About Saint Mary's

Two Saint Mary’s University Programs Named Best in North America

14 June, 2016

Two programs offered by the Sobey School Business Development Centre (SSBDC) were recently recognized as best in North America in the Global Best Awards, sponsored by the Conference Board of Canada and the International Partnership Network. The awards recognize outstanding business, education and community organization partnerships that have a significant impact on the communities in which they operate.

The programs – Options and the Spark Zone – won in the Partnerships Crossing Boundaries category for highlighting the Centre’s unique partnerships with local businesses and agencies, as well as the strong relationship with the Saint Mary’s University Enactus team, a student group that works on social entrepreneurship projects.

The Options program focuses on increasing the employability of marginalized youth by encouraging them to take control of their futures through guided exercises, skill building and work experience. A mentorship program matches youth with university students for shared growth and leadership development. In addition, youth learn about financial literacy through the operation of a social loan program and running a cooperative business. The program has successfully helped more than 300 youth transition into jobs and further education. In addition to offering the program in local communities, the SSBDC also modified it for Aboriginal communities, incarcerated individuals and women in Peru, Bolivia and Kenya.

The Options program is a previous Global Best Awards winner, having been named the overall winner for North America under the category of Partnerships that Demonstrate Youth Employability Skills in 2014.

‌The second program, the Spark Zone, is a student business sandbox. With a physical space on Saint Mary’s University campus, the Spark Zone is a collaboration between Saint Mary’s University and three other institutions – Mount Saint Vincent University, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and the Nova Scotia Community College. The Spark Zone focuses on growing student businesses creatively through business modelling, pitch competitions, training sessions, conferences, speaker series and mentorship opportunities. The strength of the secondary institution partnerships, as well as the breadth of connections with local and national businesses and entrepreneurship mentors, helped to secure recognition for the Spark Zone as a second place winner in the category of Partnerships Crossing Boundaries.

According to Manager of Skill Development and Training at the Sobey School Business Development Centre, Michael Sanderson, “We are thrilled to be recognized once again for having some of the best programs for youth empowerment, entrepreneurship and partnership development in the world. The competition for these awards is stiff. We always feel that we are making a significant impact on a local level, and now, to see that work recognized on a global scale, that is a tremendous achievement. We are truly honoured.”

Sanderson will be travelling to Oslo, Norway in September with Options and Spark Zone managers Lianne Perry and Jason Turner to collect the awards on behalf of the university. As Options has already been named the Best in North America in its category, it is now automatically nominated for the Global Best Overall Award for its category and could be named the overall Global Best Award winner (over all categories and regions).

More about the Sobey School Business Development Centre:

The Sobey School Business Development Centre at Saint Mary’s University has been bridging the gap between business and academia by successfully delivering training and consulting programs throughout Atlantic Canada for over twenty-five years. Learn more.


Sobey School Business Development Centre