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SAIT’s new Vice President, External Relations Heather Magotiaux is a strong supporter of higher education — she was Vice-President of Advancement at the University of Saskatchewan for 12 years and at St. Francis Xavier University for two years. Most recently, she served as CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF), where she became interested in the link between research and innovation.
Magotiaux believes polytechnics have a critical role to play in fostering innovation, which she defines as “knowledge made useful.” As she begins her new role, Magotiaux talks with LINK about innovation, competitiveness and creating connections.
What insight into innovation did you gain from your work at SHRF?
I believed that investments in health research should result in a higher quality of life for people. We began to support teams of researchers that included health care practitioners, patients and their families, and system decision-makers, and I found that approach provided greater innovation in practice. I see a close linkage between that approach and the work of polytechnics, where hands-on learning, connections with industry and responsiveness to the economy help create new areas of study and new opportunities for students.
Why do you think polytechnics are important?
Canada has invested heavily in fostering innovation in our country, in hopes of increasing our economic competitiveness and stimulating the development of new products, technologies and methodologies. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of that funding has been invested in the polytechnic sector; I think greater investment here would move skills and intelligence into the marketplace more quickly. Many people don’t know enough about the contributions polytechnics can make, and it’s our responsibility as a sector to demonstrate that.
Because many of our decision-makers are unfamiliar with polytechnics, we need to challenge assumptions and demonstrate our value to all levels of government, and to continue building relationships with others who can speak to the value we bring to the table: corporate partners, industry partners, our alumni.
What role do you see alumni playing?
Our alumni are great advocates and a great resource, so we’re working to engage our alumni more deeply in an ongoing relationship. They tell us what made a SAIT education valuable in their lives, and what would have made it better. And, because ongoing education is vital in today’s economy, we want to stay connected with alumni as a learning partner throughout their lives.