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UofGH to host first international applied business conference

The University of Guelph-Humber has announced that it will host its first international applied business conference, with highly regarded academics, researchers and scholars from some of the world’s top universities agreeing to participate.

The International Applied Business Conference on the Evolution of SMEs in the 21st Century and Beyond will be hosted by UofGH virtually on May 6 and 7, 2021. Though the scope of the conference spans to the entire field of Business, there is a focus on the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected small and medium enterprises, which make up over 98 percent of businesses around the world.

This conference’s goal is bring together academic scholars, researchers, entrepreneurs, policy makers and students from around the globe to present case studies and discuss applied research papers, as well as to foster research collaborations.

UofGH is accepting proposals for applied research papers, case studies and panel discussions in all fields of business. Undergraduate students are eligible to submit too – including, of course, UofGH students who are involved in research.

"The conference is a great opportunity to highlight the University of Guelph-Humber on an international stage and collaborate with some of the leading academic scholars, researchers, entrepreneurs, policy maters and business leaders around the world," said Justin Medak, Acting Program Head of Business. 

"The Business program continues to expand its international footprint through global case competitions, study abroad, student and faculty exchanges as well as hosting our first ever international conference.

"We look forward to hosting business leaders from around the world in order to gain a better understanding of the impact this pandemic has had on SMEs."

The conference will be an international gathering where participants will explore possible ways for businesses to succeed in this new environment, while studying successful case studies from different regions of the world. Acknowledging the invaluable contributions of minority entrepreneurs to their communities, participants will also discuss the contribution and challenges of Black communities, people of colour and women in business.

Submissions will be judged by an esteemed scientific committee that includes academics from the University of Maryland, the University of Ghana, Nagoya University in Japan, the University of British Columbia and the University of Westminster in London. It’s truly an international group, with other judges working at institutions in Cambodia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Jordan, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, Brunei and Nigeria.

Keynote speakers at the event include: Professor Wim Vanhaverbeke from the University of Surrey, U.K., who will discuss the importance of open innovation for small businesses; Dr. Nobuyoshi Yamori from Kobe University in Kobe, Japan, who will discuss international entrepreneurship; Dr. Wendy Cukier, Director of Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute, who will talk about women and BIPOC in entrepreneurship; and Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, who will discuss the Canadian government policies to support small businesses. More speakers are expected to be announced.

Select papers and case studies will be considered for publication in a book titled, Impact of the Pandemic on Small and Medium Enterprises: International Case Studies, which is expected to be published by Routledge.

“The theme of the conference is the evolution and transformation of the small and medium enterprises, which is relevant to the current economic situation in the world as in post-COVID era businesses will never be conducted in a pre-COVID way,” said Dr. Farkhanda Shamim, Acting Assistant Program Head of Business at UofGH. “Businesses are not going to be conducting the way they used to. They are bound to evolve if they want to survive. So we want to ask: what lessons have they learned and how are they transforming?

“Our conference is useful and relevant to the current state of businesses as it will explore ways they change their business styles and how governments are helping them to succeed in these unprecedented times.”

A global education

Dr. Shamim was the driving force behind creating the conference. Currently her first semester here at UofGH, she thought back to when she helped the University of Bahrain organize and successfully stage its first Business conference.

She wanted to create something similar here, and with encouragement from Medak and Interim Vice-Provost Dr. George Bragues, she decided to begin organizing a conference – but in a way she felt would be appropriate for the University of Guelph-Humber.

“I wanted to do something that was in line with our program and what we’re doing here at UofGH,” Dr. Shamim said. “That’s why our conference is based on case studies and applied research, not theoretical research. Because that’s our program’s strength: the applied side of Business.”

Understanding global perspectives is an area of strength for Dr. Shamim. She has acquired five University degrees from two different countries (Japan and Pakistan, where she was born) and she’s worked at universities in an array of countries too, including the University of Bahrain, Nagoya University and Kobe University in Japan, as well as the University of Toronto, McMaster University and Concordia University.

She speaks English, Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi fluently, her Arabic is strong and she even speaks some Japanese. It was in Japan that she really found her academic focus. She’s since published 12 referred research papers, with several others in the works.

And where does her fascination with economics stem from?

“Economics is crucial to understand business,” said Dr. Shamim, who, despite her globe-trotting, didn’t have the chance to travel abroad until she was 25. “Economics does not discuss money only, as many students think of it, instead it studies ways to use scare resources efficiently to maximize gains and satisfaction.”

The upcoming conference aligns with Dr. Shamim’s overall goal of making any institution she goes to a better place. Over the course of her career, she’s consistently been recognized by the universities she’s worked for her contributions, including receiving three shield awards from the University of Bahrain.

She considers herself fortunate to have the opportunity to apply that same energy and enthusiasm to the University of Guelph-Humber.

“Wherever I work, I prefer to become part of the community,” Dr. Shamim said. “Whatever institution I’m affiliated with, I consider family. That’s how I always operate.

“I look forward to sincerely working for the development and progression of the University of Guelph-Humber.”