You are now in the main content area

Meet the Finalists of the Dean’s Student Award for Social Innovation

August 13, 2020
Marko Semcesen, Hansel Igbavboa, Emily Gioskos
From left: Marko Semcesen, Hansel Igbavboa, Emily Gioskos

Students at the Ted Rogers School of Management have a long history of using business education and entrepreneurship to make real social change in our community and around the world. 

Every year, we invite students to apply to the Dean’s Student Award for Social Innovation, an award funded by alumni and external supporters of the Ted Rogers School, which recognizes students’ contributions to community-building. 

We spoke to the three award finalists for 2020 and learned more about what inspired them to give back to their community, how this award would help their initiative make a greater impact and why social innovation is so important to our communities. 

The winner will be announced at a virtual event on August 20th. Register, external link to see who will receive the Dean's Student Award for Social Innovation.

Marko Semcesen

Marko Semcesen is helping students find work that fits their schedule and earns them more money.

Marko Semcesen

4th year, Business Management, Entrepreneurship & Strategy

Tell us about your initiative.

LocalStudent, external link is an online platform that connects customers who need services done, with a student nearby. Our team consists of 5 students on the management team, as well as over 100 students who have performed various services in their communities. Together, we have completed nearly 1000 individual jobs for over 300 customers.  

What inspired you to create this initiative?

After doing various home services for our neighbours for several years, my co-founder and I realized that this style of work was great for us as students. However, many of our friends who worked at typical student jobs (fast food, retail etc) hated their work. We realized that typical student jobs did not meet their needs for a few reasons – hours are inflexible, micromanaging is common, and the pay, quite frankly, sucks.

LocalStudent was created to provide students with work that meets their needs. Working with LocalStudent allows students to fully choose their own schedule, be their own boss, and earn far better pay than they would at standard minimum wage jobs. Meanwhile, our customers (homeowners, business owners, etc) love to support local students in their community, as they were once students themselves.

How do you see this initiative making social change in our community and around the world?

LocalStudent is redefining the way students find work. By 2030, automation and AI will have replaced over 800 million jobs. Cashiers, retail workers, and other common “student jobs” will be replaced, and millions of students will soon be looking for work. To combat this, we offer services that are difficult to automate, such as lawn mowing, snow shovelling, tutoring, and eventually more skilled services. As an online platform, we hope to soon expand across Canada, and perhaps other parts of the world.

Why is this initiative important to the community? What social need does it address?

LocalStudent helps connect communities. Many of our students have developed strong relationships with their customers, including homeowners and business owners – which significantly contributes to their network. In this day and age, with people constantly using technology and being disconnected from each other, LocalStudent is helping to connect and strengthen communities by connecting customers with local students.

On a separate note, with recent cuts to OSAP and billions of dollars of student loans on the rise, we are helping students to put money back into their pockets by providing them with a platform to access well-paying, convenient jobs in their neighbourhood.

Students at the Ted Rogers School of Management have a long history of using business education and entrepreneurship to make real social change in our community and around the world. 

Our mission to help students find work that meets their needs. Our vision is to become the new and improved way for students to find work. This funding will go towards acquiring new customers, the development of our platform, as well as marketing to reach more students, all of which will help to accelerate our mission and vision.

What's next for your initiative?

One of our goals is to eventually expand into more services, which could range anywhere from simple jobs such as dog walking, to more skilled jobs such as web development.

A second goal is to build a mobile app to complement the website.

Finally, and most importantly, we want to scale our business as quickly as possible. As of now, just over 100 students have found work with LocalStudent. We are not stopping there, as we want to grow our business to the point where it will help thousands of students across Canada find work that meets their needs.

If you are a student looking for work, or if you are a customer who wants to hire a student, you can learn more at www.localstudent.ca

Hansel Igbavboa

Hansel Igbavboa is investigating barriers Black farmers face within the food system in Canada.

Hansel Igbavboa

3rd year, Business Management, Entrepreneurship & Strategy

Tell us about your initiative.

Future Farmers is an art based research documentary exhibit that explores food culture/access/sovereignty within the Black African diaspora, through a comparative analysis of Black-focused food sovereignty movement in Toronto, Canada and parts of America. We started off by conducting research and released a report on the barriers and challenges Black farmers experience within the food system and how they are adopting food sovereignty to tackle those problems here in Canada.

We are currently two people on the team, me and Sheldomar Elliott and we are connected to a plethora of mentors and community members in the area who inform the work we do.

What inspired you to create this initiative?

