Though she’s taught at the Mount part-time since 2012, Dr. Heidi Weigand officially joined the University’s Business and Tourism Department full-time this summer as the coordinator for the new Nonprofit Leadership program. The program – set to launch this fall – will prepare students for leadership roles in the nonprofit sector through education in staff and volunteer management, governance, fundraising, strategic planning and more. Heidi will oversee the program’s inaugural year, applying her expertise in both the nonprofit sector and leadership to inspire a new generation of change leaders.
Leading change: Meet Dr. Heidi Weigand
It’s a role she’s very excited to take on. “There are so many opportunities in the industry,” Heidi said. “Whether students work directly in the market or volunteer, like sitting on a board, this program will set them up to understand how to succeed in the sector and bring an innovative approach to it.” It is estimated there are 171,000 registered nonprofit sector organizations in Canada employing over 2 million people and with annual revenues of more than $112 billion.
Heidi’s previous professional and academic experiences will mean a rich learning opportunity for students. Her career in the corporate sector has included leadership roles at both Xerox and IBM at locations across North America. As well, she has an extensive history working with nonprofit organizations. She is currently chair of the board for Motivate Canada, a national organization focused on youth leadership, and is a board member with Venture 2 Impact and Bryony House.
Her academic experience also makes her an ideal match for the Mount’s new Nonprofit Leadership Program. Last year, Heidi completed her PhD in Management at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University – her doctoral thesis explored the development of employee well-being through positive leadership.
Heidi’s graduate studies included developing a governance assessment tool with four First Nation communities in support of their self-government. “I am grateful for the opportunity to work on collaborative projects with the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet First Nations. Our shared learning experience – building on each other’s strengths – has created wonderful opportunities for growth and entrepreneurial thinking,” she said. These relationships continue today through strategic management collaborations and student facilitator training, through which students are taught to support community and leader discussions regarding citizenship codes, and nationhood.
Heidi is also passionate about mental health, particularly in the context of sports. An athlete herself (she fondly remembers playing volleyball against the Mount Mystics during her university years), Heidi is an associate researcher at the Centre for the Study of Sport and Health at Saint Mary’s University. She is studying the connections between mental health and resilient sport leadership. She was also one of the leaders behind the joint Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s teams at the 2017 Halifax FANFIT event – a program started in 2014 to bring together university athletes in a fitness challenge focused on friendship and community building. “I am a firm believer in working together and leveraging our differences to inspire change in our community.”
Heidi’s current research plans include examining nonprofit management models locally, nationally and internationally to identify best practices. Her latest interview-based project will analyze the management function in the sector, including management’s role in sustainability, finance, innovation and service delivery. She hopes this research will help mobilize further interest in the nonprofit sector while detailing sustainable practices that can help nonprofits succeed.
What she values in life, Heidi incorporates into her classroom. Her aim is to establish welcoming and safe space for learning, in which differences are respected.
While no two of her classes are the same, she is known for starting her classes with a biography assignment intended to encourage students to open up about their interests, as well as their hopes and fears. “This assignment helps me find ways to connect course material to the students and create a personalized learning experience,” she said. “Strong connections with students make for a better learning environment for all.”
Heidi plans to bring her passionate and personalized teaching approach to the Nonprofit Leadership program as well. “[The program] is created to be inclusive of students from all backgrounds and areas of study. It is meant to help students build connections and find their passions, which is so important to me,” she said.
Her dedication to students extends outside the classroom too – she’s a big supporter of student initiatives like the Student Athlete Mental Health Initiative (SAMHI) and Caritas Day student volunteering effort (see photo above); she plans to continue being involved in student life as a full-time Mount community member.
Heidi’s life has always revolved around community. As a child, her family was on assignment in Europe, with 50 other IBM families from 21 different nations. “Every weekend and holiday we were on the road as a caravan of cars heading out to ski hills and summer resorts – it was like having a very large extended family sharing traditions and practices,” she said. This global upbringing taught Heidi the power of embracing cultural differences and community – a value that translates into all she does.
In addition to her many professional commitments, Heidi is a proud mother of four and grandmother of two, in a blended family, together with her partner Jim Hepworth. Her family also includes two fur-kids, her dog Mulan (below, on the right) and cat Trickle, and one grand-dog, Pippin. Mulan’s name has deeper meaning – it’s an anagram for “Mentoring Unleashes Leader Altruism Naturally,” a description of The Mulan Principle, a theory on Contagious Resilient Leadership, that Heidi says was inspired by her four-legged companion. Heidi’s passions really do permeate all aspects of her life!