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Inspiring Leadership Forum
University of Regina

Inspire Me!

More than 1,200 people from across the country, and beyond, gathered online last Wednesday morning for the University of Regina’s 2022 Inspiring Leadership Forum presented by TD. This year’s theme, Happy on Purpose, may have seemed like a tall order given the present condition of the world, but for that reason, it’s a sentiment that resonated with organizers and attendees.

“We live in challenging times with issues and circumstances that may overwhelm people,” said Pam Klein, Chancellor of the University of Regina and co-host of the Forum. “This year’s Forum was a time to come together, albeit virtually, to connect, and share stories and life-experiences that will inspire us all to better care for ourselves in a joyful and compassionate manner.”

2022 marked the Forum’s 13th year – and second year as a virtual event – with featured speakers Jenn Harper, Colette Carlson, and Serena Ryder, each of whom connected with the theme through presentations that covered their life journeys through business, leadership, and mental health challenges.

Jenn Harper, a social entrepreneur and founder of Cheekbone Beauty, recounted the road she’s taken through profound personal struggle and loss, to operating a successful business focused on sustainability and a mission to leave the world in a better state. “What didn’t kill me only made me stronger,” she said “When I think about my life, pre-Cheekbone, I’m in awe of how much I’ve changed. Now I get to wake up every day and help people see how beautiful they are.”

Jenn Harper

Human behaviour expert Colette Carlson brought her perspective on how we can better connect with one another – and advocate for ourselves. “Rather than feel powerless, use the power you do have to make a difference,” she said. “We can be happy on purpose because we’re in control of our thoughts and our actions.

Colette Carlson

Juno-award winning songwriter Serena Ryder performed on acoustic guitar — taking the audience on musical trip through some of her most personal song writing, sharing her story of living through addiction and depression, and finding strength in that experience. “Your symptoms and the things you feel are actually your super powers,” she said. “They have messages for you.”

Serena Ryder

While the Forum itself is a hotly anticipated annual event, it’s also an important catalyst for fostering future leadership through the Inspiring Leadership Academic Entrance Fellowship. Proceeds from the Forum support the four-year $30,000 academic entrance scholarship that was first announced at the 2021 event. This year, Chantel Hoag, its inaugural recipient, joined the Forum for a conversation with Dr. Jeff Keshen, University of Regina President and Vice-Chancellor, during which time they discussed the nature of good leadership.

The Forum wrapped up with a special announcement about plans for next year’s event – which include a featured presentation by former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould P.C., Q.C. The 2023 Forum date has been set for International Women’s Day: March 8, 2023 and will be held in-person.

Interested in learning more about next year’s Forum? Stay tuned to the Inspiring Leadership Forum’s website for more info coming soon.

Colette Carlson on the power of connection

As the world slowly returns to in-person interactions in our workplaces and communities, some may find themselves a little rusty when it comes to social skills. Colette Carlson has some advice: “Be proactive and initiate the conversations, the lunches, gatherings, and don’t forget to simply drop by,” she says. “Don’t wait in your office or cubicle. It’s up to you.”

Colette CarlsonCarlson is a human behaviour expert and leadership coach whose approach to improving relationships of all types is rooted in the importance of making and maintaining connections. She founded Speak Your Truth Inc., a professional development firm, in response to a need she identified for business training that prioritizes relationship-building. “To me, leadership is modeling behaviours that inspire individuals to come together for a common purpose,” she says. “At the same time you’re always empowering and bringing out the best in those individuals.”

As it turns out, one of Carlson’s biggest inspirations is also one of her oldest relationships. “My sister both inspires me and is my favourite female leader,” she says. “First of all she’s wicked-smart – she’s had her own business forever – but she is also an incredible communicator, and fearless when it comes to addressing rather than avoiding change, challenges, or conflict.”

