January 8, 2016 – If Althea Wishloff could make one thing clear to young Aboriginal students contemplating a degree in business, it would be “you can do it too.” With a Gitxsan First Nations background, the fourth-year BCom student is an active proponent in B.C.’s Aboriginal community promoting business education.
A self-confessed math addict from a young age, Wishloff decided to apply her analytical skills to a future in finance and transferred from UBC’s Faculty of Science to the Sauder School of Business in her second year.
Support for success
Fast forward two years and she is nearing the end of her Bachelor of Commerce degree, with a series of increasingly senior work placements at TD Canada behind her. “When I graduate, I plan on working as a rotational analyst in an asset management firm in Toronto,” she says.
Wishloff says she’s charted a path toward success with help from Sauder’s Ch’nook Aboriginal Business Education Initiative. When she made the switch from science, she quickly discovered the network of support the initiative offered. “As a Ch’nook Scholar, I received not just financial but academic and career support too,” she explains. “I was offered a study space, a tutor, peer mentorship and was connected with internship recruiters at TD Canada.”
A culture of collegiality
She also credits the overall culture of collegiality that permeates the school. “Starting at Sauder can be daunting as it has such a good reputation. But there’s so much support here and if you accept it then you’ll find it so rewarding. ‘Get involved!’ is what I tell everybody. ‘Join the Finance Club, join Ch’nook, and don’t get stuck in your comfort zone.’”
As she nears graduation, Wishloff has put her business leadership training into practice, giving back to the Ch’nook initiative as a mentor to Aboriginal students across British Columbia. “I’ve had the fantastic opportunity to work with younger students, helping them to choose electives and internships.”
Wishloff also speaks at conferences, motivating Aboriginal high school students to pursue a business education, and empower themselves with the tools to broaden their horizons and transform their lives.
Pamela Lim, Assistant Dean and Director of Sauder’s Undergraduate Program says she appreciates Wishloff’s dedication to creating interest in business education at Sauder and across B.C., noting that the school actively recruits Aboriginal students to add their voice to Sauder’s dynamic student community.
“Sauder is a global school, a gathering of cultures from all over the world and we firmly believe Aboriginal candidates have an important role to play in contributing to the dialogue that is taking place in our classrooms and community,” says Lim. “Our BCom program allows students to learn and benefit from each others’ cultures, to strengthen their communities and excel in the global marketplace.”
Lim says no student should be daunted by applying to Sauder, as the school takes a holistic approach to its admission process. Sauder uses a broad range of criteria in addition to academics to select students, and looks for candidates with a strong sense of teamwork, community leadership, communications skills, and the ability to deal with challenging situations.
Ambitious in business and respectful of cultural identity
Coming from the Gitxsan Nation, Wishloff was raised with a strong sense of values thanks to her family. “My culture is all about respect,” she says. “My grandmother volunteers a lot and even helped make costumes for the Vancouver Winter Olympics. She encourages me to be ambitious in business while not losing sight of my identity.”
Miranda Huron, a program manager at Ch’nook, stresses the importance of Aboriginal students preserving their cultural grounding, and supporting their peers while they pursue careers in business.
“Everyone who enters the Ch’nook Scholars Program at Sauder has enormous capacity to look out for each other and give back to the community,” she says. “It fosters exceptional leadership skills in these individuals, who have all successfully landed internships and eventually full-time roles at organizations like Deloitte, Shell, Canada Revenue Agency, HSBC and the Vancouver Whitecaps.”
She notes that when Wishloff started her internship at TD Canada, she was the youngest candidate to take on a management position in finance there.
“When I work with other Aboriginal students, I tell them the BCom program will set you up for the best possible career trajectory post-graduation, if you put the work in,” says Wishloff. “The important part is getting them started, once they do they’ll be on a path toward success.”
BCom program and admissions requirements
Anita Didur, 604-822-4952
Ch’nook Scholars program and other awards
Miranda Huron, 604-822-3135
Reprinted with permission.