University of Lethbridge geography student Katie Quinn had the opportunity recently to complete an applied study at Lethbridge County that focused on agricultural superclusters and how one would best contribute to the county. Her research culminated in a special presentation to Lethbridge County Council.

This research endeavour began when the Canadian government designated $950 million in funding to “support business-led innovation superclusters with the greatest potential to energize the economy and become engines of growth.” A supercluster is a group of individuals, companies, industries, universities and colleges all working together to achieve a common goal.

There are unlimited benefits for creating and maintaining an agricultural supercluster, specifically in Lethbridge County. Through her research, Quinn determined that the Protein Innovations Canada Supercluster, led by Saskatchewan-based Ag-West Bio, was most relevant to the area. On Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, the Federal Government announced the project was one of five proposals chosen to receive funding.

“This supercluster proposal is based on a pan-prairie partnership and will focus primarily on the sustainability of crops such as: pulses, canola, hemp, oats, flax and specialty crops,” explains Quinn.

During her applied study, Quinn had multiple opportunities to meet individuals who play significant roles in the supercluster initiative, such as Soren Madson, director of Denmark’s Agro-food park, and Dennis McKnight, director of the Protein Innovations Canada Supercluster.

“Having the opportunity to present to Lethbridge County Council was a chance to present my new-found knowledge and research to individuals who can make this proposal become a reality,” she says. “I was very nervous but was immediately pleased that I had agreed to do this when I finished presenting. I ended my presentation with giving the council three main recommendations about support, research and preparation to further their success at implementing this plan in the future.”

Quinn’s on-the-job supervisor was Martin Ebel, the economic development officer at Lethbridge County and a U of L alumnus (BA ’96).

“We’ve had great success in partnering with the U of L and its Applied Studies program. The students have been top notch, and Katie continued that strong, positive tradition,” says Ebel. “Lethbridge County supports the U of L’s Applied Studies program as it serves as a good link between the academic environment at the university, and the actual requirements of the working world.”

Quinn’s faculty supervisor, geography professor Dr. Ian MacLachlan, developed and continues to support this partnership between the U of L and Lethbridge County and has supervised students there for the past four years.

“I am the type of person who truly believes I can make a difference in the world and I enjoyed being in an environment that surrounded me with people who actually believe I can do it too,” says Quinn. “This applied study dramatically changed my semester, in a positive way, and I am very pleased I got to complete it.”

Ebel values the importance of combining a passion and program focus with relevant workplace experience.

“When a student is motivated, and there is a good fit between their program of study and the applied study placement, the two components (academic and non-academic) can really complement each other well. The student benefits, the applied study host benefits, and ultimately, I believe that the University does as well. I like it when outcomes are wins for everyone involved.”

The Applied Studies Program offers students the opportunity to earn academic credit for learning gained through employment or volunteer experiences. Students are encouraged to partake in an applied study because it offers the chance to apply skills in the workplace while drawing from the knowledge gained in the classroom. For more information, visit or the Career Bridge office in AH151.