Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

Meet Tracey Scarlett, dean of the JR Shaw School of Business

Sitting in her new office in the recently opened Centre for Applied Technology is a homecoming for Tracey Scarlett. NAIT is where she earned her first post-secondary credential (Medical Laboratory Technology ’87) before going on to earn an MBA. This summer, the Calgary-born entrepreneur returned to take on the role of dean of the JR Shaw School of Business.

Scarlett was entrepreneurial at a young age, growing up on a farm near Grande Prairie. There, she raised and sold 3 calves by the time she completed high school as part of a 4-H program. Part of the money helped fund her post-secondary studies.

That enterprising sprit evolved into a career that has made Scarlett a well-known and respected member of Alberta’s business community – and one of its greatest champions.

Since 2007, she served as CEO of Alberta Women Entrepreneurs, a not-for-profit organization that helps women build successful businesses. In her new position at NAIT, she looks forward to fostering an environment that supports self-starters from a variety of backgrounds. Here are her thoughts on helping the entrepreneurial spirit flourish in Alberta.

How does it feel to be back at NAIT?

It feels like coming home. NAIT has really changed and grown over the years, but what I remember from being a student here is still very much embedded in the culture that I see. Passionate instructors and really relevant education and that can-do attitude.

What are you most looking forward to in your role at NAIT?

NAIT alumni are embedded in every business venture that I know within the province and I have an extensive network in the business community. They are entrepreneurs, they are CFOs, and they’re totally embedded in the fabric of Alberta. I want to continue to prepare students who are going to be the next business leaders and give them the tools to achieve that.

NAIT alumni are embedded in every business venture that I know within the province.

Does our new Centre for Applied Technology send a signal about business to students?

This building is state-of-the-art and built in a way that transforms the business school from a school that was hidden away in the tower [circa 1965; the previous location of the JR Shaw School of Business location] into a place that is facing the world.

[With it] we’re creating a collaboration space that is not isolating the different schools. We see that in business – that creating opportunities where natural relationships and collisions happen is fundamental to innovation.

What do you see as the current position of the school?

We need to differentiate the brand of the JR Shaw School of Business from the other schools that are out there. I think the idea that you are in business from day one is a really significant part of that. I want to build on that.

What is the role of the business school in the current economy?

I think people transitioning into other career opportunities – going back to school because of what’s happening in the labour market – is a big trend, so a big part of the role we can play is providing more relevant, transitional types of support.

A big part of the role we can play is providing more relevant, transitional types of support.

How important is entrepreneurship?

All the new jobs in our economy are created by new ventures. It’s not just new ventures that are technology based. It is every mom-and-pop shop and service consulting company that becomes an innovative exporter. Everybody starts small.

Do you have a long-term plan for the school?

Understanding business, project management, accounting, financial literacy, marketing, all of these things are converging in a way that you can’t do a technical job in the new economy without having some foundation in some of those other areas.

In terms of the JR Shaw School of Business, if you look at JR Shaw and what he has built – incredibly diverse companies as a global leader – that’s the model that we want our students to see as possible.

What is one of the most important things you learned about being an entrepreneur in Alberta?

Alberta is probably the most entrepreneurial province in Canada and one of the most entrepreneurial regions in the developed world. Alberta is the land of opportunity and if you want to be an entrepreneur it’s a great place to set up shop. 


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