The Mentorship Spot
Why ARBUS Could be the Program for You!
Interviews and Transcription by Farzan Dubash
The University of Waterloo Honours Arts and Business program (ARBUS) is a unique program that requires you to take business courses to expand your knowledge and career pathways while also allowing you to pursue an Arts major of your choice and interest. It is available for both co-op and non co-op students. Today's article features interviews from students in 4 different majors in order to try and capture the essence of the program and how it can cater to a wide range of students.
Why ARBUS instead of general arts?
Aryan Naarang - Economics Major: One of the main reasons that I chose ARBUS is just for the fact that learning about business in any way is beneficial for a student. Even if a student is studying sciences or engineering, they can end up in a job relating to business. I am doing a major in econ, which pairs well with business.
Irina Chubarova - Speech Communications Major: Originally, I was going to go to a pure business program. I was interested in joining either that or engineering. In high school, I never took any real arts or humanity courses, so when I came into ARBUS I originally felt that this wasn’t for me. I actually tried to see if I could transfer into engineering because I thought it would be a better fit. However, after I spent some time in ARBUS, I really learned to appreciate my Speech Communication (SpCom) major, as well as the business aspect. With Waterloo, you are able to explore so many different areas. At the moment, I’m pursuing a computer science minor. With other university business programs, I feel like you can kind of get stuck with just the business side. Here, I was able to combine both Arts and Business, while also being able to pursue technology-based education on the side.
Sharon Seegobind - English Major: The reason I chose the ARBUS program versus just general Arts was mainly because I was not entirely sure exactly what career path I wanted to pursue and I knew that ARBUS would allow me to explore the fundamentals of business while also being able to explore 1 of the 23 possible majors to find something that I’d be interested in studying. By being able to choose our own major it makes the ABRUS program very diverse as each student's degree is a little different depending on the major, minors and specializations we choose. Another reason is because I felt having a general understanding of business would be practical in the real world when it comes to finding a job because so many careers intertwine with business principles so I knew that this would be useful to me in the long-run. This program is unique in itself as I have not heard of many other universities that offer a program that allows students to pursue an Arts major while also gaining a foundation in the theory and practice of business. When I tell people that I am in the ARBUS program many people are initially confused because they would not expect arts and business to be put together into a single program but once I explain to them how much our major courses are similar to our business courses it becomes clear why this is such an interesting program.
Why did you choose your major?
Aryan: Business and working with numbers have always been my preferred fields. Long term, my goal is to enter the banking sector as a consultant or analyst. Playing around with stats, learning about government trends and market trends will help me in my future job searches. Gaining these experiences in Econ classes will help me find jobs in my preferred fields.
Sharon: I chose to major in English because I’ve always enjoyed writing, editing, and analyzing texts. In addition to this, the skills gained through English can be applied within various careers such as in business, public service, education, law, and many other areas as well. I believe that a major in English promotes the development of analytical thinking, evidence-based writing, and editing skills makes English not only an extremely marketable major. I’ve noticed that many of the concepts discussed in my English courses also coincide with the concepts discussed in my business courses as well and this is useful to me because it allows me to apply similar ideas in various contexts. Being able to have strong writing and interpreting skills has been useful as it allows me to pay close attention to details in my other courses and helps strengthen my overall writing skills.
Irina: When choosing my major, I originally wanted to get into more of the pure business
education, because that's where I want to pursue careers. Out of all the majors, the ones that stuck out to me the most were economics, spcom and psychology, which can help you get into marketing. I didn’t really want to do economics because pursuing that alongside a computer science minor would have resulted in a heavy load. Adding onto this, I didn’t really have a passion for economics. I have always been a really outgoing person in terms of public speaking, which drew me to SpCom. Looking at the page requirements and descriptions, I found that I really liked this major because of the many ways you can use it. It gives you the basics of spcom while giving you proper communication skills and the most effective way to go about interactions in everyday life.
Shady Roufail - Political Sciences Major: I chose to major in Political Sciences (Poli-Sci) purely based on my personal preferences and what I thought I would enjoy the most. I hope to attend law school as a next step and acceptances are heavily based on GPA. I assumed, correctly, that the more you enjoy your courses, the more successful you will be. I have found that I really enjoy my Poli-Sci courses and the grades are taking me to where I want to be.
When applying for Co-op positions, what benefits have you found from your courses?
Shady: My co-op was a very diverse position, I did some engineering as well as the business side. I actually used a textbook from one of my first ARBUS business courses throughout the job. I had to do a lot of market analysis, which I learned during that term. I didn’t really expect to use these right away at the time I learned them and as soon as I started my co-op I realized how useful this knowledge was in the real world.
Sharon: Specifically, as an English Major, we have a choice between the study of literature, rhetoric, professional writing, and digital media. In this case, I have decided that I would like to major in English Rhetoric, media, and Professional Studies. I thought that this would be practical for me as an ARBUS student because the courses would allow me to develop my skills in business writing, technical communication, etc.
