Envisioning Leadership

This semester, I took a pretty incredible course at McGill – most surprisingly, perhaps, it was a Management course.

OH GOD. I’m doing a minor in Management for many reasons, and to be perfectly honest, I’m very judgmental of most of the faculty. Perhaps it’s based on the stereotypes that I’ve heard about all the management students, but it’s also very applicable when I sit in class: a lot of the students in Bronfman think they’re hot shit because they know how to balance a spreadsheet and calculate investment growth. A lot of them believe that because they’re in Management, they have clear job prospects and will make money, which too often seems to be their requirement for happiness.

As an artsy-fartsy idealist, I find this terrifying! Money is the last thing that I would expect to be the absolute requirement for my happiness. I personally measure success based on much more than my career. That’s why I enjoyed Karl Moore’s “Leadership in the Broader Context” course so much this semester. Based off “Total Leadership” by Stuart Friedman as a textbook, the course encouraged students to examine the four key areas of our life: home, work, community and self, and strive to reach a balance between them, rather than just focusing on the traditional work-life balance that assumes that they each should take up 50%.

We reflected on our core values and how they should be applied to our lives, as well as on different styles of leadership. One of the exercises suggested in the book was to write out a leadership vision – a short description of how we envisioned our future, based on our values. Mine is below:

Fifteen years from now, I “have my shit together”. Regardless of where I am working, I have helped to set a precedent for strong, active communities that support each other and grow: work communities that are safe and welcoming, and that value people’s differences and experiences. I have found a way to balance idealism with realism and I get things done when I need to.

I am happy. I am working in a job I love, with a team that respects me for my knowledge, kindness, perseverance, creativity and accessibility. I have a partner who I love and laugh with, one who reminds me not to take myself too seriously, and that I am worth it. If I have children, I am raising them in a supportive, warm environment that does not restrict their freedom and identity but still provides them with guidance and firmness when they need it. They are encouraged to explore and learn constantly, to foster strong relationships and respect everyone.

I have a Master’s degree, if not more, and am recognised and respected in my field for my academics; I also speak at least one more language fluently. I am in touch with my family and their needs, and I pride myself on knowing where my heart lies and where my roots are. I can and do check my moral compass daily and guide it back if I get lost.

(Ideally, I’m also in control of my health, but that’s a little harder to do…)

This class, beyond giving me a chance to ask brilliant leaders like Sheila Fraser (former Auditor General), David Segal (CEO of David’s Tea), Raymond Chretien (former ambassador to Paris and Washington for Canada) and Bernard Shapiro (former Principal of  McGill) lots of questions, was exactly what I needed right about now in my academic career. It made me rethink the routes I want to take to do the things I want to do, and reconsider what it means to be a proper leader.

We had to write to run an “Innovation Experiment”, and try to target one of the four segments in our lives that we thought needed more work. I decided to focus on my community, and more specifically my more direct community of friends that I have neglected somewhat over the last year because of school- and health-related stress. I also wanted to connect with people outside my regular circles and push my boundaries to new communities. It worked! I rekindled some of my friendships and really refreshed our relationships, making both myself and my friends feel more supported and connected as a consequence. I also tried to make more friends in class and generally reach out to different people (including Management students!) so that I could keep a broad base of connections, rather than just one that focused on people in the groups I’m regularly part of. Lastly, I branched out; I went to a few events hosted by the McGill Entrepreneur Society and absolutely loved it! I met some fascinating people, but more importantly, I discovered that I have a passion for entrepreneurship, and I’m now possibly trying to start my own business. Who knew?

It’s been a busy semester, and it’s not done yet. I’ll post something else at some point about working during University, and how to make sure your life doesn’t just revolve around school. We’ll see what comes of the last few weeks!

Best of luck with exams, snarklings, and enjoy the lovely sunshine – God knows we’ve been waiting for it for long enough.


Published in: on April 17, 2013 at 6:21 PM  Leave a Comment  
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On sticking with things, and finishing them too.


Hi. It’s me, Rhapsody. “Whaaat?”, you say in shock, “that chick is still alive?” Well, believe it or not (I’m not sure I believe it myself), I am. And I’m pretty embarrassed, to tell the truth, that I’ve been MIA for so long.

What’s happened since my last post? A heck of a lot, believe you me. I changed my programme, fell in love (d’aww), learnt a lot of things, moved in with a new roommate into a beautiful flat (and gained another best fried in the process), got sick, got better, got sick again, changed my programme again (sense a pattern?), fostered 13 cats across a year and a half, got my heart broken (ouch), made some great new friends, had fights with my parents, got sick again, took some K grades in some classes, aced some other classes, and took my first management class.
Overall, it’s been pretty busy, and that’s just the big things.

