AMS to innovate

Policy looks to build entrepreneurship

AMS Academic Affairs Commissioner Allison Williams compiled the policy paper.
AMS Academic Affairs Commissioner Allison Williams compiled the policy paper.

A new policy paper ratified by AMS Assembly last Thursday aims to increase innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities for students at Queen’s.

The report, entitled Setting Sail: A Policy Paper on Innovation and Entrepreneurship from the Alma Mater Society (AMS), was compiled by Allison Williams, academic affairs commissioner and AMS President-elect, along with Academic Affairs Deputy Ariel Aguilar.

The policy provides a general insight into what changes can be made at Queen’s to foster and aid students’ interests in innovation within their respected fields of study.

Four pillars are outlined in the document pertaining to the policy: the Kingston Community, Academics and Access, Student Support and Campus Culture.

Recommendations for each pillar are given, as well as core concerns with the University’s current practices and suggestions on how to create positive change.

Williams, ArtSci ’14, said the need to create policy came from the stance that Queen’s needs to create a campus-wide culture of entrepreneurship.

She said not all faculties provide innovation and start-up opportunities to students.

“We have many students at Queen’s that would make great innovators, great entrepreneurs, who could really translate this into pursuing a start-up … but never having the opportunity to consider that in the first place,” she said.

Williams said the concept of a “funnel model” could be implemented, meaning that every student on campus will be provided with support regarding innovation and entrepreneurship.

Students on the wide end of the funnel will receive general assistance such as a general course regarding innovation. As the funnel narrows, students that wish to pursue entrepreneurship endeavors will be given greater support, she said.

“The idea would be [that] all students will have the option to decide if [entrepreneurship] is for them, and be able to engage at the level they would like to engage,” Williams said. “You have a few really enriched opportunities for those who want to pursue it as a lifestyle.”

Williams said much of her research was based on other schools that focus on innovation in some way, such as MIT and Stanford University.

Queen’s would have to be invested in creating a culture on campus that commends innovation in order for policy to make an impact, Williams said.

“We need to have a university operating in that supporting role. To do so we need buy in from the highest level of administration down to every faculty member,” she said. Williams said the next steps will be a student survey, so the AMS can determine where students are engaging now, and where they would like to engage in the future.

Ali Zahid, former marketing officer at the AMS, left Queen’s this school year to build his start-up company Vanhawks, which designs and builds carbon fibre commuter bikes.

He said he was disappointed that his education did not provide him with the knowledge he was looking for.

Zahid added that if the AMS wishes to pursue a more innovative culture, more is required than policy.

“If the AMS really wants to do entrepreneurship they should look at Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit,” he said. “He’s going on tours … he was here last night in Montreal at McGill. How the hell was he not at Queen’s the next day?” Queen’s has many entrepreneurial alumni, he added, and they would do well to invite them to the school to meet students.

“Policy is good for the long run, if they want to start creating this culture, there’s a lot of different routes to go,” he said. “You can bring in speakers … they should be focusing on getting the ball rolling.”

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