U of R alumnus Ken Sunquist was an honorary degree recipient and received an Alumni Crowning Achievement Award in 2013. Sunquist passed away on June 8 in Ottawa. Photo courtesy of CARE Canada

The University of Regina has lost one of its most distinguished alumnus. Ken Sunquist passed peacefully at the Ottawa General Hospital on June 8, 2022. Sunquist was a recipient of the 2013 Alumni Crowning Achievement Award in the Lifetime Achievement category and received an honorary degree from the U of R in 2016.

Sunquist graduated from the University of Saskatchewan, Regina campus, with a Bachelor of Administration degree in 1970. After working as assistant clerk to the Executive Council of the Government of Saskatchewan and executive assistant to the Premier, he moved to the federal civil service. Sunquist had a 40-year career in the Foreign Service and had postings in Jamaica, Indonesia, Serbia, United States, China, and Korea. He served as acting ambassador to China in the 1990s, and was ambassador to Indonesia from 1998 to 2001. Sunquist later served as an assistant deputy minister in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and was Canada’s first chief trade commissioner from 2003 until 2011.

“The quality of education at this campus is outstanding and made it possible for me to contribute on the larger stage.”

Upon his retirement in 2011, Sunquist continued to work as a business advisor and management consultant with governments, universities, and businesses. He also served on a number of boards, including CARE Canada, Forum for International Trade Training and Trade Facilitation Office Canada.

New K Sunquist#1

He was the recipient of numerous professional awards including Minister of Foreign Affairs Award of Excellence for Policy, Public Service of Canada Award for Excellence in Management, Public Service of Canada Award for Excellence in Policy and Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Within the first two years of his studies, Sunquist decided he wanted a career in public service. He always looked back on his time at the Regina campus as formative to his success.

“The quality of education at this campus is outstanding and made it possible for me to contribute on the larger stage,” he said in a 2016 interview. “The faculty challenged me to meet my goals. My dean, Wes Bolstad, encouraged my interest in public policy and from the second year on I was committed to the public service.”

Sunquist is survived by his wife Carolyn, sons Stephen and Sean, daughters-in-law Susan and Kate, grandchildren Kira, Trevlyn and Elliott, sister Susan, and brother Tim.

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Welcome to the Spring/Summer edition of Degrees.

Since I began my tenure as President of the University of Regina almost one year ago, I have had the great pleasure of meeting many of our outstanding alumni, who now number more than 80,000 strong.

In many cases those meetings have by necessity taken place over Zoom, but as the COVID-19 pandemic has abated in recent months, I have welcomed the increasing number of opportunities to engage in person with our alumni.

On April 21, for example, I was fortunate to be part of the in-person celebrations for the grand reopening of Darke Hall, the extraordinary concert and theatre space that has been restored to a state that exceeds its original construction in 1929. During the two-day celebrations, I spoke with many graduates who paid their compliments for the outstanding work of the renovation project team.

Indeed, many of our alumni had a hand in the refurbishment. I want to thank all who contributed to the renovation project, but whom I didn't have the opportunity to meet in person at the re-opening. Without your support and that of others in the wider community, the historic venue would have been demolished, losing part of our University and indeed provincial history. I know I speak on behalf of everyone who attended the re-opening celebrations when I say that Darke Hall is truly a jewel in our city, and it will continue to serve as a cherished performance space for the University and the wider community for decades to come.

Beginning in early May, I hit the road for UR Days, an education expo that took numerous U of R faculty and staff on a provincial tour to meet future students in high schools in Weyburn, Yorkton, Swift Current, Prince Albert, and Regina. Thank you to all the U of R alumni, whether you were teachers or community leaders, who stopped by to say hello. It was so gratifying to hear the pride and support you have for your alma mater.

I also want to draw your attention to current student Zohra Zahir and recent graduate Nadiia Komarnytska. Zorha is from Afghanistan and Nadiia is from Ukraine. As you'll read in "Home, family and war" in this issue of Degrees, residents in Zohra and Nadiia's home countries are facing tremendous difficulties. Inspired by them, we have started Project Resilience, a fundraising priority to establish scholarships and provide emergency funds and other supports for students and their families from war-torn or otherwise challenged countries. I urge you to read the story about Zohra and Nadiia. You can give to Project Resilience by clicking here.

