StFX's Cole Grbavac Among Elite Group of Student Athletes Honoured Nationally as Top Academic All-Canadians

Three people standing together
Cole Grbavac

Cole Grbavac, an honours student in StFX’s Gerald Schwartz School of Business and X-Men hockey player, from Calgary, AB, is among an elite group of student athletes who will be honoured nationally as the Top Eight Academic All-Canadians for the 2014-15 season.

The eight recipients—one female and one male student-athlete from each of the four Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) regional associations—will be honoured in Ottawa on November 16, when his Excellency the Rt. Hon. David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, presents the third annual Governor General's Academic All-Canadian Commendation during a ceremony at Rideau Hall.

Every year, a growing number of CIS student-athletes are recognized as Academic All-Canadians, maintaining an average of 80 per cent or better over the academic year while competing for one, or more, of their university's varsity teams.

Mr. Grbavac has certainly excelled.

In the classroom where he is taking accounting with a minor in economics, he has maintained the highest academic average amongst all StFX student-athletes, male or female, in each of his first three years on campus, including an exceptional 95.8 per cent average in 2014-15 that ranked first amongst the school's 159 third-year business students. He also ranked first during his second year of studies and second overall during his freshman year.

On the ice, the 6-foot-2 forward was named an assistant captain in his third season and went on to contribute 14 points in 24 conference games, before competing at the University Cup national championship in Halifax. 

Receiving the national honour is a pleasant surprise, he says.

“It’s something that came with a lot of hard work. Thankfully, I have great support with my teammates and coach and my professors,” he says.

“I’m thankful to everyone who has helped me along the way. I couldn’t have done it without the support from everyone around.”

The business and economics faculty, his coach Brad Peddle and athletic director Leo MacPherson have all been terrific, he says. 

“It’s been great. The past three and a half years have been amazing, to see how much you can learn if you work hard and stay committed. I think back about how little I knew about the topics when I first came here,” he says.

“The profs here are amazing. They are so good to their students. They care that all their students learn and understand the topic.”

The smaller class sizes at StFX are also a big help, in that professors can put more effort into ensuring each of their students are understanding the material.

“Coming here, I was lucky I was taking classes I enjoyed, am interested in and looked forward to,” says Mr. Grbavac who one day would like to have his own business. 

In 2015, he received a student research award, a $5,000 ACEnet Research Fellowship. and is working with StFX economics professor Dr. Teng Wah Leo examining two distinct questions in two differing fields. The first tests a new technique in discerning between financial institutions that are prone to business cycles, particularly extreme economic downturns such as that which occurred in 2008. The second examines how poverty has evolved over the years using another new statistical technique.
"Working with Dr. Leo and ACENET has been a great experience where I have learned many new skills concerning computing and economic research. I am very grateful to have received this opportunity," says Mr. Grbavac. “He’s teaching me some cool stuff. I feel very fortunate to receive the opportunity to work with ACEnet and Dr. Leo.”

It’s a busy schedule, he admits.

He says he usually comes to campus at 8 a.m. and stays all day, attending class, staying up to date with notes and assignments before attending hockey practice. About 20 to 30 hours a week goes into hockey, with practices nearly every day and games on Friday and Saturday nights. 

His philosophy? Don’t procrastinate. And pick your spots when it’s time to have fun.   

Born and raised in Calgary, he played his junior hockey in the WHL with the Kamloops Blazers and Medicine Hat Tigers, where he was team captain in his final year. He joined the X-Men in 2012. 

A three-time CIS Academic All-Canadian and member of the Dean's List, the 24-year-old has received numerous academic awards, including the Danny Gallivan Memorial Scholarship, StFX Athletics' most prestigious scholarship honouring excellence in academics, athletics and community involvement.

His volunteer work in the community and on campus is also impressive. In 2014-15 alone, he was vice president of SAAC (Student Athlete Advisory Council), coached with the Antigonish Minor Hockey Mentorship Program, graduated from the StFX Leadership Academy, and was a tutor for X-Men hockey teammates and other StFX students. This year he is also a member of the Schwartz School of Business Society. 

"Cole has been an outstanding member of our hockey program. He exemplifies what a student-athlete should aspire to be," said X-Men head coach Brad Peddle. "His work ethic both on the ice and in the classroom has made him a leader on our team, and he has shown a tremendous ability to balance academics, athletics and community service throughout his years at StFX."