Wilfrid Laurier University’s school of business and economics got a big boost last week with the announcement of $1.25 million in funding from the Bank of Montreal (BMO). The donation is the largest that BMO has given to Laurier, although it has made other contributions in the past.
“Laurier has had a long relationship with BMO over the years,” said Robert Donelson, the VP: development and alumni relations for Laurier. According to Donelson, discussions were ongoing for about a year before the donation was announced on April 30.
The funding will be allocated to two different areas. $750,000 is being allocated to international initiatives.
“This will be a fund that enables students to work abroad, to study abroad, to do internships or exchanges abroad, really trying to give students an opportunity to get an international exposure while they’re students at Laurier,” he explained. “Obviously we feel that it’s a global environment and to have an appreciation for other cultures and other economies and other ways of life, it’s an important part of a person’s education.”
These would be given out as grants or scholarships that could be attained through an application process and will mainly be focused on helping with travel costs.
Donelson continued, “We don’t want students who don’t have financial resources to be prevented from taking advantage of these opportunities.”
The other aspect of the donation is financing a new professorship in entrepreneurship.
“Entrepreneurs are the backbone of the Canadian economy. They create by far the vast majority of jobs in Canada and create a tremendous amount of wealth and economic growth in our country,” said Susan Brown, who is the senior VP for BMO’s Ontario Region Division. “And so we love the idea of sponsoring a professorship in entrepreneurship to encourage students to consider entrepreneurship as a route to select.”
Where the money would be allotted to was largely the decision of Laurier.
“What we do is we look at their donations policy and see what their priorities are, and then look to see if those priorities align with the university’s priorities, and in this case it certainly did,” explained Donelson.
Brown added, “When we get approached with a request for donations, we always take a very collaborative approach with the organization that might be asking us for funding … It’s the school that decides what their need is and what their ideas are.”
Brown described the partnership with Laurier as a “natural choice” for the company.
“It’s really important for us to give back and support organizations that improve the quality of life in the communities where we live and do work and do business. We obviously have a big footprint in this Region,” she said.
The money will be coming in installments over the next few years and Donelson expects that students may begin to see the benefits within the next school year.
*This article has been updated since its original publishing date.