By: Brad Fougere

Algonquin executive staff relax on the Community Couch. From left: Laura Stranba, Doug Wotherspoon, Kent MacDonald, Duane McNair, Claude Brulé.
Algonquin executive staff relax on the Community Couch. From left: Laura Stranba, Doug Wotherspoon, Kent MacDonald, Duane McNair, Claude Brulé.

First-year Algonquin entrepreneurship students spent one of their first days at the college lounging on a couch in the sun.

That was when professor Patti Church brought her Community Couch project to the commons lawn, September 4, to inspire her students to think creatively.

“I wanted to inspire them and for them to inspire me,” said Church of bringing the couch to Algonquin.

The Community Couch started between Church and two partners as a fun project. Their aim was to start conversations around a unique piece of furniture. Church’s students enjoyed working in groups to develop innovative ideas for the project.

“It gives us a starting point to see what an entrepreneurial project looks like starting out, where the routes are in the project and how it is going to be taken to the next level,” said Darren Asirvatham, a student in the program. “Based on the idea of TOMS shoes, we’d make replica couches where people can have them in their home and use the profit to help fund low income housing or maybe homeless shelters,” Asirvatham said of his group’s ideas.

“She’s actually valuing what we’re saying, it’s not just throwing out some stuff; it’s ‘I might actually use this,’” said Alyssa Young, another first-year entrepreneurship student. “We might actually help her.”

Young’s group’s idea closely resembled the original idea for the couch.

“Our idea was to choose the people and give them a bit more structured set of questions; more community-minded questions,” said Young.

That idea is what inspired Student Services to help arrange for the couch to appear at the college.

“From a student service standpoint, we wanted to get our volunteers involved to bring the community together to start conversations on the couch,” said Sophia Bouris, a marketing officer with Algonquin.

The project was funded by educational publisher Pearson.

“Algonquin College supports the United Way in the month of October so we are going to donate to that initiative,” said Bouris of the profits from the appearance.

Colette LePine, director of institutional sales at Pearson, was on hand to experience the project.

“We have to be involved in what’s happening within the school,” said LePine of her organization’s responsibility as a partner in the eText program at Algonquin. “This is a way to put people who didn’t know each other in a fun context and it gets people talking, gets people excited.”

President Kent MacDonald also joined the fun. He appeared in pictures on the couch with his executive staff.

“We really have established a really good relationship with Pearson and this reflects their commitment to create a different kind of experience at the college,” said MacDonald. “Although we’re a big college, we’re a small campus. One that encourages people to know one another, start some conversations and have some fun too.”