Bailey Sousa

Top 40 Under 40 2015

Photography Curtis Trent

Age: 33

Job Title: Director, International Institute for Qualitative Methodology, University of Alberta

Why She’s Top 40: She’s bringing academics and business together at the University of Alberta and helping to make the post-secondary institution less dependent on public funding.

If you could change one thing about Edmonton, what would it be? “I would make the river valley more accessible – some restaurants or cafes along the river, so even those of us who are less inclined to use the trails could enjoy the view and river valley atmosphere.”

As a true believer in small business and the power of entrepreneurship, Bailey Sousa never imagined she would one day work for a huge public institution like the University of Alberta.

Sousa’s flair for entrepreneurism, after all, started small and hit early. When she was a Grade 8 student in Edmonton, she convinced her teachers to allow her and a friend to set up a school store. Through their sales of candy, noodle bowls, granola bars and chips, they made enough to finance a school trip to Paris.

Now 33 and a mother of two, and with plenty more business ventures under her belt – including owning a bed-and-breakfast and being involved in commercial construction and development – Sousa serves as the director of the International Institute for Qualitative Methodology (IIQM), an international interdisciplinary Institute within the Faculty of Nursing at the U of A that has members around the world. And it’s here that Sousa is bringing that small-business mentality to the university.

The institute, now, is self-sustaining, bringing in revenue through the webinars, workshops and conferences it runs internationally, in efforts to not scrimp on scholarships.

“When you come into academia, it’s because you believe in knowledge and the scholarly aspect,” she says. “When you start to talk about money, you’re worried it’s going to take away from the scholarly side. What I’m saying is, you can do both.”

It’s controversial, to say the least. Sousa even uses the word “hostile” to describe the reception from some people to such ideas. After all, universities are typically places where knowledge is valued above profits.

“It’s like a small business … if you run out of money, the business closes. It falls to me to balance the books, make sure we can pay salaries. I feel very passionate about the work.”

Sousa believes the IIQM model can be used in other areas of the university, making the institution less dependent on the public funding roller-coaster. She’s excited to share her passion for entrepreneurism and to lead by example. 

“You can have an idea and you have the control to make it a reality.”

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