A New Year for the MBSSA

By Seth Robinson

How do you build a sense of community when everyone is in lockdown? This was one of the main challenges for the MBSSA over 2020 as they adapted their calendar and figured out how to continue connecting with each other. In 2021, incoming President Sanjeev Haikerwal hopes to continue building on this work.

Sanjeev grew up in Melbourne, completing his schooling and going on to study in the Bachelor of Commerce. Upon graduation he decided to build on his experience and pursue a Master of Finance at Melbourne Business School, but like many new students, 2020 wasn’t the year he expected.

‘Look, if you told me in 2019 that it was all going to be virtual, I certainly would have been a bit shocked, but I think it’s been a good experience to learn and adapt in a challenging environment, especially working on a master’s degree. I’ve had to really stretch myself and grow as a person, and I think in a way the opportunities I’ve had through studying at MBS this year have been a nice balance to the challenges of 2020. For example, I attended an internship at a boutique consultancy, which was run through MBS. I felt really privileged to have that opportunity.’

For Sanjeev, the MBS Students’ Association (MBSSA), was a huge part of how he connected to the MBS community.

Sanjeev Haikerwal
MBSSA President, Sanjeev Haikerwal

‘One of the things I found inspiring about doing a master’s was that it was a fresh start in a way. A chance to meet an entirely new group of people from all over the world. I’ve achieved that, just not in the way I thought I would.  Initially, being in that virtual environment, it was difficult to make friends and feel like part of the community.  That’s where MBSSA came into things for me, I saw this committee of about 30 really passionate people, who were putting on these empowering professional, social, and academic events. It was clear they were working really hard to bridge that gap and create a sense of community for all of us.’

Sanjeev joined the committee in his second semester, drawing on some of his previous experience and taking on the role of Event Manager. He’s been part of the team delivering MBSSA events online for the second semester of 2020. In 2021, he’ll be taking on the role of President, leading all of MBSSA’s efforts in the new year.

‘We’re still in uncharted territory in 2021, it sounds like many businesses, and the university itself, will be operating on a kind of hybrid model, so that’s given us a chance to think really creatively about it all and figure out how we can be as adaptive and inclusive as possible, whatever happens. We want to cater to those students who will be on campus, and those who are still overseas. The team and I really want to alleviate the disconnect, so students can interact online and where possible in person, across courses and subjects,’ he says. ‘As well as delivering events online, our hope is that as the year goes on, we will be able to return to some in-person events. We all missed things like the Melbourne Business Ball this last year, so we want to bring a bit of that spark to our events calendar. And of course, we’re going to continue delivering our professional development events, such as online networking and CV workshops.’

Sanjeev’s presidency will mark his last semester at MBS, so he’s looking to make it count before he goes on and enters the working world.

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‘I think there’s a lot of anxiety for students who are graduating and entering the working world right now. Like everyone, I hope I’ll be able to land a job in my discipline, finance, but like many students thrown into the virtual world, I don’t have a 5 or even a 3-year plan. That said, if 2020 and my experience with MBSSA has taught me anything, it’s that we all have the potential to adapt and utilise the opportunities that come to us. I think there are big questions we all have to think about now, where are we going? What does the future look like? But at the same time, it’s exciting to think about your part in all of that, to consider where you might be able to make a difference.’