Business & Commercialization Solutions Team
Dawit Eshetu is known for his deep commitment to global issues, international development and working for effective social change. Describing himself as a “global citizen,” the Niagara College professor has broad consulting and volunteering experience with international organizations in three continents.
His most recent volunteer mission was a six-month trip to Africa. “I helped non-profit organizations and higher education institutions in Ethiopia with capacity building, partnership development, as well as project monitoring and evaluation framework,” he explains.
In his role as Professor and Program Coordinator at the School of Business, Hospitality and Tourism, Eshetu brings more than 10 years of teaching and research experience in international business, international and regional development, foreign direct investment and competitiveness and social innovation.
He’s currently using this broad expertise in his role as a research lead for the Research & Innovation Division at Niagara College. His most recent research project involves working directly with the division’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre to conduct an industry needs assessment.
“This research project that the team and I are working on is designed to help the Centre identify potential industry partners,” he explains. “In addition, we have been looking at strategies to promote and deliver these services to existing and new partners.’
Since coming to Niagara College a little more than a decade ago, Eshetu has led successful efforts to develop programs, promote academic excellence and brand programs. He is the founding member and team leader of flagship and award-winning programs at the college and has been honoured with numerous excellence awards, as part of a team and as an individual, including Educator of the Year in 2012.
Eshetu was born and raised in Ethiopia, studied in Germany (he holds a PhD in International Business & Development and a Master’s in Development Studies, Small Enterprise Promotion) and travelled and worked in several others before settling in Canada – more specifically in Niagara, where he can often be found running or playing soccer in his spare time.
In his book The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell described the role of the ‘connector’ as a unique person with wide-reaching social circles, and a gift for linking people together for a greater good. Enter Pam Isaac, adjunct marketing professor at Niagara College and research lead for the Research & Innovation division.
Running her own communications/marketing business, Isaac’s passion – next to her family – is building meaningful relationships and galvanizing a culture of community. And the classroom is no different. As an adjunct marketing professor at Niagara College and a researcher for the Research & Innovation division, she is incubating a sense of fellowship.
“I think that if you build a culture of community, the students are better off and our own community is better off,” she says. “Engagement is higher overall, because there is buy-in and the students feel that connection.”
In her current course-based research project for Business & Commercialization, she’s guiding a student to develop a 2.0 marketing-distribution strategy for a specialty food partner in the region. “The product is so good and there’s such genuine interest in the community that I feel it can grow past what (the business owner) even hoped.”
Throughout her career, and after holding positions in fundraising, event management, marketing and communications, in both the not-for-profit and corporate sectors, Isaac was inspired to leave the corporate world and open her own freelance business (Hummingbird Communications) in order to adopt a flexible, work-at-home arrangement so she could have more time for her three small children.
Isaac is a Leadership Niagara graduate (class of 2011-12) and holds an Honours BA (concentration in marketing) from Brock University. She also works to support co-operative business models in Ontario and finds time to volunteer for various community initiatives.
As Co-ordinator of Niagara College’s Human Resource programs, Holly Catalfamo brings both experience and enthusiasm to the Niagara Research table.
Holly has made applied research and innovation a major focus during her time at the college, acting as a faculty lead on projects while involving students in the Business Administration — Human Resources (Co-op) and Human Resources Management Graduate programs in course-based research projects.
Ventures in which Holly has played a lead role include a course-based project for her students that saw them participate in a partnership between Niagara College and the Mulheres Mil program in Brazil. Mulheres Mil is a poverty alleviation program that seeks to assist socially disadvantage women transition to formal employment. By designing training materials for Brazilian researchers, students have identified and designed learning solutions that make a difference in supporting an impact assessment process.
Another course-based project that Holly’s students participated in was designing a strategic human resources plan for Chas E. Ramson, a food distribution company based out of Kingston, Jamaica. By providing insights into best practices in human resources, students have provided human resources solutions that will contribute to capacity-building for this Caribbean firm.
“In my opinion, when students engage in real-world problems with industry partners, it provides them with a unique opportunity to prepare them for the world of work,” Holly says. “Students have an opportunity to apply their learning in a very meaningful way. It is absolutely exciting to see how hard they work and the quality of the output that they produce.
