For so many people, including for Dhillon School of Business Bachelor of Management graduate Saarthak Kumar (BMgt '22) the pandemic was very isolating. Nevertheless, the general management major and supply chain and operations management minor decided to squeeze as much value out of his ULethbridge experience as possible. "It really opened my eyes to how amazing life can be when you put yourself outside of your comfort zone," Saarthak says. "I met amazing people, explored topics of interest to me that I would otherwise never had the chance to explore, and found that I was happier and more fulfilled for it."
Here Saarthak tells us about his experience participating in research with faculty, how the Dhillon Business Student Association (DBSA) helped him prevail through the pandemic and the advice he wishes all new students would take.
What experiential or work-integrated learning did you participate in as a student? What were your three biggest takeaways from those experiences?
During my Bachelor of Management degree, I had the opportunity to participate in multiple work-integrated experiences that enriched my learning by helping me contextualize academic knowledge for real-world applications.
The first of these was an Independent Study (MGT 3990): Exploration of Human Cognitive Processes that I completed with Dr. YJ Bao. I had no previous formal research experience and so applying the rigour required to process vast amounts of information about a topic was both a challenging and immensely rewarding experience. I often caught myself getting absorbed in a certain topic and getting lost in the weeds, so I had to learn how to modulate this instinct to make sure that I was building up a coherent argument during the research process. I explored the process by which machines make decisions and how the natural process of human intuition holds the key to advancing models of artificial intelligence past algorithmic computation.
I also completed Applied Study (MGT 4980): Strategy Consulting for Non-Profit Organizations for a consulting firm under the supervision of Professor Karen Whiteman where I learned how to problem-solve like a consultant. I focused on conducting a program evaluation audit for Flywheel on internal processes with additional recommendations through the lens of digital marketing.
Lastly, I participated in two Honours Component modules to enrich coursework, as part of which I got to deep dive into the field of data analytics and visualization and touch upon topics including neural networks, machine learning, and cloud computing. I had the opportunity to interview Geoff Zakaib, the director of the DataForGood non-profit org, and understand the challenges and opportunities presented by big data analytics from a policy and operations perspective.
Three biggest takeaways:
- I learned how to conduct academic research in a structured and methodical manner.
- Data processing in its various forms is a paradigm shift that touches all industries - we are in the middle of it.
- There is immense value in implementing low-hanging fruit solutions first.
What is your most memorable ULethbridge experience?
My most memorable ULethbridge experience has been my time as a member of the Dhillon Business Student's Association (DBSA). I was a director in the corporate affairs portfolio for two years and the friendships and network I made proved invaluable to me. Between moving online due to the pandemic and the strike, the opportunities to interact and socialize on campus were limited over the past two years, so it was really fulfilling to both have the network of DBSA members to help keep my head above water.
On top of that, I am really proud of some of the events and programs the DBSA put on, including the Rewards Card program where we successfully enlisted 20+ local businesses to participate and form long-term relationships with the club. It was a great feeling to be part of something that has been around for so long and definitely my most memorable experience.
Is there someone specific who had an important influence on your ULethbridge experience?
I met many great teachers, mentors, and friends during my time that all added to my experience by showing me a novel perspective in some way or the other. Dr. YJ Bao, Karen Whiteman, Dr. Mehdi Jourabchi, Gill Garrett, and Adam Letourneau, QC, were a few among (the many) instructors that had a deep impact on my studies.
I would like to especially recognize my academic advisor during my time at the university, Lynette Lacroix, who went above and beyond to help me plan out my non-traditional study plan and help me achieve my goals. She has been such a key part of my keeping me sane through all the uncertainties of the pandemic and the faculty strike and is an amazing resource (as well as an amazing person).
Did you receive scholarships and awards? If so, please tell us a bit about how they helped you throughout your studies.
I received the George B. Davies Jr. Scholarship, the University of Lethbridge Bursary, the Senate Award, and the By George Award during my time at ULethbridge. All of these made a significant impact on my experience, as they allowed me to focus on my learning experience and gave me the confidence to pursue the many extra-curricular and work-study opportunities that I was able to. All of these came with a significant time commitment outside of regular course hours, and I would not have been able to participate in them without the financial support from these scholarships and awards.
I attribute the opportunity to participate in enrichment activities to the financial support I received and am grateful to everyone involved. I hope to pass this on one day in the future.
What are your hopes/plans for the future?
My various experiences during my time at the University of Lethbridge have given me the confidence that I am equipped with the right set of tools to make an impact in the world. I hope to pursue a career in a field where I feel that I am really making an impact instead of feeling like a cog in the wheel. Somewhere down the line, I hope to pursue graduate studies.
What advice would you like to give those who are about to begin their journey at ULethbridge?
This will sound cliche - but for good reason. Get involved. Just do it. Join a club, take advantage of the many enrichment programs that the DSB offers, or in any way that is of interest to you. Once you are done your studies and have the perspective to look back on your time, you will realize how unique the university environment is for exploring your interests (often free of cost). And you never know, you might learn something about yourself or what you are interested in!
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