Alumni

“I loved my time at SMU”


DavidCreweDavid Crewe BComm’01 grew up with music. His father played with the likes of Elvis and Buddy Holly, and David himself learned to play 10 instruments. No one would have been surprised if he’d become a professional musician, but David’s path shifted when his best friend, Andy, died in his teens. “We found out later that no one had taken any photos of Andy. There were no pictures to remember him by,” says David, who took the money he’d been saving for a car and bought a camera. He spent the next few years, and about $800 worth of film, shooting family, friends, and anything that caught his eye.

He took his camera and this passion with him to SMU in 1996, right out of high school, where he immediately became involved not only in student politics—he was first year rep on the Board of Governors—but also many activities of the Student Association. Delighted by the sheer number of people and events, David can remember telling his mother on the phone during first year that there were more girls living in residence than people in his entire home town! “I loved my time at SMU,” he says. “It was like a light switch got flicked on and it hasn’t been shut off since.”

After graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 2001, David took various entry-level jobs in marketing and web design in Ontario. He was eventually recruited to the IT field, where he still holds down a day job in San Diego, California, in addition to running his own photography business. David J. Crewe Photography specializes in event coverage, including the ECMAs and American music festivals, and dramatic portraiture in the entertainment industry.


A passion for photography

The 34-year-old has never taken a course in photography but his dedication to the craft is unrivalled. “The first time I shot a wedding and the bride started crying when she saw the photos, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I love creating beautiful images that move people.” After carrying a camera around since he was 16, he now owns 13 cameras and is entirely self taught, often staying up at night to read books, watch photo tutorials, and learn new techniques.

Recently, he attended a major photography conference in Las Vegas and met with some of the most talented and creative photographers in the world. “It was very humbling, but also so motivating and inspiring to be able to learn from these people and see behind the curtains of the professional photography scene.”

Although he created his company in Halifax, shot for The Coast, and was hired by many local companies including LunaSea Theatre and Turbine Fashion, it’s in California where his photography business has really exploded. On top of having a full-time job and running his own company, he also finds time to be the Chief Marketing Officer for a Photoshop educating group called “Phlearn,” sit on the Boards of various professional organizations, and donate his talents to charities, such as Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego.

You might be wondering where he finds time to sleep and that’s another good news story: David needs less sleep than most and would rather be doing the things he loves. “That old adage is so true for me – when you’re doing what you love, it doesn’t feel like working. I’m having the time of my life!”

Saving lives in early retirement

Most people’s retirement plans include travel and relaxation, not setting up a medical training school in the hopes of tackling a persistent and devastating health problem.

   
Jasmin Hanley alumni profile picture  

Meet Jasmin Hanley.

 Retiring from the position of Laboratory Manager at the Joseph N France General Hospital in Saint Kitts, where she worked for more than 30 years, Hanley founded the Mediserv Training School of Cytology in February 2012, to teach medical laboratory technologists how to better identify premalignant and malignant cancer cells of the cervix.

 According to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide, with about 500,000 new cases and 250,000 deaths each year. About 80 per cent of cases occur in low-income or less-developed countries. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the Pan America Health Organization, a division of WHO, estimates cervical cancer mortality rates are seven times higher than in North America, indicating that early screening and follow-up treatment is a cost-effective way to deal with the problem.

 “Our incidence of cervical cancer here in this region is much higher than we want it to be. I know that with proper training, things can be better. That is my focus. I want to make a difference,” says the SMU grad.

 Hanley grew up in Saint Kitts, leaving home in 1977 to attend Saint Mary’s University, where she did a BSc in Biology and Chemistry. Other islanders had attended Saint Mary’s and Hanley liked what she heard about their experiences. “It was a smaller campus and the city was not too large,” she says. “And it was near the seaside. That was important to me, having grown up on an island.”

 Hanley loved her time at Saint Mary’s and took an active role in student life. She became president of the Biology Society and was a member of both the Caribbean Students Association and the International Students Association. She excelled at her studies and was named valedictorian for the 1981 graduating class.

Time for a Change

 In 1996, after working for several years in Saint Kitts, Hanley decided to further her education with a MSc in Clinical Cytology at Imperial College London in England, before returning to Saint Kitts where she took on a managerial role at the local hospital.

 Frustrated by the continuing high rates of cervical cancer and ready for a change, the idea of setting up the school began to form in Hanley’s mind. At present, there are half a dozen students training in the school’s program but Hanley would like to see that number grow by bringing in students from outside the Caribbean region.

