In their short tenure, the President and Vice President of the GBC have grown into eloquent and passionate leaders, brimming with strategic ideas and insights about effective student government. They’ve hit the ground running with this year’s mandate and are at home in their respective executive positions.

So you would never guess that not long ago, as undergraduate students, both flew under the radar and side-stepped the student life spotlight.  

In fact, neither defines himself as a “cookie cutter” business student at all.

Ali, VP, began his education in aerospace technology in the UK before switching gears (and locales) to run a small wholesale company in Dubai. After years in the industry, he began to crave a new challenge and grew interested in learning to manage change. This is what led him to an MBA.

“My experience is not your typical pre-MBA experience,” says Ali. “I appreciated the diversity that Schulich offered, and its acceptance of students from very different backgrounds.”


GBC President James began his education in Philosophy and Politics at a liberal arts college at the University of Western Ontario. After graduating, he found success working for an international development agency and spent two years in Kenya.

“At some point I realized that I didn’t have a lot of formalized, structural knowledge,” says James. “I got to a place where I didn’t feel I was the leader that I could be.”

He remembers meeting with successful donors throughout his career, whose passion left an impression. “All were incredibly successful and passionate… and all of them had MBAs,” he says. “They were able to give back, effect change for good, and be an example.”

Braving the Mantle of Leadership

Both Ali and James made the choice to pursue their own MBAs, putting them in the same cohort in Fall 2017. Running for student government entered their minds when they arrived at Schulich – but it was still a leap of courage to make it happen.

“In my undergrad, I was one of those kids who wasn’t very confident or outgoing,” says Ali. “I shied away from extra curriculars. I made a conscious choice when I began my MBA: to be uncomfortable, all the time!”

James also embraced the idea of moving beyond his comfort zone.

“Coming back to school was a big gut-check for me,” he says. “I definitely experienced anxiety and a lack of self-confidence.”

But recognizing the impact he could make, James felt called to step up to the plate. “It felt right,” he says of running for President. “I had a vision that I could hopefully create value for as many stakeholders as possible.”

A New Direction

Today, the pair are proof that complementary strengths and a shared vision can truly mobilize – and that pushing past “the uncomfortable” pays off.

With a full mandate, the team is smashing records across the board, with increased revenue, attendees and diversity at each event they’ve hosted. Ali and James have worked hard to boost student body engagement, inter-program relationship-building, and a structural re-analysis of the student government itself. They come from very different backgrounds but couldn’t be more aligned in their objectives for the year: to create as much value as possible in their short time in office.

“I really do believe the GBC has the best opportunity for students to improve the brand of the school while we’re here,” says James. “I can’t say enough of the strength, power and commitment that the exec has shown; it drives us all.”