'It’s hard not to smile': SAIT business students present capstone projects

Seven students stand around a table. On the table, there are two laptops and a tablet; on their screens, report content (illegible).

What sets SAIT apart — and what has helped the School of Business become the highest-ranked business school in Canada, according to CEOWORLD Magazine — is its commitment to growing alongside the industry.

In Fall 2023, the institution launched its first Business Administration Capstone course to prepare students about to enter the workforce. This class pairs groups of final-semester Business Administration students with industry partners to learn about operations management and complete project proposals. On Dec. 7, 2023, the first participants of this pilot course presented the results of a semester's worth of work.

"Participating in [the capstone project] allowed me to check in on myself and see if I am ready for the industry," says international student ambassador and supply chain major Adolfo Jaimes. This was a great opportunity to test my knowledge, get informed involvement and understand a little bit of what's going on in the industry.

A class of capstone participants look at the camera and smile.

Jaimes' group was paired with Tundra Process Solutions Ltd., a Western Canadian distributor of industrial process equipment that is a part of the Wajax Corporation. The students worked to create and pitch a vendor catalogue to efficiently organize Tundra's more-than 600 clients and vendors.

"This will allow Tundra to create a more robust system to better understand their supplier base, their suppliers' capabilities, opportunities for saving and the vertical alignment that companies are looking for," says Jaimes.

A group of accounting and human resources students worked alongside the Canadian Alliance for Intergenerational Living on the Canadian Intergenerational Housing Program. This initiative, which will launch in Calgary in the new year, will pair under-housed post-secondary students with senior-aged adults to provide safe and affordable housing in exchange for volunteer work. Business students worked throughout the semester to create an orientation guide for program participants, conveying the expectations and responsibilities for those involved.

Another student group worked to facilitate hiring a brand ambassador for Exmerce Barter, a Calgary-based business trade exchange founded in 2005. Exmerce facilitates bartering practices via their proprietary virtual currency between more than 500 businesses in Calgary. This team included Sofia Polsfut-Bronstein, a management major in her final semester of studies.

Students completed weekly reflections to help build strong working relationships with their fellow group members. "I gained a lot of experience and introspective thinking within myself," Polsfut-Bronsteinn said.

"I had to be pushed out of my comfort zone, but I would say we worked hard to build a good team atmosphere."

"I think [the capstone] sets the students up for so much more success," says Exmerce Marketing Manager, Michaela Tomic. "You get your classroom-style education, but you also have that experience of business communication."

Tomic graduated from SAIT's School of Business herself in 2021 with a major in marketing. "We did so many different student projects where we got to work with the industry," she said.

"I just saw so much value in it."

Tomic is not the only industry partner who values the capstone program. "I am definitely going to be sharing the outcomes of the project," says Kyla Spak, Manager of Supply Chain and Quality at Tundra Process Solutions. "We have some definite ideas based on the last iteration we saw, so we'll use it as a framework for the future."

For School of Business faculty member Charissa Lee, presentation day was an emotional experience. Lee is the educator for this pilot program and helped set the course guidelines and expectations.

 “I was trying not to cry,” she said after the presentations had concluded. “They really put their hearts into their projects. It’s hard not to smile.”

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SAIT is located on the traditional territories of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) and the people of Treaty 7 which includes the Siksika, the Piikani, the Kainai, the Tsuut’ina and the Îyârhe Nakoda of Bearspaw, Chiniki and Goodstoney.

We are situated in an area the Blackfoot tribes traditionally called Moh’kinsstis, where the Bow River meets the Elbow River. We now call it the city of Calgary, which is also home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.