$1M fund to open doors for Aboriginal women studying business

Students studying in the Ch’nook Indigenous Business Education initiative program

Students studying in the Ch’nook Indigenous Business Education initiative program

September 22, 2015 – A $1-million gift from the family of Warren and Maureen Spitz will fund a new awards program at UBC’s Sauder School of Business benefiting Aboriginal women pursuing business studies. The Spitz Fellows Program was created in collaboration with the philanthropic Toronto-based family and accepted its first student this month.

“Our hope is that the Spitz Fellows Program will create opportunities for women to empower themselves and succeed in their educational, career and life goals,” said Warren Spitz, president and CEO, UCS Forest Group. “Our aim is to provide the support recipients need to invest fully in their studies and become leaders at Sauder and beyond.

With the aim of eliminating financial barriers to success, the program provides up to two Spitz Family Awards for Aboriginal Women annually, with each recipient eligible to receive $10,000 per academic year during a bachelor of commerce program and additional funds as necessary.

Spitz Fellows will be invited to play an active role at Sauder in the Ch’nook Indigenous Business Education initiative, a program focused on promoting business education in Aboriginal communities. As Ch’nook Scholars, they will help encourage business education among Aboriginal high school students, attend networking events and conferences with fellow Aboriginal business students across British Columbia, and gain access to valuable internship opportunities created through the program.

“At Sauder, we firmly believe that business education can be used as a powerful tool to transform lives and strengthen communities,” said Sauder’s Dean Robert Helsley, Grosvenor Professor of Cities, Business Economics and Public Policy. “We’re thankful the Spitz family shares this vision and greatly appreciate their generous support and partnership in developing this initiative.”

The gift to support the creation of the Spitz Fellows Program is part of UBC’s start an evolution campaign, the largest fundraising and alumni engagement campaign in Canadian history.

“At UBC we feel it’s vital to ensure that our students have the support they need to excel in their academic lives and beyond,” said Martha Piper, interim president. “We greatly appreciate the generosity of the Spitz family and thank them for helping to create this new pathway for Aboriginal women at UBC to reach their full potential.”


The Spitz family and Spitz Fellows Program

The Spitz family – Sauder School of Business alumni Warren and Maureen, and their adult children Gregory, Kelsey and Matthew – worked closely with Sauder staff and faculty and the school’s Ch’nook Indigenous Business Education initiative to develop the Spitz Fellows Program. The idea for the program was initially inspired by Warren Spitz’s summer employment during university on British Columbia’s central coast in Namu, and later in Bella Bella. During this time Warren heard first-hand of the barriers to post-secondary education faced by his friends and co-workers. Working with Ch’nook, the family engaged band councillors, chiefs, educators and others in Aboriginal communities to learn more about issues facing Aboriginal British Columbians in pursuing post-secondary education in business. The creation of the Spitz Fellows Program is the result. The program builds on a history of philanthropic efforts both locally and internationally, which includes causes ranging from the Toronto Film Festival to a medical clinic for youth in Uganda.

>> More about the Spitz family and the development of the Spitz Fellows Program

Ch’nook Indigenous Business Education at the Sauder School of Business

Established in 2002 as a collaborative effort of UBC’s First Nations House of Learning and the Sauder School of Business, Ch’nook offers a full range of business education opportunities for Aboriginal participants. The initiative includes the Ch’nook Cousins Program that works to promote business education and career opportunities with high school students; the Ch’nook Scholars Program, which provides scholarships, and networking, conference and internship opportunities for full-time Aboriginal business students studying at institutions throughout B.C.; and the Aboriginal Management Program, which provides training for mature students wanting to develop fundamental business knowledge and skills, including accounting, finance, human resources, information systems, marketing, operations and strategic planning.

>> More on Aboriginal-focused business programs at Sauder

Aboriginal women in the labour force

A July report by TD Economics titled “Aboriginal women outperforming labour markets” notes that Canada’s indigenous women are making significant gains in education and the labour force. Highlights include:

  • Aboriginal women living off reserves have bucked national trends, with employment rates rising since 2007 alongside labour force participation.
  • Employment growth has been particularly high in service sectors such as finance and professional services – areas typically associated with well-paying, stable jobs.
  • Linked to improving labour market outcomes, Aboriginal women have seen sizeable improvements in educational attainment over the past 20 years.
>> Full report by economist Brian DePratto

Reprinted with permission.

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