Joanne Benham Rennick
I am the director of social innovation and venture creation, Laurier's strategic initiative for fostering social innovation and social entrepreneurship in a multi-campus environment. I lead the planning and coordination of social entrepreneurship learning opportunities in curricular and co-curricular programming in partnership with others across Laurier and within the region.
I also teach Social Entrepreneurship as an associate professor in Laurier’s Global Studies department. Formerly, I taught Research Methods and International Development in the Contemporary Studies program at Laurier's Brantford campus. Prior to joining Laurier, I was director of the Beyond Borders international service-learning program at St. Jerome’s University at the University of Waterloo where I worked extensively with global partners in South America, South East Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
Beyond academia, I spent more than a decade in program and project management roles in the field of information technology, both as an employee and a business owner.
As the coordinator for social innovation outreach, programming and events, I am passionate about engaging students, staff, faculty and the community in collaborative and interdisciplinary ways. I see social innovation and social entrepreneurship as a valid and valuable response to the complex social issues our world faces. As such, I am always excited when meeting others who are inspired to collaborate in the pursuit of a better world, while contributing their own skills, networks, and capacity.
I have experience developing and facilitating co-curricular and curricular opportunities in community service-learning; student life and engagement; academic success; and career and professional development at the postsecondary level. Beyond this, I have worked and volunteered locally and internationally on a variety of initiatives that educate, engage, and empower youth. I am currently pursuing my MA at Laurier in Social Justice and Community Engagement, focusing my research on how social innovation programs and initiatives can offer transformative and meaningful experiences for postsecondary students.
After completing my PhD in Psychology at Laurier I spent seven years working as a senior research analyst with the Government of Ontario. As part of my role in government, I designed and led a multi-sector innovation initiative across Ontario to develop and test new approaches to delivering child and family services. My research at Laurier builds on my work experience and passion for innovation in the public sector.
In my role with SIVC as research associate, I design and lead several research projects. Our first two projects, working with other universities and colleges across Canada, are exploring how social innovation and social entrepreneurship is being taught in Canada and the characteristics of students who participate in social innovation and social entrepreneurship courses, programs and extracurricular activities. I also design and manage the SIVC website and provide advice on strategic government relationships.
Outside of Laurier, I like to explore new challenges and opportunities. I enjoy sailing and have lived on a sailboat; I also designed and helped build the passive solar home where I currently live. I’m currently pursuing my own social enterprise – starting a plastics recycling facility in a small Caribbean island that will process plastic waste into building materials and outdoor furniture.
As an undergraduate student myself, I have found that there is a unique sense of community and passion among students on the Laurier campuses that is unlike any other. It is truly empowering to be a part of a cohort of young people that are changing the world for the better. After a few years in the Global Studies program, I was able to find my passion of wanting to make a difference in the world. SIVC provides students with a community and a network, along with the necessary skills and resources to be able to foster positive change in the world around them.
As the SIVC student facilitator and liaison, I am able to engage with fellow classmates in meaningful and impactful ways. I am able to work closely with student leaders and students groups on campus that are working towards creating positive social change. The world today faces many complex social issues and students are recognizing the fact that they have the power and potential to do something about it. My fellow classmates and I are currently working on developing a social innovation zone on the Waterloo campus. It will be home to an interdisciplinary mix of students and clubs who are interested in further ideating their passions; it will be a space of transformational collaboration.
I am a Global Studies and Film Studies double major student going into the last year of my undergraduate degree here at Laurier. I am taking on the role as the SIVC summer co-op student this summer, and I am extremely excited to be joining the SIVC team!
I am passionate about achieving social change and making a difference for individuals not only on both Laurier campuses and within the Kitchener-Waterloo community, but throughout the world at large. As a Global Studies student, I have had the opportunity to increase my understanding of pertinent social issues and think more deeply about how we can do our part as social innovators and entrepreneurs to tackle all kinds of unique social problems. This is a big part of what SIVC is all about, so I am extremely excited to continue learning more about how students here at Laurier can make sustainable and positive social change possible.
I am really looking forward to increasing the Laurier community's awareness about SIVC and the Purpose Lab, and letting students and staff know why they exist on our campus. I want to encourage as many people as possible to engage with SIVC in meaningful ways in order to pursue their passions and think big ideas! I am also looking forward to building relationships with such a wide range of individuals; I love the idea of working alongside a diverse group of passionate people, and where better a place to find such a culture than within a social innovation hub!
SIVC Change Team
A core team of Laurier students, faculty and staff who are actively engaged in social innovation and social entrepreneurship work with the SIVC team to facilitate and guide social innovation and social entrepreneurship across our campuses and with our community partners. The Change Team meets monthly to report on activities, share resources and work together to champion change across Laurier.
In the coming year, additional members will be invited to join through an application and selection process.
- Faculty of Arts: Gavin Brockett
- Faculty of Education: Steve Sider
- Faculty of Liberal Arts: Rob Feagan
- Faculty of Music: Lee Willingham
- Faculty of Science: Manuel Reimer
- Faculty of Social Work: Bree Akesson
- Lazaridis School of Business and Economics: Barry Colbert
- Faculty of Arts: Karli Ferriolo, Tom Ebeyer and Will Sutter
- Faculty of Liberal Arts: Jessica Vorsteveld and Helen Ojo
- Faculty of Science: Brandon Hey and Derek Alton
- Lazaridis School of Business and Economics: Abbas Jeraj and Nada Ahmed
- Faculty of Social Work: Melissa Ireland
- Aboriginal Student Centre: Melissa Ireland and Bonnie Whitlow
- Diversity and Equity Office: Laura Mae Lindo
- Laurier LaunchPad Brantford: Adrian Beam
- Office of the Vice-President: Academic and Provost: John Fraser
- Residence Education: Dave Shorey
- Student Affairs: Drew Piticco
- Sustainability Office: Claire Bennett and Tyler Plante
- Library: Nick Dinka
- Laurier International: Ben Yang
- Co-op and Career Centre: Lori McMaster