Connor Fullerton

Role: HQP Scholar

Degree: MA (Management)

Primary Faculty Advisor: Simon Somogyi

Department: University of Guelph’s Lang School of Business and Economics

I am studying my Masters in Management at the University of Guelph’s Lang School of Business and Economics. I come from a small, rural area in central Nova Scotia, and nowadays call Guelph home. While in my free time, I love spending time with animals and taking photos in the countryside, my professional interests have always passionately centered on food and how we can improve our food systems in Canada and abroad.

Why were you interested in participating in the program?

I’ve always found food and agriculture to be central parts of my life story, and my research here is a natural extension to that by working with OMAFRA on value chain research. I am investigating Ontario’s wine and beer industry, and while they have been studied in a tourism context, it lacks much investigation from a value chain perspective. Such a perspective could yield valuable insights into the structure of the businesses, their relationships, the role of power between certain businesses, and most importantly how these chains can be improved whether for greater profits, stronger relationships, and ways to better satisfy consumers and critical stakeholders. I hope to expand value chain research further when I enter my PhD in the coming years.

How did you learn about the HQP program?

I learned about the HQP program from the MA (Management) coordinator who encouraged me to check it out when I first applied to Guelph. The multidisciplinary emphasis of the HQP program was appealing, as was the opportunity to mingle and collaborate with other like-minded students in agri-food fields; this richness and diversity is what piqued my interest. Since then, the HQP program has been a huge aid not only financially, but it has also opened doors to grow my professional network with others in policy, government, industry, faculty, and fellow graduate students. Being new to the area, this program played a critical role in kick-starting my career in Ontario! The program has taught me key communication skills – namely how to convey my research to policy makers and the public through a variety of mediums including public speaking, policy briefs, media interviews, social media, and visual formats like infographics and punchy presentations.

What aspect of the program do you think had the most impact on you?

One of the biggest impacts that the program had for me was my perception of research. It helped me better appreciate the value of research, whether it is a part of solving a larger issue like feeding a growing population or targeted at addressing a specific challenge in a community. This exposure reinforced a greater sense of value for my own research on value chains. It has also motivated me to put in my best effort every day because I am more cognizant of how others will benefit from it.

What advice would you give the next cohort of the HQP program?

Mingle with the others in your cohort, get to know them, and get excited. One of the less obvious perks of the program is that the students in it have a lot in common with you – they’re also keeners who want to make a difference! More than a few times, I’ve run into other HQPs on the street, grabbed coffee, and chatted and bounced ideas around, only to come away more excited and filled with inspiration. Especially during COVID, there’s never been a better time to catch up and do an impromptu Zoom call to make a new friend in the program with you!