When Dennis Yue starts discussing the stock market, he suddenly becomes more animated. He says he's not a "long-term guy", preferring to buy and sell stocks over four- to eight-month periods, because that's how he can make quick profits. He can also talk about currency movements, different national economies, and investing in various sectors with a remarkable degree of sophistication and confidence. Listening to him, it's hard to believe that Yue, president of the UBC Finance Club and a fourth-year commerce student in UBC's Sauder School of Business, is only 21 years old.
"I've always been passionate about stocks," Yue said during a recent interview at the Georgia Straight. "It's a major reason I actually got into this school."
The UBC Finance Club is one of many examples of undergraduate business students choosing to expand their education through extracurricular activities. Whether they're involved in accounting clubs, entrepreneurial activities, promoting microcredit lending, or providing business expertise to start-up organizations, today's business students are not simply relying on what they learn in classrooms. The UBC Commerce Undergraduate Society Web site (www.cusonline.ca/) lists 11 different clubs that encompass everything from real estate to human resources to entrepreneurship.
"What defines you as a Sauder business student is not what you do in the class," Yue said. "It's what you do on the side. It's how you display your passion, your leadership, your entrepreneurial spirit with other activities, because you can't see it by writing tests."
The UBC Finance Club, along with the SFU Finance Club and students at several other universities, participates in the B.C. Portfolio Management Challenge, an annual competition to enhance students' investing capabilities. Yue said there are more than 400 competitors at UBC alone. Each team receives $1 million in imaginary money to invest in Canadian and U.S. stocks, with the winner determined at the end of the academic year.
Yue described his position as head of the UBC Finance Club as a "24/7 job", because it involves organizing 21 events, which often include hundreds of delegates and students. He and his fellow executives also oversee a $15,000 budget. "Every waking moment, you're thinking about it," Yue said with a smile.
Steve Clegg, a British Columbia Institute of Technology business student, knows the feeling. President of the campus chapter of ACE (Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship), Clegg, 23, told the Straight in a phone interview that he has run three businesses, including a Chilliwack-based arborist company with approximately 150 clients. He enrolled at BCIT because he wanted to learn more about ensuring his ventures would succeed over the long term.
"Last year, I was nominated for the student-entrepreneur-of-the-year award for my business," Clegg said. "I was continuing to operate that last year. However, this year, because I'm president, I don't have as much time so I've limited my business to weekends that I go home and some holidays during the school year."
Through the BCIT chapter of ACE (which is changing its name to SIFE to reflect an affiliation with an international group called Students in Free Enterprise), Clegg now helps other entrepreneurs succeed. He said that students who belong to the club come from a variety of BCIT programs, including marketing, entrepreneurship, operations management, human resources, professional sales, and financial management. He said that the club dispatches teams of students to provide assistance to aspiring entrepreneurs.
"We align a team that is custom-made to each situation," Clegg said. "If one company is struggling because they can't manage their finances, we'll put together a team that has a couple of financial-management students on it, or maybe a marketing student to put together a Web site."
Clegg said that the organization is working with several aspiring businesspeople on the Downtown Eastside. He cited one example, a woman trying to open a wellness spa, which she had previously been operating as a mobile business. He said that club members are helping her create a business plan, which is something they learn in class.
One beneficiary of the club has been Hinda's Fine Preserves, which operates on Granville Island and was started last year by Hinda Abdillahi, an immigrant from East Africa. Abdillahi, who is also a personal chef, told the Straight that she "got a lot of help" from the students from BCIT, as well as from the Eastside Movement for Business and Economic Renewal Society.
"I started from scratch," Abdillahi said. "I'm no longer on welfare."
When asked if he is learning more from his activities with ACE or by attending classes, Clegg replied, "To me, it's about 50-50. I take what I'm learning in class and I'm applying it directly to what I'm doing in ACE. If I was just doing my classes, I would memorize the material long enough to write it down on a test, and then I would be done. But this way, I'm solidifying the information in my mind, and I'm able to take it with me in the future."
