Canada’s academic community takes on the world

In an age where many nations are turning inward, it’s more important than ever to reach across borders and build a better world. It’s with this mission in mind that a growing number of influential CEOs and post-secondary leaders are re-envisioning their goals to embrace the world’s most pressing challenges.

This observation is based on the findings of The CEO Study, an in-depth qualitative research program led by “Leaders on Purpose,” a new organization founded by experts from Harvard University, The London School of Economics, MIT, and the World Bank. Over an 18-month period, the study engaged 16 CEOs from top-performing international companies that met stringent financial metrics and were also leaders in the areas of environmental responsibility, social service, and governance. The study ultimately identified what leaders felt to be the world’s five most pressing challenges:


Many of the CEOs spoke of the importance of linking their companies’ core missions to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, (SDG’s) a global agreement that has garnered signatures from 193 countries (including Canada). More impressively, 90% of these CEOs said that they have begun to align their corporate strategies to embrace some of the 17 SDGs.  

“These findings so impressed me that I was moved to ask: how could we, a small company in London Ontario, make a real contribution,” says Rod Skinkle, CEO of Academica Group. “A quick glance at the SDGs made it clear that all 17 are within the direct purview and focus of our Higher Education colleagues. So we quickly realized that the way we could have the most impact was to assist and promote Canadian higher education in its ability to fulfill these 17 goals.”

Academica identified five SDGs as particularly important to the higher education sector: Quality Education, Industry Innovation and Infrastructure, Reduced Inequalities, Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Partnerships. With these insights and commitments in mind, Skinkle reached out to former colleague and friend, Dr. Greg Moran, who recently accepted the post as Executive Director of Academics Without Borders (AWB).

When Academica asked whether it could help AWB in its international work, Moran responded: “Absolutely. Canadian academics are leading incredible international development projects all over the globe – yet we’re only scratching the surface of both the need, and our national potential. As Executive Director of AWB, I have two main and related challenges: 1) Telling the world about this work, and 2) Building and organizing more talent and partners so that we can further leverage this still largely untapped Canadian talent pool.”

With those challenges and opportunities in mind, Academica and Academics Without Borders committed to launching the inaugural conference, Reaching Across Borders, Building a Better World. Participants at the conference will gather to explore the transformative role that academia has to play in social innovation, cross-country collaboration, global development, and the economic and social well-being of all the world’s citizens.

“We need widespread involvement and support,” adds Skinkle. “After all, who is better positioned to achieve this world vision than Canadian colleges and universities?”

One corporate leader that took up the challenge immediately was Navitas, which partners with universities around the globe to advance their internationalization goals.  Darcy Rollins, Director of Navitas’ International College of Manitoba, put it this way: “Count us in – we work with Canadian higher ed leaders to bring talented students to Canada that might not otherwise have that opportunity; we recognized instantly that this was a rare chance to help Canada’s academics share their talent in another direction and reach learners in their home countries.”

Together, Academica and Academics Without Borders extend the challenge to post-secondary, government, and corporate leaders at all levels to attend this event, share expertise, and help discover new ways to strengthen the impact of Canadian institutions in building a better world.

To get involved as an institutional or corporate sponsor for this event, please don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Philip Glennie, Manager of Communications and Partnerships, Academica Group:

+1 519 671 1763  |

At Academica Group, we’re proud to work with hundreds of committed, passionate higher ed professionals who want to drive improvement at their institutions. By providing enhanced research capacity and expert guidance, we allow these professionals to work beyond resource limitations and seize more opportunities to positively impact the lives of their students, colleagues, and campus communities.

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