make mistakes, not being able to find the right word and struggling with your dictionary.”

These are certainly a traveler’s communication woes, but they’re happening more and more in the university classroom. Kathy recently returned from teaching a ten-day course at the Universidad del Pacífico in Lima, Perú. The course is called Teaching Content in English. It’s part of the Languages Institute’s Faculty Development Program, which is gaining international recognition.

Kathy explains the challenge of the group of 13 professors who, while normally fulfilling the teaching role, must become students. “They know their subject matter inside out,” she attests. “They have been challenged by globalization and their administration to now turn it all into English.”

“The course is very experiential.” Kathy notes, while acknowledging that many of these professionals haven’t taught in English. “There’s some trepidation about whether or not they can do it.” For those who have taught in English, the course has additional benefits, “There is a lot of modeling about how to incorporate active learning in a way that supports second language learners.” In either case, she discovered that, “If they’re nervous at the beginning, they’re much more confident by the end of the ten days.”

For the Universidad del Pacífico, a top economics and business administration university in Latin America, this hands-on approach works well. In an additional language, all of the participants welcome the chance to become learners again.

With this initiative’s continued success, the offering of their local courses in English might create an opportunity for more Mount Royal students to study in Perú. “We’re so privileged as English speakers.” Kathy identifies, “We get lazy. We are able to travel around the world and not have to speak another language.  The onus has been pushed on others to learn English.” Not one to shy away from learning, Kathy admits, “This reminds me that I shouldn’t feel more privileged.” She says, “I should pick up my Spanish books again.”

To that end, Kathy has already arranged for some Spanish classes for her next trip south.

  • by JLove


Technical Writers Increasingly In Demand in Business

Lyndsay Steffler, Technical Writing Instructor
















Lyndsay Steffler has been an instructor in the Technical Writing Extension Certificate for 8 years. A graduate of MRU’s Applied Bachelor of Communications – Technical Writing program in 2002, she has worked at WestJet for 10 years. She has three children aged 3, 6 and 8, and balances her full-time job and part-time teaching with family life.

Q: What is your background in technical writing?
A: After graduating from Mount Royal I wasn’t sure I wanted to do technical writing as a profession; I was going into PR. But I wound up getting really deep into it. I started as an editor at West Jet and kept going from there. I really enjoy it and I’ve now been with West Jet for 10 years. A couple years later I came into a teaching role with Continuing Education because of my connection with the administration at Mount Royal.

Q: What changes have you seen in the field of technical writing? 
A: During my career I’ve seen that, rather than focusing solely on policies and procedures, technical writing is bridging with business analysis. We’re working to understand what a position does and what is needed to make it more efficient. Technical writers take all of that information and process it to make improvements. But technical writing still centres mainly on policies, procedures and processes.

Q: What kind of person would be suited to this career?
A: This is a communications field, so you’re not just sitting behind your computer. I spend half my time working with people, talking to them to understand their business function. The other half of the time is writing that up. People who do well in technical writing have great interpersonal skills and are able to communicate complex things in a clear and concise manner.

Q: Are there any myths about this industry that you have to clarify for your students?
A: People tend to think that technical writers can work from home. But because this role is so interactive most technical writers are integrated into the office. Even if we get contracts, it’s for an in-house contract role. The work-from-home jobs do exist but most technical writers are on site.

Q: Is there something that people ask you frequently? Something people should know about the profession?
A: The biggest question I am asked is how much we get paid. It comes up every semester. Wages really vary, depending on your work experience.

Technical writing is a function that’s beginning to gain ground in business. There were only eight of us in my graduating class. There aren’t a lot of professional technical writers out there. Technical writing originally wasn’t recognized as a profession unto itself. It used to be combined with engineering. The thinking was that the subject matter experts should document their own information. But more and more, technical writing is gaining value in the eyes of business leaders.

Q: Where do we see the products of technical writing?
A: Technical writers write business policies and procedures, as well as business processes. There are technical writers in finance and annual reports are a big piece of what they do. A really big technical writing function is software documentation.

The way I put it to people is, you know the “for dummies” series? That is technical writing. I tell my students that technical writing is teaching on paper. You’re teaching someone how to do something, but you do it on paper, not in the classroom.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of teaching for you?
A: The students really make this job worth coming to. Everyone is nervous at the beginning of the semester but by the end of it the group gels so well. I enjoy when my students contact me after the course to tell me about their job interviews. I see their successes and I just love that I’m a tiny part of it.

