Interview with Jason Wang on selecting a program of study, mentoring & demonstrating leadership
Our July 2021 Leader in the Spotlight features Jason Wang, a recent BSc graduate from the University of Alberta (UofA). Passionate about mentoring, Jason has volunteered as a mentor for the UofA Interdepartmental Science Students Society Mini Study Groups Program, the UofA Science Mentors, and at the NSN. He has also served as the President of the University of Alberta Pre-Optometry Club. In our interview, Jason shares his insights on the value of mentorship, key leadership lessons he has learned, and advice for high school students.
1) Many high school students are anxious about the decision to select a program of study. How did you decide to pursue a BSc in Biological Sciences Major with a Physical Sciences Minor at the University of Alberta?
For the first two years of my science degree, I didn’t declare a major or a minor. For those who are really unsure about which program to study, I think starting out as undeclared is a good starting point. I knew that science was my strong suit in high school and I wanted to pursue it, but there were so many science programs that I simply couldn’t choose. Therefore, I spent the first two years trying out courses from different fields and disciplines. What I soon found was that I enjoyed being able to take a diverse set of both science and non-science courses. It has helped me become a well-rounded person, and it’s amazing how different courses can offer unique perspectives on the same topic. By pursuing a Biological Sciences Major with a Physical Sciences Minor, I have been granted the freedom to take a diverse array of courses such as economics, sociology, and accounting, which wouldn’t have been possible if I chose to specialize in one subject area. So if you’re anxious about choosing a program to study, just know that you’re able to choose your program later on in your degree if you want.
2) You’ve served as a mentor in an official capacity via ISSS Mini Study Groups Program, the UofA Science Mentors, and at the NSN. Why is mentorship important to you? What do you think prospective mentees can do to find a mentor and establish an ongoing relationship?
Mentorship is important to me because I think it is a valuable resource that can help today’s youth succeed in the future. We all learn important lessons through our life experiences, and that enables us to mentor others so that they can learn those lessons too. Mentors can also benefit from mentorship, as it offers them a chance to reflect on their experiences and discuss them with someone else. The best thing a prospective mentee can do is to take initiative and reach out. It is unlikely that someone will approach you and ask to be your mentor. After the initial conversations, it doesn’t stop. To maintain an ongoing relationship, be open to communicating with your mentor. Consistent dialogue between mentor and mentee will help both parties understand each other more, and foster a stronger relationship.
3) You’ve held various leadership roles on campus throughout your undergraduate degree; what are some key leadership lessons you’ve learned?
The biggest leadership lesson I’ve learned is that being a leader is like being background music. In movies, TV shows, and video games, the background music sets the mood and atmosphere of the situation. As a leader, your emotions and attitude can greatly affect the group’s productivity, morale, openness, and general functioning. For example, if you’re an enthusiastic leader, your group will likely match your energy. If you act apathetic and disinterested, your group will match that as well. A leader plays a large role in setting a group’s dynamic, so it is important to serve as a good example to your group.
4) Looking back to your high school self, what is one piece of advice you would have liked to have taken to heart?
When I attended my high school orientation, I remember my orientation leader telling us: “the best way to make high school enjoyable is to try new things and to put ourselves into situations that may be uncomfortable or make you feel anxious.” While I did put myself out there through being involved in leadership activities, I feel like I could’ve done more. I focused a little too much on getting into university and missed out on a lot of opportunities.
Therefore, my advice to anyone who is entering or is currently in high school is to live in the moment. Challenge yourself. If you do these things, I am confident that you will have an enjoyable high school experience.
5) We love to celebrate our NYLs achievements. To-date, what’s been your proudest moment, and why?
It’s hard to pick the proudest moment in my life, but I think a highlight of 2020 was when I launched my YouTube channel. I had been debating for years on whether I want to make YouTube videos, and what content I would make, but I finally decided to make a channel where I post watch reviews, discussions, and hands-on experiences. I was initially nervous, but I’m starting to get the hang of it and it’s really helped with my presentation skills. I’m usually not the type to delve into the artistic side of things (painting, writing, singing, etc), so making videos has been a challenging but rewarding experience. If you want to take a look at my YouTube channel, here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/c/AChannelAboutWatches.