Voices of UBC Sauder volunteers: What you gain when you give

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Posted 2022-04-25

In recognition of National Volunteer Week, UBC Sauder celebrates five alumni who have selflessly dedicated time, effort and resources for the benefit of future generations. All have found success in their careers, yet they continue to carve out time in their busy schedules for acts of service to the school community.

Volunteering is not a one-size-fits-all pursuit. These alumni serve as mentors, career coaches, guest speakers, networking delegates, ambassadors and event hosts, among many other roles. They are passionate about teaching excellence, capacity-building, amplifying underrepresented voices in business, building bonds among fellow alumni, and helping students navigate their career progression. Their diverse history with UBC Sauder illustrates there are volunteer opportunities for everyone, no matter your stage of life, area of interest, or where you call home.

As volunteers, they offer priceless contributions to the UBC Sauder community without payment, but as they say themselves, it is not without reward.

1,022 volunteers across 24 countries

*stats from April 2021 to March 2022


Sher Najafi

Career Advisor, Career Preparation Program Manager, Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University
UBC Master of Management MM ’16

Volunteer roles: mentor, career coach, networking delegate, event organizer and panelist

A lesson learned by interacting with students and fresh graduates:

“There’s a strong emphasis on the importance of ‘grit’ in professional spaces. By working with students, I’ve learned that this quality comes in many forms than what’s traditionally sought after by industry. It’s apparent in the high-achieving student who takes on leadership roles in student activities, but it’s equally relevant for the student who’s balancing school work with a job to make ends meet.”

A favourite memory:

“One of the top memories would have to be serving as a Digital Marketing Industry Panelist for the 2020 UBC Imprint Conference, alongside my industry peers. It was an amazing opportunity to provide up-to-date industry knowledge that goes beyond the textbook, while simultaneously connecting with my professional peers. It's great for anyone who enjoys public speaking or classroom settings. These students were eager to learn and incredibly engaged!”


Jesus Ballesteros

Director, Financial Advisory Services at BDO Canada
UBC Master of Business Administration MBA ’11

Volunteer roles: Regional ambassador and alumni event host

Why he donates:

“I’ve contributed mostly to the UBC Sauder Innovation Fund because I support innovation in education. The UBC MBA program has evolved to better fit the needs of prospective students, introducing more of an entrepreneurial angle and content related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. I want to ensure the program continues to be valuable and current to students so that is what drives me.”

Why he volunteers from his home base of Toronto:

“Even though I’m not in Vancouver, I have a strong sense of pride for being a UBC Sauder graduate. When you go to a university like UBC, which has global visibility, you become a global UBC citizen, regardless of where you are. It is almost like having a second citizenship. To me, that’s enough to want to offer support from wherever I am. It gives you an immediate network to rely on. If I moved somewhere else in the world, I like to think I could quickly make friends by reaching out to UBC Sauder alumni because there is something that connects us.”


Photo credit: Kent Kallberg Studios

Matthew Murray

Senior Vice-President & Corporate Controller at TELUS
UBC Bachelor of Commerce BCom ’06

Volunteer roles: Classroom volunteer/guest speaker and networking delegate

The roots of his passion for teaching and why he volunteers:

“My mother was a teacher, so I took an interest in teaching as a kid. I think I discovered early that I truly understood something if I was able to teach it to someone else. I like to share my story of becoming a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) in the industry to help students assess what the best path for them is. When I was a student, I really excelled when I could visualize the content of a textbook being put into practice in the workplace, so I want to pay that forward by demonstrating how we operate and measure performance at TELUS."

Murray addresses UBC Sauder students as a guest speaker
Murray addresses UBC Sauder students as a guest speaker
A favourite memory:

“A definite highlight for me was one of the first years UBC Sauder Faculty Jeff Kroeker and I ran the Comm 354 class business case. What was then known as the Certified Management Accountants Society of British Columbia (CMABC) took the opportunity to include an article about the class in their CMA Magazine. We had put a lot of effort into writing the business case, and the students had the opportunity to do their presentations in front of our [TELUS’] Senior Vice-President and Corporate Controller, so it was definitely memorable and I still have a copy of the magazine.”

Lawrence Leung

Senior Director Corporate Internal Audit at adidas
UBC Bachelor of Commerce BCom ’08

Volunteer roles: Trainer, content creator and case competition judge for UBC Sauder LIFT & event and community organizer for alumni UBC

Why he volunteers from his home base of Herzogenaurach, Germany:

“Lifelong learning has no boundaries. In this digital world, there are many ways to give back. I wouldn’t be where I am without my education from UBC Sauder. I’ve been privileged to have this education, so I want to live by the principle of paying it forward. I also benefit and learn so much from volunteering. The entrepreneurs and participants we work with for UBC Sauder LIFT are determined, smart, and creative, and the UBC Sauder students have taught me to continue to strive for more. They are so on top of their game.”

Advice for other alumni who are looking for ways to volunteer:

“Two things: Firstly, just go for it. Once someone decides to start their journey in terms of contributing or volunteering, just go for it. Secondly, there is no perfect time. Some alumni may decide to volunteer early on after they graduate, and some may decide to prioritize developing their careers first, and then eventually find the right moment to volunteer. Everyone has different moments for when it’s right for them to get started, just as long as they get started.”


Hurriya Burney

Vice President, Commercial Banking at Royal Bank of Canada
UBC Master of Business Administration MBA ’11

Volunteer roles: mentor, career coach, guest speaker

Why she is passionate about mentorship:

“For me, having the mentorship and the coaching early on in my career was really important, especially as an international student. A lot of people gave me their time, so when I see people who are in a similar position, it is important for me to give back. There are other motives too – at RBC, we’re always looking for great talent. I do a lot of connecting because I know a lot of these students could be a good fit for RBC. We hire a lot of talented people from UBC Sauder.”

Advice for alumni who are looking for ways to volunteer:

“Do the self-discovery to figure out what is important to you. For me, that’s supporting early career women, visible minority students, and immigrants to Canada. We all have limited time and we all need to be discerning about where we put our effort. It’s not just about what looks good on your resume. If you’re not interested and passionate about what you’re doing, there just aren’t enough hours in a day. There are a ton of opportunities out there, but the first thing to do is to define what you’re passionate about. It has to be something that gives you intrinsic satisfaction.”

On behalf of the UBC Sauder community, we thank these alumni and all UBC Sauder alumni volunteers for their generous contributions.