Payroll Certification Held in High Regard in Business

Riccardo Silvestro


Q: Tell us a little bit about teaching in the payroll management program.
A: I instruct the payroll certification courses here at MRU, delivered by the Canadian Payroll Association. All the courses and materials are from the Canadian Payroll Association and they issue the certifications. In order to get into payroll as a career, certification is more and more a necessary for becoming a payroll practitioner, and these are the nationally recognized credentials.

I instruct the first course and last course of certification. I specialize in Payroll Fundamentals II, which covers all year-end processes such as generating T4 slips and pay statements as well as remittances to comply with regulatory bodies.

Q: What’s your background?
A: I started out working in payroll and went on to take certification through the Canadian Payroll Association at MRU. I was just like the the students that I’m teaching now. From there I branched off into benefits and compensation, to grow my career in HR. Payroll really gave me that stepping stone. Now my full-time job is team lead for a compensation, benefits and payroll group for a chemical manufacturing company in Calgary, Canexus.

Q: Have there been a lot of changes in the payroll world?
A: If you look back 20 years, payroll used to be seen as more of a backroom clerical function. It wasn’t really seen as a profession that needed certification. The Canadian Payroll Association is not an old organization compared to the accounting profession – they just celebrated their 40th year. In the last 20 years the CPA really evolved payroll to be held in higher regard within the company. Certification is now sought by organizations because that function is critical. It’s so necessary to be accurate and on time for employees. Payroll professionals have high visibility within the organization.

Q: What type of learner would really love this career?
A: Definitely “people” people – those who like to work with other individuals. Payroll has a lot of customer service aspects: the employees are the customers. At the end of the day, if they have a question on their pay statement we need to be able to explain it and help them out. Within that payroll function, you also have internal and external stakeholders.

Someone who has good communication skills but also likes accuracy and detail, and applying their attention to detail to their work to get accurate results, is ideally suited to payroll.

Q: What’s the most rewarding part of this kind of career?
A: Knowing that you’re responsible for ensuring that employees have money in their accounts to purchase what they need and support their families. The payroll person has satisfaction in knowing that if you’re paying employees on time and accurately, they have their money and can then live their lives.

With the year-end processes, it’s also important to make sure employees have accurate information.

Q: What do you like most about being an instructor?
A: I like to see former students two or three years later at a payroll association conferences and hear how they’re doing. They’re certified and off on their payroll career. That’s a huge reward right there.  As well I love to hear about the experiences my students bring to the class. I enjoy gaining a new network and meeting new people.


ce_bio_payroll_silvestroAbout Riccardo Silvestro, CPM
Riccardo Silvestro is a human resources professional specializing in the areas of payroll, compensation and benefits, with over 13 years experience in the field.

His experience ranges from small to large scale companies operating in land development, mining/explosives, oil and gas extraction, and chemical manufacturing. He has broad experience with complex multi-provincial payrolls in unionized environments.

During the course of his career, Riccardo has held positions as Human Resources & Compensation Coordinator, Compensation Advisor & Payroll Supervisor, and Team Lead of Payroll & HR Management Systems.

Riccardo is currently the Team Lead of Compensation, Benefits and Payroll at Canexus Corporation, a chemical manufacturing, oil and gas transloading company with operations in North and South America.

Riccardo’s educational qualifications include a Business Administration Diploma with a major in finance from SAIT, the Canadian Payroll Association’s (CPA’s) Certified Payroll Manager (CPM) certification, and a Certificate in Adult Education from Mount Royal University. He is currently pursuing the World at Work Association’s Certified Compensation Professional Certification.

Riccardo is an active member of various local and nationwide human resources networks and industry groups, including the World at Work Society (W@W), Human Resources Institute of Alberta (HRIA), Calgary Total Rewards Network (CTRN), Canadian Payroll Association (CPA) and Canadian Pension and Benefits Institute (CPBI).

He volunteers with the CPA as Subject Matter Expert, is branch member of the CPA Prairie Region and since 2009, has volunteered with Canada Revenue Agency in the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program. Riccardo enjoys educating and coaching payroll professionals or those interested in establishing a payroll career. He has been an instructor in the CPA’s Payroll Compliance Practitioner program at Mount Royal University since 2007.

