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May 2013

Globalink Professor Profile: Dr. Irene Herremans, University of Calgary

Working in a cutting-edge, interdisciplinary field requires collaborative and innovative thinking from all members of the team. For Dr. Irene Herremans of the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, the combination of her research in environmental management and business analysis requires such an academic environment to not just work, but to thrive. So when she accepted two Mitacs Globalink students to study with her in summer 2012, it was vital that the students she hosted be the crème of the crop.

As part of the program, Mitacs took care of arranging housing and stipend details, making it simple to host international undergraduate students. As Fernanda Lorenzetti Alves and Hengxhi Ma, both from Brazil, started their first research project, their energy and dedication had a valuable impact right from the start.

Their initial challenge was to compile case studies of how global energy companies such as Enbridge and Petrobras integrate environmental and social initiatives into their business practices. The two students collaborated on project tasks, eventually presenting their case studies to their graduate student peers, and publishing them under Dr. Herremans and her colleague Cameron Welsh.  The cases have been used extensively in case competitions and conference presentations.

Fernanda and Hengxhi were then tasked with gathering data in order to analyze what business resources and outside influences motivate reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and comparing the practices between markets where such actions are and are not regulated by government.  They collaborated with other graduate students in Dr. Herremans’ team and networked with Canadian energy company executives.

Dr. Herremans sees great benefit to the collaborations and connections she was able to foster through Mitacs Globalink.

 “It was a great opportunity to bring students here to do some basic research while also internationalizing our university. The program helped to develop good research capabilities in students, but in turn the students also helped me with my research. They were always anxious to learn more, and their energy stimulated new ideas on the team.”

Furthermore, Dr. Herremans has maintained contact with her Globalink students and may just see them both in the near future. Hengxhi is currently in the process of applying to return to UCalgary for graduate school through the Globalink Graduate Fellowship, while Fernanda completed her undergraduate Honours project based on her Globalink case work and is now employed in Brazil.

In the meantime, Dr. Herremans is looking forward to applying to Globalink again with the hope of cultivating the same connection to another set of students, possibly from China, Mexico or India this time. “It’s hard to verbalize the intangibles of what made my experience with Mitacs Globalink so good. The payback has been enormous.”

 Mitacs would like to thank the following government and international partners, in addition to our full and associate university partners, for their support of Globalink in 2013: Western Economic Diversification Canada, the Government of Alberta, le Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior of Brazil, the China Scholarship Council, the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education and the National Autonomous University of Mexico.