PhD grad Indigenizing business in Canada

Peter B. Gustavson School of Business

- Dorothy Eggenberger

Emily (Williams) Salmon.

Emily (Williams) Salmon graduates with a PhD in International Management and Organization from UVic’s Gustavson School of Business this month. The Coast Salish researcher has already launched her career, joining Simon Fraser University as assistant professor in March 2024 with a thriving portfolio of three publications and counting.

Salmon is working to Indigenize the field of business research with the goal of finding solutions to the challenges facing Canada today. A self-professed ‘numbers person,’ Salmon found herself in quantitative research searching for ways to better understand the value (or lack of value) Indigenous communities get from formal agreements with industry partners—especially oil and gas in Canada.

Canada’s natural resources generate economic value for the country, but present challenges for cultural practices and values that really exist within a specific geographical space.

—Emily Salmon

Salmon developed a new theoretical model that addresses a gap in value-based theory between potential and realized value captured by a stakeholder, or in this case ‘rightsholder’. Essentially, it’s the difference between the value understood at the time of signing a contract and the value actually realized from the contract as time passes.

She used the new model to test the effectiveness of community benefit agreements (CBAs), specifically for Indigenous communities impacted by nearby mining projects. CBAs aim to capture contractual requirements on construction, infrastructure and development projects for specific social-value outcomes like inclusive hiring, skills training, or local and social procurement.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, we found that contractual forms of stakeholder governance, particularly CBAs, do not consistently lead to higher value-capture outcomes,” says Salmon.

Her research offers actionable results that can support Indigenous communities in forming their relationships and agreements with various mining companies.

Her work also has wider implications, offering practical advice to managers in maintaining long-term stakeholder relationships based on value-capture outcomes—including what to do when stakeholders vary in their capacity to realize these outcomes.

The research findings will be available in the next year following final consultations with the Indigenous communities who participated in her research.

Once strategizing for just dollars and cents, today businesses are strategizing for economies, communities and our environment. Some businesses are recognizing their societal responsibility. I hope my work helps Canada have the right tools to build a better future.

—Emily Salmon

Many Gustavson students and faculty share the vision of a society in which business doesn’t just remove harm but strengthens both the community and environment—a society in which we as individuals respect and uphold Indigenous rights, Salmon adds.

Beyond business: a unique community

Salmon says her success and self-confidence is tied in part to the unique community at Gustavson. Beyond the well-rounded foundation in the field of management and technical research skills, Salmon says the PhD program taught her how to navigate and develop relationships that would help her in her career.

“Faculty are so supportive and always so generous with their time and connections,” says Salmon, whose network already expands well beyond UVic.  

She says Gustavson went above and beyond to support her academic journey—like her supervisor, associate professor Matt Murphy, who took a class on Indigenous research methods alongside her during his sabbatical; and program manager Wendy Mah, who was always “scouting for scholarship opportunities” for Salmon, who lived on Vancouver Island with her family of four while completing the program.

Salmon was touched by the number of people who attended her PhD defense. “These are big milestones that students, faculty and staff all come out to support,” she says.

She also recalls the warm response after announcing her new position with SFU with both congratulations and offers for help as she transitions from student to faculty.

“There’s a conscious choice [by Gustavson faculty and staff] to make time for people here,” says Salmon. And that conscious choice is carried forward by alumni like Salmon who seek to do the same as she enters the field in Canada.

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In this story

Keywords: convocation, student life, business, Indigenous

People: Emily Salmon

Publication: The Ring

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