Indirectness is something Carlson recognizes as an age-old problem for many women. She points out how commonly women are groomed to prioritize others’ needs before their own, and too often, this results in unachieved goals. “It’s too easy for us to set aside our own dreams because we want to make sure everyone else is taken care of,” she says. “Do what’s best for you – be honest about what you want, and then communicate that. We have to get better at compartmentalizing, and recognizing that if we achieve what we desire, everything will fall into place.”

Don’t miss Colette Carlson at the 2022 Inspiring Leadership Forum presented by TD!

Jenn Harper on the beauty of integrity

Jenn Harper has some advice for her younger self. “I have a ton of advice for my younger self,” she laughs. “I would have week-long conversations with ‘her’ that’s for sure. If I had one thing to say, it’d be to believe in yourself. We all have our own special gifts, and have a right to bring those to the table.”

Jenn HarperHarper, an Anishinaabe social entrepreneur from south-western Ontario, knows first-hand the power of that advice. She founded Cheekbone Beauty, a cruelty-free and sustainable cosmetics line in 2016. Since then, has seen the business grow on an upward trajectory that, most recently, resulted in a distribution agreement with cosmetics retail-giant Sephora.

A company with a mission, Cheekbone’s ethos is strongly tied to a commitment to sustainability. All Cheekbone products are vegan, not tested on animals, and mindful of supply chain transparency, allowing consumers to know exactly how and where ingredients are sourced.

“Sustainability is important to me because I feel like we’re such jerks as human beings,” she says. “We’ve really taken advantage of this beautiful gift that is planet Earth. When you own and operate a business and you’re putting things out into the world – we have a responsibility to do the best that we can with what we have.”

It’s Harper’s strong sense of integrity that has garnered as much attention as her product line. A portion of Cheekbone’s sales go towards supporting Indigenous youth – including supporting programs that seek to close the well-documented funding  gap in education that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. To date, Cheekbone has donated more than $150,000 to the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society.

“I’ve always felt passionately about the power of education,” Harper says. “And not necessarily in the form that we normally think of it. When talking to Indigenous youth about starting Cheekbone Beauty, I tell them I don’t have a MBA, and I don’t have a business degree – but I read more than 100 books in a year and a half period. That’s education.”

Through her business acumen and philanthropy, Harper has grown into the position of role model for many young people who see her positively representing her culture, and taking her place among Canada’s best-known entrepreneurs.

“It is a big responsibility but our kids need that. I have a daughter, I have a son, nieces, and nephews. I know when I look back to my childhood, my teen years, I did not have one Indigenous person that I saw as a role model, and that’s not good. But if I can do that – just so people can say ‘that person is like me, they’re from where I’m from.’ It all starts with representation.”

Don’t miss Jenn Harper at the 2022 Inspiring Leadership Forum presented by TD!

Inspiring Leadership Academic Entrance Fellowship

Four-year $30,000 scholarship makes a world of difference for future leaders

When making the decision where to pursue her post-secondary education, Chantel Hoag knew two things: she wanted to be able to maintain a balance between academics and athletics – and she wanted to stay close to home. Coming from the small south Saskatchewan town of Gravelbourg, the University of Regina was a perfect fit. Last year, as Hoag skimmed the University’s scholarship offerings online, one stood out in particular: the $30,000 four-year Inspiring Leadership Academic Entrance Fellowship. With a criteria aimed at attracting students entering their first year of university directly from high school, with a high admission average, and a track record of exemplary community engagement and leadership potential, Hoag was a perfect fit.

Chantel Hoag

Chantel Hoag at 2018 U18 Nationals in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. 
Credit: photo provided by Chantel Hoag

“The fellowship criteria aligned with many of the values that I work towards, such as community involvement, volunteerism, and of course, a commitment to education,” Hoag says.

“The emphasis placed on building future leaders especially resonated with me.”