This initiative started off during a research competition we participated in called the Map the Systems 2019 by the Said Business School and Skoll Centre of Oxford University in collaboration with universities across the world including Ryerson University. We won the local competition which led us on to the Canadian nationals where we passed the first stage of the competition coming out top 6 in Canada. Although we didn't move on to the international stage, we had already decided between ourselves that this was going to be a project we would continue to work on. This was very much because of our history with food work on campus. We both started off long before the competition as community organizers tackling the issue of student food insecurity and the intersections of it.

How do you see this initiative making social change in our community and around the world?

Initiatives like this are especially relevant and important here in Canada as we lack research study and media creations that uncover, investigate and challenge both historic and current structures and systems that perpetuate anti-Black racism. This project is doing this much needed work in the Canadian food space. It is simultaneously informing and educating community members of local initiatives and efforts that work towards the creations of more sustainable and localized food systems that are equitable and culturally appropriate.  

How will this funding further support your mission/vision?

This funding will contribute in covering expenses related to bringing our documentary series to life.

What's next for your initiative?

We are currently working on a documentary series exploring the food culture, access and sovereignty of Black peoples/communities in Canada. It will explore both historic and current challenges, strides and efforts within the movement of Black food justice and sovereignty.

Emily Gioskos

Emily Gioskos is creating a safe digital space for members of the LGBTQ2S+ community to tell their stories.

Emily Gioskos

4th year, Business Management, Marketing

Tell us about your initiative.

Queer Collective, external link is a digital media platform that empowers and showcases all subgroups of the LGBTQ2S+ community with a focus on uplifting local queer artists. Queer Collective is a safe digital space to share real stories and diverse experiences through an intersectional lens.

What inspired you to create this initiative?

When I first joined the LGBTQ2S+ community and started forming relationships I found what really bonded us together was storytelling of our mutual but always varying hardships with coming out, self-acceptance, and concerns of safety. Through sharing our stories we became a family and regardless of whether or not our biological families accepted us, we knew that we had support. 

Along my journey, I’ve recognized that my personal problem of not seeing anyone like me in the media and struggling to find queer mentors is actually a problem that everyone in my community is struggling with & in response I have created Queer Collective.

How do you see this initiative making social change in our community and around the world?

Queer Collective provides: Support, a sense of community, representation, education and the means/platform for queer artists to further their careers. Without representation the LGBTQ2S+ community has been left to navigate self-identification, coming out, sex, and so much more on their own. This has led to increased risks for mental health conditions and isolation. Queer collective fills this gap by actively engaging in the queer community both locally and globally through digital content, programming and events. 

Why is this initiative important to the community? What social need does it address? 

The issue facing LGBTQ2S+ youth and young adults today is that while we're trying to understand and come to terms with our sexual orientation and gender identities we have nowhere to turn to find real relatable storylines, education, advice, and positive role models. 

In our schools, we are left out of the sex ed curriculum and find next to zero mentors from faculty members. In the media only 6.4% of prime time characters are LGBTQ2S+ and those characters portrayed are often one dimensional and reinforce stereotypes (GLAAD, 2018). How are we expected to navigate life’s challenges and dream of being incredible when all we have to look up to is cookie cutter stereotype characters that are supposed to represent us all. 

How will this funding further support your mission/vision?

This funding will provide us with the means to further invest in our equipment, allowing us to provide higher quality and a more diverse range of programming and content for the community. A portion of the budget will also be used for promotional materials to help us get the word out so we can continue to help more and more people.

What's next for your initiative?

Queer Collective has several big initiatives in the work to further our mission… 

  • Queer Collective has recently formed a partnership with The Global Institute for Conscious Economics to create a program for local queer artists called OUT LOUD. OUT LOUD is a stage for unsigned artists to perform, connect, grow, and promote their work using our professional footage and mentorship programs. Checkout, external link our first three digital concerts.
  • Queer Collective is in pre production of a documentary which will be made by an all queer crew to raise awareness for the systemic issue of violence against black trans women and sex workers. This documentary is titled “MOKA” it is about the arrest of community leader and activist Moka Dawkins. Read more about her story, external link.
  • Upcoming segment: Queer Collective will be introducing multiple limited series master classes featuring queer experts. You can look forward to seeing StrappedTo’s Marissa Grant hosting a series on event planning, Spiritual mentor, Reiki master, astrologer & founder of One People TO, Sheena, will be hosting a series on Astrology & Toronto’s Brazilian Drag Queen, Dexter, will be hosting a Drag master class!
  • Queer Collective has entered a collaboration with Ògo Tàwa Inc to produce a music video for Black R&B artist Temi, external link. This video will be used as a promotional tool to help raise money for Ògo Tàwa’s mission of installing Black statues in Toronto.