University of Manitoba to launch first of its kind human rights program

By UM Today, photo by John Morgan

The University of Manitoba is developing a new master’s degree program that will help Winnipeg take its place as the leading city for human rights education and scholarship in Canada.
The envisioned new master of human rights program will be a partnership between five faculties (Graduate Studies, Arts, Law, Education, and Social Work) and three centres (Centre for Human Rights Research, Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice, and the National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation).
“It’s exciting and timely to see the development of a new master’s degree program attract the participation of so many disciplines and faculties across the university,” notes University of Manitoba president and vice-chancellor, David Barnard. “This level of interdisciplinary co-operation and partnership yields outcomes with far-reaching impact. It is indeed an area that is important for all of our province’s educational institutions and will open doors to positive dialogue and collaboration.”
The University of Manitoba master of human rights (MHR) program would be broadly interdisciplinary, branching into the social sciences, sciences and humanities, taking advantage of expertise in the university’s professional schools, including medicine, social work, education, nursing and law.
The MHR program would prepare students to be educators, practitioners, researchers, investigators, professionals and public intellectuals who integrate human rights perspectives in their careers in the private and/or public sectors. Many Canadians now working internationally in the human rights field studied overseas because of the lack of graduate programs in Canada.
Drawing on existing expertise at the University of Manitoba, where human rights is already an area of research strength, students could concentrate on Indigenous rights and natural resources; domestic and international law; human rights education; organizational management and human rights; environment, health and human rights; sexual and reproductive rights; human rights and science; genocide and crimes against humanity; global human rights or human migration, among many others.
The MHR program would be well-placed at the University of Manitoba with the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights this fall and that of the National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the U of M in 2015.
It is anticipated that the MHR program proposal will enter the university’s review and approval process in 2015.
Visit the University of Manitoba’s news site for more program-related information.

Young scientist helps spawn a love of science in youth

By Brenlee Coates

Michael Xu has become a kind of ambassador for science education, but he says it hasn’t always been this way.
“I wasn’t always a kid that was a diligent person. I found it hard to detach myself from the Nintendo,” laughs Xu.
It was after finding his niche in research that he turned into the model student. “If you find something you’re passionate about, you follow with your effort,” he explains.
Unlike many of his high school compatriots, Xu spent his summers working in the lab alongside researchers at CancerCare Manitoba. It was a method used there that inspired his prize-winning experiment at the Canada-Wide Science Fair, earning him a $2,000 scholarship to pursue his post-secondary education, and the silver medal among 500 candidates. His experiment, which analyzes circulating tumour cells in prostate cancer patients, also won the inaugural prize for excellence from the Canadian Society of Clinical Chemists (CSCC).
Now in his first year at the University of Manitoba, Xu says he hasn’t decided if he wants to follow in his mother’s footsteps to become a doctor just yet, but he knows it’ll be something within the healthcare field. While careers in the field of medicine seem to run in the family, Xu attests that he didn’t have any genetic disposition to excel in science. “I don’t think it comes naturally to me,” says Xu. “I kind of came in learning how to run before you can walk… I think all kids kind of have an innate creativity in them, and I think research kind of brings that out in them.”
Although he doesn’t think anything sets him apart from other students, his appreciation for how he’s grown through his studies is quite mature for his age. “I’ve benefitted so much from this – all the skills I’ve developed,” says Xu, citing presentation skills and a strong work ethic as examples. “I’m very humbled… (But) the awards are really secondary to what I’ve learned.”
One of the goals Xu hopes to pursue in his career is to help “improve individualized treatment” in Canada. He says the same disease is treated the same way in most patients, even though their microbiology makes them unique.
In the meantime, Xu continues to champion science education to youth, hoping to spur similar enrichment in their lives. He’s volunteering for an upcoming provincial science fair at the university, and he assists in tours of schools through the Let’s Talk Science outreach program, where university and college students stage “fun experiments like exploding volcanoes” for young students. “That kind of thing turns into the inspiration for the cure for cancer,” proclaims Xu. He encourages students to get involved in their school science fairs, and can vouch for how inspiring it is to get to see people’s experiments across the country.
“There’s a lot of hardworking, inspirational people that are there. Not just the MDs but the people that you’re competing against,” says Xu. He knew many of them were going on to really reputable programs in international universities; “you kind of take the cue to work hard and it motivates you to work harder with whatever you want to do in life,” says Xu.
Though already very accomplished for his age, he looks forward to plenty of development over his years at the university: “I still have a lot to learn. I have so many more goals I want to accomplish.”