— photo by Krystal Hurt

People are the Key for Project Management Instructor

Roti ORoti Akinsanmi has been an instructor in the Project Management program for two years. Taking the program himself was one of the first things he did upon arriving in Canada from Africa. We spoke with Roti about his philosophy in the classroom.

Q: Tell us about yourself and how you came to teach in this field.
A: In 2007 I moved to Canada. I decided to study Project Management so I took the Mount Royal class. I did the Fast Track, including my Final Assessment, all by Christmas. When I started I said to myself, one day I would like to teach this class.

Two years ago I was working at Cenovus and began to think I would like to give back to Mount Royal and teach for them.

My interview went well and I became an instructor, which has been great. Now, when I start my classes I tell my learners, “I totally understand what it’s like to be sitting out there. I used to take the class.”

Q: You’re changing lives, when you think about it. What’s your philosophy for teaching? Is there anything you really want to instill in your students?
A: Here’s one of the key takeaways from my class. I always reserve the last few minutes of class to make a pitch — not about the tools and techniques of project management, but the people side. I say to them, “You know, by definition your projects must come to an end. But the people that you work with on projects, those relationships don’t have to come to an end.” That comes from my own personal experience. Because projects can get difficult at times and we lose sight of the fact that we’re working with people.

Q: That’s a theme that keeps coming up when we talk to our instructors. You have to be good at working with people as well as knowing the subject you’re teaching.
A: I can teach all the tools and techniques; it’s technical. But let’s not forget, it’s all about the people you’re going to be relating with during the project. I say to my students, do whatever you can to maintain those relationships.

It’s all about the people side. Calgary’s small. The world is small and getting smaller so why not connect with people?

ce_pm_bio_akinsamniAbout Roti Akinsamni
Roti is an enterprising professional with two decades of successful business and technology experience. He brings real-world experience to the classroom to create a unique learning opportunity for his students. His portfolio includes Cenovus Energy, Optimal Payments (formerly Neteller), Shaw Communications and The City of Calgary.

As co-founder of mobileXcetera, a pioneer in mobile technology, he led multiple engagements for international brands like Coca-Cola, Unilever, Chevron, Ladybird, Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, MTN Communications, Globacom and Airtel.

Roti is a PMI-certified Project Management Professional, with a BSc in Computer Science and an MBA from Cornell University and Queen’s University.

— photo by Krystal Hurt

Contracts Analyst Negotiates Success in the Oil Patch

Kristi Peterson_PLA

Kristi Peterson has experienced steady growth in her career with the Land Department at the Pengrowth Energy Corporation over the past 15 years. She is now a Contracts Analyst. “I’m working my way up into actually drafting the agreements. I’m working with the partners and working with precedents, but I’m actually negotiating and doing the various agreements within Land. I’m not just reading them anymore, I’m writing them,” she says. She is a graduate of MRU’s Petroleum Land Administration: Land Contracts Extension Certificate as well as a previous certificate, Petroleum Land Administration: Foundation.

Kristi started at Pengrowth in 1999 as the office clerk. “I saw the Land Department and it looked like they were having fun. So I talked to the supervisor Diane Scott – she’s still my supervisor – and she got me going to the Mount Royal courses. And I got promoted to be the Land Assistant, then Mineral Land Administrator, and then Contracts Analyst, working in contract land. I love it,” she says.

Kristi completed her certificate programs while working at Pengrowth. “It took me about ten years to do the Foundation certificate [the previous Land Administration program]. Having kids and being pregnant, I’d take one course a year and try to keep going,” she says. “I was able to be promoted even before I finished the certificate.”

Kristi’s role revolves around working with partners. “If we want to drill a well, we have to acquire the lands, whether they’re Crown or freehold. We do a Joint Operating Agreement (JOA). If you have a partner with whom you’re going to drill that well, then you need an agreement to govern those working interests. If it’s a gas well, you have to pool it, and then there’d be a pooling agreement. There can be multiple partners – the main role in contracts being working with partners,” she notes.

She is also a busy mom with two children aged 6 and 9. They are busy with after-school activities including soccer, hockey and gymnastics. Kristi is coaching soccer this year. “I volunteer a lot at school,” she says. “Actually I’m able to work four days a week so I’m very involved in the school.”

Kristi’s husband works at Shaw and was a great support as she went through the certificate programs. “It’s good to have one of us out of oil and gas with it being so volatile,” she says.

