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Blog post

Balancing academics and athletics at Concordia

Graduate Perspectives series
November 9, 2022
By Chris Wise, Graduate Recruitment and Marketing Associate

Graduate Perspectives is a series of blogposts about the John Molson School of Business graduate programs experience from the perspective of current students and alumni.

This week, Alexandra Calderone, MSc Management ‘22, tells us about her academic success and winning in varsity sports while making connections with online classmates and her community.

Many firsts

Alexandra Calderone earned a Bachelor of Business Administration with dual concentrations in Organizational Behaviour & Management Information Systems from Boston University. After graduating, Alexandra was still eligible to play varsity hockey for two more years and, upon discovering the 2-year MSc in Management offered at the John Molson School of Business and the Concordia Stingers hockey team, the opportunity seemed perfect.  

Starting the MSc in September 2020 meant that she did the entire program online under pandemic restrictions, bar one in-person courses in Spring 2021, when Concordia saw a gradual return to in-class learning. However, she remained disciplined and motivated throughout the mostly virtual learning experience.

“At first, it was a steep learning curve as everything was so new and foreign.” Not only were Alexandra and her cohort adapting to the ‘new normal’ of Zoom classes, but they were also learning difficult Management concepts and trying to engage with new faculty members (who were also learning to adapt along with their students!). Alexandra found that it was mainly the social aspect that was lacking. What helped her stay motivated during these times were a few classmates that she became good friends with: “We would constantly call each other to go over assignments and help each other out. There was a lot of collaboration!”

Not only did Alexandra find motivation while collaborating in class, but she was also motivated by being surrounded with her Concordia Stingers women’s hockey teammates. Alexandra was recruited to return to Canada by top-tier coaches and former Olympians, Julie Chu and Caroline Ouellette. Joining the Stingers was a great decision because of the outstanding culture within the team that aligned with her values: a team first mentality.   

From the start of her first semester, Alexandra was quickly surprised at the level of research students were expected to do within the program. She needed to adjust to the new way of studying in a research-based graduate program, which differs significantly from an undergraduate program workload. On top of that, Management was an area of academia that was unknown to her. “Like most of the students in the program, we quickly learned how to read high quality research articles and were completely immersed in concepts that are fundamental to Management studies.”

Balancing academics and athletics

In terms of balancing academic and athletic responsibilities, Alexandra found it difficult, but, having managed sports alongside her studies for most of her life, she has already learned how to adapt and manage her time. “It sometimes feels like you’re spreading yourself out too thin, but it’s important to stay resilient and make sure you are succeeding in both.”

While succeeding in the MSc program, Alexandra was experiencing many thrilling successes with her hockey teammates. She was part of the Concordia Stingers hockey team that won the U Sports national championship in Prince Edward Island in March of this year. It is the third time the Stingers have gone gold since having won the first two championships in U Sports history back in 1998 and 1999.

Concordia Stingers win Gold at the Nationals!

As a result of their achievement, Alexandra and the team were hosted by Premier Francois Legault in Quebec City, by Mayor Valerie Plante at Montreal City Hall, as well as being honoured at the Bell Centre before a Montreal Canadiens hockey game.

Being a part of Concordia’s women’s ice hockey team gave her an additional sense of community within the university. “I felt proud to represent Concordia at a national event and winning made it all the more special!”

Although her experiences in the academic and athletic worlds felt separate, they did enrich one another. “I was able to always be on campus; when at Concordia’s Loyola campus to the west of downtown Montreal, I was in competition mode. And while at the MB (Molson Building) on the Sir George William campus downtown, I was in business mode.”

Producing and defending a Master’s thesis

Alexandra and Caroline at Convocation

The whole process of developing, producing and, ultimately, defending a thesis gave Alexandra profound appreciation for the hard work and effort it takes for scholars to publish articles, “It’s much harder than it seems!” She learned the importance of choosing and developing a research topic she felt passionate about because it makes the hard work more interesting and enjoyable.

Alexandra chose to research women in senior leadership positions and how they influence corporate outcomes. “Gender equity is a cause I feel drawn to. I used to volunteer at the Strong Girls United Foundation, which supports young girls to stay in sports and to improve their mental and physical health. The passion toward my topic directly translated to my success in producing and defending my thesis. I wanted to be the most knowledgeable I could in this area for my research, but more importantly for my own personal curiosity.”

Practical experience

As if all these accomplishments weren’t enough, this past summer, Alexandra also helped get the John Molson’s National Bank Initiative (NBI) off the ground by supporting Dr. Ehsan Derayati. She most enjoyed the ability to wear different hats and touch upon many different projects - from interviewing grant recipients, to helping facilitate speaker series, re-branding the website, and more. The objective was to promote the NBI in order to fund research that is beneficial to the bank, building a kind of bridge between industry and academia. She also thrived working with Dr. Ehsan Derayati. “He is someone with such a positive outlook and he makes everyone around him better. I learned a lot of soft skills while having Ehsan as my boss and I’m really grateful for his support.”

Enjoying some downtime with her new friend

Alexandra’s impressive resume of achievements helped her to land a job at Deloitte in Montreal, which she recently started this fall. However, after such an eventful past couple of years, she knew she would need some rest and relaxation before beginning her new role. A trip to Europe would do just the trick! And why not travel with a new friend she had made in the MSc program?

Though trying to form connections with fellow classmates over Zoom is not always ideal, whether it be for working or social relationships, she nonetheless had a great experience meeting Caroline. “Immediately, we found common ground because we were both athletes at Concordia, which also meant that we understood each other’s lifestyle and time restrictions. We became friends right away!”

Even as the province of Quebec was in lockdown and all gym facilities were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the two would meet up early in the morning to work out in Alexandra’s garage. “Eventually, we were motivating each other to complete our thesis on time by planning a trip to Europe post-defence. We went to Spain & Portugal together.” Quite importantly, they also found that they are good travelling companions.

Personalizing your learning experience

Alexandra’s advice for incoming research-based Masters students is to make sure to get to know your classmates and to take on research topics that are interesting to you. “That’s one of the best features about the John Molson MSc in Management program - you get to personalize your learning experience by choosing what YOU want to study!”


Alexandra Calderone is currently a Consultant - Human Capital Consulting at Deloitte.

For more information on John Molson's research-based graduate business programs, visit our website. Then connect with a recruiter to ask a question or arrange a one-to-one meeting, or you can participate in one of our many online information sessions.

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