I'm proud to say that I've been serving as an ex-officio member of the University of Regina Alumni Association board since my tenure as President began last year. This has truly been a great experience, and it's an honour to be working with the other board members to strengthen the connections between the University and the Association. I want to take the opportunity to encourage all our alumni to stay tuned for an announcement regarding the Annual General Meeting in the Fall. See you there!

In the meantime, I wish all of you and your families a fun-filled and enjoyable summer, and I hope to see as many of you as possible at future events both on campus and in your home communities.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Jeff Keshen
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When Hannah Tait BBA'22 convocates this October, she'll have already made a good impression in the world of Agtech. Developed alongside fellow U of R grads and current students during the 24 Hour Startup Powered by Cultivator challenge this past June, Tait's ProdYous app - which connects home gardeners with consumers in search of fresh, local produce - is getting a lot of attention. Hannah speaks with Degrees about food security, working collaboratively, and the importance of taking risks.

Food sustainability has grown as a topic of concern in recent years. What sparked the idea to develop an app that connects urban gardeners with local consumers?

I was formerly the University of Regina Students' Union (URSU) president, which had some food security programming, so I had some experience there. I've also volunteered a lot with the Regina Food Bank. Through those experiences, I was noticing gaps. Right now, produce supply chains are unable to meet people in terms of the price, quality, and accessibility. I viewed this as a social problem because people were not getting access to the food that they needed. But it's also a business problem because consumers do not have the product that need - either they can't access it or they can't afford it. So, there's a gap in the market.

The app has three main pillars: One is to introduce people to gardening; two is education for urban producers; and the third is as a really easy way for people to buy, sell, or donate produce -which provides flexibility. That was something that we were really excited about.

Would the app make accessing fresh produce more affordable?
At the grocery store, there might be limited options on what you can buy and for what price. And that price is set by big grocery store chains. If, say, a neighbor has extra tomatoes, sometimes they'll post those (on social media) and they just want to get rid of them. So that could be a donation option. Others might want to sell their produce. And that price point would be a lot more flexible. We don't have the supply chain costs. We don't have to pay for gas to transport produce from California or Mexico. We're still discussing the price point for subscriptions. We think subscriptions would make this revenue-positive, even in the first year.

How do you see the model developing? What does the future hold for ProdYous?

Myself and the rest of the team* have a lot of community networks and partnerships already developed within the food security space. We're hoping to engage with what's already happening and then introduce the technology side to make it more efficient.

One term that we've been using is 'social enterprise.' I'm personally very interested in getting venture capital and that type of investment. It would help us develop in a sustainable way while making sure that communities are being fed. We're looking at a social enterprise model which means operating as a for-profit company, but when you make that profit it goes back into the community towards meaningful causes. We're looking at working with incubators and different community partners to really get it rolling, and we'd be looking at spring launch next year.

How did your time at the University of Regina play into your success as a burgeoning Agtech player?

When I started at the U of R, I really didn't know many people at all. I graduated from high school in Australia, so when I moved back to Regina, I didn't have any kind of network. Starting in my first year, going through the UR Ambassador program, I got to meet so many great people. That's where I initially met my development partner c. So, growing my network in my first year and then going through the business school, and having the opportunity to work on case competitions, like JDCWest, developed my business and presentations skills. When it came to putting myself out there more, say to run for URSU president, it felt like I had the support and the skills to make it happen.

Something else that's really unique about the University of Regina is how accessible all these community leaders are. When you sent them a message, they're going to reply and they're going to help you. It was the same with my professors. It's not in their job description to go have coffee with a second-year business student to give them advice on applying for jobs but that's what they do. It felt there was a really strong commitment to students from the business and arts faculties.

What advice would you give to undergrads or recent grads who are interested in following your lead?

Build your network of likeminded people. And I'd tell people to take big risks! If you told me five years ago that this is what I'd be doing, I would have said 'no way!' You need people who will support you and pick you back up with you fall down. And you need to take those big risks. Nothing is going to change unless you take those risks.

*Hannah Tait would like to acknowledge the team behind ProdYous, including: Zakiyyah Noorally, BSc'22; Yug Shah, BSc'23; Baran Erfani, BSc'24; Yazdan Ranjbar BSc'25; Christopher Jason; and Caitlin Cmoc.

**This interview was condensed for length.

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