UWinnipeg hosts annual leadership symposium at The Met

By Megan Benedictson

It was during the Fireside Chat at last year’s inaugural Leadership Symposium that Dr. Sylvie Albert fully realized the value this event has for Winnipeg-based business leaders.
“It wasn’t a presentation, they were just relaxed, talking to each other to everyone else’s benefit,” says Dr. Albert, Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics and PACE (Professional, Applied and Continuing Education) at The University of Winnipeg.
Dr. Albert says the discussion that took place between Mark Chipman of True North Sports & Entertainment and Paul Soubry of New Flyer Industries was quickly the talk of the town: “two top-level executives that were really frank about the issues they face. I thought, ‘This is what we were looking for.’”
The event returns this year with a new theme, and the Fireside Chat is back, along with networking and professional development, and a local opportunity to hear the latest The Conference Board of Canada has to say about an issue that’s always top of mind among leading CEOs: innovation.
“It’s part of an ongoing debate that needs to occur in every organization, how to build and sustain innovation going forward,” says Dr. Albert, adding that they chose a theme of “strategic importance across the country, with many solutions being put forward to strengthen public and private organizations.”
She says the theme is also timely as PACE just launched an Innovation Development certificate program, and UWinnipeg is working toward developing a related graduate program.
The 2014 Annual Leadership Symposium: Embracing Innovation takes place Nov.6 at The Metropolitan Entertainment Centre, and will be hosted by Wab Kinew, UWinnipeg’s acting vice-president of Indigenous Affairs.
As for this year’s Fireside Chat, organizers expect to hear great insight from president of Western Glove Works, Bob Silver, and president & CEO of Mondetta Clothing Company, Ash Modha, who will share their own stories of success in innovation and leadership.
Leaders will also be able to glean valuable insight from Bruce Good, executive director of the Centre for Business Innovation within The Conference Board of Canada.
Good’s presentation will challenge some of the myths surrounding the status of business innovation in Canada, and cover key factors for improved performance.
Albert says the Leadership Symposium is unique because Manitoba-based CEOs often have to travel to Toronto or Vancouver for leadership events targeted to top-level executives, meaning the local picture is absent from the discussion.
This event builds in opportunities for exchanges so business leaders can share the challenges they face, and what solutions they’ve found that may be able to help others.
To find out more about the event, visit