“It is a win-win-win experience; for the industry partner, for the students and for the faculty members. All stakeholders benefit through this rich approach to learning.“
Holly has also been a faculty lead on several standalone projects at Niagara Research, including ”Applied Research in the Postsecondary Classroom,” an evaluation of applied research, and “A Second Career and a Second Chance,” an examination of Ontario’s Second Career program. She also received funding through the International Development Research Council to lead the Mulheres Mil Impact Assessment project, a bi-national research project with Brazilian partners to assess the impact of a national poverty alleviation program in Brazil.
She has presented findings from her research to the International Society for Educational Planners, the Organizational Behaviour Teaching Conference, the College Degree Operating Group and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. She has been published in the Journal of the International Society for Education Planning and various other publications.
Holly’s experience with research began while she was studying for her Doctorate of Education from the University of Toronto, which she received in 2009. She has taught at Niagara College since 2003.
Getting students to dive deeper into the data is what Malcolm Howe likes best about working with Niagara College’s Research & Innovation Division.
Howe has been involved with Research & Innovation since its beginning, when he worked on college-based research, such as course evaluations, and helping interpret the results of Key Performance Indicators (KPI) surveys, which measure student satisfaction. He helped the college navigate away from paper-based evaluations to mobile and online reporting, developing a new software application called Nform, which digitally records data on mobile devices such as iPads.
These days, Howe and the business team, including student and faculty researchers, work primarily with small- and medium-sized businesses in Niagara to enhance their business plans and marketing capabilities (business services). This usually involves quantitative market research (surveys most often) for the research associates, and then analysis and reporting under Howe’s mentorship.
For example, his student team recently surveyed visitors to the Niagara Icewine Festival. The data will be analyzed to assist festival organizers in refining the event for future years, but also to demonstrate to the festival’s various funding agencies that the dollars have been well-spent. Howe hopes the project will see expansion into the main Niagara Wine Festival as well.
Howe knows the marketing research conducted under his watch doesn’t make or break small- and medium-sized businesses in Niagara, but he will proudly proclaim that the reports have helped make each company conduct their business better.
“In the end we are about innovation not invention, so this is about commercializing what the industry has to offer, determining how we get there, and showing local companies how to take advantage of our business services.”
He recalls the partnership with Niagara Oast House Breweries as a great example of what collaboration can do. Oast House needed marketing services, but at the same time, the students involved in the project expanded their learning and skills by developing a social media manual, explaining the four major types of social media.
Howe, who holds a BA in economics from Brock University and an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario, currently teaches marketing research, marketing management and international marketing.
In his spare time, Howe likes to travel, especially when the destination involves the opportunity to see the country by mountain bike. He loves the recreational sport so much that he has written two destination guidebooks for mountain bikers, for Moab, Utah and for the province of Ontario (look for the nom-de-plum “Rider Mel”).
Since research has been a part of Terri Champion’s teaching for many years, it only seemed natural for her to become an official part of the Research & Innovation team.
A professor in the School of Business and Co-ordinator in the Sales and Marketing Program, Champion works as a faculty lead on the marketing components of projects related to small- and medium-sized local businesses. “Some of these are very small, fledgling companies, and they all seem so different in a lot of ways, but they are all really so similar, too. They all have that entrepreneurial DNA,” she explains.
With a background in helping potential business owners tap into their entrepreneurial skills, Champion is able to guide her students through research on competitive analysis, business plans and marketing strategies.
Current projects include working with Niagara Oast House Brewery to develop branding strategy, sales kits and an integrated marketing and communications plan.
Champion has also worked on a sales analysis for Niagara Local, an online blogging site producing content about where to eat, drink or be entertained in Niagara; a market assessment for Chocolate Concepts, a small specialty manufacturer in Vaughan; and market research and strategy planning for Mahtay Café, a specialty coffee shop and art gallery in downtown St. Catharines.
“Many of our clients are doing a lot of things really well, but there are always areas of improvement that we can assist them with that they don’t necessarily have expertise in. We also serve as a sounding board and offer an unbiased view of their business – something that start-ups often need more than anything,” she explains.
Champion finds working with Research & Innovation to be one of her favourite parts of the college experience, because it combines mentorship of students with assistance of small businesses. “It is a gratifying experience to work with these businesses. And from a teaching perspective, there are a lot of situations facing businesses that make great examples in class.”
Champion holds a BA in Business Administration and a BEd, both from Brock University. She is currently working on her MBA. She has been at Niagara College since 1994, and currently teaches courses in consumer behaviour, entrepreneurship and management.
In her spare time, she has been writing books on management and entrepreneurship, but she also manages to find time for cycling, photography and travel. When all three are combined, it is the sweetest of days.