 Getting the school established and keeping it running is time-consuming, but Hanley firmly believes her efforts will make a difference. “This is a preventable cancer and a cancer that can be treated successfully, if caught early. I know things can be better.”

 And that “downtime” most people crave with retirement? That time will come, Hanley said. In the meantime she enjoys travelling with her husband, a Cuban national. “I got to show him Halifax in 2005 and we’d love to return again. Maybe someday soon when I’m not as busy!”

Uncommon vision


LeahSkerryLeah Skerry BComm’09  likes to do things a little differently. She also likes to have fun. Whether it’s planning a Survivor party for everyone in the office, surprising her team with a concert in New York City, or taking them all skydiving, the Nova Scotia businesswoman tries not to take herself too seriously. “I really believe that work should be fun. I also like to push what people perceive as boundaries.”

This flair for the unusual came to light in her early days at Saint Mary’s, when she discovered a way to major in business but take all her electives at NSCAD studying design. Assigned a class project to grow a business using only ten dollars, Leah combined her talent for business and her love of design to create a successful initiative called “Trumped” that promoted community organizations. It was this work that helped her snag the Atlantic Canadian Student Entrepreneur of The Year in 2009 and started the Halifax word-of- mouth wheel churning.

With Leah’s uncommon blend of ease, innovation, and vision, it wasn’t long before some big names came calling. Julia Rivard, ex-Olympian and local entrepreneur, hand-picked Leah to be managing partner at Halifax-based, Norex. Displaying business savvy and energy to burn, Leah has been successful in restructuring the web development and design company from the ground up, attracting major national and international clients and garnering awards.


A born people person Leah is a natural to co-lead a company like Norex; one that truly sees the individuality in their employees. The internationally-expanding organization values unique contributions, and to that end, allows employees to spend 20% of their time on creative projects of their choice.

The most successful of these “personal innovations” to date has been the birth of a not-for-profit funding platform—Pursu.it—for amateur athletes. Co-founded by Leah and Julia and launched last October, 15 athletes from across Canada have already benefitted from donations of $90,000. The success of the program has gone viral, prompting contact from other countries eager to replicate this type of funding.

It’s these philanthropic activites, especially when they are focused around community, sport, and wellness, that fire Leah up the most. “There are so many amazing initiatives, projects, and people in the Maritimes, and the country as a whole. It positively affects my life to be involved and to support such uplifting work.” Awesome Halifax, Hope Blooms, and the Empathy Factory are just a few of the organizations that Leah has helped nurture and grow.

Although she comes by her spirit of giving naturally, Leah thanks Saint Mary’s for the example set by exemplary staff and faculty. In particular, SMU’s President Colin Dodds, recognized as one of Atlantic Canada’s Top CEO’s, continues to impress her.

“I'm still in awe that Dr. Dodds not only shows up to every possible event, but also takes the time to remember students’ names. His presence and his character say wonders about the university.”

Dr. Len Gougeon


LenGougeonDr. Len Gougeon BA'69 has an interesting perspective on reform movements.Having spent his entire academic career studying 19th century American literature in the period leading up to the American Civil War, Gougeon’s own foray into the world of academia began at an equally tumultuous time in political history.

It was the fall of 1965 when young Len Gougeon left his home in Northampton, Massachusetts to attend Saint Mary’s University, following in the footsteps of his older brother. At the time, the school was not yet co-ed, and students were required to wear jackets and ties to class and also in the dining hall. These things, as well as many others, would change over Gougeon’s four years at SMU.


A time of change

“It was a dramatic time, on campus and in society as a whole,” he says. “As young freshmen we just took it all in stride, but looking back, there was a lot happening around us.”

In Gougeon’s home country, the Civil Rights Movement had fought for, and won, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Following the deployment of the first US combat troops to Vietnam earlier that year, anti-war protests were beginning to heat up. Campuses across America, and Canada as well, became a hotbed of debate.

“Those discussions provided a very enriching experience,” Gougeon says, noting that although many of the debates would become heated, there was a strong sense of camaraderie among the students. “We felt ourselves to be a community of scholars.”

Following graduation, Gougeon moved back to the United States to continue his education, receiving both his M.A. and Ph. D. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Flash forward to today and Gougeon is now entering his 40th year teaching at the University of Scranton, a Jesuit institution in Pennsylvania, where he has been honoured as Distinguished Professor of American Literature.


Emerson: A voice for reform

Along with his teaching achievements, Gougeon has written four books and numerous scholarly articles on Ralph Waldo Emerson and his circle. Emerson was one of the major literary figures of the pre-Civil War period, whose work Gougeon first studied while in graduate school.

