Dragon’s Den-type event extends reach for Brescia University College

News Release
April 28, 2014
For Immediate Release

London, ON – Nineteen women, through their philanthropic efforts, have helped make Brescia’s signature public speaking contest – Take the Lead – a national event. Tracey Rutledge, Executive Director of the Foundation and Director of Alumnae Relations at Brescia, founded Brescia Connect in the fall of this year for women in the community who want to make a difference through their generosity. Says Rutledge, “We felt that there was a desire for a networking club in London for successful, motivated women who want to inspire, assist, and support future leaders at Canada’s only all-women’s university. Our goal was to attract 15 women to the club but we already have 19 stalwart members who meet regularly and who each donate a minimum of $1,000 each year to fund a project at Brescia that they deem to be the most worthy of receiving their collective commitment.”

In February, Brescia Connect members invited proposals from academic and non-academic departments at Brescia to be contenders for financial support. From the entries submitted three were short-listed by the selection committee. The team members for each of these projects pitched their proposals to the Brescia Connect members on the evening of April 23rd at Brescia in a Dragon’s Den style competition. Each team was given 10 minutes to defend its project and answer questions. All three teams then retired to a waiting room while Brescia Connect members made their difficult decision as to which project would receive funding of $19,000.

The three short-listed proposals were: Brescia Archives project, a proposal to begin a proper archives for Brescia defended by Director of Library Services Jim Mei and Public Services Librarian Emma Swiatek; Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, a proposal to provide encouragement and assistance to young women interested in starting their own businesses, defended by Business Management and Organizational Studies professors Ms. Colleen Sharen and Ms. Melissa Jean; and a presentation about Take the Lead, which was the winning entry.

Defending the Take the Lead project were Director of Student Affairs and Registrar, Marianne Simm, and Communications, Marketing and External Relations Officer, Colleen Aguilar. Other team members on this project were Liaison and Media Officer Christine Van Leeuwen and Director of Communications, Marketing and External Relations Sheila Blagrave.

In 2009 Take the Lead began as Brescia’s first public speaking contest and remains one of the only public speaking contests of its kind in Canada, attracting more than 20 female contestants each year from Grades 11 and 12. Contestants are challenged to speak about leadership within the context of women in leadership and inspiring female leaders.

The new grant will allow organizers to expand the reach of Take the Lead beyond Ontario through initial video submissions of speeches, which are expected to come from many out-of-province students, and students from international markets. From all of the applicants received 40 or 50 students will be invited to attend an in-person round of speeches on a one-day event that will have students give their speeches in front of judges in a preliminary round of competition, followed by a final round of speeches from a smaller group of short-listed speakers.

Marianne Simm, in describing the benefits of this new approach to Take the Lead, says, “Having an initial video round will appeal to the “tech-savvy” students of today. Students are less intimidated by technology and we feel participation will increase with the inclusion of this mode of participation. This model provides a platform for the event that addresses the anxiety that so many students have when preparing to speak publically. It provides them with an opportunity to practice and record their speech in a “safe” environment. It also will help with their confidence when they attend the second round at Brescia, since they will have affirmation of their strength by making it past the preliminary round of judging.”


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For more information please contact:

Colleen Aguilar, Communications, Marketing & External Relations Officer at 519.432.8353, ext.28280 or at colleen.aguilar@uwo.ca. You may also contact Sheila Blagrave, Director of Communications and Marketing at ext. 28293or at sblagrav@uwo.ca.

Brescia University College, Canada’s only women’s university, is affiliated with Western University. The 1,275 women registered as either full- or part-time students at Brescia study a wide variety of subjects in Arts, Social Sciences, and Foods & Nutrition in an empowering, compassionate, student-centred, and invigorating environment. Degrees are granted by Western. The Catholic College welcomes students from all backgrounds and values diversity. For more current and archived news, a listing of faculty experts, and photos please visit our Online Media Room at http://www.brescia.uwo.ca/media/index.html.