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Christie Simpson's grandfather, Jack Simpson, is who the Jack Simpson gym is named after.
Aly Gulamhusein/the Gauntlet

Leadership and Student Engagement Office now open

$2.5 million donation increases leadership opportunities on campus

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This fall, the University of Calgary received a $2.5 million donation to be awarded over the next three years from the Simpson family, who own and operate the CANA Group of Companies -- a family-owned business with three different construction operations. The donation will go toward leadership programs on campus. The announcement was made Nov. 17.

"We are very excited and grateful for the Simpson gift," said manager of leadership training and development Gareth McVicar. "They've expressed an interest in wanting to be involved."

McVicar commented that the donation shows a clear connection between the Calgary community and the university.

"We have a long history of donating to the University of Calgary," said vice-president of the CANA Group of Companies Christie Simpson. "We hope to prepare students for their careers and help Calgary grow as a global leader in business and in every industry that students might touch."

The CANA company has built over half of the buildings on campus, most recently the TFDL.

"This is an excellent way to help students get ready for their careers because companies are looking for more than just skills -- they are looking for people who can be leaders in their careers and their communities," said Simpson.

The newly-created Office of Leadership and Student Engagement provides students with the opportunity to learn leadership skills at the university.

"I think it's fantastic that people are taking an interest in our programs," said leadership ambassador Caitlin Kane, who is in charge of the emerging leaders program and the co-curricular record.

"It's definitely going to help us with a bunch of the different programs that we will be working with."

The donation will also allow for a higher budget for programming and more staff.

"We are looking at building what currently exists, restructuring some certain pieces," said McVicar. "We're looking at having more of an online presence with our workshops." He added that they are also looking at adding a lot of new programming, like the Student Activities Fund, which will provide $65,000 a year that students can apply to for funding activities that contribute to student engagement.

"As a program, we're fairly unique among Canadian institutions based on the size and offerings of the program that we have," said McVicar. "One of the things that probably makes the program and office overall most unique is the co-curricular record."

Experiences on campus can be added to the record throughout a student's time at university.

"Students can go through and be academically strong, but employers, what they look for is very different. They are looking for students who are academically strong, but they are also looking for students they can see have a lot of breadth to them," said McVicar.

The emerging leaders program, run by Kane, has 18 peer helpers and 260 participants. The program matches first-year students with faculty and staff members.

"I love the emerging leaders program," said Kane, who was a participant in 2009 and a peer helper last year. The program helps to transition high school students to university life.

"A lot of businesses now are looking for leadership qualities," said Kane, who added the program has helped her develop networking and interpersonal skills.

"Leadership isn't just about dragging people along, it's helping them grow at the same time," said Kane.

She hopes the donation will help more people know about their programs.

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