Irina: My recent co-op was at BMO, where I was a technology analyst as a member of their communications team. This was a really cool position which let me combine my skills with both communication and technology. I feel that being a spcom major really gave me an upper hand in getting that position because I not only had the technical requirements, but I was also able to talk, present and communicate information more effectively than other candidates. A public speaking course I took really helped me out. It’s a very different course than most others you will take. A lot of the work is practice based and an understanding of outside applications, as opposed to theory and studying, which I’ve noticed is the norm in other majors. I’ve noticed that with a spcom major, it's really useful for interviews and job applications because it can be applied to so many different areas. Communication is used in basically every job so I am able to use my ability to communicate in teams and groups to gain an advantage going into interviews. As long as you put the effort in, it really allows you to pursue a lot of different areas.
Aryan: During my first coop placement, I worked as an operations analyst for OLG. Having business knowledge from my courses gave me the confidence to apply for these positions and the knowledge to work well in these environments.
What have your experiences been like in the Co-op Application Process?
Sharon: When it came to searching for my first co-op placement, there were so many options available to me because of being an ARBUS student. I knew that I could apply to jobs that were looking for individuals with a background in accounting, marketing, entrepreneurship, ethics, and more. But I also could pursue a placement more focused on technical writing, communications, etc. I ended up getting a placement at a company, where I was a Marketing/ Human Resource Intern. Many of the tasks I was asked to complete I was familiar with as a result of the business courses I took and since a lot of the assignments required me to do editing, writing, and analyzing my English courses came in handy for this as well. One of the general perks of co-op is gaining experience and being able to network yourself and learn more about what types of jobs you are interested in and where you plan to see yourself after university. There is no guarantee that you’re going to love your first placement, but that is all a part of the process. It should be your goal to learn and understand what you want to achieve and gain through your placement as this will allow you to be the most successful. I found the co-op process to be a little intimidating at first, but once you clean up your resume and cover letter skills and practice good interviewing habits it will put you more at ease. In addition, one piece of advice I have for the co-op process is remember to stay driven and motivated even if you do not get a job after the first round, be confident in your abilities and what you have to offer.
Shady: You really have to work through the co-op process and nothing will land in your lap. I think that’s inevitable for a first time co-op, no matter what you do. Make use of the resume critiques offered on campus. There are so many free tools to use and it's so easy to ignore them. I would encourage everyone to use them as much as possible, show up every day if you need to. I found that extending my co-op search into the later rounds was actually a blessing in disguise. To highlight how long I was in the process, I applied for a position starting in January on Christmas! My interview took place on December 27th and I received the job on New Years Day. The co-op experience has been fantastic.It’s definitely hard work but it paid off in the end.
Irina: I think that I got pretty lucky in the coop process for my first job. The summer before applications opened I started preparing, which is earlier than most people. I basically had a different resume for every position that I applied to. Although this was a lot of extra work, I feel that it paid off due to the fact that I got two pretty good offers within the first round of applications. One was for BMO and one was for Oracle, a pretty big engineering company. I know a lot of people get very stressed during the process and I was really happy to finish my job search and find a position early. The more you prepare early on, the more ready you are once it comes time to apply. A lot of people go into interviews thinking that they’re fine and it will be easy but I would recommend really researching and getting to know the position that you’ll be interviewing for. For positions that you really want, you should try to get in touch with recruiters. For the Oracle job position, I think a lot of the offer had to do with interacting with the recruiter and them liking me. For the BMO job, I think it had a lot to do with going to a networking session and introducing myself to the recruiter. Introducing yourself and having a conversation with a recruiter is one of the most important things you can do. After the session, one of the recruiters reached out to me and offered me an interview for the job that I worked at for my first coop. Selling yourself and going out of your way is definitely difficult when you don’t have much experience but it really teaches you how to look for a job and make yourself a good candidate. Especially for your first coop, I would recommend preparing as early as possible and going to information and networking sessions as much as possible.
Aryan: The co-op experience is a roller coaster ride for most students applying for the first time because nobody knows what to expect. Do I apply for a bigger company right away or do I apply for smallers companies or startups because it's my first application? These are some of the questions that come to mind during your first coop application season. Luckily for me, I got interviews with the first few companies I applied for and ultimately got a match with one of them. Even then, this is an extremely stressful and at times overwhelming experience. I think that students need to realize that if you have good experiences you will end up with a good position. Even if it's not the one you initially wanted or expected, every internship gives you an experience and gets you closer to your desired goals.
What kind of extracurricular opportunities have you been involved in on campus?