Curt Hamrell
Curt Hamrell

Calgary’s oil patch can be a small world. Kristi’s instructor for the MRU Land Agreements course, which she took while pregnant with her second child, was Curt Hamrell, a 30-year veteran of the industry. “In that class we taught the most used document in the industry, the NOA (Notice of Assignment).”

When Kristi returned to Pengrowth from her maternity leave, she found that Curt had joined Pengrowth as a consultant in Acquisitions and Divestitures.

“Occasionally we’ll do a little work together,” Curt says. “I’m A&D and she’s day-to-day, so if her area’s affected by a sale she will be contacted and kept in the loop.”

“Curt’s always there, too, to answer questions if you need him to, for his contractual needs,” Kristi notes.

Curt has been teaching at Mount Royal for ten years, starting when he was volunteering with a leading energy industry association, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Land Administration (CAPLA).

“Once you get into Land you realize how much there is to learn,” Curt says. “I’ve been at it for 30 years and I’m still learning every day. I find teaching is the best way to learn because I have to know the answers.”

Kristi Peterson

“The students at Mount Royal usually already have experience — from one or two years to ten or even twenty years — and they want to get that certificate and add to their education. There’s a lot of people who have taken the same certificate and have it posted on their wall,” Curt says.

“Both mine are on my wall,” Kristi says. “In oil and gas, when it’s good it’s really good. And when it’s bad it’s really bad. So far I’ve made it through every recession, able to keep my job and just hope for the best. We know there’s going to be an upswing, you just kind of hang on and wait it out,” Kristi notes. “It’s a good time to dig into those agreements you just haven’t been able to get to.”

“We all know that it’s going to come back. It’s just a matter of when,” says Curt.

— by Karen McCarthy
— photos by Karen McCarthy

Corporate Training Instructor Tailors Courses to Clients’ Needs


Instructor Cheryl Davis has taught management courses for our Corporate Training clients for several years. She is also an instructor in the Management Development Extension Certificate. We spoke with Cheryl about what she brings to corporate clients.

Q: What is your teaching style when working with corporate clients?
A: It’s really about them being able to apply what I’m teaching as they go through the program. We want to give them useful information that’s directly applicable in the roles and situations they’re in. We get a good sense of our audience before we start and adapt to the needs of each group.

Q: So you’re never teaching exactly the same program twice?
A: No. Even though I’m teaching the same content the discussions are different because a lot of the topics come from the students themselves. I talk to the group about what issues they’re dealing with and then I make sure that the emphasis and the materials apply to their situation.

Certainly there’s core content that I make sure to cover, but I am also aware of what the group is there for and what they want. Relevance to their own situation makes it more likely they’re going to take something away.

Q: What courses do you teach for corporate clients?
A: It varies. I do a lot of supervisory, leadership and communications courses – basically how to treat people. Because I have a financial background, I also teach how to read and understand financial statements and manage the bottom line.

Q: What changes have you seen in management training?
A: There have been lots of changes. I’ve been involved with management for over 30 years now. When I look at some of the things that were acceptable to do years ago, you could get put in jail for that today! There have been a lot of changes in terms of respect, safety and how we communicate. The whole top-down, “I’m the boss” mentality doesn’t work. There was a lot of position power years ago, but now there’s personal power. Managers have to ask themselves, am I respecting people, do I have integrity? To help people understand the significance of this in their roles as managers is huge.

Management today is a lot more about how you treat people than being procedure-driven. In the past it was about what to do, what steps to follow. Now it’s a lot more about the things that could happen while you’re trying to implement procedures and how to deal with those things.

Q: How can corporate clients be prepared to be good leaders?
A: To be a good leader really requires people willing to follow. Leaders have to think about the people they are leading and where they are coming from, how they feel and what impacts them. In order to help employees to deliver their best and be the best they can, managers really have to know them. Everybody is unique. What works with one individual won’t work with everyone. So the better leaders are at adapting their style to the needs of their team the more successful they will be as leader.

Q: What are some common issues for corporate clients?
A: Probably the most common issues are people issues, how people interact with each other. One of the things that we talk about a lot is perception. Oftentimes, it’s not that somebody’s right and somebody’s wrong, it’s that the way I see it is different from the way someone else sees it. Things get blown out of proportion because one person didn’t understand what the other person meant and their perspective was quite different. In the classroom, we try to understand why might this have happened and what could they have done to prevent it?

