Nisha Patel

Nisha Patel

4th Year BCom Student | Leadership Certificate Program
Business Economics & Law Major

Why did you choose to apply to the Alberta School of Business?

I was passionate about political science but I wanted a more practical understanding of my community. I knew that business would give me a good foundation for my career, even if I wasn't sure exactly what that would be. I was also intrigued by learning about business law at the undergraduate level, which is rarely offered in universities across Canada.

Can you talk a bit about your experiences so far at the School and some of the extracurricular activities you’ve been involved in?

I am passionate about competitive debate and was happy to see there were opportunities within business to pursue that. With Alberta JDC West I was a three-time debate captain and participant, and consider my early involvement in the team one of the best decisions I made to get to know my School. I went on to be President of the U of A Debate Society at one point, too, but within the School last year I was a founding Co-Chair of the first-ever Alberta Not-for-Profit Case Competition (ANPCC) and Symposium, which had teams competing from Canada and the United States.

You seem to understand the importance of leadership and a well-rounded portfolio. What lessons have you learned from public speaking/debating and getting involved?

Leadership, if taught in theory as many of our business classes do, can only ever be meaningful when we have a place to apply it. I think we make the mistake of thinking that somehow university is an incubator, and that if we do all our in-class learning right now we will emerge ready to tackle and lead in the future. But the reality is that we are capable of learning about leadership at any age and in any form, and one of the best ways to do that is surround yourself by people and groups that challenge you. If the opportunity to create something or enhance something through your effort exists then the challenge should excite and empower you.

I have a deep passion for public speaking and debate because when you're at the podium or standing in front of the classroom, or even when it's just you thinking of the right thing to say, the only thing that's going to get you through those moments is yourself. Everything you've learned and everyone you've learned from has affected you, of course, but in that moment you're put to the test. I've learned that failing at things that terrify you - like public speaking does, for so many people - is a better than always doing something the right way. And through debate I've accepted that an engaged student is the student who asks question and considers multiple perspectives, even when it goes against your own beliefs, because that's the only way to strengthen your own arguments and convictions. Being engaged is choosing to put yourself out there to collaborate and learn from others, and to let others learn from you.

What are your plans for after you graduate?

Insofar as a plan can exist, my short-term goals are to attend a public policy school with a focus on municipal politics, or to be involved in non-profits and governance here in the city to gain real experience for a few years. In the long-term I hope to be in public office or helping in a similar capacity to help empower and help others.

Do you have any advice for future Alberta BCom students?

Of course. For years I struggled to challenge myself through new opportunities, some of which were given to me, others I had to work for, and most importantly the ones I created for myself.

Find your authentic self because that's what people care about. Don't forget the things that are important to you - such as friends, creative pursuits, sports, or family--just because you are taking on the challenges of being an new business student and learning to fit in here. You are not your degree and it is not the only thing that defines you, but it is a tool that will help you find your passion and reach your goals. Create your own definition of success based on what is important to you, because you are surrounded by wonderful, ambitious, exciting people who can inspire you instead of scaring you.