Sometimes “unreasonable” is good
In choosing its inaugural executive-in-residence, NAIT’s JR Shaw School of Business was comfortable with selecting a particular “unreasonable” person.
Edmonton Elks president and CEO Victor Cui, whose new role with the school was announced Oct. 26, proudly embraces the term. He sees himself as someone who has always chosen the winding, rocky path over the straight, smooth one, believing it would lead somewhere better.
“Many people think of ‘unreasonable’ in the negative sense,” he told Phi Gamma Delta magazine in spring 2022, “but I look at the word unreasonable as a very positive word.”
That philosophy has taken the born-and-raised Edmontonian around the world as a business leader in professional sports. Over two decades, Cui had a hand in the Commonwealth Games, Sydney Olympics, PGA and LPGA tours, various ESPN products and more. Perhaps most notably, he co-founded ONE Championship, Asia’s largest sports media property, now valued at more than US$1 billion.
In embracing “unreasonable,” says JR Shaw School of Business dean Dennis Sheppard, Cui stands for a drive to “challenge the process, think outside the box. If someone puts a barrier in front of you, climb over it.
“His personality, his approach, aligns with what we want for our students.”
New to NAIT, the executive-in-residence program is designed to add to what Sheppard calls an “industry-involved” experience at the school, in which students maintain tight connections with the business world throughout their education.
During his coming two terms at NAIT, Cui – who’s volunteering his time for the role – might deliver presentations and lectures, judge competitions, participate in panel discussions and, of course, actively mentor students.
Sheppard also hopes that students might find ways to contribute to Cui’s work as the leader of a CFL team that has undergone a rebrand and is rebuilding as both a football club and a member of the community. If it should happen that related projects emerged, interested students would be available for Elks efforts.
“Igniting the entrepreneurial spirit is part of our role.”
“Igniting the entrepreneurial spirit is part of our role,” says Sheppard. “As a strong business and community leader who also takes a hands-on approach, Victor will bring a wealth of practical and unique experiences that will inspire our students as they begin their own careers or launch their own ventures.”
Cui’s appointment, adds Sheppard, is another way in which the school might “have an impact on the economy and move things forward positively.”
“Entrepreneurship and education are two of the main driving forces for positive change in our communities," says Cui. "It’s humbling to be the inaugural Executive-in-Residence for the JR Shaw School of Business, where I’m hoping to help inspire the next generation of community-minded entrepreneurs."
Encouraging “Alberta grit”
Cui’s career focus on sports also appeals to Sheppard. To him, the Elks president represents the versatility of a business education. Just as much as the tools might be applied to an investment firm or an energy company, they can be put to work building an entertainment empire.
“I think he’ll be very relatable for our students,” says Sheppard.
The dean also sees Cui as being aligned with the spirit of the school’s namesake, JR Shaw, who established one of Canada’s largest telecoms companies, Shaw Communications.
“JR Shaw was the epitome of Alberta grit,” says Sheppard. “Victor is that same kind of person.”
The school hopes to encourage similar attitudes, and aptitudes for innovation and leadership, in students, Sheppard adds, enabling them to “go out and do great things.
“They might start small but they’re not going to stop until they’re successful.”