Nov. 6, 2023

Cenovus advances inclusion while building leaders, empowering through research, and committing to innovation at UCalgary

$2M investment addresses barriers to equity
Adrian Shellard, for Advancement

Building on its commitment to environmental, social and governance (ESG) leadership, Cenovus Energy has made a significant investment to advance inclusion at the University of Calgary.

A $2-million contribution will support initiatives that uniquely focus on improving Indigenous access to university; preparing women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for leadership roles; and investing in research initiatives that identify barriers and provide opportunities. 

“Cenovus supports organizations that align with our purpose and values as well as our commitment to inclusion and diversity,” says Jon McKenzie, Cenovus Energy president and chief executive officer. “Through our partnership with the University of Calgary, we are pleased to help enhance equitable, diverse and inclusive programs on campus and in our community, allowing more students to thrive and feel a sense of belonging.”

  • Photo above: Back row, from left: Jon McKenzie, Cenovus Energy president and CEO; Onyx Shelton, undergraduate student, Faculty of Social Work; Ed McCauley, president, UCalgary; Anders Nygren, vice-dean, Schulich School of Engineering. Front row, from left: Andrea Morris, chief development officer, UCalgary; Susan Anderson, senior vice-president people services, Cenovus Energy; Najmus Saltanat, first cohort, WISE Planet Program; Laleh Behat, NSERC Prairie Chair for Women in Science and Engineering, UCalgary; Lourdes Juan, UCeed portfolio company; Jessica Yarnell, senior social investment adviser, Cenovus Energy.

The Calgary-based energy company’s contribution will strengthen five existing UCalgary initiatives through Writing Symbols Lodge, the Schulich School of Engineering, the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, Innovate Calgary, and the Haskayne School of Business.

“Ultimately, Cenovus’s support is a concrete step toward promoting diverse perspectives and inclusion on campus and beyond,” says UCalgary President Ed McCauley. “We can foster a safe community where individuals are valued for their skills, intelligence, and contributions that will carry forward into the workforce and society.” 

Onyx Shelton

Onyx Shelton

Building leaders

As a result of Cenovus Energy’s support of Writing Symbols Lodge, the Indigenous Student Access Program (ISAP) will further extend access to academic and cultural support, leadership opportunities, and community-building. It will also provide enhanced admission-process support for eligible Indigenous students to bridge them toward the degree of their choice. 

Undergraduate student Onyx Shelton in the Faculty of Social Work says ISAP elevated his academic success and connected him to a wider network of Indigenous students, as well as professionals in his field.

“The programming for incoming Indigenous students is designed to support them with leadership, culturally tailored resources, and a sense of belonging,” says Shelton. “Access to writing support organized to specifically work for Indigenous students dramatically increased my grade-point average, which helped me apply for more grants and jobs associated with strong writing skills.”

Another portion of Cenovus Energy’s investment will fuel the Writing Symbols Lodge initiative
Ótáp ímisskaan, a community-based Indigenous youth outreach program designed to motivate and empower Indigenous youth to nourish the leader within and foster skills to become future leaders in their personal and communal lives.

Looking to address systemic barriers for women leaders within science and technology, funds from Cenovus Energy will extend the reach of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Prairie Chair for Women in Science and Engineering WISE Planet program through the Schulich School of Engineering. WISE Planet works to break barriers to equity for women in traditionally male-dominated fields of work. The program provides unique change-leadership training for early to mid-career professionals culminating in an action learning project where participants effect change within their organizations.

Jasmine El-Hacha

Jasmine El-Hacha

Empowering through research

UCalgary’s PURE Program delivered through the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning is now supported by Cenovus Energy, with a focus on advancing opportunities for equity-deserving groups. Jasmine El-Hacha, a fifth-year undergraduate student at the Werklund School of Education, says she can’t overstate the game-changing impact of such programming on her education and career trajectory.

El-Hacha was a recent recipient of a PURE award, which enabled her to embark on a mentored undergraduate research project over a 16-week summer studentship, and to conduct and present original research.

By recognizing diversity as a fundamental asset to innovation and the generation of different perspectives, the program is cultivating an overall richer experience for UCalgary students,” says El-Hacha.

With leadership development as a global priority, the Haskayne School of Business is exploring why, when, and how people emerge as leaders. Cenovus Energy will help support a multi-year study, Youth Shaping Futures, that will be the first of its kind in Canada to follow young people and explore their leadership development. The company’s investment will enable the expansion of data collection into more remote communities and diverse populations, providing impactful findings around obstacles to leadership development and emergence.

Commitment to innovation

UCeed, based at Innovate Calgary, is the first and the largest philanthropically driven university-based investment fund of its kind in Canada, and one of the most active pre-seed investors in the country. UCeed supports founders of early stage startups through the most difficult stages of early development.

The establishment of the Cenovus Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Accelerator within UCeed will help promote and accelerate women- or minority-led ventures, providing additional time, programming and support to help them become investment-ready, sooner.

This investment from Cenovus will enhance UCalgary’s commitment to access and the success of scholars from diverse backgrounds ensuring a diversity of ideas, perspectives and ways of knowing to fuel ingenuity, creativity and innovation.


Members of inclusion and diversity networks at Cenovus.

Adrian Shellard, for Advancement

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