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As evening falls on UBC campus and students and staff start heading home, a small army of workers – cleaners, security guards and technicians – arrive on campus to begin their work day, contributing to the smooth operation of the university. And in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, student callers – sometimes called the ‘foot soldiers’ of UBC’s Annual Giving team – start contacting UBC supporters. 

Among them are two UBC Sauder BCom undergraduates, Angela Dai and Akshat Phakat, who both happened to be working on November 15th when UBC Sauder Dean Robert Helsley visited the call centre.

That evening, Angela, Akshat and their colleagues were contacting UBC Sauder supporters about the school’s Annual Giving Program and the Innovation Fund, which invests in state-of-the-art teaching resources and opportunities to enhance UBC Sauder students’ learning experiences. To date, the Annual Giving Program has secured 30 per cent of its 2017-18 goal.

Dean Helsley, well-known for his collaborative and inclusive leadership style, was keen to show his appreciation for the callers’ efforts on behalf of UBC Sauder. In the hour and a half the Dean spent with the students, not only did he express admiration for what he acknowledged was a tough job, but he also pointed out that learning to manage “difficult conversations” was a valuable life and career skill.

When asked what his key message would be to supporters, the Dean’s clear and immediate response was, “the positive power of education – not only for the individual but for society as a whole.” He then provided examples of UBC Sauder initiatives that rely on philanthropy, such as scholarships, experiential learning programs, exchange programs and career development workshops.

Dean Helsley emphasized that today’s UBC Sauder School of Business is a place where the ethos of social responsibility resonates deeply, and he credits the student body for that sea change.

This message highly impressed Angela and Akshat, who said they were inspired not only by the Dean’s focus on the potential for UBC Sauder’s social impact, but also for the personal example he set by “coming to the shop floor” – something that business students famously learn is the hallmark of many effective CEOs.