The cyclists from Agents of Change pedalled all the way to Tijuana to raise money for microcredit lending to entrepreneurs in the developing world.
Most public postsecondary institutions in the region have at least one business club, and some have several. BCIT, for example, also has two marketing clubs and another association for financial-management students. SFU's International Business Association was created three years ago as a nonprofit organization supported by the faculty of business administration. It attempts to bridge the gap between the international business community and students.
Many student-run business clubs have attracted numerous corporate sponsors. Clegg said that ACE BCIT recently created a nonprofit society called Ice Promotions, which will generate income to offset part of the club's $38,000 operating budget. It specializes in marketing events on campus for the administration and the student association, as well as for outside clients.
"As far as I know, we're the only student organization in this area that has their own solely owned and operated business," Clegg said.
These days, some business students are focusing more attention on international issues. Former SFU business student Shawn Smith, who graduated in 2005, is president of a nonprofit organization called Agents of Change, which raises funds for microcredit lending to fight global poverty. Smith told the Straight that between November 2 and 9, Agents of Change will hold competitions at UBC and SFU to challenge teams of students to create and launch their own businesses.
"We're seeding teams with $100 and seeing how much money and awareness they can raise in a week," Smith said. "All that money stays on their campus for students to run a microcredit fund."
Smith said that SFU business student Sean Peters is overseeing the creation of Agents of Change campus clubs. "This year is the pilot," Smith said, "and by 2008, we would like to blow it right across North America and get as many students as possible involved in direct student-led philanthropy."
Earlier this year, Smith and 21 others rode their bicycles to Tijuana, Mexico, to raise funds for microcredit lending. The money is distributed to entrepreneurs in the developing world through www.kiva.org/, which enables donors to learn about the borrower's business plan.
Meanwhile, UBC has a business communications club, called BizzComm, which was created to improve students' interpersonal skills. One of the copresidents, Kathy Do, wrote a message on the Web site (www.bizzcomm.ca/) stating that she has just returned from China, where she was stationed for an eight-month co-op term. "I have seen firsthand how non-native English speakers value business-communications skills worldwide, and I truly have seen how the power of communication is the core in making successful business people," Do noted.
Kwantlen University College has a Human Resources Management Society. In addition, UBC, SFU, and Kwantlen all have accounting clubs, which assist students interested in a career in this field.
Lindy Chiu, the 21-year-old president of the Accounting Student Association at SFU, told the Straight in a phone interview that big national accounting firms not only consider a student's grade-point average, they look at the person's voluntary activities. Chiu compared her role as accounting-association president to working a full-time job in addition to having a full load of courses.
"I've learned a dramatic amount about how to organize events and help our students decide which [accounting] designations to go for," Chiu said. She also credited SFU's career-management centre with providing a great deal of help to business students who are looking for work.
Katie Lee, the 20-year-old president of the UBC Accounting Club, told the Straight in a phone interview that she met Chiu when they each became president of their respective clubs and they have kept in touch since then. They work with the accounting firms that come onto campus to hold information sessions for students.
Lee confessed that she felt intimidated when she began business school, but her confidence and passion for the subject have increased since she's been in the company of so many driven and motivated students. "It's absolutely amazing," she said. "You kind of build on that energy, and you just do it. Throw away your fears and try it out. There is always going to be people who want to bring you down, but there is always so many people who are supportive."
She noted that the Sauder School of Business promotes a healthy work-life balance, emphasizing the importance of softer business skills, such as communication. "Accounting isn't just number crunching and bean counters," Lee said. "It's about your personality and what you can do with it, because without your personality, you can't go out and do business. In essence, that's what accounting is. You have to use it to communicate with the clients, help them build their business, and get to know them better."
Dennis Yue, the UBC Finance Club president, described business school as a "way of life" that can transform a student. "Once you get in there, it changes your entire personality," he said. "You become way more outgoing. You become more receptive and more perceptive of the opportunities and problems that surround you."
Links:UBC Finance Club