May 6, 2016

Adventure Education first of its kind in Canada

Young business leaders taking shape in Rocky Mountains

Early one morning at a rock quarry near Canmore, 12 restless business students pulled up in a large school bus. The clear, blue sky was the perfect backdrop to the enormous and majestic Rocky Mountains. Fresh mountain air filled their lungs as birds sang loudly.

The students filed off the bus, hiking boots tied tightly and a backpack slung over their shoulders with their necessities for the next five days packed neatly inside. With maps in hand, they made their way into the forest to begin their leadership adventure.

This is not your average classroom at the Haskayne School of Business.

Johnnie Allan, BComm student, participated in the inaugural Haskayne Leadership Expedition in 2014, offered through the Canadian Centre for Advanced Leadership in Business, where undergraduate students at Haskayne work on their personal and professional leadership skills by navigating through the Canadian wilderness for five days.

“Every single student should go on the Leadership Expedition. This was, by far, the most amazing experience I’ve had during my time at Haskayne,” says Allan.

“This program takes you out of your comfort zone and it can be intimidating for some. It is a challenge that pushes you to live in the now, something extremely difficult to do for a young student,” he says.

On May 6, the centre announced the creation of the Hal Kvisle Leadership Adventure Fund thanks to a gift of $3 million from Hal Kvisle, MBA’82. The funds will enhance personal leadership development at Haskayne through experiential learning opportunities, accelerating students along their guided path to advanced leadership. Read more about the $3-million gift 

The Expedition

The Haskayne Adventure Leadership Expedition is a unique field course designed to help students cultivate the practical skills and qualities they will need to thrive as leaders in the modern business world. This five-day backpacking trip takes place in the remarkable mountain terrain high in the Rockies where students quickly find themselves engaged in learning to lead in every aspect of the journey. 

The program is administered twice a year as a block week course, accepting 12 students per session. The group is split into two and each is accompanied by an Outward Bound leader and a Haskayne faculty member. However, students are tasked to navigate through the mountains, plan meals, and deal with any challenges as a team. Each day, a different student is assigned as the leader.

After stepping off the bus, Allan was assigned as the leader for his team.

“I was nervous to be first, but I have a love of hiking and mountains, so I was confident that I would prevail.”

Allan’s team was energized and raring to go, excited to tackle their kilometres for the day. After half a day of arduous hiking, Allan discovered that he was leading his team in the wrong direction.

“I thought things were going perfectly, until I realized I was guiding my team in the wrong direction! But, these lessons are applicable to real-life. This expedition taught me that you have to work through your challenges. It’s not the problem, it’s how you deal with the problem is what makes you a leader.”

Allan was vehement that being a leader is not strictly limited to those at the front of the pack. Those following can also be defined as leaders.

“A real leader can make the most out of even the most dire of situations. When your boots are wet, you’re cold, it’s 6 a.m. and you have an eight-kilometre hike in front of you, it does not matter who is in charge if everyone does not co-operate. Everyone can lead with patience and support, rather than just yelling at your teammates.”

Allan says the course and the lessons he learned were invaluable. “It is like nothing I’ve experienced before. After the five days, I had a clearer vision of who I wanted to be in both a personal and professional setting.”

Extraordinary professors

The course itself is delivered in a hands-on environment unlike any other program in Canada. Allan noted that the Haskayne professors, David Lertzman and Julian Norris, also had a “profound effect” on him. 

“They not only discussed what we wanted to get out of the program, they wanted to inspire us to think about what we wanted out of our lives. It was incredible,” said Allan. “I was only with David and Julian for six days, and the lessons they taught me and the stories they shared will always stay with me.

“They let us make our own decisions, mistakes and successes. They were phenomenal. They asked good questions to really make us think about our choices,” Allan continued.

Expedition in action

After the expedition, Allan went on to compete at the prestigious JDC West student case competition and landed a co-op summer internship at a company in Toronto. He has credited these successes to the lessons he learned during the expedition.

“When it comes down to it, everyone needs a job. I found that the leadership skills I acquired on this expedition really made me stand out. Teamwork would be the number one aspect of the retreat that resonates in the workplace. Delegating as well, which is just as important as leading, in my opinion,” Allan says.

The expedition has given Allan a desire to take time to unplug from the world and make expedition-like trips into nature. “Since I have one year left of university, I will be going travelling after I graduate in April 2017 and then will start a full-time job with the company I currently work for,” he says.

Students taking part in the Haskayne Leadership Expedition

Students taking part in the Haskayne Leadership Expedition

Haskayne BComm student Johnnie Allan

Haskayne BComm student Johnnie Allan