Q: What feedback do you get from your corporate clients?
A:  One of the biggest things is how they can take away what we’ve talked about and immediately apply it. They also appreciate how it opened them up to other perspectives.

Q: Why is MRU a good place to come for Corporate Training?
A: MRU really thinks about their clients. They talk to the clients and find out what they want and then match the instructor to the client. We have a lot of discussions about the client’s specific needs before we even develop the materials. MRU makes sure that the instructors they send out to the client are proven to be competent and have some real-life experience in the subject matter they’re teaching.

Q: Do you teach most often at the client’s location or on campus?
A: It’s pretty much equal. We’re very flexible. We’ll go wherever the client requires, wherever it makes the most sense for the people who are attending.

— photo by Krystal Hurt

Business Analysis Program Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Richard Lannon meeting with an attendee of MRU's recent Business Champions event
Instructor Richard Lannon meeting with an attendee of MRU’s recent Business Champions event

The Business Analysis Extension Certificate is one of our most popular programs, offered in both classroom and online versions. Mount Royal is an Endorsed Educational Provider of the International Association of Business Analysts (IIBA).

MRU’s program began in March 2005 with a two-day overview course. The idea was proposed by business consultant Richard Lannon, who also wrote the curriculum for the course and continues to teach in the certificate.

“There was nothing out in the marketplace,” Richard notes. “At that point in time there wasn’t even the IIBA. But this was a growing field so I spoke to the program staff at Mount Royal and wrote a proposal identifying the skill set of a business analyst, which I have used throughout my career. It hit all the key disciplines or knowledge areas a business analyst requires. We were one of the first.”

At about the same time, the IIBA was established, standardizing the processes and knowledge areas of business analysis.

“A business analyst is an individual who is able to look at business problems or opportunities within an organization and identify possible approaches to solve problems and make improvements in key business areas,” says Richard.

Mount Royal’s Business Analysis program now features 9 courses plus a Final Assessment Paper, for a total of 155 hours. Several hundred students have completed the program over its 10-year existence. Richard Lannon continues to teach some of the Business Analysis courses.

Richard Lannon, currently based in Manitoba, is the owner of the consulting business BraveWorld. He is a proven leader in strategic facilitation, business analysis and project management. He consults with technology-based companies in the oil and gas, mining, transportation, health care and professional services industries. Richard helps his clients identify and solve problems, helping them create a roadmap for moving forward.

In addition to pioneering MRU’s Business Analysis program, he was also instrumental in launching the popular Project Management program in 1999.

“Often business analysts will be asked to manage projects. That’s why the introductory Project Management course is part of the Business Analysis program,” Richard says. “Business analysis skills are used in project management, and project management skills are important to project management, too.”

In 2010 Richard Lannon received MRU’s Distinguished Teaching Award and a Business Recognition Award for his work with Alberta Entrepreneurs in strategic planning and leadership development. He was the keynote speaker at MRU’s recent Business Champions event.

MRU’s Business Analysis program has changed and evolved over the past 10 years, keeping pace with the technological and business concerns of industry. “The Business Analyst program and even the role and responsibility of the business analyst have evolved. It’s still evolving,” Richard says.

Graduates of the Business Analysis Extension Certificate are prepared for entry-level to mid-level positions as business analysts.

“They can be a business analysis generalist or a specialist,” Richard notes. “For example, I enjoy gathering and documenting, while others may enjoy process and workflow modelling. It’s an in-demand career and the opportunities are there.”

Is there a typical business analysis student? “It runs the gamut,” Richard says. “We have people who are looking to acquire work skills, who are in a career transition, or who are in their late career and wanting to be a consultant. Ideally, they like to facilitate and solve problems. In the corporate world they’re known as tech people who understand business.”

— by Karen McCarthy
— photo by Sue Madsen

Instructor Helps People Understand Their Finances

Michael Kolodnicki

Just in time for RRSP season, we chatted with personal financial planning instructor Michael Kolodnicki.

Q: What courses do you teach?
A: I teach Basics of Investing, and Stocks, Bonds and Your Portfolio in the Personal Financial Planning area.

Q: How long have you been teaching at Mount Royal?
A: I have taught evening classes at MRU for nine years. My day job is Investment Portfolio Advisor with TD Wealth Management & Investment Advice where I manage a $200 million portfolio.

