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Dalhousie University - Student Priorities

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Fellow Project Pitches

Fellow Projects Pitch - 2016

(Prepared by Yaser Alkayale and Seline Dogan)


Dalhousie University is located in the heart of Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada. Local startup ecosystem in Halifax is still at its growing stage. There have been several champions working on developing the ecosystem, but only very recently has the government started to put more pressure on universities to promote entrepreneurship and facilitate deeper connection with the local startup community. Based on this initiative there was a group of political, academic and business leaders formed called oneNS Coalition. The mandate of oneNS Coalition is to instill further growth in the region and a 10 year plan for economic development and sustainability. One of the major topics is entrepreneurship and innovation.

Going through the training to become University Innovation Fellow, we had a great opportunity to get out of the building and talk to large amount of students and faculty member from across the campus and map out our campus landscape and recognize some of the major shortcomings that need to be addressed. One of our findings was that students are not very aware of the resources and possiblities the E&I community can offer them at Dalhousie and Halifax. Although, some students are aware of some societies, events and spaces that are offered to them, majority of the students are in the mindset that the resources are mostly for business students at Dalhousie. This creates a lack of cross-faculty interaction under E&I.

The Sexton Engineering Campus at Dalhousie University is physically isolated from the main campus, Studley. This hinders the opportunity for full collaboration within the main campus. We believe that cross-faculty collaboration is essential for further growth of our startup ecosystem. A great example of this is a company called Spring Loaded, where three students from various faculties met in the Starting Lean Course, came up with an idea for a new generation of knee braces and rose over $1.8 million in seed financing to date. In addition to that, Dalhousie university is commited to make engineering campus for the upcoming $64M Innovation hub, IDEA project.

Dalhousie Entrepreneurship Society (D.E.S.) has done tremendous work in the short amount of time they have had since the society was created. Most of the activities and events that we will host will be under D.E.S. because it will give us the platform and power to be in touch with students who have shown some interest in E&I. The D.E.S. will be our main hub that will allow us to get funding and reach the maximum number of students, stakeholder and investors. Our main goal this year is to get increased involvement from students, and for that, we need some funding to be able to bring value to them where they will have the incentive to join our society and take part in our activities.

Strategy #1 - Connecting Engineering Students with the rest of the campus

We are very pleased with the initiative from the university and the province to create the Innovation Hub (IDEA Building) which is a multipurpose building on Sexton Campus. As University Fellow candidates, we fully support this initiative and are willing to help to further promote it as well as help with information interviews, planning and further ideation on its programs and events.

Tactic no.1: Future Plans for Events in the IDEA Project Building

Once the IDEA Building is complete, we wish to utilise some of the collaborative spaces that it will entail to run design workshops and entrepreneurship events out of it. By doing so, we prioritise the access of engineering students, whose campus on which the building will be located, while at the same time including students from all Dalhousie campuses. This will be a great way to promote cross-faculty, and even moreso cross-campus collaboration and innovation.

Strategy #2 - Dalhousie Entrepreneurship Society (D.E.S.)

A student-centric organization on campus that aims to build an inclusive innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem on the Dalhousie University campus from within by exposing students in all faculties to resources and funding opportunities, organizing hackathons, startup weekends, conferences and connecting them with the local startup community. D.E.S serves as a vehicle to deliver our strategic student priorities and initiatives.

Tactic no.1: Build a framework which we can pass along for next generation of student entrepreneurs.

We are building a structure for our society so the new executives for the years to come can have a base to rely on. It is important for us not to just start a society but to also keep it alive and pass it on to other new executives who can take our roles and keep growing it as time goes by. This will be done through getting a ot of people involved with our events and setting guidlines and goals for us to achieve within a timeline. That way, students will take the society seriously and keep it going to achieve its goal of spreading innovation and entrepreneurship around campus.

Tactic no.2: Recruit students in their first and second year to ensure sustainable future for D.E.S.

By getting students involved in the Entrepreneurship Society we can ensure a sustainable future for the society. Society will keep growing as years go by and students will have time to become familiar with E&I before their graduation, which ultimately will increase the chances of more E&I student achievements at Dalhousie.

Tactic no.3: Raise awareness with series of student-driven events, meetups and competitions.

In addition, we are currently in the process of creating new By-Laws and a more comprehensive Constitution to enable us fully establish ourselves as the leading student-led organization promoting Entrepreneurship and Innovation on Campus and help us seek further funding opportunities.

Tactic no.4: Creation of a unified informational system about D.E.S. events via Facebook

We would like to create a Facebook group to complement the current Facebook page that exists for the D.E.S. A Facebook group would allow for a more active D.E.S. online community, that could respond to announcements with feedback and start new discussion threads and ideas.

Strategy #3 - Co-curricular Record (Design Thinking & Lean Methodology)

We proposing to have Design Thinking & Lean Methodology offered as official co-curricular record to motivate students to get introduced to the entrepreneurial mindset. This would serve as an ideal channel to non-invasively encourage students to get involved with entrepreneurship on the campus.

Tactic no.1: Register all the Entrepreneurship and Innovation related events, contests, competitions, workshops etc. on co-curricular database.

We have a great co-curricular record program at Dalhousie Unversity and we would like to leverage that to attract more students into our events and workshops. It is very important that students get recognized for the work that they have done, and showing them that the activities that they do with us will be officially recorded on their transcript is just an extra incenstive to attracting them into our programs. 

Tactic no.2: Enable students to enter their volunteer, participant, mentor, speaker, winner positions within E&I on their co-curricular record which later will benefit their resume.

