Program Manager and Learning Enhancement Officer
NW-ACE

Corey Stephens, NW-ACE Program Manager and Learning Enhancement Officer, draws upon his passion for community development and growth to provide students with indispensable mentorship with which to guide the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Cory began his business education at the University of Victoria’s School of Business, graduating in 1996 with a Bachelor of Commerce degree with an entrepreneurship specialization. During his studies Cory developed many skills, including knowledge of new venture decision-making models, opportunity recognition, economic development of communities, strategy formulation, methods of business research, marketing research methods, and the creation of marketing strategies. The expertise gained in these areas would lead to a lifelong integration of such ideas with his professional experience.

After graduation from the University of Victoria, Cory furthered his expertise by working for numerous organizations, including the Metlakatla Development Corporation, the Metlakatla First Nation, Export Development Canada, the New Zealand Trade Development Board, HSBC Bank Canada, and founding and directing Foot Print Consulting in Prince Rupert. While working at Foot Print Consulting Cory successfully prepared several funding proposals for Health Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and also worked in project development for both institutions. One of these projects was the creation and implementation of a training and capacity program for Health Canada, which was introduced as a best practices model for Pacific Coast First Nations organizations.

Cory’s work also demonstrates his passion for supporting the growth of local communities, while at the same time ensuring that traditions and customs are honored. In his role as Economic Development Strategy and Research Consultant, he researched and helped with the development of a First Nations economic development strategy. Additionally, Cory researched, identified, and reported on barriers to First Nations’ economic development and barriers to access to capital.

Cory’s involvement in the community does not end with his work, but continues in his volunteering involvement. In 2010, Cory was the Promotions Director of the Prince Rupert Northern BC Winter Games. Additionally, Cory volunteered his marketing expertise for National Aboriginal Day Celebrations between 2006 and 2010. Cory was also involved with the Success by Six Promotional Campaign in 2009.

After many years of business experience in numerous organizations, Cory brings his experience and approach to building community and culture through business to the ACE Program. Cory was approached by the University of Victoria to join the ACE Program shortly after its inception, and has been the Learning Enhancement Officer and Program Manager of the NW-ACE Program since the beginning of the second student cohort.

Cory’s impact on the entrepreneurs he works with demonstrates the difference his work has made to the ACE Program. As Dr. Brent Mainprize, ACE Program Director and entrepreneurship professor at the University of Victoria, notes, “program manager Cory Stephens…must be recognized for the operational success of the NW-ACE and NW-EAGLE programs” (Dann 2015). This success achieved by the NW-ACE Program is significant, as shown through its recognition through multiple awards, including the ICAB Partnership and Collaboration Visionary Award (2014), the Alan Blizzard Award (2016), and the Global Best Award received in Oslo, Norway in 2016.  

When asked about the success of the NW-ACE Program, Cory credits all of the members of the program, both internal to the ACE team and community leaders. In an interview with CBC Radio, Cory states that “[p]art of that success is also attributed to the caliber of the mentors we’re able to recruit to the program.” Cory explains that “[a]nother reason that the program is incredibly successful is that we strongly believe that once the program is underway, during that six months of the program, the students are all learning at different rates and once you’ve completed the NW-ACE Program, you’re not done” (CBC News, October 29, 2016) as they continue to receive guidance over the growth of their new venture.

Cory’s continued support for his students is evident through his work: as even “[a]fter the program is over, we continue to support [students].” The ACE Program maintains close connections with graduates, and Cory notes that it is common for ACE graduates to comment that “they [now] see opportunity in a different way.” ACE students embrace their opportunity to be role models and agents for change in their community. Community leaders have told Cory that students who have participated in the NW-ACE Program are standing up in public meetings and “providing feedback and comments and guidance to the direction of their communities” (CBC News, October 29, 2016).

Cory states that he is “incredibly proud of [the] students,” and that he “never envisioned that [he] would be a teacher, a mentor, a coach” (CBC News, October 29, 2016). His leadership qualities are revealed through his consistent advice to students on the many opportunities to apply skills that they develop during the program. Giuliana Hauknes and Christine Moody, winners of the Northwest Innovation Challenge, described that “[i]t was NW-ACE program manager Cory Stephens who brought to our attention the Northwest Innovation Challenge,” a community business challenge in Terrace, BC, which the pair went on to win for their venture: Project Hlaana (Gustavson Blog, 2014).

Cory’s students also have great things to say about his teaching style. Cory noted in an interview on CFNR FM that “I’m honored and I’m very humbled by the very positive feedback that students give me about my very candid, frank approach to providing instruction and mentorship to them” (CFNR FM, September 2016).

Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs is very grateful for the leadership Cory provides to the students, faculty, and administrators of the ACE Program. Please follow these links if you are interested in learning more about Cory’s work with the ACE Program: