News & Events

The power of your peers

June 22, 2020
UBC MEL MHLP - The power of your peers

The Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) and Master of Health Leadership and Policy (MHLP) degrees provide structured opportunities to learn from your professional peers through class discussions and collaboration on group projects.

Peer-based learning is built into both the technical and business classes. While the technical courses enable you to learn from the experience and insight of other professionals in your industry sector, the business classes take this one step further to include students from all MEL and MHLP programs with their backgrounds in engineering, health care, architecture and urban planning.

Depending on the specific MEL or MHLP program, anywhere from 30% to 50% of the curriculum is made up of business and leadership courses taught through UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School. All MEL and MHLP students take these classes together, and they also come together for the ongoing professional development and networking opportunities offered throughout the year. As a student, this means you will be learning alongside – and networking with – professionals with a broad array of experience across a range of related disciplines, from advanced materials manufacturing to urban systems, from clean energy engineering to high performance buildings, and from seniors care to clinical education. (See the full list of MEL and MHLP programs.)

A diverse cohort

Students come to the MEL and MHLP with at least three years of relevant industry experience, and most have worked far longer. In 2020, the median age of an MEL student was 29 and the median age for an MHLP student. was 33.

“Our students have very diverse professional and personal experiences,” says Tamara Etmannski, Academic Director. “That makes for a very rich learning environment where you can share and gain knowledge from people with perspectives and backgrounds you might not otherwise encounter.”

Tamara notes that many MEL students are initially surprised that they are taking the business courses alongside MHLP students, and vice versa. “Over the year, they soon realize the benefits that come from this diversity,” she explains. “Broadly speaking, MHLP students gain new appreciation for clear frameworks and processes, and the MEL students learn the value of clear communication and emphasizing the equity piece required to build effective teams.”

Cross-industry learning

It’s easy for professionals to find themselves siloed within their industry sector. Yet many industries face similar challenges – the push to globalization, digitization and sustainability – and organizations can often benefit from the innovative solutions and tools developed in unrelated sectors. For example, as described by Andrea Frisque, an instructor in the High Performance Buildings program, the building industry is just now adopting technologies in data modelling and analytics that have been transformative in the fields of manufacturing, environmental science and medicine. (Read her article on the power of modelling in building design.)

The benefits of a broadened perspective are immense. As Urban Systems graduate says of the cross-disciplinary learning opportunities from the MEL’s business classes: “It’s always great to see topics from many different perspectives as it aids in the rational decision-making process.” A student in Integrated Water Management concurs, saying they valued “being able to learn from different backgrounds and perspectives” in their core business classes.

Learning to work with diverse teams

The business and leadership classes emphasize collaborative group projects. Strong communication skills are essential and continually developed – from knowing how to be an active listener to being able to clearly articulate your ideas.

You’ll also learn how to navigate group dynamics, build on each team member’s strengths and keep all members aligned on a shared goal. It’s not always easy. But working with new teams throughout the year is critical practice for your personal growth, enabling you to gain the skills you’ll need to confidently bring together diverse stakeholders and lead complex multidisciplinary projects in your professional career. An MHLP student in Seniors Care says that the group work required during the summer session boot camp helped her understand how to leverage each individual’s strengths and ensure everyone had opportunities to contribute to the final outcome. A fellow student from the same program says she valued learning how to work more effectively and collaboratively with people with “different thought processes, personalities and skills.”

Research has shown that teams made up of diverse individuals are more innovative and creative, which can ultimately lead to better long-term decisions. Learning how to be an effective leader and a productive member of teams of diverse individuals benefits MEL and MHLP graduates both personally and professionally – laying the foundation for innovative and strategic leadership in their careers.

Learning happens everywhere

One Clean Energy Engineering student says that “60% of the skills and knowledge I gained in the program was from my peers,” and an Integrated Water Management student notes that “it’s very important to me to learn from others about best practices in leadership and management, not just from the instructor, but from my peers.”

This combination of instructors who are renowned experts in their fields and classmates with diverse industry backgrounds creates an engaging and inspiring learning environment for MEL and MHLP students. In fact, when reflecting on their 12 months of study, many graduates point to their interactions with fellow students as one of the most valuable and defining aspects of their program.