PhD student receives prestigious Trudeau scholarship

Kylie Heales will pursue research on how women in developing economies can move out of poverty through entrepreneurship.

An Alberta School of Business PhD student has been selected as a recipient of the 2021 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholarship.

Kylie Heales is among 15 doctoral researchers from across Canada to be selected for the prestigious scholarship. 

“To get the news that they have selected me as a 2021 scholar was very humbling and overwhelming, but super exciting and thrilling as well,” said Heales.

“To be a 2021 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar means an opportunity to develop my skill set as a leader and learn from an incredibly talented cohort of other doctoral students from across Canada.” 

Heales was among 643 applicants for the leadership program and was one of 36 finalists selected for individual interviews. She was selected as the Mary-Jean Mitchell Green | Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar, the foundation’s first named scholarship.

To be eligible as a Trudeau Scholar, candidates must be working on research projects in the social sciences and humanities, and be linked to one or more of the foundation’s four themes: Human Rights and Dignity, Responsible Citizenship, Canada and the World, and People in their Natural Environment. 

Looking at entrepreneurship as a way out of poverty

Heales is examining how women in developing economies, in particular in Tunisia, can move themselves and their communities out of poverty through innovation and entrepreneurship. 

Working closely with supervisor Angelique Slade Shantz, assistant professor in the Department of Strategy, Entrepreneurship & Management, Heales is exploring why women entrepreneurs in Tunisia who are more collaborative and share resources in their private lives tend to work in isolation.

Through extensive field research, Heales will look at the role of prohibitive social norms of innovation and why they exist, and whether—through entrepreneurial training and support from partner organizations on the ground—women entrepreneurs can leverage networks and resources to grow their businesses and offer meaningful and helpful employment opportunities to others. 

“There are incredibly talented and smart entrepreneurs in developing countries whose economic and political situations don’t enable them to find employment in a traditional setting and so end up in poverty, or perpetuating the cycle of poverty,” said Heales.

“It’s not charity; I genuinely believe that entrepreneurship can help people solve poverty in their own ways.” 

Heales will begin the research this summer, with early results emerging this fall.  

Research with real-world impact

With Slade Shantz as a supervisor, Heales said she’s had opportunities to develop research methodologies that contribute to findings that are not only relevant for academia and theoretical understandings, but also have a real-world impact with entrepreneurs and partner organizations on the ground. 

Along with Slade Shantz, Heales is focused on building strong relationships with people in Tunisia who work closely with the entrepreneurs to implement training that is relevant to their local context.

“This research is time-intensive. It takes many years to prepare, run experiments and find results that are the gold standard through field experiments; there’s no guarantee that you will get results,” said Heales. 

“Having the support of both the foundation and Dr. Slade Shantz is humbling, and I’m very grateful.”  

Originally from Australia, Heales completed her MBA at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, where she interned at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She’s also had seven years of business experience helping non-profits, start-ups and Fortune 500 companies enhance operational opportunities.

The scholarship is a three-year leadership program. Along with funding to cover tuition and living expenses, Trudeau Scholars receive extensive leadership training and opportunities to work and connect with different generations of scholars and mentors. The program also prioritizes opportunities to improve proficiency in English and French, as well as Indigenous languages. 

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