Chantel Hoag
Chantel Hoag practices for the Youth Olympic Games in LeDuc, Alberta, November 2019
Credit:  photo provided by Chantel Hoag

Hoag, who is currently studying biology with a minor in kinesiology, is an elite curler in her age group, and has already proven herself to be a leader through a variety of volunteer work. A few years ago, she established a curling program for youth in her home town of Gravelbourg following years of long distance commutes to practice and compete. “Growing up, my town didn’t have a youth curling program, which is why my parents drove me weekly to Moose Jaw to participate in curling clinics and programs. After taking part in various national competitions and countless training programs, I thought that I would be qualified enough to start teaching the basics of the sport to the youth of my community.” Hoag and her older sister – a University of Regina Alum herself – still offer occasional weekend curling clinics in Gravelbourg to boost interest in the sport.

Winning the scholarship has meant a world of difference to Hoag. She has ambitions to study medicine after earning her undergraduate degree, and between her heavy course load and time commitments curling for the U of R Cougars, there isn’t time for much else. 

“Winning this award relieves the financial burden and stress that comes with attaining a post-secondary education,” she says. “This scholarship allows me to go through life’s expenses much more comfortably, giving me the opportunity to focus on the important things in life, like my education and my community.”

Chantel Hoag will speak at the Inspiring Leadership Forum presented by TD – Virtual Edition – on March 2, 2022. The Forum focuses on women in leadership and features speakers Jenn Harper, Founder and CEO, Cheekbone Beauty; Colette Carlson, Human Behaviour expert; and Serena Ryder, Juno-award winning songwriter and mental health advocate. Tickets to this virtual event are $95 and available here.

For more information about this and other scholarship opportunities, visit the Student Awards Management System (SAMS).

Serena Ryder on inspiration and authenticity

As an award-winning artist and activist, songwriter Serena Ryder is keenly attuned to the power of inspiration. But when it comes to pinning down how inspiration works – that special spark to her creative projects – Ryder is comfortable living with some mystery.

Serena Ryder“I have no idea how I do it,” she laughs. “I think a lot of people find it hard to believe, but there’s something much bigger than us as human beings. There are only 12 notes, but so many ways to put them together. You can go to all kinds of places with your imagination. As long as it’s authentic to your feelings, it’s authentic.”

Ryder’s sense of authenticity is a driving force in the many facets of her work life: from songwriting to advocacy for mental health, and her ArtHaus project – a creative live/work incubator residence she co-developed in Toronto with her manager (Regina’s own Sandy Pandya).

While her prolific creative output suggests an unstoppable energy, Ryder has also struggled with deep depression. Her own mental health challenges have served as a personal call-to-action to raise awareness through various campaigns including Bell Let’s Talk, and Be Well, her own online journal and newsletter dedicated to mental health awareness. In 2018, Ryder was awarded the Margaret Trudeau Advocacy Award in acknowledgement of her efforts to bolster awareness and support for people with mental illness.

“It’s a very multi-layered, complex thing to talk about because everyone’s experience is different; but there’s something that ties us together when we’re at our lowest points, that’s when we feel completely alone,” she says. “I feel like there’s so much bypassing – trying to be happy when we’re not. I felt I needed to fix something inside myself, when in fact, my symptoms were the greatest messengers that I had. Being with those feelings until they start to shift – it’s not easy, but it’s profoundly healing.”

And with that healing comes a renewed sense of optimism for the future – whatever it may hold.

“One thing that’s always true is that we never know what’s going to happen,” she says. “I think we know that now more than ever – and I’m so happy to not know, be it good or difficult. I find the greatest transformation can come from both of those things.”

Don’t miss Serena Ryder at the 2022 Inspiring Leadership Forum presented by TD!

MOSAIC sponsor logo
The University of Regina's 2022 Inspiring Leadership Forum is presented by TD. We also thank the following organizations for their generous support of this year’s Forum: Bravo Tango; Pattison Outdoor; Global TV; LeaderPost; Rawlco Radio; CPA Saskatchewan and University of Regina Alumni Association.