by Erica Ly

cartoon "Your MBA and PhD are impressive, but frnakly what concerns me is your low number of Facebook friends.

Stereotype #1 of infinity: Studying commerce? The world thinks we have no social life.
(Image source)

Time travel back to end of high school, senior year. It is undeniable that when you told someone what program you were deciding to pursue, there was some kind of extreme reaction. Weeding out the more personal opinions, most comments followed one of the two moulds: “Yeah! I definitely see you in (program name)!”, or “Really? Wow, I never saw you as the (program name) type.” Is there a common student image that is associated with these programs? Are we supposed to assimilate with them and lose our identity once we step foot through the university doors, becoming “just a number”?

What exactly is this stereotype that is shaping the images we receive with our chosen programs or undergrad?

Have students in the past proven that those going into the Life Sciences are all concerned and attentive, dedicated, coffee-intoxicated individuals that stay up late studying? That those in Engineering are a tight-knit clan who make loud and impactful impressions everywhere they go – at least until exams, when they seem to disappear off campus to stay in and study their minds out?

How about the thought that Commerce students only live in the future – applying for intern positions in just the second week of first year, instead of “having a life” in the present? That they are all money-driven adolescents, who walk around campus in suits and pencil skirts with an air of superiority towards those they regard as not as good as them?

It is not only because I am a Commerce student that I feel the need to point out that all of those stereotypes cannot be used to represent every student in a program. Generally, we are all aware of that. So why is it that when I went around to ask people of all ages and in different U of T colleges and campuses, what you see above is the general opinion I received?

Since I can only speak for my own program, I’m taking this opportunity to dispel for present students and alumni the generalizations I have come across, and give future students a clearer lens to look through.

People in other schools like to taunt those at U of T St. George for their lack of “individuality”. The popular line floating around Reddit and Tumblr is that “At St. George, you’re not a number, you’re a decimal!” (credit). The easiest way I can respond to that is: regardless of where you are – whether it be in university or the workplace – if you don’t do something in attempt to make yourself stand out positively, you’re going to be a decimal. At U of T, we are just given the opportunity for real-life simulation of high competition against various talents in advance, to prepare us for the future.

 

Rotman in particular has so many opportunities to make everyone more than just a number – from student-run associations and clubs that allow you to hone your passion and skills early, to Rotman advisors that can help you plan your future, and to Rotman having its own dragon boat team. At this point if you still feel unseen by those you want to impress, you just need to work harder and be more impressive. As the business school ranked #1 in Canada, the resources are already here.

Rotman student event

Problem-solving challenge events…
(Image source)

Rotman dragon boat team

… and the dragon boating team are just the beginning of what Rotman has to offer.
(Image source)

Next is the idea that all Rotman students are simply motivated by the anticipation of enormous pay checks. Dig deeper into this stereotype and you’ll find the message that Rotman students are known to earn more coming out of university. Like anyone else, these students must study and work hard day and night to get the qualifications they need to survive in the workforce. Being inspired by money alone won’t take you further than first year, if that was your real muse. Those with this empty passion and lack of will to fight back against the challenging curriculum are the ones that give up and drop out before finals, succumbing to the quote that you “rot in Rotman” – as Facebook groups like to remind us.

Contrary to the popular belief of much of the public, six-figure pay checks are not what Rotman graduates get as soon as they start their career. Blood, sweat, and tears are still required; the prestigious qualification simply alerts their employers to their potential.

 

Update the image that commerce students leave three-hour lectures in dark, airy theatres for dark, grey cubicles and endless nights hunched over paperwork in solitude. An MBA degree can be the ticket to an easy transfer into a different stream if you are in need of a career switch. Or you could be working for world-renowned companies such as Google, Deloitte, or even Louis Vuitton – the possibilities for a Rotman Commerce graduate are endless.

cartoon - How many years have you worked in a cubicle? (to an employee shaped like a cube)

‘How many years have you worked in a cubicle?’
(Image source)

Although popular, commerce is a pathway with extreme opinions. You either love it and are studying it, or can’t understand the appeal of it and ridicule it.

There is more to being a Rotman Commerce student than being a boastworthy topic for your family when meeting relatives over the holidays. It can certainly start a conversation about the “crazy” workload in the program when in need of connecting with your friends about the overwork everyone feels from time to time. Then there’s the flip side, in the form of those non-U of T students who feel the need to emphasize that “Rotman accepted me too…I just didn’t choose them”.

Rotman Commerce isn’t a popular choice internationally just because of U of T’s historic-looking buildings and architecture, but that’s a pretty superficial reason: think of the great minds who study, have studied, and will study here.

There is clearly more to a student than the stereotypes of the program they are entering. If they were capable enough to be accepted into that degree, instead of comparing them to the standard mould, we should focus on the mind that proved them worthy of being there. Open your eyes to see the change that they will bring to that field.

What thoughts do you have about programs of study and the relationship, if any, between disciplines and personalities?