The Impact of Giving

The Power of Giving Back

Pledging support for Smith

Two years ago, Erica Pearson, BCom’14, took a chance and started her own business. Her company, Vacation Fund, focuses on corporate wellness. In today’s busy world, many employees don’t take enough time off work. That’s bad for companies and people. Vacation Fund helps by allowing employees to direct a portion of their paycheque into a Vacation Fund account, with employers contributing as well.

Erica Pearson

Erica Pearson, BCom'14, founder of Vacation Fund.

Erica grew up in a family that loved travel (by the time she was 22, she’d visited over 40 countries) but was often surprised by how many people she met who never took a holiday. It’s no wonder then that Vacation Fund has such broad appeal. “No matter who you are, you’re expected to take some time off.”

Erica appreciates the support she received through Smith and Queen’s University during Vacation Fund’s early days. Last year, for example, she was a recipient of Dare to Dream funding for startups through the Centre for Business Venturing at Smith. Dare to Dream is supported by donors (Erica was the Valerie Mann, BCom’86, recipient of Dare to Dream).

Now Erica, too, is looking to give back to Smith. That’s why earlier this year she became among the first alumni to sign up for the new Smith Founders’ Pledge. The Founders’ Pledge is a way for alumni who have launched ventures to support the next generation of entrepreneurs by making a financial commitment to the school once their business has taken off or they have made a successful exit.

“There are so many people who helped pull me up when I started my business… I want to do the same for others.”

The Founders’ Pledge, launched in December 2018, has already received strong support from alumni. In addition to Erica, founding pledge members include: Somen Mondal, MBA’06 (Founders’ Pledge chair); Tom Kinnear, BCom'66, LLD'02 (honorary chair); Connie Lo, BCom’15; Tim Ray, MBA'11; David Caldana, BCom'99; Travis Ratnam, MBA’11; Marcus Daniels, MBA’05; David Jackson, BCom’91; John Arvanitis, BCom’93; Mitch Gudgeon, MBA’13; John Hui, MBA’15; Chipewyan McCrimmon, MMIE'19; Evan Hall, MBA’17, BSc’11; and Robbie Mitchnick, Ryan Peterson, Cord McGee and Donald Gawel (all BCom’13).

Erica says the Founders’ Pledge is the perfect way for Smith entrepreneurs to give back to future students. “There are so many people who helped pull me up when I started my business, and I want to do the same for others, too.”

Providing for student health & wellness

Thanks to alumni and parent support, Commerce students now have greater access to health and wellness services at Smith. In 2018, a second Smith Commerce counsellor was hired with funding through the Commerce Legacy Fund for Student Health and Wellness and the Harvey Fine Fund in Support of Commerce Health and Wellness. Since last November, new personal counsellor Jo-ann Ferreira has worked with personal counsellor Marissa Holway to help Commerce students develop coping strategies for concerns ranging from anxiety and fear of failure to grief and panic attacks. In addition to one-on-one counselling, they started group counselling. “We meet in groups because we need each other to help solve problems we can’t solve on our own,” Jo-ann says.

Keith McQueen is among those who’ve supported health and wellness funds. His son, Devin, BCom’18, had a “fantastic experience at Smith,” Keith says. But as a parent, Keith says he understands that “when you have hundreds of new students each year, statistically speaking some will struggle with depression or anxiety. So to be able to talk with someone and get the help they need is so important. It’s really about helping these students to be successful.”