BCom Katya Sen and her team led a 'for-students-by-students' fundraising campaign to put philanthropy front and centre at UBC Sauder.


Katya Sen co-chairs the student-led committee of the UBC Sauder Philanthropy Program. With the aim of supporting the school’s mission to develop responsible business leaders, the initiative is mandated to help students realize their power to improve communities.

Supported by UBC Sauder’s Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics, the program accepts 20 students each year, but Sen and her team wanted to magnify the program's impact. To accomplish the task, she and her fellow committee members, along with leaders from the Commerce Undergraduate Society and larger community, helped to launch a new initiative – the annual UBC Sauder BCom Class Gift, a fundraising campaign for students by students.


Sen’s double interest in sustainability and business led her to enroll in UBC Sauder’s BCom program. She first joined the Commerce Undergraduate Society Sustainability Club, but wanted to explore more ways to make an impact, so joined the philanthropy program. Sen’s ‘aha’ moment came when she was listening to one of the many speakers the program hosts.

“My exposure to philanthropists and passionate students at UBC Sauder has inspired me to think about how I can give back to my community,” says Sen. “I was motivated to grow our program and inspire future members to do the same, so our impact would be extended even further.”

That idea of multiplying an individual’s impact through philanthropy is what underpins the UBC Sauder BCom Class Gift, which rallies students to support a cause of their choice.

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Led by Sen and her co-chairs, Adam Sibbald, Bruno Lam, and Matthew Lau, students helped fundraise for the inaugural gift and their funds were matched by the Dean’s Office. Students chose to direct the proceeds to support ventures coming out of the school and solicited applications from student startups enrolled in the class New Venture Design.

“The class gift demonstrates that students care about supporting something beyond their own lives and that collectively, many people making small contributions can make a difference,” said New Venture Design lecturer Paul Cubbon, who helped review the applications and chose the startup to receive the funds.


The gift has already helped its first recipient Charlie Shi, who is in the process of launching Vancouver's first virtual reality entertainment centre which opens later this month. 

“We’re honoured to have been commended by the professors of our entrepreneurship cohort and selected by the panel as the recipients of the gift,” said Shi. “It allowed us to establish our web domains and mailing systems, incorporate the business and connect with investors.”

Sen says the UBC Sauder Philanthropy Programs is becoming a important part of the culture at the school. “Whether it's participation or just awareness, we want to get the whole school behind it so we can make our community a better place,” said Sen. "The program has opened my eyes to the seemingly endless number of ways that business leaders can bring social good into the corporate world.”