Althea Wishloff knew she had a head for math so assumed science was the logical route at university. But after a few months at UBC, the self-avowed people-person realized she couldn’t see a career for herself locked away in a lab. She knew she had to make a switch.
“I decided I wanted to apply my talent for math to the business world instead, as I had more of a grasp on where a business degree would lead me,” said Wishloff, who began her studies at UBC Sauder as a Ch’nook Scholar, a program designed to support the school’s Aboriginal students.
Wishloff, a descendant of British Columbia’s Gitxsan First Nation, says that UBC Sauder’s strong support for indigenous students was the deciding factor that pushed her in the direction of the school.
“Once I discovered the Ch’nook Aboriginal Business Education initiative, I knew UBC Sauder was where I wanted to go.”
Resetting her sights towards an ambitious career in finance felt like a natural move for Wishloff. “I come from a family of bankers, so perhaps I was destined for business all along,” she laughs.
Although Wishloff attended high school in Toronto, she wanted to “branch out” when it came to university and UBC’s west coast location made for a refreshing change.
“Even though I thought I might return to Toronto for my career, I knew I wanted a job where I could interact with a lot of people, optimize my quantitative skills and be part of an organization that supports Aboriginal initiatives,” she said.
“The UBC Sauder BCom set me up for all this and more.”
Once at UBC Sauder, Wishloff was awarded a scholarship through Ch’nook, which also provided academic and career support. “As a Ch’nook Scholar I was offered a study space, a tutor, peer mentorship and was connected with internship recruiters at TD Canada,” she recalls.
As she progressed through the BCom program, Wishloff put her leadership skills to work through Ch’nook as a mentor to fellow Aboriginal students across B.C.
She became a motivational speaker, encouraging Aboriginal high school students to pursue business education and empower themselves with the tools to broaden their horizons.
“When I work with other Aboriginal students I tell them the BCom program will prepare them for the best possible career path, if they put the work in,” says Wishloff. “The important part is getting started.”
Pamela Lim, assistant dean and director of UBC Sauder’s undergraduate program says she appreciates Wishloff’s dedication to creating interest in business education in B.C.’s Aboriginal communities.
“UBC 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 takes place in our classrooms and community,” says Lim.
No student should be daunted by applying to the school, she says, as it takes a holistic approach to its admission process. Using a broad range of criteria in addition to academics to select students, UBC Sauder looks for candidates with a strong sense of teamwork, community leadership, communications skills, and the ability to deal with challenging situations.
Throughout her BCom, Wishloff maintained her connections with TD Bank, working in internships and various part-time roles including retail banking. Gradually she gained the experience that prepared her for the role in finance that she was seeking.
“All of the support I received at UBC Sauder contributed to me being offered a position as analyst at TD Asset Management back in Toronto as soon as I graduated,” she said. Within three months of taking the role, Wishloff received a promotion.
She credits her BCom with providing the strong collaborative work ethic, skills and confidence she needed to tackle the complex business problems she takes on at work every day.
But that’s not all, says Wishloff.
“Ultimately I would not be where I am without the Aboriginal resources and support of faculty all the way up to the Dean at UBC Sauder.”
BCom changed my life by giving me a zest and as aptitude for ethical leadership that not only helps me further my own career but that of future Aboriginal business students too.
Start your journey here
UBC-Langara Aboriginal Transfer Program
While Wishloff transferred within UBC to the BCom program, Aboriginal students can also tap into a collaboration between Langara College and UBC that offers scholarships and allows them to transfer into Sauder in their second or third year after completing the necessary requirements. For more details, please visit transfer.aboriginal.ubc.ca.
Spitz Fellows Program
Aboriginal female BCom students can apply for the newly announced Spitz Fellows Program which provides full financial support during their studies at Sauder. Spitz Family Awards are available annually.
Additionally, UBC offers almost $100,000 in Major Entrance Scholarships for Aboriginal secondary school students, as well as 25 awards for Aboriginal students. Students are encouraged to meet UBC financial advisors to put them on the right track.