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UofGH's first International Applied Business Conference draws nearly 300 delegates from more than 30 countries

The University of Guelph-Humber’s first International Applied Business Conference recently drew 277 delegates from more than 30 countries attending the two-day event, which boasted a roster of highly regarded academics, researchers and scholars from some of the world’s top universities delivering keynote speeches, engaging in panel discussions, and hosting workshops.

More than 85 research papers were submitted ­– from over 25 countries on four continents – for the International Applied Business Conference on the Evolution of SMEs in the 21st Century and Beyond, hosted virtually by the University of Guelph-Humber in May.

With a thematic focus on helping businesses chart a path forward following the pandemic, UofGH’s first International Applied Business Conference seemed to resonate deeply with the highly engaged audience who attended from all around the world.

“The event was a tremendous success,” said Justin Medak, Acting Program Head of Business.

“With internationally renowned scholars and business leaders delivering keynote speeches and workshops, the energy and enthusiasm remained high from all presenters and participants across the two days.”

“The participants’ response and excitement were truly overwhelming, which turned the conference into a spectacular and unforgettable two-day event,” said Dr. Farkhanda Shamim, Acting Assistant Program Head of Business at UofGH and a driving force behind organizing the conference.

“Three factors contributed towards its landmark triumph: an international platform and plenty of opportunities for networking; well-coordinated sessions through expert chairs and discussants; and a competitive environment by introducing best paper awards, which kept participants motived to stay present in odd times of their day/night.

“The conference is of high significance for the University of Guelph-Humber as it reflects the high quality of education we are providing at the University.”

World of insight

The conference’s theme was the evolution and transformation of small and medium enterprises in the post-COVID era, a topic covered from virtually every angle during a series of speeches, group discussions, breakout sessions and research presentations.

Keynote speakers at the event included University of Surrey professor Wim Vanhaverbeke, who discussed the importance of open innovation for small businesses, Kobe University’s Dr. Nobuyoshi Yamori, whose talk covered international entrepreneurship, and Ontario Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rocco Rossi, who addressed Canadian government policies to support small businesses.

A key theme discussed at the conference was diversity entrepreneurship. Keynote speaker Dr. Wendy Cukier, director of the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University, discussed female entrepreneurship, while six papers presented during the conference highlighted the entrepreneurial challenges faced by women around the globe, with perspectives from South Africa, Russia, Congo and Indonesia.

Meanwhile, Nadine Spencer, President of the Black Business and Professional Association, gave a keynote speech on Black entrepreneurship, while Patrick Watson, public policy director at the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB), delivered a special lecture providing an overview of Canada’s Indigenous business landscape, as well as the CCAB’s policy recommendations to support Indigenous economic reconciliation.

The conference also featured a session on sustainable entrepreneurship and innovation, another exploring artificial intelligence and technology-based venturing, and a panel discussion of LGBTQ+ entrepreneurship titled “Overcoming Barriers.”

“The University of Guelph-Humber community prides itself on being very diverse, with students, faculty and staff representing various genders, cultures and backgrounds,” said Dr. Shamim.

“This same diversity was evident throughout both days of our conference.”

Submissions were judged by a scientific committee that included 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. Additionally, the conference presentations received comments from internationally renowned scholars from Ireland, USA, India, Jorden, Greece, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, Morocco, Nigeria, Japan and Hungary.

Overall, the international nature of the conference’s submissions, judges, attendees and issues was in line with the University of Guelph-Humber Business program’s focus on preparing students to thrive in a global economy.

“The first-ever International Applied Business Conference continues to build on the internationalization of the University of Guelph-Humber’s Business program,” Medak said.

“Students here have the opportunity to participate in exchange agreements and study abroad courses, the case competition program has experienced success at global competitions, the partnership agreement with the Network of International Business Schools has provided international opportunities, and visiting professors from other countries enrich the classroom experience for students.

“There is significant value in providing international experience within the program and preparing students to be leaders in our global economy.”

A community effort

The University of Guelph-Humber’s first International Applied Business Conference was planned and organized over nine months, driven by Dr. Shamim with support from Medak and UofGH Interim Vice-Provost Dr. George Bragues, as well as dedicated UofGH student volunteers and other support staff from around the University.

And volunteering wasn’t the only way UofGH students got involved.

Not only did students and alumni take part as moderators and event hosts, a group of four students – Vic Duarte, Emma Danaher, Alexis Del Papa and Jessica Wallington – also presented research looking at how small-market enterprises could be supported through strategic analytics and personalization engines (the research originated from the students’ participation at the Central European Case Competition).

For the students, both attending and participating in the conference offered valuable learning opportunities.

“The opportunity to share, listen and learn about the business sector from brilliant individuals around the globe is what intrigued me to get involved at the first UofGH International Applied Business Conference, and I am beyond thankful I did,” said Duarte, a student in the Justice Studies program. “Presenting at this conference allowed me to connect with academics and industry professionals in real time while also allowing me to build my confidence as an undergraduate student looking to establish myself as a professional.

“The panel of judges as well as the audience were beyond supportive throughout the presentation and were able to provide invaluable feedback that left my team and I feeling confident and curious about learning,” she added. “A significant takeaway that I got from this experience was that putting your ideas out there for a community of passionate and driven individuals takes courage, but it is such a rewarding feeling.

“As someone who was new to conference-style presentations, I chose to trust my education and training at the University of Guelph-Humber. It couldn’t have been a more positive experience.”