A Recap of my First Year at UBC Sauder in the Middle of a Pandemic
This is just a record of my experience at UBC/Sauder in the middle of this pandemonium. Please excuse the mess. Similar to how I handed in assignments, I’ve published this before completing it and will continue to edit and re-publish until I am okay with the product.
Quick background: I’m originally from Ottawa and attended an IB school, where I used to do DECA 😩, debate 🤑, and mock trial🧑🏻⚖️. I came to UBC because I wanted in on Vancouver (no city should be allowed to have mountains, ocean, temperate weather, good food and a strong public transport system) and out of Ontario (flat rocky boi, one lakey boi, -30℃ to 38 ℃, not outside Toronto, broken transit). This is not the only reason, but there are too many to succinctly explain.
Courses — Term 1
In term 1, I was located in Ottawa and took 5 courses. This year, Sauder created ‘cohorts’ of students in an effort to build up a stronger sense of community/connection. As such, most of my courses began at 8 AM PST and ended at 11 AM PST with the occasional tutorial at a more sporadic time. However, due to the time difference I ended up taking most of my classes near noon/the early afternoon.
COMM 101 — Business Fundamentals
- This is Sauder’s intro to business course for commerce students. I actually began taking it in July of 2020 as Sauder had given the option for students to do an “early start”, this was a good way to adjust to the online learning environment and also meant that the course ended earlier, making the load during finals season lighter. I took this course with Elicia Salzberg and Ann Stone.
- To set some expectations, in the last two years, no one has gotten higher than a 90 in this class. Instead of going in with particular grade expectations, try to use COMM 101 as an opportunity to either a) learn about basic business ideas and principles if you were not exposed to them in high school or b) set your expectations and develop the skills for what many of the qualitative Sauder business courses look for (ie. participation, group work, strong business writing).
COMM 186E — Values, Ethics and Community
- Originally 186E was slated to become a course for the 2021–2022 year, however due to the pandemic, it was pushed forward in an effort to increase engagement between first years. The course was split up into three sections (see course name) with a different instructor for each section and included a weekly tutorial that was not relevant to course content but sought to build up a ‘community’. I took this course with Michael Daniels, Tamar Milne and Jenny Dickson, respectively.
- As this was the first year running the course, there were definitely several kinks in terms of its delivery and certain sections felt significantly stronger than others. The Values portion was very interesting and I think having a professor who had done most of their learning in Psychology helped bring a new perspective to the material. That being said, it seems like a lot of the topics covered are repeated in a course I took in the second semester (COMM292) so it might be nice to have a bit more differentiation there. The Ethics section felt like the strongest part of the course to me. The final assignment involved a detailed case where you had to decide whether or not to invest in an LNG project. This was probably one of the most fun assignments I had in the first semester! The Community section felt the weakest to me as there wasn’t any specific content we learned and much of it felt like a rehashing of Grade 10 ‘Careers’, including the final assignment. Perhaps it was intended to be a precursor to COMM 202 (Career Fundamentals, mandatory 2nd year course) but I didn’t personally feel like this section helped me gain a better understanding of myself in preparation for COMM 202.
COMM 290 — Quantitative Decision Making
- This is essentially a class on Very Basic Excel, and using various tools to ‘make decisions’ (probability, algebra etc.). I took this course with Greg Werker and Tim Huh.
- In my opinion, this class actually worked better online than I expected it would have in person. Being able to have Excel and my notes on one monitor and Zoom and iClicker in another was a huge asset. Greg also has a really cool home office setup and multiple camera angles, which made the class super enjoyable. This course felt quite simple, and it could have been combined with a second semester course, COMM 291 (Intro to Stats) or extended further to include more use cases for excel like VLOOKUP and Pivot Tables.
ECON 101 — Microeconomics
- This course operated with two professors, Michael Vaney and Clive Chapple. Clive led asynchronous video lectures each week while Michael Vaney had his own lectures with slightly differing information once a week. These two lectures were then supplemented through a weekly tutorial led by a TA (William!!)
- I initially had a different tutorial section with another TA, however after hearing friends tell me about how amazing their TA was, I began to simply attend their tutorial sections instead.
- The office hours with our TA (William!) and the prof were more useful to my understanding of concepts than the lectures themselves. Pro Tip: It seems that UBC’s standard microecon textbook is the same that is used at Western (aka if you find a pdf, share! Or if you can’t, ask someone at Western!)
MATH 104 — Calculus for Business and Social Sciences
- An almost entirely asynchronous course save for a weekly tutorial where we were split into breakout rooms and completed practice questions together. I took this course with Mark MacLean.
- Overall a pretty standard first year calculus course with its defining features being some questions which were more applicable to business and economics. Much of the actual material felt like a rehashing of SL Math save for some of the more theoretical details of limits and Taylor polynomials. No real comments, it is what it is. I only wish I had put in a bit more effort because quantitative classes like this are the best opportunity to really bring up your average.
Courses — Term 2
In term 2, I was located in Vancouver and took 6 courses. Two of which were electives, because I had received credit for WRDS from taking HL English in high school. One of which was a 1 credit course that most commerce students will take in their second year (although I highly recommend taking it second semester of first year if possible!). As you can tell from the length of these descriptions, I was less focused on academics in second semester (but my average increased?).
COMM 291 — Introduction to Statistics
- Beginning of this course is similar to Year 1 SL Math statistics, it then ventures into various forms of hypothesis testing. I took this course with Jonathan Berkowitz.
