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President and Vice-Chancellor Michael Benarroch mingles with students

A legacy of leadership

President’s Student Leadership Program celebrates five years and 113 graduates

April 26, 2024 — 

On April 11, business and community leaders, faculty, administrators and students from across disciplines representing the University of Manitoba (UM), University of Winnipeg (UW), Red River College Polytech (RRC) and University College of the North (UCN), joined to celebrate the fifth graduating class of the President’s Student Leadership Program (PSLP).

Twenty-two graduates received their certificates and joined the PSLP community of leaders making a difference in sectors from healthcare and technology to the arts, law and business. The event feted the now 113-strong contingent of PSLP alumni, and celebrated five years of immersive, interdisciplinary leadership education.

Unique in Canada, PSLP is the flagship program of the James W. Burns Leadership Institute, led by Dr. Suzanne Gagnon, Associate Dean and Canada Life Chair in Leadership Education at the Asper School of Business.

Each year, PSLP selects a cohort of students from across faculties, post-secondary institutions, interests and backgrounds to build their leadership potential. Participants have notable leadership experience already, serving in their communities, faculties, sports or elsewhere. The program is funded through a fellowship for participants, thanks to a visionary investment from Canada Life, IG Wealth Management and the Power Corporation of Canada, as well as the Province of Manitoba. Distinguished guests Paul Mahon, President and Chief Executive Officer of Great-West Lifeco and of Canada Life and Renée Cable, Minister of Advanced Education and Training attended this year’s event to celebrate its five years of success.

Advisory Board Member Charles Henaire attended the graduation and anniversary celebration and articulated the Advisory Board’s vision for the program.

“When PSLP was envisioned, the idea was to continue to develop future leaders from Manitoba who would go out into our communities and beyond, to make a positive impact in their chosen fields. The opportunities and challenges facing our society are complex, and there is a tremendous need for leaders to help shape our future,” said Henaire, Deputy CFO and Chief Accounting & Control Officer at Great-West Lifeco.

PSLP is delivering on its vision as the program boasts diverse and influential alumni across many sectors.

Kevin Boreskie headshot

Kevin Boreskie

A first-year emergency medicine resident, PSLP alumni Kevin Boreskie is completing a PhD in Applied Health Sciences at UM. As he describes it, PSLP unites students and leaders, highlighting the immeasurable impact of diverse, but interdependent, leadership skills.

“Through PSLP, I saw how the community leaders we met with through the program had incredible skill sets that made them effective leaders, but that these skill sets weren’t necessarily the same. What they had in common was passion for addressing a problem,” he says.

PSLP taps into students’ own drive to solve problems and serve their communities. This passion transcends institutions and occupations, and PSLP invites students from across Manitoba to connect with a network of committed peers.

Amy Jackson headshot

Amy Jackson

PSLP alumna Amy Jackson notes that learning from others allowed her to reflect on the value of her own unique point of view.

Jackson received her Bachelor of Arts in History and Indigenous Studies from UCN. “Participating in PSLP boosted my confidence in valuing my unique perspective as an Indigenous woman from northern Manitoba. It has also broadened my mindset by exposing me to various ways of thinking,” she notes.

PSLP is designed as an inclusive program, teaching participants that effective leadership positively impacts communities, and that valuing diversity is central to healthy communities and competent leadership.

Kathleen Murphy headshot

Kathleen Murphy

Kathleen Murphy is graduating from RRC’s Business Administration program and holds a Post-Bacc in Vocal Performance and a Bachelor of Music from UM. They explain how PSLP has improved their ability to lead in 2SLGBTQIA+ initiatives like the Rainbow Harmony Project.

“PSLP has been instrumental in building my confidence, refining my public speaking and defining my values as a leader. I am passionate about leveraging my leadership education to build inclusive spaces, empower people to raise their voices and form meaningful connections in service to others,” they say.


Community initiatives are included in the program pedagogy, with students working in groups to complete a hands-on service leadership project.

Jude Obidiagha headshot

Jude Obidiagha

A senior policy analyst with the Government of Manitoba, Jude Obidiagha completed PSLP while pursuing his master’s in applied economics at UW. Obidiagha worked with fellow students on an Indigenous Newcomer Workshop, designed to build relationships between different communities and raise awareness about Indigenous culture among newcomers in Winnipeg.

“Through this community project with fellow young leaders in my cohort, I developed the skill of working with other passionate peers while cultivating leadership skills like empathy, active listening and collaboration,” he says.

Mentorship is in PSLP’s DNA, as students learn from dedicated faculty, experienced business, government and non-profit leaders, and their own cohort.

Reanna Merasty headshot

Reanna Merasty

Reanna Merasty was pursuing her Master of Architecture at UM while in PSLP, and is now architectural intern with Number TEN architecture Group. She describes her biggest takeaway from PSLP. “What stuck with me was the value of collaborative leadership, where we are not leading on an “I” but with an “us.” Collaborative leadership means using the strengths of others to achieve a shared goal.”

PSLP redefines leadership, giving students the skills they need to lead and succeed while reaffirming that effective leadership is often more collaborative than individual, more collective than self-serving, more dynamic than stagnant.

The vision for PSLP began as a desire to build on the leadership ethos that the donors saw in Manitoba, and to create new knowledge, relationships and experiences that would stay with and guide the participants as they entered their careers. Director Gagnon expresses how the program has lived up to that vision.

”We are extremely proud of these five cohorts of PSLP fellows and the hard work and care they put into participating in this program. We have seen many flourish with new activities in the community new positions in their fields, in academic work, government and, in industry. With the sixth cohort soon to begin the program, we look forward to continuing to create strong collective capacity that will help them to tackle the tough problems and create opportunities for the future.”


Housed at the Asper School of Business, at the University of Manitoba, the President’s Student Leadership Program selects a cohort of students from across faculties, post-secondary institutions, interests, backgrounds and regions of the province to build their leadership potential.

Visit the PSLP website for full program details.

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