From the protests over Civil Rights and the Vietnam War when he was a student, to the polarized national politics of the present day, Gougeon says he still finds Emerson a relevant voice.

“Emerson was a man very much shaped by his time. He was writing about reform and was part of the anti-slavery movement in the period leading up to the Civil War. When I look at the polarization between the 'red' states and the 'blue' states now, I can see definite parallels from Emerson’s time,” Gougeon says. “His writings continue to be rich ground for American scholars.”

In 2008 Gougeon received the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society's Distinguished Achievement Award for his scholarship on Emerson and his book Virtue’s Hero: Emerson, Antislavery, and Reform, which was first published in 1990 and re-issued in a 20th anniversary edition in 2010.

 “It’s been a real career highlight to have written a book that continues to have a recognizable impact in my field,” he says. “I’m proud of that.”

Lorraine Craik‌: Pursuing her dream job


LoraineCraikLoraine Craik BComm’09 considers herself lucky. She figured out what she wanted to do with her life in a high school Economics class. This led to a Bachelor of Commerce degree at Saint Mary’s University and now a “dream job” with Husky Energy in Calgary as a Planning Analyst.

The 25-year-old is continuing her studies at the University of Calgary, part-time, toward a Masters of Business Administration. And, just to add to her sense of good fortune these days – unlike many others in her city this past June, her home wasn’t flooded.

Lucky indeed, but it hasn’t been without a few bumps along the way. The world was in an economic slump when Loraine graduated in 2009. After years of hearing that retiring baby boomers would open up great job opportunities for her generation, Loraine found she couldn’t break into the local labour market. “There was absolutely nothing. Nobody was hiring,” she says.

As a young child, Loraine had lived out west. Her mother worked in the oil and gas industry and her father, also a SMU grad, was an investment banker. Fuelled by their stories, and frustrated by a summer of fruitless job-hunting, Loraine decided to go to Calgary, her birth city, and the corporate hub of Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

“I didn’t have a job so I knew it was risky but I figured if I had a chance anywhere, it would be there.” She spent an entire month applying for jobs and knocking on doors. Loraine finally got hired on with the grocery chain Safeway, in a middle management position. It wasn’t an ideal fit for her skills, but it was work and she was grateful. Then the call came from Husky Energy, one of Canada's largest integrated energy companies.


Giving back to the community She went in for a meeting and left with a job. Working with a corporate team in the area of portfolio planning, Loraine develops schedules for many of Husky’s large-scale projects throughout Canada and internationally. “It is still surreal to me to attend meetings where dollar figures are discussed in the billions,” she says.

Despite an intense work schedule, Loraine still makes time to give back to the community – volunteering as a coach for the Calgary Special Olympics soccer and alpine ski teams. Every Sunday through the winter months, she works with athletes at the Canada Olympic Park ski hill in Calgary, a legacy of the 1988 Winter Olympics held in that city. And just this past June, the co-ed intermediate soccer group she helped coach sent two teams to the Special Olympics Summer Games, held in Devon, Alberta. One of the teams took home the bronze medal in their division finals.

“It can be challenging fitting it all in, but I learned pretty quickly starting out in this career that work-life balance is very important.” Loraine credits SMU with a large part of the success she’s experienced in her career and life thus far, in particular the university’s international culture that added so much more to her learning.

“SMU works hard to attract students from different cultures and it makes a big difference to the campus experience. It also encourages you to think on a more global level. That has been so helpful to me in my work.” Loraine currently works with a team of 20 individuals and together, they represent 10 different countries. “My time at SMU prepared me for the real world of business.”

“From the moment I arrived, I felt at home.”


RodrigoDavalosRodrigo Davalos BA’08 has been playing soccer since the time he could walk. Growing up in Latin America, he had lots of opportunity to excel at the game, and was playing pre-professional soccer in Guadalajara, Mexico by the time he was 14.

Things changed, however, when Rodrigo’s family immigrated to Canada. He was 17 years old and although he tried to play soccer in Calgary where his family settled, he felt disappointed by the emphasis on strength, rather than technique. He decided to transition his kicking skills to the game of football. “It took me about two years to fully understand all the rules, but once I started getting into it, I really enjoyed it.”

A sought-after kicker, Rodrigo played for Calgary with the CJFL (Canadian Junior Football League), and in 2003, was recruited by Saint Mary’s. He arrived when the Huskies were on fire; the team had won the Vanier Cup the year before and were at the top of their game. In his first season, Rodrigo also had the opportunity to play in the Vanier Cup finals.