- I would not recommend listening to lectures from bed and jumping out for iClickers, the perils of Zoom learning.
COMM 292 — Management and Organizational Behaviour
- This course covers rudimentary psychology and topics relating to ‘management and organizational behaviour’. I took this course with Tracey Gurton.
- There was significant overlap from COMM 186E, this is likely since Tracey was part of the team designing the ‘Values’ portion of that course (that has less to do with 292 and more with 186E, however).
COMM 202 — Career Fundamentals
- I took this course with Conor Topley.
- My friend and I had really long discussions about the assignments for this class because it forced us to consider what we wanted in life. You can do well in this course without doing that but that is probably the way to get the most from this course.
ECON 102 — Macroeconomics
- I took this course with Cheryl Fu.
- Synchronous lectures included debates about topics in macro and micro economics (worker strikes, fiscal policy etc.) however every other lecture was replaced with a quiz. This course was heavily self-taught with recorded lectures and the textbook. Personally I enjoyed participating in the debates and would have liked to have had more of them, I wish I had read ahead of the course to be able to participate to a higher degree.
GEOG 122 — Geography, Modernity and Globalization
- 10/10 would recommend. This course expanded my knowledge and understanding of the world more than any other course I took this year (oops). It was almost entirely asynchronous, with audio recordings and slides, save for a weekly tutorial to debrief the past week’s material. I took this course with Jim Glassman and Priti Narayan.
SOCI 102 — Inequality and Social Change
- Standard first year sociology course. I took this course with Nicole Malette.
- The textbook for this course (Imagining Sociology by Catherine Corrigall-Brown) is really good, its explanations of concepts are very clear and it uses a wide variety of supporting excerpts which add to your understanding. The course isn’t anything groundbreaking in terms of material, but it is very solid and Nicole was a lovely lecturer who did a good job of drawing form a large pool of examples for the concepts we were learning.
What I’ve heard most commonly from business students at various universities is that your extracurriculars are often more meaningful than the classes themselves. I can’t say they’re wrong. As such, I tried to pick ec’s that would allow me to build up some skill or create an end product. Further, I looked at the LinkedIn profiles of individuals in places where I wanted to be at the time and took note of any extracurriculars they had done. I also obsessively checked Facebook events to see if any clubs were hiring earlier/during the summer to avoid the peak rush of first year applicants. Additionally, I also reached out to execs of clubs I was interested in. Would I recommend doing all of this? Meh. Most people don’t do this and are perfectly fine. To a certain extent I think I was still a bit insecure about choosing UBC over Western/Queen’s and wanted to use extracurriculars as a means to validate myself :’) ANyways, this is a quick overview of what I did + some thoughts:
WestPeak Research Association
- For more information on WestPeak click here.
- If you’re at all interested in finance, I would highly recommend applying for WestPeak. It’s a great opportunity to do tangible work (equity reports, industry reports, stock pitches) and learn more about the industry. As a junior analyst, the first semester was spent primarily learning about the capital markets, basic accounting, valuation techniques and writing your report while the second was spent completing your report, attending speaker sessions and participating in a stock pitch.
The New Business Review
- Check out our magazine here or our blog on Western Canadian startups here!
- The NBR, and our editor-in-chief really forced me to improve my writing and critical analysis of ideas. Working on our blog on startups gave me a better sense of how to approach research on companies and synthesizing information from various sources to create a cohesive product. Some of the articles we worked on were very quite interesting and would definitely recommend checking out the final product haha.
- I participated in 10 case comps during the school year. For reference, here’s a laundry list in the order that they occurred: WFN Product Design Sprint, UBCMA Battle of the Ads, UBC Feeding 9 Billion Challenge, University of Waterloo Accounting Conference (UWAC), EY Challenge, National Strategy Case Competition (NSCC), IMPACT/Imprint Marketing Case Competition, W5 Summit Case Competition, CBS Global Case Competition, University of Waterloo Management Consulting Case Competition (UWMCC).
- Everything being online made attending case comps hosted by other universities a lot easier (notably Western and uWaterloo), which is great for getting a sense of how other unis approach cases/decking, particularly given how isolated UBC is. I did almost all of these case comps with different teams which has definitely helped me to understand how I work/the kinds of people I work well with. I also got to meet/get closer with a ton of people, which is a big reason I agreed to doing so many. That being said, doing a ton of case comps is also a great way to burn out. My hope is that getting it out of my system in first year will set me up for a stronger/more selective second year.
- One person gave me this advice: ‘I choose case comps based on two criteria: Is there a substantial prize? Will I get to travel? If it meets neither, I won’t do it.’ If travel becomes an option again, I think I will begin to use this criteria.
Beyond this I also participated in the Debate Club for a while and attended Hart House Universities (Novice finalists!), was part of the JDC West Debate Development team and helped with events and marketing for an Engineers Without Borders subsidiary.
A lot of people asked me why I picked UBC for business, especially when schools like Queen’s and Western were options. While I would broadly agree that Sauder needs to improve its first year course structure and place a greater emphasis on career seeking and career opportunities (as a business school), I don’t personally regret my decision to come here. Vancouver and the people I’ve met through UBC have pushed me to become an improved version of myself and I realize that is not something I could have achieved had I remained in Ontario.
Final words: Beaches and mountains are pretty cool :D