Each year, the University of Lethbridge awards medals to distinguished graduates in each faculty and school in recognition of their outstanding academic achievement.
Caitlin Whelpton (BMgt '22) is the recipient of the 2022 undergraduate gold medal for the Dhillon School of Business. With a major in marketing and a minor in social responsibility, Caitlin impressed us, not only with her academic performance but with her resiliency and insight in light of her experiences. Here she talks about what motivated her exceptional effort, her hopes for a career with meaningful change, what happened when she changed her mind about co-operative education and more.
What does this academic recognition mean to you?
I was delighted to have my achievements recognized as the recipient of the gold medal for the Dhillon School of Business. Although I worked extremely hard throughout my degree and I am very honoured to be awarded this academic recognition, I also want to acknowledge that our academic experiences are worth more than A's and GPA.
There are many other students who are graduating in 2022 that worked exceptionally hard and overcame difficult challenges to reach their accomplishments. I am proud to be a part of a multitude of students who were committed to bettering themselves over the past few years. In the context of academia, it can be tempting to communicate our successes through grades alone, however, we all know that our university experience is much more than that. For me, the factor that motivated me most was producing work that I was proud to sign my name to. Whether it was a minor assignment, a big test or a class outside of my major I always wanted to be proud of my individual pieces of work.
Additionally, starting my degree with five years of travel and work behind me allowed me to see the value in each of my classes. Whether they were a part of my major or a general liberal education requirement I could find ways to apply them to my past experience or future aspirations. Focusing solely on grades would have made my university experience much more difficult, but because I was able to see the value in my classes and in producing good work, I can feel even more proud to accept this academic recognition.
What is the most important lesson you learned during your time at ULethbridge?
Although I am sure each professor hopes that the most important lessons come from their class I think it is no surprise that the most valuable skills that come from university are the soft skills. For me some of these lessons included the many group projects that helped me focus beyond myself, to include the success of others; the perseverance tested through late nights studying for an upcoming test, and the critical thinking learned through trial and error of applying lecture material to the real world. These types of soft skills will travel with me farther than an economics formula ever can.
Is there someone specific who had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?
Among a myriad of exceptional instructors and professors, a few stick out. The first is Debra Basil. My first class with her was Marketing and Society; a requirement for my social responsibility minor and concentration. That class was one of my favourites throughout my academic career as it forced students to dive into the ethical considerations of our future careers. I ended up getting to work with Debra in many ways including three classes as a student, three semesters as a teaching assistant, and as a research assistant. I’ve always appreciated Debra for her expertise in marketing, guided by her wisdom and experience in social responsibility and research. She holds her students to high, but fair standards, which shows her respect for them and her interest in their success. I am thankful for the ways that Debra brought me under her wing and allowed me the space to grow in my areas of interest.
Another professor I admire is Adrienne McDonald. Adrienne taught Managing Responsibly in a Global Environment, which as she would put it, is just a fancy way of saying business ethics. She often brought forward topics that were both challenging and encouraging to the students. She taught us we didn’t have to be satisfied with the status quo and that we could be a part of changing it. She was constantly trying to improve her classes with her innovative thinking and update them as new challenges and best practices emerged. Any time I was able to work with Adrienne was a pleasure.
What are your hopes and plans for the future?
One of the reasons I chose my degree was because of the many different opportunities it presented for careers. However, now that I have all those options, picking one is the real challenge. I currently work for a for-profit company but have previously spent time as an associate director at a non-profit, and often find myself dreaming of starting my own business(es). I am currently living in Fernie, BC working in Indigenous and Community Engagement at Teck Resources. One of the things I appreciate about my current position is that it combines both my marketing major and my social responsibility minor. I have always known I want to spend my career making meaningful change. Thankfully for us, there are many ways to do that across sectors and disciplines. I imagine I will try my hand at a variety of these opportunities before my career is finished.
What advice would you give to those who are about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?
Don’t be afraid to try new things but also don’t be afraid to be yourself. You will be presented with plenty of opportunities to create a valuable and diverse university experience, but you won’t have time to do it all. It's likely you will have many voices telling you that their opportunity is the right one for you but ultimately your experience is yours alone and every opportunity won't be a good fit.
I spent a lot of time during my years in academia working in non-profits, serving on boards, and investing my time in the community outside of school, which limited my time for school activities like clubs. For me, that was the right choice. However, I also thought doing a co-op wasn’t for me. I had a job, I had my classes, I had my community work and I was satisfied with that. Then in my fourth year, I ended up exploring co-operative education options and spent over a year working with a team that I now work with full time. Co-op ended up being a great experience for me and one I would highly recommend. The University is great at presenting opportunities; my advice to a future student would be to learn how to discern what to bravely say yes to and what to bravely say no to.
The Dhillon School of Business at the University of Lethbridge is known for its immersive experiential learning opportunities, connecting learners with industry, its supportive, personalized approach and exposing students to emerging technology. Study options are available in both Lethbridge and Calgary.
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