Shaw Communications helps keep Peter Lougheed's visionary leadership alive

Investment creates permanent home for students learning to lead

Niall McKenna - 09 June 2017

Jason Wang always knew he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps. His dad was an energy researcher who specialized in making oilsands extraction more efficient. Wang often toured his father's lab and was captivated by snaking lines of pipes, large control panels and the constant hum of equipment.

In Grade 6, his teacher told him about the colossal white wind turbines getting propped up in southern Alberta. The teacher, a vegetarian, encouraged Wang to think about the need to protect the environment and the importance of making energy from renewable sources.

"That planted some seeds in my mind," says Wang. He decided he wanted to design renewable energy technology and bring it to communities. Looking back, he adds with a laugh: "I eventually also became vegetarian and my parents blamed Mr. Fairfield for that."

Now a mechanical engineering student at the University of Alberta, Wang is also a member of the first cohort of students at the Peter Lougheed Leadership College. This week, Wang and his 44 classmates from the inaugural class were on hand to celebrate the official opening of the college's permanent home - Peter Lougheed Hall, made possible in part thanks to support from Shaw Communications.

"There aren't many programs like this in Canada. With the unique blend of in-class and practical learning modules that exemplify leadership fundamentals, we believe Peter Lougheed Leadership College will empower the next generation of changemakers and leaders both locally and around the world," says Chethan Lakshman, vice president of external affairs at Shaw Communications. "We are proud to support the college and help provide these students with life-changing experiences that will give them the tools they need to excel in their chosen field."

Lougheed, '51 BA, '52 LLB, '86 LLD (Honorary), Alberta's premier from 1971 to 1985, was a firm believer that leaders are there to empower teams of people. Wang says the college helped him see that such leadership does not mean bossiness. It means being flexible to the needs of a team and filling that team with diverse individuals.

"To be a good leader, you need to be able to adapt to change," Wang says.

During the two-year program, Wang worked with mentors and took part in group projects and volunteer placements that challenged him to be both decisive and collaborative - key ingredients in Lougheed's vision of leadership.

"For the most part, I trust myself, I trust my instincts. But sometimes you have really tough decisions to make as a leader," Wang says.

Wang has one year left in his engineering degree but has already taken work placements that marry his engineering skills with his newfound confidence as a leader. He is also currently project manager for EcoCar, a student-run engineering club at UAlberta that designs and builds hydrogen-powered vehicles, and works with Alberta's Climate Change Office.

"The college has exposed me to a lot of fantastic new ideas. It has made my tool belt a bit bigger."

Peter Lougheed Hall is a newly constructed five-storey building overlooking the North Saskatchewan River on UAlberta's North Campus. It includes spaces for meetings, lectures and guests speakers of the college, as well as living space for students and visiting experts.