The gift of broader horizons

Posted on Tuesday, March 28, 2017

By Linda Scales

“It was transformative. It really changed my life,” Michael Mulvey says.

Poster for the Employee Giving program featuring Michael Mulvey and his reason for giving, student travel’s “insight into the opportunities that the world affords.”

The Telfer School of Management marketing professor is reflecting on his own experience as an exchange student, which so inspired him to pay it forward that he is one of the Employee Giving program’s most enthusiastic supporters.

He was studying business at uOttawa in 1990 when he jumped at the chance to do a fall term in the United States. Undertaking the exchange at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, involved some financial sacrifice — but it altered the course of his life.

“It was the first time I realized that my education was worth something,” Mulvey says. “I was well trained and ready to meet the world.” He ended up returning to Clarkson to do a master’s, on a full scholarship, before receiving his PhD at Penn State University and circling back to his hometown, Ottawa, and Telfer, in 2003.

Mulvey supports the Telfer International Experience Fund, which gives eligible students $1,000 a term to cover the extra costs incurred by taking part in the school’s international exchange program. He doesn’t want financial obstacles to stand in the way of any student who is keen to pursue his or her own life-changing opportunity.

“This is my pet fund, because it’s so near to my own experience,” he says. “I don’t usually talk about my philanthropy, but I see donating as akin to voting.  I give as a way of making a statement about what’s important to me.”

Mulvey notes that he didn’t go to Europe for his exchange, as many Telfer students do. (The most popular study destinations these days include Barcelona, Bordeaux, Mannheim, Milan and Nice, as well as Singapore.) But staying closer to home was the right choice for him.

“I was able to pursue what I was interested in,  U.S. trade and how Americans view Canada,” he says. Canada and the United States had just finalized their first free trade agreement, which provided a fascinating and useful backdrop to his studies. To this day, his research interests include cross-border trade.

Knowing how important this international academic adventure was to his own life, Mulvey says he’s moved to support today’s students because of “the nostalgia, the paying back, wanting others to experience what I experienced.”  

The Employee Giving program plays an integral role in Defy the Conventional: The Campaign for uOttawa, which seeks to strengthen the University’s teaching, research and service. Employees can make a donation by logging into VirtuO.

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