Q: What is your teaching philosophy?
A: At work, I coach clients to make sure that they don’t get hurt and that I explain things very plainly. The financial industry can get caught up in acronyms and buzzwords and people speaking very fast. Teaching these classes helps me to slow it down, so I can help both my students and my clients really understand. I joke with my colleagues that I get to enlighten and entertain at the end of a long work day.

Q: Are the courses that you teach directed at the consumer rather than the financial professional?
A: Yes. Mount Royal delivers the Basics of Investing course on behalf of the Alberta Securities Commission. The Stocks, Bonds and Your Portfolio course is also aimed at people who want to take charge of their personal finances.

Q: What changes have you seen during the time that you have been teaching?
A: Students are more informed. They’re coming to class with laptops and personal devices and they’re checking on some of the facts that I’m quoting to them. We’ve got a big range of participants, from 25 to 80 years old. Some are experts – lawyers, doctors – who are very good at what they do but are brand new to the field of finance. They’re tired of not understanding how to manage their money.

Q: What questions do your students most frequently ask?
A: They like to know what the current events are, whether the headlines and political talk are impacting their savings. So we integrate a disciplined curriculum with real life. I try to go from the terminology and evolve it to, “this is how we apply it in the real world.”

Q: Do people ever come in thinking that there will be one or two stocks they can buy that will make them rich?
A: There’s always one that’s looking for tips. But a little bit of information is not helpful. We cover off the fundamentals that people need to be aware of so they don’t get hurt and can help their savings grow.

Q: Why is MRU a good place to come and learn about personal finance?
A: This is a phenomenal institution with a great reputation. There are similar ones in Calgary but there’s a culture and a vibe at Mount Royal that make it a great post-secondary institution, and for the continuing education component, it’s fantastic.

– photo by Krystal Hurt


Instructor Shows That Leadership Comes From Within

Joanne Leskow“In today’s fast-paced and competitive job market, it’s essential to keep our tools sharp and our tool kits full,” says Joanne Leskow, senior organizational developer and corporate culture crusader.

Joanne is a popular instructor in the Leadership Development and Organizational Change Management certificate programs. She also helped to develop the curriculum for MRU’s Professional Management Seminar Series of one-day workshops. She has been nominated for a Distinguished Teaching Award this year by one of her students.

Joanne led corporate culture at WestJet for a decade, helping define and identify the corporate culture, connecting that culture with the strategic objectives of the organization.

Joanne’s career started out in broadcast journalism. She then did training for the Edmonton police force. Over the following decade Joanne entered the entrepreneurial world, owning three different companies before joining WestJet in 2003 as Lead, Culture, a post that she held until 2012. She now leads her own organizational development firm.

The one constant in Joanne’s career has been change. She had no choice but to learn about change management and leadership. She speaks from hard-earned experience backed by industry knowledge.

“When you’re in the trenches, you learn intensively,” Joanne says. “It’s been very experiential for me. The learning comes from real-life experiences and that’s how I relate to students in ways they can understand,” she says.

Joanne has seen a big shift in corporate culture over the past few years to emphasize the people side of change. Because change is inevitable, companies are interested in helping people make the transition rather than simply telling them, this is the way it is now. Increased morale boosts productivity and positively impacts the bottom line.

“On the corporate culture side there’s a tremendous amount of interest in formulating strong, healthy cultures to facilitate growth and meet strategic objectives. I’m excited to help organizations and individuals understand what is required to mesh corporate culture with business objectives,” she says.

Joanne is as passionate about her students as she is about her subject area. “I’ve seen folks in classes from across all sectors in all industries. In fact, some of the richest learning comes to those you would not expect to take these classes. Some of the biggest revelations come to people who maybe had not considered a career in change management or leadership, like one student who had been driving a truck all his life but was now moving into a leadership role. In class we showed him that he already had applicable skills and the light bulb went on,” Joanne says.

Joanne’s courses provide an introduction to timely management and leadership concepts and practical tools to advance careers with confidence. She notes that “learners have an opportunity to learn and be inspired with like-minded people in an environment of confidence and excellence.”

Watch a video about Joanne:

Read an article about Joanne’s work with WestJet in Alberta Venture.

— by Karen McCarthy
— photo by Krystal Hurt