News & Events

Building Community From Day One

January 3, 2024
University of British Columbia Applied Science Masters Program

Powerful things happen when a diverse group of people come together with an openness to new perspectives and a desire to learn from each other. Students in the Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) and Master of Health Leadership and Policy (MHLP) begin their programs with a three-day Welcome Week orientation designed to set the stage for this to happen.

“Our students are about to embark on a new experience full of exciting opportunities,” says Jola Lekich, Associate Director of the UBC MHLP & MEL Professional Leadership Master Degrees.

“We want to celebrate the start of this journey and help students establish meaningful connections with each other from day one. For most of our students, it’s been quite awhile since they’ve been in an academic setting, and they may be feeling some apprehension. We want to help reduce any feelings of stress by fostering peer connections, articulating clear academic expectations and introducing the array of extracurricular professional development opportunities available.”

Welcome Week events set the tone for the year

Program staff, instructors and external facilitators lead students through a range of both large and small group activities so students start building relationships with classmates from both their own program specialization, as well as those from the other seven sector-specific programs on offer in the fields of engineering, architecture, urban planning and health care.

There are many opportunities for team building and one-on-one conversations to create a sense of belonging among students, staff and faculty, and the broader UBC campus. These activities also introduce some of the key skills that are emphasized throughout the program, including how to communicate effectively and respectfully with people from a range of backgrounds and disciplines and learning how to work within and lead teams.

“Starting in Welcome Week, students embark on a journey of reflection and begin to see themselves as part of a community of peers dedicated to collaboration and mutual learning,” says Jola Lekich.

“Within this cohort, classmates serve as invaluable sources of information and wisdom, representing not only current peers but also future colleagues – individuals with whom you will collaboratively tackle challenges with and learn from.”

Investing in student success

Students often choose the MEL and MHLP over other graduate degrees because they recognize the value of advancing both their technical education and their business and leadership skills. There’s an important third pillar to the MEL and MHLP education that doesn’t always receive as much attention but definitely should: professional development.

Welcome Week is the first significant professional development offering, creating a space for the self-reflection and goal-setting that are the foundation of professional growth. Students are encouraged to continue this work throughout the year, and to participate in events that include skill-building workshops, field trips, industry conferences, networking sessions and guest speaker visits.

Thinking beyond graduation

Although Welcome Week represents the start of the MEL and MHLP journey, graduation does not represent the end of their development. MEL and MHLP students graduate into a community of hundreds of alumni who have come before them who are using their wisdom and skills to make a difference in their fields.

During Welcome Week, alumni are invited to participate in guest panels to share advice about the program and offer insights into how they transitioned successfully into being a graduate student and how they’ve used their experience to accelerate their careers and grow as leaders. Events throughout the year also create opportunities for current students to meet alumni and grow their professional and personal networks.

Setting out on a leadership journey

MEL and MHLP students are already addressing some of the most pressing challenges our world faces as they use their skills in engineering or health care in service of others. What unites them – whether they are designing sustainable infrastructure or wanting to help transform health care – is a belief that they can do more.

“We are living in challenging times with the climate emergency, geopolitical crises, cost-of-living issues and more,” says Justin Bull, Academic Director of the MEL & MHLP.

“We are so proud of the people who have taken a bet on themselves, who are stepping back from their careers because they know they can be part of the change for the good and who see UBC as the accelerator for this to happen. Welcome Week is the start of our investment in our students’ so they can do more for their industry, communities and world.”