Bright Leaders of Calgary: Suzie Johnson, Bow Valley College

August 22, 2023
Leadership Team Calgary Reskilling & Upskilling Talent

This article is part of the Bright Leaders of Calgary series, which features prominent corporate leaders and their insights on the local business community and vision for the future.    

Calgary’s diversity of people, industries and ideas sets the city apart.  As a growing destination for bright minds to build a career and a life, Calgary is home to post-secondary institutions preparing the next generation of talent for the new economy. 

Bow Valley College is one of Calgary’s seven post-secondary institutions developing cutting-edge programs for careers across industries. The inner-city college educates people who want to make a difference and create solutions to global challenges, which aligns with the vision of the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy 

Leaders like Suzie Johnson are championing Calgary’s diversity as a key enabler in helping the city create long-term prosperity and opportunities for all.  As Vice President of People, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) at Bow Valley College, Suzie is building a community-driven team with a mindset of embracing inclusion and life-long learning.  

We caught up with Suzie to hear her insights on Calgary’s growing talent pool and the community’s approach to welcome everyone.  

What’s your read on Calgary’s business environment?  

I lived in Calgary over a decade ago and moved back within the last year. Years ago, this city was simply known for oil and gas.  Now, I’d classify Calgary as bold, exciting and innovative.  

I talk to people about the growth of the technology, entertainment, digital media and film production sectors in Calgary, which I couldn’t do years ago. Leaders in our city are strengthening Calgary’s increasingly diverse economy by making bold moves and demonstrating the value of these emerging sectors.   

Calgary is also an attractive, livable city which adds to its vibrant business environment because people and companies keep moving here. People unfamiliar with the city would be surprised to learn how globally connected Calgary is with the international airport, how the city is so connected to nature and how many cultures and languages exist in Calgary.  Since people want to live here, Calgary has a strong workforce to support the growth of new and existing businesses.  

How is Bow Valley College curating programs that prepare students for the new, digital economy?   

Bow Valley College has over 14,000 students participating in over 900 courses annually. Our programming is aligned with what we see going on in the community because our team is tightly connected to local governments, businesses and community organizations. With our location in downtown Calgary, we have a strong pulse as to what’s happening in the city.  

For example, Calgary’s screen production industry is growing fast. To respond to this demand for talent, we’ve introduced new programs specializing in film production, animation, visual effects or game development in our Centre for Entertainment Arts.  

We are also modernizing programming in foundational programs like nursing to incorporate technology and work integrated learning opportunities to help prepare our city and province for the challenges we face with both an aging and growing population. Ultimately, our programs and courses are based on us being able to see what’s needed for the future of our workforce. 

How have you seen Calgary businesses and community organizations invest in and champion progress within Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility (EDIA)? 

Calgary is a city with diversity everywhere. But diversity isn’t enough. I’m seeing Calgary businesses actively trying to be inclusive by demonstrating the value of inclusivity, so people feel valued, seen and welcomed to be their full selves. Our community is constantly looking to respond and look ahead at what needs to change in order to build an environment where everyone feels included. 

The community views EDIA as a journey – it's never finished. 

How does Bow Valley College approach EDIA? 

At Bow Valley College, we operate under the understanding that our learners and employees are a reflection of the diversity in Calgary and this province. We aim to build an environment for our learners to thrive and our employees to be proud to show up as themselves each day.  

In doing so, diversity and inclusion are common threads of the perspectives shared in courses at Bow Valley College. Ultimately, we want our learners to embody the value of inclusivity because they know first-hand what it looks like, what it feels like, and that they want to experience this value in their future workplaces.  

Those who understand inclusivity will be attracted to environments where it is championed, and actively contribute to creating an inclusive environment in Calgary and beyond. 

How would you describe Calgary’s talent pool, and how is it shifting? 

Calgary is a great place to be and has a leg up compared to other cities due to the quality of education available here. The city is attracting talent across sectors, and notably many post-secondary students. 

In addition to Bow Valley College, the city has many post-secondary institutions focused on developing talent for the changing economy. Work integrated learning is increasingly common in Calgary which prepares local learners to graduate with practical experience, a reference and a sense of confidence in the workplace. These students have already put the skills they learned into practice and can start to contribute on the first day of their new job. 

What’s your vision for Calgary? 

Calgary is growing and it’s growing fast. The city continues to attract people from all over the world.  

My hope is that we continue to create a city that focuses on community building and where everyone feels at home. We need to continue to have open dialogue on inclusivity, and build opportunities to dial in on equity, diversity, inclusion, and Truth and Reconciliation so everyone feels like they belong in Calgary.  


The Team Calgary corporate partnership program engages our community’s visionary thought leaders to influence Calgary’s economic growth and create long-term prosperity and opportunities for all Calgarians. 

Together, we advance the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy, as the path to make Calgary the place where bright minds and big ideas come together with an unmatched spirit to help solve global challenges.

Bow Valley College Campus


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