By allowing students to specify their roles for the specified events, workshops, contests, projects etc. in the co-curricular record will build the desire of wanting to engage more and be a part of something. This way students can have an attachment to the event, workshop etc. they took a part in.

Strategy #4 – Rethinking the Collider and other entrepreneurship spaces on campus

The Collider is a multipurpose space in Killam Library for the collision of serendipitous ideas where from all academic and professional disciplines can come together to develop ideas and and create the future generation of innovators. The Collider connect students, local startups, mentors, investors and allows them to work together to help further grow the local startup ecosystem. Killam Library is the least-siloed space on the campus and place where people come together.

Tactic no.1: Hosting regular workshops and hackathons in order to get students more informed and engaged about E&I

As part of our initiative to get more students involved from all faculties, we will be hosting regular events and workshops for students to gain all the skills they need to run a startup. These workshops have to be regular so students get to know the schedule and come as they have available time. The workshops will be hosted by guest speakers and facilitated by volunteers. The topics we wish to cover include coding for beginners, design, making effective phone calls, and much more. Additionally we wish to host monthly hackathons with a different theme each month. One month it can be for ocean science and ocean projects, while another month it can be a computer science hackathon and possibly a medical science hackathon. These hackathons will serve as a great place for students who have ideas in each of these disciples to come together and work on them.

Tactic no.2: Promote the Collider as more of a specifically entrepreneurial space or modify an existing space

We wish to transform the Collider (or modify a new existing space) into a more entrepeneurship and innovation-oriented space. We will do this by physically transforming the room, "theming" it with entrepreneurship and innovation inspirational quotes on the wall, etc. We also wish to have regular walk-in times every week, when students can come in and work on their own entrepreneurial ideas in the space. We wish to have a posted professor or other university staff with experience in entrepreneurship present during these times to answer any questions that students may have about startups, and provide help on specific issues should students need it. We also wish to enable students to use physical office/home supplies to create their prototypes right in the collider/other space during the workshops, events, or contests. This will allow students to create a physical prototype and get one step closer to the final product.

Strategy #5 – Hold More Student-Lead Hackathons on a Regular Basis

We want to challenge the idea that hackathons are only tech-related. In order to get students from all backgrounds and faculties involved, we have to host hackathons for different disciplines like a hackathon for computer science, one for health sciences and another for ocean science. Dalhousie Entrepreneurship Society held the first student-led hackathon for Oceanography and Marine programs Hackamarine 2015. Hackamarine is going to be an annual event held at Dalhousie University, a school well known for its world-class Marine & Oceanography programs. This is a cross-faculty event aiming to bring talent from various fields to work on major problems in Oceans & Marine Sciences. The winning teams took home a cumulative total of $5,000 in prizes.

Tactic no.1: Start the Dalhousie Hackathon Series (DHS), a series of monthly held hackathons created by partnering with different organizations and faculties to ensure collaboration.

As mentioned above, the hackathons will be a great way to get all students involved in different fields and to start to get them innovating. The hackathons will have different themes, but they will all be open to all students so everyone is welcome to join and learn about the different topics. We believe this will be a great way to attract students from all around dalhousie and get them together working on great ideas. Having traditional hackathons is great, but adding different topics and inviting the general student body will ensure high attendance numbers and excitement for everyone.

Tactic no.2: Make Hackathons inviting for any student all over the four campuses of Dalhousie University.

We decided to call all the students around all four campuses into action! Sending out emails, hanging posters on the walls, creating social media invitations etc. We are dedicated to grab the attention of students in different faculties. We want to show students that E&I isn't only for engineering and business students.

Strategy #6 - Encouraging Cross-Faculty Understanding and Shared Experience

In order to enhance the interaction between students across faculties, we aim to launch a class-exchange system where they can take the classes with students from other faculties in a monthly basis. The way how it works is that some specific classes from each faculty would offer up to 10 students per month, to voluntarily take a part in the class. The potential outcomes of this system would let students walk into the shoes of others in terms of academic lives of one to another. In addition to that, they can connect and get to know students from variety of faculty for a greater ability to form a diverse team once they decide to take their innovative ideas and start working on it as entrepreneurs.

Tactic no.1: Get in touch with stakeholders to ensure the success of exchange system

Class exchange initiative deeply relies on the collaborative support and dedication of various stakeholders on campus. To ensure that the initiative will be successfull, the idea should be clearly delivered to the deans and professors. In this regard, we plan to have meetings to receive their feedback on the class exchange system. We believe this would lead for a better continuation by having the prior aggrement and commitment of affiliated stakeholders. 

Strategy #7 - Creation of a Beginner-Oriented LaunchDAL Sub-brand

Beginners feel alienated in the status quo with regards to entrepreneurship activities. They have a perception that they do not have the "right stuff", that it is too difficult, that it is reserved only for business majors, etc. In order to fill the gap and correct these misconceptions, we will strive to create friendlier and more approachable branding for all existing and future entrepreneurship activities, as well as simply informative promotion with regards to beginners that will strive for inclusivity and approachability.

This will be a part of a larger marketing/promotional campaign for entrepreneurship events on campus. This campaign will be supplemented by CKDU (university radio) spots, the creation of a unified informational/update system (D.E.S. Facebook group), and other such initiatives.

Tactic no.1: Get feedback from entrepreneurship beginners on approachability of promotional material

To achieve this approachability and friendly marketing, we will run marketing by actual students and get feedback vis-a-vis these characteristics that we are striving for.

Related Links

Dalhousie University

Fall 2017:

Aristides Milios

Canberk Bal

Spring 2016:

Yaser Alkayale

Séline Dogan

Fall 2015:

Justin Javorek

Dhruv Bhatia