June 26, 2020

Class of 2020: Dual engineering and business degrees for history-making grads

First Haskayne and Schulich double degree graduates earn their parchments

One decision, two degrees.

It sounds simple enough, but for 2020 University of Calgary graduates Varun Bhatt and Scott McNichol, that decision meant long academic hours and gruelling study schedules in exchange for a place in Western Canada’s first combined degree program in engineering and commerce.

All that’s left is to officially accept the Bachelor of Science in Engineering and Bachelor of Commerce degrees, and look back on a remarkable achievement.

  • Photo above: Scott McNichol, left, and Varun Bhatt have graduated from Western Canada's first combined degree program in engineering and commerce.

The beauty of the dual degree program is the opportunity to meet some really wonderful people in both engineering and business, and I believe a great legacy of the program going forward will be a stronger collaboration between students in both faculties,” says McNichol.

Two faculties working together

The BSc (Eng)/BComm combined degree program, offered jointly through Schulich School of Engineering and Haskayne School of Business, is designed to leverage the strengths of a world-class engineering and business education while preparing students for career success in both entrepreneurship and creative thinking.

For McNichol, the experience of the program — including summer internships in both engineering and finance — has pointed him toward a career in capital markets.

McNichol says he feels well prepared to excel, by offering something unique to employers with his understanding of both the technical and the commerce side of the business equation.

Having an interdisciplinary skill set allows for a deep understanding of a lot of businesses from a technical/engineering sense as well as from a financial perspective. I decided to follow my passion for finance and capital markets, and so I’m beginning my career in investment banking.

Generous gift in name of education

It was a $5-million gift from Clayton and Linda Woitas and family that helped launch the combined degree program, and the collective credentials of the Woitases show a passion for education.

Clayton is a respected leader in the energy sector and Calgary Business Hall of Fame laureate. Linda is a double alumna, DipEd’76 and Med’91, while their children — Josh Woitas, BComm’03 and MBA’05, and Carson Woitas, BSc’08 and MBA’16 — are also double alumni from the University of Calgary.

"Our vision to see the University of Calgary develop a combined Bachelor of Science in Engineering and Bachelor of Commerce undergraduate degree, that was not being offered anywhere in Western Canada, has come to fruition as we extend our congratulations to the first students completing the program," said Clayton and Linda Woitas in a joint statement.

"We are inspired by the talented students that we have met who are enrolled in the joint degree program. They are brilliant, energetic and assertive adults. We are confident that our joint degree graduates will be the finest ambassadors for this program.

"We continue to be optimistic and have confidence in the business opportunities in Calgary and in the energy industry and we want to share this optimism with those of you that are graduating this year and those who will be completing this program in the years to come. The industry downturns and economic challenges provide numerous opportunities for those that have the entrepreneurial spirit and financial wisdom to act."

Students of the Haskayne-Schulich combined degree take a mixture of engineering, science, arts and business courses, and graduate ready to tackle entrepreneurial opportunities in an evolving technology-based global economy.

Varun Bhatt, above in video, is 100-per-cent confident his dual degree has already positively affected his career.

Entrepreneurial aspirations

Varun Bhatt entered the combined degree program as an experienced entrepreneur, having started an eco-friendly LED lighting business before attending university.

Now, armed with two degrees and the experience of two internships, plus a learning excursion to the London Stock Exchange and meetings with business leaders, Bhatt says he’s ready to take his dream of sustainable energy to the next level.

My passion is sustainability, so I hope to eventually culminate my career with an executive leadership role, preferably with an energy company.

No regrets

As the first two to graduate from the combined degree program, McNichol and Bhatt are in a unique position of being able to answer a key question for other potential dual degree students: Was it worth it?

There is no hesitation: “The value that this program brings to you and your career, and I think your personal growth, is having both hats on at the same time — technical and commercial,” says Bhatt.

“It’ll put you in a very small, unique, prestigious group of people when you enter the workforce.”

Celebrate the engineering Class of 2020 with us.