Meet BIE Academic Advisor Triny Shen

The best way to find out if you enjoy something is by trying it out. And that is precisely how Triny Shen, current Academic Advisor for the Bachelor of International Economics (BIE) program, discovered her passion for helping out students with academic decisions.

While completing a Master’s degree in Higher Education at UBC, Triny became involved in a myriad of initiatives related to student government, international student development, and student residence life. The more she did it the more she realized her love for providing guidance to students on how to make the most of their time at UBC.

As the Academic Advisor for the BIE program, she is also part of the recruitment and admission process: a complex procedure to select less than 100 bright and motivated individuals, from thousands of applicants, to form that fall’s newest BIE cohort. Despite the complexity of her work, collaborating in the academic and personal growth of the students is a highly rewarding experience for Triny. With some advice and a good plan anything can work out!

What features in the BIE program make it different from other Economics programs?

Unlike any other economics program in Canada it includes six courses from the Sauder School of Business thus providing students with both a strong theoretical foundation in Economics and the practical skills from Commerce. Another unique aspect of BIE is its cohort structure, a 4-year direct entry program of less than 100 students per cohort, half international, half domestic. Studying together for four years allows them to participate in an exciting and unique networking experience. Furthermore, in the 3rd year, top BIE students will have the opportunity to take part in research internships with professors from UBC’s Vancouver School of Economics and Sauder School of Business.

How does the application review process work?

UBC admissions staff select the students accepted to the University and the BIE program office makes the decisions on whether they are offered a place in the BIE program. When we review the applications we look at the students’ academic qualifications as well as their extracurricular activities.

What do you look for in BIE applicants?

We look for bright, motivated students who want to create an impact on the world. This is an economics degree, not a business degree, hence it is not trying to prepare students to a very specific position but rather aiming to give students the tools to analyze the world in an analytical and thoughtful way. Thus we are looking for students who are genuinely interested and curious about the way the world functions.

What is your favorite part of the process?

I really enjoy reading an excellent personal profile and learning the personal stories of outstanding students. Reading their stories and experiences is a way of getting to know them. I also find the process of matching the best candidates with the limited number of positions very interesting. When they do accept the offer and come to the program, it is a very rewarding experience to meet them in person.

What are the challenges of being an academic advisor?

It is much more complicated than what it looks like at first sight because I play different roles than just that of a program advisor. Besides advising students with academics, I also work in the admission and the recruitment, retention and graduation process. I call it “from the cradle to economist”. There are challenges that make the work I do very complex but they are outnumbered by the satisfaction I gain by getting to know the students through their four years of studies. Working with students for four years provides the space to build meaningful relationships with many of them. It is also a very rewarding experience to observe their personal and academic growth from when they first join the program to the moment they graduate.

How did you become an academic advisor for BIE?

I took quite a liberal approach in my own education. I did my undergrad in economics, as well as English and tourism. Then I taught college English for a short period and discovered the potentials in being an educator. Thus I decided to come to UBC to do a master’s degree in higher education. During my time here I took part in many different initiatives related to student governance, international student development and residence life. The more I did the more I enjoyed it so from then onwards I actively looked for a position where I could interact with students and advise them on how to make the most of their time at UBC. Before becoming an academic advisor for the BIE program I worked with UBC student development, at the Faculty of Medicine admissions office, as well as enrolment services for some years. I think these experiences gave me a good understanding of the university dynamics and, in particular, of the way the UBC system works. Also, as I once was at student at UBC myself, I am now able to look at some of the difficulties students face from both an administrative and a student perspective.

What do you like doing during your free time around Vancouver?

I really like Vancouver except that it rains a lot in the winter! But other than that, Vancouver has a lot to offer to its residents. During the summer I like doing some outdoor activities such as going to the beach, swimming in the ocean, hiking different mountains and trails, and jogging in the forest. I am such a foodie too! Throughout the year I enjoy the variety of international cuisine one can get in Vancouver.

Care sharing an interesting/fun fact about yourself that not many people know about?

I am a huge movie goer, and TV shows are my guilty pleasure. I guess you could call me a “cinephile”. In another lifetime, I might have worked for that industry. In fact, I’ve helped write film critiques with a friend who is now a producer for Warner Brothers.