Alumni Contribute $348.5B Annually to Global Economy

An announcement from the University of Alberta confirms what we have always believed about U of A alumni: they generate a staggering economic impact and carry with them a strong sense of social responsibility.

By Glenn Stowkowy on September 30, 2013


An announcement from the University of Alberta today confirmed what we have always believed about U of A alumni: we generate a staggering economic impact and also carry with us a strong sense of social responsibility.

University President Indira Samarasekera announced this morning the results of a landmark study by Faculty of Business professors Tony Briggs and Jennifer Jennings. The findings come from a survey that almost 9,000 alumni filled out last year. It was based on similar ones done at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford and Tsinghua universities.

The economic and social impact of University of Alberta alumni has perhaps never been so dramatically brought into focus.

University of Alberta alumni have founded 70,258 organizations which:

  • generate more revenue each year than the gross domestic product of the Province of Alberta ($348.5 billion compared to $306.7 billion)
  • have created 1.5 million jobs worldwide and almost 400,000 in Alberta. With 2.1 million jobs in all of Alberta in 2012, this means just about every fifth person working in Alberta is employed by a company started by a U of A graduate.
  • generate $220,301 in annual revenue per employee
  • have an impact on Alberta similar to the impact of Stanford University on California. Pound-for-pound, we are on par with some of the biggest universities in the world.

It will come as no surprise that about one third of University of Alberta-founded organizations are non-profit or have a cultural, environmental or social mission, and 77 per cent of U of A alumni have volunteered in their communities. We are also serial innovators, founding an average of 1.84 organizations each. U of A alumni, through our actions, uplift the whole people.

The potential social impact of alumni-founded organizations resonates with U of A alumnus Dr. Ray Muzyka (’90 BMedSc, ’92 MD), a successful entrepreneur who is now focused on giving back. He co-founded BioWare with two fellow Med School alumni in 1995, and after building it to eight locations and 1,400 employees worldwide, he stayed on in a senior leadership role after BioWare was acquired by Electronic Arts in 2007 until his retirement in October 2012. “My science and medical training at the U of A fostered a lifelong passion for continuous learning, taught me the vital importance of humility, and made me aware of how critical teamwork and collaboration are for sustaining entrepreneurial success,” said Muzyka. 

Now in his third "career chapter," Ray has founded Threshold Impact, which invests in information technology, new media, medical innovations and social entrepreneurs, focusing on sustainable, profitable impact investments. 

Bing Xiang, ’91 PhD, is the founding dean of Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, established in 2002. It is China’s first not-for-profit, independent and private business school and has 49 world-class, full-time resident faculty members (33 regular and 16 visiting), whose per capita publications in top journals of management ranked sixth globally from 2005 to 2009. Alumni include more than 2,500 Chinese business leaders at the CEO and chairman level, whose companies in 2011 together generated more than $1 trillion US in revenue. This figure represents about 13.7 per cent of China’s GDP and exceeds the total GDP of Indonesia. If the Cheung Kong Graduate School’s alumni network were a nation, it would be the 16th largest economy on Earth. Also interested in innovation in management education, Bing has directly implemented and shaped several prominent programs and institutions in China.

Yasmin Jivraj, ’80 BSc, is the president and founder of one of Canada’s largest information technology firms, Acrodex, which supplies IBM products and services. In 2010, the company boasted revenues of more than $175 million. Acrodex employs 600 people in seven cities across Canada including Edmonton, as well as in Bangalore, India. Yasmin is involved with a variety of community initiatives focused primarily on post-secondary education, youth support and information technology leadership.

Betty (Millard) Jones, ’55 BSc, founded the Foundation for the Children of the Californias, which constructed and developed the Hospital Infantil de las Californias in Tijuana, Mexico. It is the region’s first pediatric medical specialty centre that offers health care to children regardless of their ability to pay. Since opening its doors in 1994, the facility has offered more than 350,000 medical consultations, 9,000-plus surgeries and 250,000 hours of education. With associates and business leaders, Jones brought together resources from Canada, the United States and Mexico to meet the need for a facility like the Hospital Infantil. “I have always felt that I’ve had probably more than my share. It just seemed more rewarding for me to be doing something for other people, especially children,” said Betty.

I am incredibly proud of our alumni. There are more great stories here, and we will have more examples in the Winter issue of New Trail. I am exhilarated that the rest of the world is now aware of what we have always known: University of Alberta alumni drive the economy of Alberta and have a global impact.

Glenn Stowkowy, ’76 BSc(ElecEng)
President, University of Alberta Alumni Association