So why is it I’m back here, when I clearly have lots of other things going on? I think, really, that it has to do with all of the things I mentioned above. I’ve decided, this year, along with a whole bunch of other things (which will be kept to the next post), that I’m going to do things, and stick with them, and hopefully finish them too. That includes things like blogging – I’m not going to just let them disappear like that sweater from your granny that you just keep relegating to the back of your closet and forget about until one day, finally, you get to throwing it out. I’m going to finish things properly because it’s satisfying and it’s the right way to do most things, and if I can’t finish them, the least I can do is stick with them for at least a couple more months.

It’s going to be tough. I know that already. I’m one of those people who can’t keep still, who always have to be doing something, who often jump from one fantastic idea to the next but sometimes forget to see things through to the end. I’ve got about six different crafting projects hanging around my house because I can’t just sit and watch a movie, and my ever- patient, ever-loving flatmate puts up with it with saintly patience because she knows how thrilled I am when I finally finish one of them. So there you have it. Despite the inherent difficulties of finishing something or just sticking with a project when you’re a hyperactive, slightly loony ball of (sometimes nervous) energy, I’m going to do it.

(Remind me of that pledge in two months when I’ve forgotten about this again, will you?)

I’m back, snarklings. Bring it on.


Where, oh where, is one to study?


Ugh, finals. I just wrote a post about them, and here’s another.

Maybe you’ve noticed the kidlets camping out in Cybertheque, or those who’ve literally made Schulich their home, or otherwise the Bronfman dwellers (*coughcough*Redman*coughcough*).

With all these stressed out people everywhere, it can be tough to find somewhere to study on campus, and everyone guards “their” library/studying spot carefully. However, here is a bit of a breakdown of the places where you can crack open your books for a bit, both on and around campus.

– Schulich

While Schulich is one of my favourite libraries in usual term-time, I avoid it like the plague during finals most of the time because the atmosphere of sheer stress and tension in there is enough to make me start freaking out in sympathy. It’s a scary place. However, if you’re looking for a sometimes slightly less crowded and nice-noise-level place, try the eClassroom on the fourth floor. It has computers at each desk (don’t use up a desk there if you have your own computer or are just going to do hand-written stuff, that’s not nice.) and the volume is usually just-whispers, so you can ask your neighbour a question, but don’t answer your phone unless it’s to murmur “hi, let me go outside” and run out.

Islamic Studies Library

This place is beautiful, and super super quiet, but can get kind of busy during exams. You have to look for a spot or really hope that someone will leave as you arrive, but there are quite a few nooks you can tuck yourself into if you just want to sit and do readings.

Birks Reading Room

Also super beautiful, and deathly quiet. You have to take your shoes off before coming in (BRING CLEAN SOCKS IF YOUR FEET ARE SMELLY) and water bottles have to  be left on the floor next to your chair, but the room is so beautiful that it’s worth it. Don’t even dare raise your voice beyond the faintest whisper or the librarian will first glare at you and then come up to you and scold you loudly enough for everyone to stare at you as you apologise, mortified, while feeling guilty for profaning the silence.

Law Library

Lawyers are scary people. Don’t drop your pencil, or you might get whalloped by someone’s massive Penal Code book. Don’t laugh, a friend of mine was actually so severely reprimanded by the girl next to her for dropping her pencil that she left.


I personally don’t like McLennan, ’cause I like having books somewhat close by at least while I’m in a library, and I think McLennan kind of sucks the soul out of me, but it is huge, and it does have lots and lots of room, so you can probably always find a spot in one of the many parking lots of study desks on the various floors.


See notes about McLennan. Cybertheque is reaaaaaally soul-sucking, partially because most of the room is too far from the windows for you to notice the passage of time, so you  begin to lose track of everything. A good place for all-nighters though, if you get there early enough to not be sitting on the floor all night – something about the lighting helps you not fall asleep quite as much, and the vending machines nearby will help keep you fueled.


If you can resist the highly soporific effect of the couches in the SSMU lounge, they’re a good place to study. Otherwise, the lovely SSMU exec have set up tables, chairs, lights and extension cords in the ballroom for the duration of finals so you can study it up there.


No soul. 24-hour access and free printing for Science students. The Geography library in Burnside is apparently lovely though, and you get a great view out the windows.

– FDA labs

Only work during the night if you’re an engy, and the security guards actually do check. Don’t go there if you’re in Arts, especially at night – people will potentially grumble at you, and they need the special software on the computers more than you do.

