When Priscilla Patel first came to the city in 2009 to begin her studies at the University of Lethbridge, she saw land, lots of land, in fact, more land than buildings. And the buildings — most of them single-storey, were so unlike the highrises in her native Malaysia. The bustling neighbourhoods of her homeland were replaced by far more sedate streets.
She, her three siblings and their mother, Malti, left Penang so Priscilla could study new media at the University of Lethbridge, qualifications she would need for her dream job of being an animator at Pixar. Her father, Ashok, stayed behind in Malaysia to run the family’s textile business. The family became aware of the U of L through a Study in Canada event. Even so, her first sight of the Lethbridge landscape was a shock.
“I remember calling my dad up right away and telling him ‘You’ve got to book me a plane ticket; I need to come home now,’” she says. “I remember him saying ‘Just try it out for a month. If you don’t like it, you can come back.’”
Seven years later, she’s graduating (with distinction) with her second degree from the University of Lethbridge. Along with a Bachelor of Fine Arts she earned in 2013, she will soon add a Bachelor of Management to her credentials.
“I’m glad I took the risk. I’m very thankful for my family because, without them, I wouldn’t be here. To have an education and to have so much support, not many people get that,” she says. “The Faculty of Management, I think that was my biggest support. I made friends with many of my student colleagues and professors. I don’t think I could have found that social network anywhere else and I’m very thankful for that, and for having profs who encourage students to come talk to them about anything.”
Priscilla found her way to the Faculty of Management after completing an internship in the marketing department at Lethbridge College. Even though she was passionate about graphic design, her supervisor, Carmen Toth, saw that she was also a people person. Toth suggested she consider marketing and, after a year of working as a general clerk at the University Library, Priscilla heeded the advice.
“I loved it,” she says of her time as a management student. “The first class I took was Marketing 2020 with Mike Madore. As soon as I got in that class, I said ‘Yup, this is it. This is where I belong.’ I’m very grateful because I experienced a real connection with my professors in the Faculty of Management.”
While each of the professors she encountered in the program played a role in helping her attain her degree, it was Madore and Dr. Mike Basil who especially motivated her to always do her best, she says. Priscilla credits the faculty with helping her learn presentation skills, how to handle pressure, manage a team and multi-task.
“If you ask any of my peers who started the program with me, they would tell you I was shy and I wouldn’t want to present,” she says. “If you ask my professor about the case analysis I presented last semester she’d say ‘I would never have known.’ Giving presentations boosts your self-confidence and makes you want to do the best you can. They always say you want to learn how to sell yourself. If you can’t sell yourself, no one’s going to want to listen to you because time is money.”
She, under Basil’s supervision, also did an independent research study investigating the predictors of celebrity effectiveness in advertisements.
“I found out that I love marketing research, collecting and analyzing data and being able to test my hypothesis,” says Priscilla.
Priscilla continues to work at the University Library and has taken on a special project for the summer, reviewing teaching materials in the Faculty of Education’s Curriculum Laboratory. Once the project has wrapped up, Priscilla hopes to begin her first career position and she’s ready to go wherever that might be.
When Priscilla crosses the stage and receives her parchment at Friday’s convocation ceremonies, her thoughts will be with her father, who won’t be able to attend. While he planned to join his family in Canada much sooner, economic circumstances have delayed his departure. Ashok hopes to be in Canada within a couple of years.
“I’m graduating with distinction and I want to make my dad proud. I want to tell him ‘I actually did it, taking six classes for three semesters. It paid off,’” she says, wiping away a few tears.