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Along the Journey: Interview with Karen Zhan & Mark Swei

  • Roberto Armena
  • |
  • May 5, 2022
Along the Journey: Interview with Karen Zhan & Mark Swei

Karen and Mark are both AEO students with an intent to pursue the HBA program at Ivey — that’s just about where their similarities end. One of the core aspects of the AEO structure is the freedom to explore non-business interests in your first two years, whether that be in the program you study or extracurricular opportunities you participate in. This is why for this interview, I decided to chat with two students from different years and programs to highlight how unique each AEO student’s experience may be.

Introduce yourself, including your program and why you chose it!

Mark: Hi everyone, my name is Mark Swei and I am in my first year in the Health Studies program at Western University. I am originally from Oakville, Ontario, and love to play hockey and golf during my free time. I chose this program as it offers a unique perspective on healthcare that is not purely biomedical. It also provides flexibility in course selection which allows for the freedom to plan an education pathway specifically tailored for you.

Karen: Hi there! My name is Karen Zhan and I am a second-year computer science student at Western! I’m from Markham, Ontario and really like to bake cakes in my free time. I chose my current program due to how rewarding and fun I found programming in high school and enjoy the problem-solving lens you take on when working in tech! I also believe that my program aligns with my future goals of exploring the intersection of business and tech.

Do you see yourself in a future career more related to your current program, business, or both?

Mark: Like many high school students entering university, I was unsure of what career I wanted to pursue. After learning from a myriad of courses and networking sessions, I procured my goal of entering the management consulting field, specializing in healthcare. Without the ability to learn in another program during my first two years of university, which most business schools do not provide, I undoubtedly would not have discovered this occupation.

Karen: Currently I’m more interested in pursuing pathways related to my current program, as was the case when I first came to Western. However, I’m immensely excited to explore the dynamic and ever-changing landscape intersecting business and technology and firmly believe I will gain even more insight into this landscape in future years!

What are some ways that you’ve been able to stay connected to the business community despite being in a non-business program?

Mark: Joining and being involved in clubs are definitely the best way to connect with people from the business community. I was a consultant at the Western Management Consulting Club and a member of the Western Investment Club. I am a part of other clubs as well, but these two alone have already provided me with more knowledge and connections than I could ever ask for. Taking part in case competitions is also a great way to gain business experience and at the same time, win some pretty cool prizes.

Karen: Like Mark, clubs are the best way to stay connected to the business community. They provide you with an amazing balance of meeting people casually and professionally. Some other ways I recommend meeting members of the business community are to stay open-minded and connect with your friends’ friends!

What are some of the skills you learned/are learning in your current program that you can see transferring over to the HBA program?

Mark: I believe that learning in health studies will give me a unique perspective when solving business problems which I consider one of my competitive advantages. My skills such as time management, communication, and self-confidence also have definitely been improved through interactions with my peers, which are crucial when entering the HBA program.

Karen: I think my current program has given me insight in collaborating together. My friends and I often get together, complain about our assignments, and talk about errors and possible solutions. I think my program has allowed me to problem-solve, share my issues with a team, and address them as a whole. Given the HBA program’s dynamic team-building structure, I wholeheartedly believe that my current program has given me invaluable insight.

Despite a large focus on the uniqueness of Karen and Mark’s journeys, there are still undoubtedly many opportunities to explore business interests in your first two years at Western. From foundational classes such as the infamous BUS1220E “Introduction to Business” course, to the many clubs exploring various industries including finance, technology, and more, if you’re looking to touch on the business world in your first two years there are still plenty of opportunities to do so.