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The Robotics Revolution: hype or hope? Learn how to protect your business from anonymous hackers and Russian bots. Discover how AI is transforming how businesses interact with employees and customers. These are just a sample of the cutting-edge topics covered at BizSkule, the wildly popular alumni outreach program founded and chaired by U of T engineering graduate Claire Kennedy.
Launched as a one-off speaker night, today BizSkule is the Faculty of Engineering’s most successful alumni program, showcasing engineering leadership in business with keynote speakers and industry panelists who run the gamut from startup founders to global C-suite executives.
“Engineers are great problem-solvers,” says Kennedy. “Theirs is a skill that can be translated into any number of career paths. We’ve got engineering alumni in financial institutions, in law firms and now more and more in startup companies. I started BizSkule to offer business-savvy U of T engineering alumni the opportunity to connect with and learn from fellow grads working in careers considered unconventional for an engineer.”
This past year, the lecture series held five events: one in Silicon Valley, one in Calgary and three in Toronto. Featured topics included cybersecurity, blockchain technology, and the future of work. Hundreds of U of T alumni and friends attended the lectures, with several hundred more joining in via live streaming and online viewing of recorded events.
BizSkule’s runaway success has inspired a spinoff for students and young engineering alumni—Career Series, which features topics specially designed to appeal to recent grads and current students alike, such as: How can I use my engineering degree in the field of medicine? How do I explore entrepreneurship? Finance? Consulting?
Overseeing the program is U of T engineering graduate and Deloitte Canada consultant Liane Catalfo. “I’ve been attending BizSkule events for years and have gotten so much out of them,” she says. “When presented with the opportunity to extend the program’s reach to a younger demographic, I ran with it, and I’m thrilled to say our first event was a huge success.”
BizSkule founder Kennedy has also served as a member of the Dean’s Strategic Development Council and Campaign Cabinet Executive, is a member and past chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry’s Advisory Board, and a member and past president of the Engineering Alumni Network. She also serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board at the Rotman School of Management and currently serves as chair of the University of Toronto’s Governing Council.
Her valuable volunteer service to U of T was recognized with an Arbor Award in 2007 and a Malcolm F. McGrath Alumni Achievement Award in 2013.
“BizSkule is one of my proudest achievements,” Kennedy says, as she continues to chair the popular lecture series. “Access to a world-class U of T education and exposure to influential leaders are powerful vectors of social mobility. It’s very important to me to help create opportunity and prosperity for everyone.”