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WELab offers entrepreneurial support for female students and faculty

By Nikayla Goddard, November 5 2019—

On Wednesday Oct. 30, the University of Calgary’s Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking welcomed entrepreneurial women and supporters to the space to announce a new program to promote female entrepreneurship. 

WELab is the first university program in Alberta specifically for female entrepreneurship with the aim of education and inspiration across disciplines. WELab is primarily a mentorship program that offers networking events, entrepreneurial advising, a pitch competition and a digital resource and chat hub for like-minded innovators to connect with one another. The program offers these services to all female-identifying students, staff and faculty. 

This year’s focus, or “Stream” is on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) entrepreneurship. The Stream will change each year depending on the needs and focus of the students and university. 

The event was hosted by the U of C’s Associate vice-president of Research Susan Skone, along with speeches from Dean of Science Dr. Lesley Rigg and vice-provost Indigenous Engagement Dr. Michael Hart.

“This today is the beginning of what promises to be a gamechanger on campus,” Skone opened with. “It’s the first program of its kind in Alberta. WELab focuses on entrepreneurship, education and mentorship, designed to inspire and denote the next generation of women entrepreneurs and leaders across diverse disciplines in faculties.”

Elise Ahenkorah, Programs and Partnership Lead for the Hunter Hub.

Elise Ahenkorah, Programs and Partnership Lead for the Hunter Hub, works to design the programming that takes place and develop partnerships to support WELab’s activities. 

Ahenkorah remarked that her additional roles include “securing mentors for sessions, planning the WELab pitch competition and engaging with faculties to incorporate their programing insights and expertise into WELab’s program to ensure students receive the greatest impact and experience when engaging WELab’s activities. I am also engaging with local entrepreneurs and industry organizations to secure partnerships, sponsorship and mentors.”

Ahenkorah said that WELab’s creation was possible from grant funding through the federal Research Support Fund’s Incremental Project Grant.

Following the announcement of the program and the opportunity for attendees to network, the first Mentor Session was held at 12:45 p.m. “Building Social Enterprises in STEAM” was hosted by Dr. Gina Cherkowski, Founder of STEM Learning Lab and Chief Innovation Officer and co-founder of EdgeMakers, who welcomed a room full of female students to their first workshop.


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