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Students and faculty received a behind-the-scenes look into the work of U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman when he visited the Sauder School of Business on March 20 to share his perspective.

The ambassador spoke with faculty first about current geopolitical issues like the Keystone XL pipeline controversy, the challenges and evolution of democracy and cultural differences between the United States and Canada.

“You see so much about the Keystone XL right now, so to hear a perspective from someone who is inside the circuit was revealing,” said Murali Chandrashekaran, Senior Associate Dean, Strategic Partnerships and Global Initiatives. “It gave us a line of sight into how these decisions are being shaped in the background and the complexity of it all."

After talking to the faculty, the ambassador met with students and shifted his focus to interpersonal dynamics and building successful teams in today’s business landscape, posing the question: “How do you assemble the perfect team?” The nature of the discussion was participatory, which was well received by students.

“He took a lot of questions from the crowd,” said Scott Henry, a second year dual major business and computer science student. "He had a very good understanding of the student perspective, but was also very open to learning from us – it’s inspired me to go out and create my own social change."

Students heard about the importance of leveraging individual strengths on a team and the importance of self-discovery to use one's own ability in a group environment. Heyman leaned on his experience from business school and encouraged students to share theirs. He’s a graduate with honours for both a BA and an MBA from Vanderbilt University; his wife, Vicki, shared her experience as well – the two met in business school.

“It was wonderful to see that what we’re learning at business school is really a microcosm of what’s happening in the business world and the geopolitical landscape," said Kinsey Powell, a fourth year undergraduate student. “It reaffirmed that the skills we’re learning at Sauder are worthwhile and relevant to the real world.”

Students were encouraged to embrace “disruptive creativity”: using a creative plan or message to break existing patterns of behaviour. He touched on other hard-earned wisdom: the types of change in people and organizations, preventing the perfect from being the enemy of the good, being unbounded in one's optimism, using failure to learn and grow and the importance of networking to create spheres of influence.

“He’s much more positive and optimistic about the issues he faces than the headlines would suggest,” said Chandrashekaran, “it’s inspiring to see that he and his wife have dedicated themselves to driving change." 

As the student session ended, Heyman made time for anyone interested to shake his hand and receive personalized photos.

The visit was coordinated by the Dean’s office as part of Sauder’s continual focus on providing international experience and insight to prepare students for success in a global business environment.