Campus LifeNews

Humans of UAlberta: Samantha Gardner

“I was honestly so surprised to win and I’m so grateful for the opportunity,” Gardner said after being named Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year for her leadership experience.

Samantha Gardner found that leadership was the opposite of what she expected it to be through her education at the University of Alberta.

“I always saw leadership as very formal before — someone who’s a chief executive officer, or someone who has very formal roles in a community, company, or organization,” Gardner said. “After going to the Peter Lougheed Leadership College, I started to understand that it’s a lot more than that. Leadership is really supporting the people around you and almost working for them.”

In June, Gardner graduated from the U of A’s School of Business with a leadership certificate from the Peter Lougheed Leadership College.

“We just tried to create a measurable impact on campus in whatever ways we could”

In the summer of 2020, a program funded by Queen’s University called the Spread Innovation Challenge accepted Gardner’s application. The program centred on solving challenges related to COVID-19. “I knew nothing about companies and organizations — I had no experience,” Gardner said.

Yet Gardner credits the direct experience with improving her leadership skills dramatically. “Of course, it’s good to get advice, listen to podcasts, and read books,” Gardner said. “But I think people undervalue the importance of just putting yourself in that situation and making the mistakes to learn.”

For this project, she teamed up with Jenna Mulji and Aminah Beg to focus on a social problems. They focused on tackling loneliness that older adults were experiencing, alongside a lack of student volunteer opportunities due to COVID-19.

“We tried to combat that [loneliness] by building a program called the Teach-n-Trade Program that we’ve run a couple of times,” Gardner said. This experience led Gardner, Mulji, and Beg to co-found Sunshine Connected.

The organization aims to build intergenerational relationships between university students and older adults by connecting them in pairs so that they can learn from each other. The non-profit also runs health literacy sessions for older adults.

Seeing Gardner’s leadership successes, one of her professors, Cristina Stasia, connected Gardner to another student — Kendrea Sicotte.

Stasia suggested that Gardner and Sicotte start a club for women together. “I’m not sure if she knew that we would actually take her advice. So we did connect and we said, ‘let’s start something together.'”

At Stasia’s suggestion, they launched the Women in Leadership Club. Although it started with unofficial dinners and speaker events, the club attracted a growing community. By 2022, Gardner and Sicotte registered the club officially with the U of A.

Through the club, they raised $5,000 to give back to women on campus through a scholarship. “We just tried to create a measurable impact on campus in whatever ways we could,” Gardner said.

Gardner wins 2022 Woman Entrepreneurial Leader of the Year

Because of her leadership experience, HSBC Canada named Gardner the 2022 Woman Entrepreneurial Leader of the Year.

“I was honestly so surprised to win and I’m so grateful for the opportunity,” Gardner said. “All the things that I’ve done have been done in teams. I really want to make sure I give credit to the people that did it with me because none of this you can do by yourself.”

In addition to her team members, she’s grateful to her mentors. “Working for women and also having them as mentors was really great to show me that there are women in the space making waves,” Gardner said.

Gardner has leadership plans for the future. Next 36, a selective entrepreneurship program, accepted her application. She is collaborating with others in the program to start a new company.

“The work I’m currently doing is very new and uncomfortable, and I really love learning that way,” Gardner said. “I can’t share too much about it yet, but it’s an incredible experience. I’m really excited to see what comes out of it.”

Andie Hansen

Andie Hansen is the 2023-24 Deputy Opinion Editor at The Gateway and a 3rd-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. When not in the midst of questioning the nature of reality, Andie can often be found running on a treadmill, slowly eating food, or talking to himself out loud.

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