“I was welcomed” This sense of joy and exhilaration wasn’t restricted to the football field. Rodrigo refers to his time at SMU as one of the best experiences of his life. “From the first moment I arrived in Halifax, I felt at home,” he says. “I was welcomed, not only by the University and professors, but by the team, the coaches, the players, and by the city of Halifax itself.”

International Development was his course of study and it couldn’t have been a better fit for what would become his career. “It broadened my mind and made me realize all that the world had to offer,” he says. “I learned to value differences in people.” This inner growth immediately translated into the halls of the school and onto the football field where he met people from many different cultures. Many deep friendships were forged.

But Rodrigo never forgot about his love of soccer. Fast forward a decade and he is currently building a business as an International Soccer Promoter, offering experiences in South America to talented, young Canadians. “I want to give them a chance to learn the finesse and technique of the best soccer players in the world.”


A bridge between Latin America and Canada Rodrigo recently had the privilege of helping a few young soccer players from Nova Scotia travel to the Youth World Cup in Bolivia. “They got a chance to play with a professional Mexican team and experience 30,000 people in a stadium, as opposed to a handful of family and friends watching their games back home.”

Rodrigo is also making connections with universities in California and with the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). He aims to stir up scholarships for Canadian soccer players who have what American schools are looking for—soccer skill combined with good academics and a positive attitude.

Excited by the chance to offer Canadian youth these kinds of life-altering opportunities is what drives Rodrigo forward. “I feel like I can be a bridge between Latin America and Canada, offering youth a chance to enhance their skills and have valuable cultural experiences too,” he says. “My ultimate goal is to help more kids achieve their dream of becoming professional soccer players.”

Perfecting the work-life balance


VartikaSatijaYou’ll be able to see Vartika Satija BComm'08 at the Calgary Stampede this year, but not in her role as an accountant. As part of her involvement in Studio Bollywood Dance, she will be performing in a dance routine at this international event that draws more than 700,000 people. It’s only one of the many festivals and fundraising events that she takes part in each year as a member of Canada's premier Bollywood performance dance troupe.

Dancing, which has always been a passion, plays a big part in what Vartika calls her work-life balance. “There is so much more to life than work,” says the 27-year-old, who credits Saint Mary’s for helping her figure that out at a young age. Through a variety of academic, social, and cultural experiences at university, Vartika had a chance to get to know herself and decide what she wanted her life to look like. “I realized that education and career were only part of what I wanted to accomplish in my life,” she says “Giving back to society and to my community are also hugely important to me.”

Her path, so far, has been an interesting one. Born in India, Vartika’s family moved to Nigeria when she was just two years old, and then returned to their home country when she was nine. They emigrated to Canada in 2002 and lived in New Brunswick. Two years later, Vartika moved to Halifax on her own and completed her Bachelore of Commerce in four years. Since then, she has lived and worked in Yellowknife, Edmonton, and finally Calgary. She currently works at a Public Practice Accounting firm in Calgary as a Senior Associate Accountant.


Mixing work with joyful pursuits Through it all, she has been cultivating that sense of work-life balance, which for her is key to inner happiness. This mix of work, joyful pursuits, and giving back began in her first year at SMU, where she excelled in her studies, worked as a tutor, made many friends, and routinely helped organize charity and fundraising events.

Although she now lives and works in Calgary, part of Vartika’s community still resides in Nova Scotia. “I met people on my first day of classes that I’m still friends with. Halifax is amazing that way. People are so friendly and it’s easy to feel as if you’ve known someone for years when you’ve just meet them.”

Making lifelong friends was an added bonus, as Vartika had chosen SMU for the reputation of its business programs. To her delight, her studies exceeded all expectations, giving her a solid foundation in accounting. Not only that; she also had the opportunity to interview individuals at the business school about which designations were available for her to pursue.


A broadened world view Vartika’s time at SMU also broadened her world view. “I met people from so many different cultures and backgrounds, and these experiences really opened me up and took me outside of the safe box I’d been living in. It helped me see how large and diverse our world really is.”

It was at university that she first encountered The Art of Living courses, which she has continued practicing in Calgary. As part of the process of prioritizing her personal passions, she regularly volunteers with this international educational and humanitarian movement that teaches meditation and stress reduction.

Her dreams for the future involve more international humanitarian work, but for now, Vartika needs to focus on the Chartered Accountant final exam in September. She will take the entire month of August off to study and prepare. After passing, she will be able to practice as a designated accountant anywhere in Canada. Best of luck, Vartika!