Published on September 29, 2022
If you could change one simple habit to help a student in need – would you?
Long before starting in his role as director of enterprise CRM at NAIT last year, Doug Wotherspoon made giving back to students a personal priority.
"There are lots of people who need our help, whether it’s a recent immigrant or someone attending post-secondary for the first-time or students from a marginalized community. We owe it to ourselves to try and level the playing field and give everybody an opportunity. Scholarships and bursaries often mean the difference between not completing a program, and graduating and securing a job for those students who are in pursuit of a better life."
Working previously as vice-president of international and strategic planning at Algonquin College of Applied Arts and Technology gave Wotherspoon an appreciation for the sacrifices international students, in particular, make to pursue higher education in Canada.
"I really do think of international students as superheroes,” he says. "They have to give up so much. They give up their culture, they give up their weather, they give up their family and friends, and they come to Canada to study, and they are committed.”
Thinking of those students who often have to go without, Doug says he’s become more targeted in his giving over the years to help support those who give so much of themselves to be here.
As a polytechnic, NAIT attracts students from all cultural and economic backgrounds, including those displaced by war and other hardships or who are living in poverty.
By contributing to scholarships, bursaries and improved student services through NAIT it Forward, staff can directly contribute to easing the pressures that many students face. This could mean enabling students to work fewer hours to pay for school, freeing up more time to dedicate to coursework, or easing stress by helping them afford food, rent, books or tools.
And as an institution that survives and thrives not only on government support and tuition, but also on donations from outside entities, Wotherspoon says it’s important for leaders to "walk the talk.”
"I believe in giving back and making sure we don’t take this incredible place for granted — that we really invest,” he says.
Wotherspoon adds that whatever amount you start with, starting is the most important step, and that coming up with funds to donate can be as easy as swapping an old habit for a new one. Even something as simple as giving up one restaurant coffee a week for a year and putting that money into a NAIT it Forward payroll deduction can make a difference to a student in need.
"Think about what your contribution can mean to the lives of others,” he says. "It doesn’t matter the size of the contribution. I think what matters is the opportunity it brings people. We’re wickedly blessed, so if we can share some of that blessing with others, it’s just great.”
The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) is a leading Canadian polytechnic, delivering education in science, technology and the environment; business; health and skilled trades. With 35,000 credit and non-credit students and a 98 per cent employer satisfaction rate, NAIT grads are essential to the provincial economy. NAIT also contributes to Alberta's prosperity by helping business and industry become more competitive with Industry Solutions offered through its Productivity and Innovation Centre, including technology adoption, business and product innovation and industry-driven research. Recognized as one of Alberta's top employers, NAIT provides outstanding returns on investment for its graduates, partners, the provincial government and the people of Alberta.