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The Alan Shepard Summer Residency tackles real-world challenges

Final-year Concordia students and recent grads across all faculties can apply to the 12-week program by April 14
April 5, 2024

Group of standing adults circled around a table with colourful Post-It notes and permanent markers

For those in fine arts, residencies are familiar — a chance to immerse yourself in a creative space, explore, experiment and build connections. But what if such an opportunity was available across all disciplines?

The Alan Shephard Summer Residency is a 12-week paid experience at Concordia that equips soon-to-be and recent graduates with essential work skills for personal and professional growth. Just like in an artist residency, participants in the program hosted by the District 3 Innovation Hub are deeply engaged in a process of learning and creating. And they hail from across all four faculties.

“This residency is a journey of professional and personal transformation, where participants are nurtured to develop their ideas and skills in a rich, supportive environment, much like artists in a studio,” says Zaccary Dyck, BA 21, program lead.

Katarina Martins, BFA 23, coordinates the residency and was a participant in 2022. She emphasizes that participants get much more than the average work placement offers.

“They’re evolving, experimenting and contributing to something larger than their immediate surroundings. Concordia students will learn proven skills in design thinking, fostering empathy, client engagement, systems mapping, storytelling and foresight practice to be strengthened and applied through real project mandates. They learn how to work with clients as consultants.”

'An indelible mark'

Last year’s residency focused on inclusive communities, food security, city infrastructure, social behaviours, arts and culture, and more.

The program is both interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary, and it places a strong emphasis on learning to work with people with extremely different backgrounds.

“The most incredible thing about the residency was working with people with varying expertise. Having the opportunity to learn together and see the problems from different perspectives is something special,” says Ryan Leitner, a business administration and management student, who is graduating[AF1] [MR2]  with a bachelor of commerce from the John Molson School this spring. Leitner participated in the 2023 residency and has gone on to provide office and operational support at District 3.

Participants in the 2023 cohort worked on mandates from job-entry program Insertech, research institute New Harvest, business development corporation Montréal centre-ville, artist-run centre Eastern Bloc, non-profit Share the Warmth, District 3 biotech startup Opalia and artist Merlin Heintzman Hope’s Club de Répare à Centre Sud.

The residency often acts as an important entry point to the innovation hub’s broader ecosystem. Of the original cohort, 50 per cent are still involved — working for a startup, incubator or founding their own.

For Aboozar (Abex) Beheshti, the residency program was a gamechanger.

“The summer of 2018 left an indelible mark on me. I had the privilege of being a design resident. During those transformative months, I witnessed firsthand the tireless dedication of passionate professionals committed to nurturing young entrepreneurs as they sought their paths. Our mentors were guiding lights, illuminating our way with unwavering support,” Beheshti shares.

Following the program, he says he knew he would be back at District 3 again. He is now connected through his startup Cognitie Synergia, a mental health–care innovator.

'A net positive for students and mandators alike'

District 3 was founded on the idea that innovation can give anyone the ability to create a positive impact. Through entrepreneurship, it helps people solve local and global challenges to build a more fair and sustainable society.

Over the last decade, the hub has supported more than 1,000 startups and built an active community of 20,000 change-makers.

“In 2023, summer residents got a unique learning experience,” says Xavier-Henri Hervé, executive director at District 3. “It opened their minds to new thinking tools and key societal issues such as the dynamics of the arts community and their artists, biodiversity and food security, urban development and the bio revolution as a startup. The program is a net positive for students and mandators alike.”

District 3 is pursuing mandates for the 2024 cohort from organizations focused on electrification, autism and minority arts access with international companies, local startups and more. Applications open on April 8, directly following an info session, and are due on April 14.

Learn more about the Alan Shephard Summer Residency at Concordia’s District 3 Innovation Hub.

Register for the 2024 residency info session on April 8 at 3 p.m.

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