Irina: When I first came to Waterloo, I was eager to get involved right away. As someone who was in a lot of high school organizations, I came to Waterloo wanting to get involved and meet people. ARBUS society was an organization that I knew a little bit about and applied to join their team as a graphic designer, ultimately getting that position. Through that, I was able to meet people in every year of their studies and it's really cool to learn from their experiences and lean on them for advice and support when you need it. I stayed in ARBUS society until my coop term and I went from being a graphic designer to becoming the director of marketing, which also helped me in my BMO coop position. When applying for coop, recruiters and interviewers want to see what prior experience that you have in university. Although high school experiences are useful, having something a bit more fresh shows them where your skills are currently at. I was also part of an engineering design team called Waterloop. Most of these teams have an engineering side and a business side. I applied to the business side and it was really cool because it let me use my business skills while also giving me a look at the engineering and technology side. Another benefit of joining this team was that it let me get to know people outside of the arts program. I became pretty good friends with the engineering team lead and through him I ended up getting referred for a coop interview. Even though I didn’t get that position, it really helped me to build my network. Although I definitely recommend joining clubs and getting involved, make sure you don’t overload yourself. Find one or two that you’ll enjoy and commit to those.
Aryan: Irrespective of what courses you take and how much experience you have, skills such as communication, leadership and teamwork are imperative for any employer. I wanted to expose myself to a variety of activities to develop these skills, including working as a front desk assistant for Waterloo Housing and being a counsellor for the Waterloo Undergraduate Students Association (WUSA). All of these activities are very good experiences. From the resume standpoint, these activities can be useful for your first applications if you have minimal work experience. Employers will be looking for your skillset and how you spend your time. Even if you are only a member, these are helpful because they allow you to develop these skills.
How have you found the campus environment?
Shady: I have found that professors have been very approachable, which is not something I expected or calculated coming into University. After entering university I have realized how much of a difference that makes. The students have been pretty hard-working and it's a great environment for studying and learning.
Irina: From my experiences, everybody in the Arts program is extremely friendly. For a lot of ARBUS students specifically, I found that a lot of them were more focused on their major, with business courses on the side. However, I’m more of the other way around, where I’m more focused on the business knowledge and my major is more of a secondary resource. Initially, I found that made it a little more difficult to connect with other students/. However, it doesn’t change the fact that everyone in the program is extremely smart and talented. I’ve found that everyone is super-willing to help you out if you need it. On the faculty side, there are so many helpful professors, but a lot of that is what you make it to be. If you put in the effort to do well in your classes, professors will notice and try to help you out, because they genuinely care about your success. As long as you’re willing to talk to them, they’re willing to help.
Aryan: In Arts specifically, I have found that the student environment is very welcoming and engaged. I have found that Arts students aren’t completely engrossed in their studies and are very involved in extracurricular activities as well. I feel that they have the perfect balance between academics and exploring other opportunities outside of classes.
Any advice for incoming students/applicants?
Sharon: To those applying/entering University one piece of advice I have to offer when considering what program you would like to take is consider the ARBUS program because not only will it enrich your Honours Arts degree in one of 23 diverse majors, but it will also provide you with a clear set of practical business skills, in areas such as: marketing, entrepreneurship, communication and leadership. You will definitely be able to find a good balance between business and an area of Arts in the ARBUS program.
Although many people are quick to ask “what can you do with an arts major?”, the answer to that is simple being that arts education actually helps students to gain key skills needed in the workplace including flexibility, the ability to solve problems and communicate, as well as the ability to learn new skills, be creative and innovative.
Aryan: The main advice that I would give is to explore and understand every single opportunity, along with the pros and cons of your university and your program. That way, you don’t reach a point where you are questioning your choices. My advice would be to do as much research as you can before making a decision, so that you can be happy with it. Especially now, when everything is unpredictable and you aren’t able to visit campuses, do as much research as possible. It isn’t always about the academic program or classes, the environment is also extremely important.
In ARBUS, your first year allows you to experiment with different courses to decide your major. Initially, I was interested in political sciences and I thought that would pair well with business. Later in my first year, I realized that I was enjoying the business courses much more than the political science courses. I saw this through my marks as well as my conversations and level of engagement in these courses. After my first term in second year, I decided to divert myself into economics, which I enjoy more. Although I do have to take a few extra required courses now, I would say that this is the best opportunity to feel out different options and find something that you actually enjoy.
Shady: Don’t skip classes. Even if you aren’t always giving your full attention, the discipline of waking up and attending the class will give it more importance in your head. Going to classes also helps you build a rapport with professors, which can come in handy if you ever fall slightly short. Do things on time and pay attention to rubrics. If a rubric specifically asks for a title page, don’t forget a title page. Don’t leave out silly things like that. If you do everything that they ask for, you’ll end up with a decent mark.
Irina: One of the things I wish somebody had told me was to not be so worried about picking my major right away. When I was first coming in, I was choosing between economics and psychology. A week before the course schedules locked, I switched econ to spcom. You don’t have to confirm a single major until towards the end of first year. Use your first year to explore your courses. You have some leeway to check out different majors and try to see what you think you’ll enjoy. If you enjoy your courses, your performance will be much better. Also don’t panic if your marks drop a little bit. That’s going to happen at the beginning of university. A few lower marks are such a small portion of your overall university experience so use those as a learning experience.