‘Warriors in the boardroom’: Enbridge scholarship winner leads by example

Indigenous SCM student Connor McCallum excels in education, sport and community at Calgary’s SAIT Polytechnic

How professionals fall into their career of choice is often wrought with realizations, “aha” moments and sometimes a failed exam or two along the way. It’s a nonlinear path, to say the least.

For Connor McCallum, his foray into the field of supply chain management (SCM) was a chance encounter via the former Aboriginal Summer Student Program and Indigenous Student Program with Suncor Energy.

“I was part of the ISP program with Suncor Energy where I was approached by a wonderful woman by the name of Jamie Cluff, and asked whether I wanted to give supply chain a try after previously working in Finance,” says McCallum, the first-ever recipient of the Enbridge Award from Calgary’s SAIT Business School, a scholarship for students in the post-secondary institute’s SCM program.

“I said yes not knowing exactly what I was getting myself into, but I ended up liking it far more.”

McCallum changed his major to SCM after his second year of accounting at SAIT and the rest is history. But his story runs much deeper than that.

Growing up in Strathmore, Alberta with his father, McCallum’s passion for hockey carried him throughout his childhood to the SAIT Trojans collegiate men’s hockey team, where he’s played for the past five years.

What many don’t realize, however, is that McCallum is full status First Nation and identifies as a strong Cree man, while he and his mother are from Treaty 6 territory in Northern Saskatchewan. Following his father’s passing from cancer, McCallum began to realize a part of his spiritual identity he had been missing out on as a result of his father’s unconscious biased upbringing growing up in rural Strathmore.

“My sister and I never really tapped into our Indigenous roots once our parents became divorced at a very young age,” says McCallum. “We grew up visiting my kokum, cousins and relatives. I had friends all over the place, both on and off reserve, same in the hockey world. It wasn’t until attending SAIT that I realized I had this huge part of my identity that I had neglected for years.”

McCallum has since been committed to embracing and learning more about his cultural and spiritual heritage, seeking to bridge the knowledge gap for his coworkers, teammates and peers whenever he can.

“I really resonated with a term that my elder, Dean Manywounds, told me: Our warriors on the battlefield are now our warriors in the boardroom,” he says.

Enbridge partnered with SAIT in 2019 to set up a yearly $1,000 scholarship to encourage Indigenous student interest in SCM. The scholarship is part of our recruiting program for SCM professionals across North America, attracting talent while providing opportunity for diverse students.

“Supply chain management is still a ‘niche’ field of study and is typically not top-of-mind for students who would gravitate to accounting, marketing or finance,” explains Theresa Smart, who heads the program. “This scholarship is one way to encourage Indigenous students to pursue a career in SCM.”

McCallum’s mother is the source of much of his drive—which helped motivate his membership and leadership of SAITSA Indigenous Student Alliance (SISA), a SAIT Students’ Association club geared to improve the performance and inclusivity of Indigenous peoples at SAIT. His role as Chief of SISA demonstrates the calling he feels to “give back” to his community and grow his Indigenous roots.

“My mom has been a nurse in our home Treaty 6 territory up in northern Saskatchewan for 25 years,” says McCallum. “I see the difference she makes directly on the reserve, and it’s an impact I want to make on Indigenous business’ and the corporate sector.”

Where McCallum describes himself as “financially unstable,” financial support provides a big boost in helping achieve his goals.

“When a scholarship is granted to me, it’s not gone to waste. It helps lift the financial stress associated with pursuing post-secondary education.”

(TOP PHOTO: Enbridge SCM scholarship winner Connor McCallum spent five years lacing up skates with the SAIT Trojans collegiate men's hockey team.)