Joy Cramer, director, Indigenous programs

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Five years on, students continue to fill EMBA in Indigenous Business and Leadership

February 14, 2018
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By Diane Luckow

After five years, SFU’s Executive MBA in Indigenous Business and Leadership (EMBA IBL) is still the only accredited MBA program in North America with a focus on Indigenous business.

The popular two-year cohort program began in 2012 at SFU’s Beedie School of Business with bi-annual registration, and has achieved full registration (25 students) for every intake since its inception. In 2017 the program began accepting students annually, again attracting a full complement of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

Candace Dennis, director of Aboriginal banking for B.C. and Yukon at the Bank of Montreal, is not Aboriginal. She took the program as a way to connect with tomorrow’s Indigenous leaders and also share her financial knowledge.

“But I never realized how much I was going to gain,” she says. “I now have a much deeper understanding of the history and complex issues arising from the treatment of Aboriginal people over the last 150 years.”

Trevor Gladue, a member of the Duncan Cree Nation, Treaty 8 in Northern Alberta, credits the program with two job promotions. He entered the program in 2014 as a business manager with Civeo, which provides workforce accommodations around the world. He is now director of Indigenous initiatives, reports to the global senior vice-president, and participates in negotiating comprehensive community agreements.

“This program was truly transformational for me,” he says. “It gave me the confidence, skills and ability to accelerate my company’s growth and drive effective business strategies through an Indigenous lens.”

Joy Cramer, a former deputy minister with the Manitoba government, entered the EMBA IBL program in 2014 because she wanted to switch careers. As a citizen of the Sagkeeng First Nation, she was intrigued to discover a program focused on Indigenous issues as they relate to government and business, but from an Indigenous perspective. She graduated in 2016 and says, “It was the most wonderful educational experience of my life.”

<subhed>New Indigenous leadership for program

Last year, Cramer accepted the position of director, Indigenous programs and EMBA IBL program director, taking over from program founder Mark Selman.

“The Beedie School of Business has done it right in terms of transitioning the program to Indigenous leadership,” she says. “The program is now being led by two Indigenous women, myself and Natiea Marie-Rhodes, senior manager, Indigenous programs.”

Cramer says the decision to bring on Indigenous leaders to deliver this program is a refreshing change from the colonial tendency to not pass on leadership opportunities and knowledge.                                                                                   

“The program’s major achievement is that we’ve created an EMBA program that meets the needs of the community,” she says. “The program creates an amazing learning space for Indigenous executives to enhance their leadership skills and learn new business-sector skills.”

Cramer’s mission during the next five years is to support a new Indigenous faculty member, create a process to fund and develop Indigenous business case studies, grow the program’s scholarship and bursary fund, and court donors.