Miscellaneous coffee shops

You know the like – Second Cup, Starbucks, any number of places that have wifi and get invaded by students even more during exams. They can get kind of pricy though, since you’ll probably end up buying a number of drinks. Also, be SUPER CAREFUL with your belongings. I got my laptop stolen there, and it happens ALL. THE. TIME. Don’t assume that just because you’re sitting there, someone won’t be sneaky and take your computer/phone/ipod/coat/item worth stealing.

The Grande Bibliotheque at Berri-UQAM

I love this library, personally, and not only because they have those beautiful green lamps, but also because there are huge windows (that don’t fall out anymore, though they used to) and lovely slanted but wide drawing-type tables. The incline is just enough to still be comfortable for those who usually only like flat tables, though I’d love it if it was just a bit steeper. Only problem is that the elevators make loud “ding” noises ALL THE TIME, which tends to drive me crazy, so bring earphones or earplugs. Open 10-10 Tuesday thru Friday, 10-6 on the weekend, closed on Monday. Get there early to pick your spot.


There are lots of other little places on campus and all over Montreal – switch it up! Also, do comment if there are other spots you can think of that are nice to study in.


Good luck everyone! La fin approche.



Published in: on December 13, 2011 at 12:22 AM  Comments (3)  

On evaluations at McGill


Hi there.


I know there hasn’t been a post in a while – sincere apologies for that. Follow Redmen at the Bull & Bear, and meanwhile I’ll be continuing to put out posts from here from time to time. Redman still writes from here sometimes too!


Anyways. To the post.


It’s come to that dreaded time of year again, when the libraries are packed full, stress levels are running sky-high, and local coffee shops are making a fortune in caffeinated-beverage-sales.

I’m writing this two nights before my Calculus I final, an exam that will be worth a whopping 70% of my mark – if I don’t well enough in this exam, I’ll fail the course. There’s no two ways around it, that’s just the way it is.
I don’t know about you, but the idea of having 70% of a grade resting on three hours of intense brain-wracking and scribbling is terrifying to me. It’s cause for palpitations, numerous cups of teas, tears and the barely controlled panic attack of an hour ago, when I looked at a past final for the course and couldn’t figure out how to do the problems, any of them.
Not fun.

I’ve since gone through my textbook, rewriting formulas and rereading the fateful chapter on L’Hospital’s Rule that would have helped me answer at least the multiple choice questions. Phew. That’s a relief. Maybe I won’t fail after all.

There’s a lot riding on finals for some people – those, especially in maths courses (and a number of science courses too), who have finals that are worth up to 95% of their final grade have a whole lot of pressure weighing down on them to do mpre than just acceptably – with no assignments, quizzes or midterms to fall back on, three hours is three credits you have to save for your GPA to survive the semester.

Redman wrote a post a while ago about the grading system at McGill, and how it’s a shambles – I suppose this post is more about the evaluation system at McGill, and how it’s a huge strain on students.

Before you grumble at me, I KNOW it’s like this in nearly all universities. Still, I can’t help but think that having courses with two marking schemes would be great – some classes already have them in place. Basically, one would have two options as far as an evaluation structure is concerned:

– Do a certain set amount of coursework (assignments, quizzes, midterms, WebWorK, whatever) worth up to 50% for your class mark, and the remaining 50% comes from your mark on your final.

– Do less coursework throughout the semester, and have the final be worth 70%, 80%, whatever incredibly high percentage the professor assigns.

It’s not ideal, and I know there are courses that already have structures like these, but as far as I know, none of the maths courses at McGill offer anything this generous in terms of work to save your grade. I know that for students such as myself, a 50% final would be a godsend, since constant, steady work over the semester forces one to cosntantly be up to date on material, as well as providing a cushioning mark, so that at the very least, one doesn’t fail.

50% on a final is a pass, and though that’s a pretty damn low mark, for people who test poorly, who are prone to panicky attacks of the I-can’t-do-this-and-blanking-out-on-everything variety or those who simply aren’t in the best of shape when they come up to their exam, it can still be a tough target to reach. Too many times, I hear people saying “I just need to pass this exam. I don’t even care if I do well or not, I just want to pass. I can’t fail this course.” For students in rigidly structured programmes (like engineering, for instance), failing a class nearly always means missing the pre-requisite for a course in the following semester, so that can delay the whole programme by a semester, if not a whole year. Having less emphasis on the final and a broader balance of work across the semester would allow students to pass a course at the very least, and keep going with their programme.

No system is perfect, but I would be inclined to think that McGill’s generally heavy emphasis on the weighting of finals in science, maths and engineering courses is particularly imperfect, and stressful.


…*Sigh.* Back to studying.


Good luck on your exams, everyone. Have faith in yourself. You can do ittttt :)





(Ps. For shits and giggles: http://youtu.be/uiCRZLr9oRw )


Published in: on December 12, 2011 at 11:44 PM  Leave a Comment  
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