Finding her own balance led to a career as a health coach

By Brenlee Coates

Losing and keeping weight off might be a little easier if you had access to the teachings of Deepak Chopra every day.
That’s exactly what health coach Patricia Sliwany promises with her business, Alive & Aware.
Trained by the world’s largest nutrition school, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where her teachers included the one and only Chopra, Sliwany says clients have “access to me whenever they need.
“It’s 80 per cent about the accountable part,” says the board-certified holistic nutritionist. “It makes you accountable for your goals.
“A lot of my clients say they couldn’t have stuck to the program without me.”
Of course, she’s the model for a healthy lifestyle now, but it wasn’t always that way for Sliwany.
When she first had her daughter, she fell into the trap of trying to play Supermom and be everything and everywhere at once.
She developed Shingles when her daughter was six months old, and decided she needed to rehaul her diet and behaviour.
“I just did not take care of myself,” she remembers. “When we do that, our bodies end up breaking down.”
Taking a holistic approach to her healing, she realized she could help others make the same changes in their lives, and see lasting impact.
Armed with her nutrition training, she’s developed many tailored approaches to assist people with losing weight or responding to stress-induced ailments like digestive issues or skin conditions.
Her meal-planning program identifies what the optimal diet would be to meet the client’s needs, and she will even act like a personal shopper for food. “Everyone has a unique blueprint. That’s where the personal coaching comes in,” she says.
She often meets clients at health food stores like Vita Health to introduce them to new products to incorporate into their diets, or does a full pantry makeover in their homes.
Naturally, her approach is sort of the opposite of the fleeting fad diets and liquid cleanses.
“I think one of the reasons that diets do fail is that people expect the quick fix and people aren’t making the lifestyle changes,” she says.
“Until you really can curb what’s causing your addictions and your cravings and stuff, it’s a bit hard to really make the change.”
Though she doesn’t completely reject cleanses, she said they’re possible with whole foods, and should include eating until you’re full.
“I believe there’s a safe way and a not safe way to cleanse,” shares Sliwany.
“If you’re wanting to function during the day and work out,” a whole food cleanse will have the same detoxifying result while keeping you energized.
Sliwany doesn’t only do work one-on-one – she’s available for corporate workshops, schools, and small group endeavours. “It’s more cost-effective,” she says, of the group engagements.
Wanting to impact as many people as she can, Sliwany has developed programs that meet the needs of families and kids, adults ages 40 and up, teachers, athletes, and everything in between.
She discovered her knack for developing nutritional programs while working with the women’s basketball team in university during her athletic therapy studies.
Also a former advanced care paramedic, she’s found her passion working with clients to live healthfully, and preventatively, and her own business affords her what she was missing in her life when her body broke down years ago – balance.
“It allows me to do what I love… to help people, empower them to make good choices… And it allows me the flexibility to nurture my family.”
Visit for more information on Sliwany’s holistic health programs.

Human resources is about having employee’s backs

By Brenlee Coates

“I work with the most amazing, talented, funny, caring people a girl could ask for,” says Kristen Jones, director of human relations at Think Shift advertising agency.
Having coworkers that are easy to love makes at least one part of her job come easy: caring about the staff’s well-being. “That’s a huge part of it, just caring how they are,” she says. “The wellness of your people, their life balance.
“An HR professional should protect and grow people.”
With a Bachelor of Arts and certificate in human resource management from the University of Manitoba, Jones was hired by Think Shift originally as an account coordinator.
Think Shift’s focus on employee development helped land her a position as the HR representative – with a little cajoling. “I basically begged my boss, because that’s what I wanted to do,” jokes Kristen.
At its best, she says, HR helps empower employees in their roles, and it helps that this is interwoven in Think Shift’s culture.
“This is a very unique company… It’s an organization that’s run by the employees.
“Not only do we talk a lot about empowerment, but we are really empowered in our roles,” says Jones. “We’re employee-focused, and opportunity-based. Those who are performing at high levels, they’re going to be getting more opportunities to continue growth.”
Think Shift staff are encouraged to lead talks in ongoing Think Shift University courses in the evenings throughout the year – “anyone who wants to teach something, they just kind of raise their hand,” says Jones.
Every Tuesday, the agency also hosts Tuesday Talks at work, when a member of the executive team shares a message about leadership or the company culture. (You can catch videos of some of these Tuesday Talks on Think Shift’s website,
Not to mention, each day begins with an employee huddle to set the tone for the day.
“It’s just a great way to have everyone together in the morning,” explains Jones. “It’s fun; we always end up laughing at the end.”
Recently, the company underwent a merger with a company in Portland called LogiStyle, a corporate culture consultancy firm whose philosophies helped inform Think Shift when it was first forming its intentional culture.
The merger meant that Jones’ role grew to help facilitate the coming together of these two companies: “making sure that our culture is one,” says Jones. Continue reading Human resources is about having employee’s backs