This article is part of a series focusing on the grads of the Dalhousie Class of 2023. Spring Convocation runs from May 29 to June 7 in Halifax and Truro. Read all our profiles here as they are published, and for more information visit the Convocation website.
Growing up in Waterloo, Ontario, Carmen Graves was encouraged by her parents to attend university away from her home province to get out of her comfort zone.
As she prepares to graduate with a Combined Honours in Economics and Actuarial Science, that sense of adventure remains. Carmen will spend the summer as a finance intern on the trading floor in Toronto, before flying to England to begin a master’s program at Oxford University in the fall.
Carmen considered universities in the Netherlands before opting to attend Dal, but she’ll be able to use her passport this fall when she begins a nine-month Master’s in Financial Economics at Oxford University. Though she originally planned on entering the workforce after completing her undergraduate degree, the chance to achieve a childhood dream and head to Oxford could not be passed up.
“After missing out on over a year of the typical university experience due to COVID, I was not quite ready to be done being a student,” says Carmen, adding that getting accepted into the highly competitive program felt “surreal.” “The program will be intense, but the campus is beautiful and the history and culture are so rich. I can’t wait to make the most of it.”
An avid traveler, Carmen says the thought of working abroad following her master’s degree intrigues her. “I love the idea of moving to different countries for work and getting immersed in new cultures and experiences.”
Before packing her suitcase for England, Carmen will spend the summer in Toronto as an intern with National Bank. After getting a taste of the trading floor last summer during an internship with CIBC, she has found that working in banking offers her the opportunity to use the skills she’s acquired from both of her majors.
“I can apply my analytical math skills to an economic context that can be easily communicated to clients,” she says. “As an intern you can get really integrated into your team and are able to take on meaningful work.”
While Carmen laments the fact that the pandemic resulted in a year and a half of her program being spent behind a computer screen rather than in the classroom, she nevertheless took advantage of life as a student, getting involved with the Dalhousie Science Society (DSS) during all four years of her program and spending a year as president. Organizing an in-person research mixer event following the return to in-person learning stands out as a major success — Carmen notes the DSS had expected around 40 students to attend, but instead had to scramble to accommodate a crowd of 150.
“It was incredibly moving to see how many students were actively engaging with the Dal Science community after a year of missing those in-person connections,” she says of the event that brings together students seeking undergraduate research opportunities.
A self-described “math nerd,” Carmen also spent time working with the Math Circles program while at Dal. “I loved engaging with kids around the province and getting to be a ‘fun’ math teacher,” she says. “The best part was watching kids who told me they hated math end up getting very involved with the activities.”
Looking back and moving forward
After taking a tour of campus prior to her undergrad, Carmen “fell in love with Dal and Halifax.” “It’s the perfect size for a university. It’s big enough to have excellent resources and a large student community, but small enough that student leadership is more accessible, and you can develop close relationships with faculty.
“I can’t imagine having done my undergrad anywhere else.”
Carmen is proud of how much she has grown over her four years at Dal. “Not only did I learn so much about my field from brilliant profs and my fellow students, but I learned different ways to think and approach problems,” she says. “Through student leadership, I was able to develop much more confidence than I started with, which has already helped me in every aspect of life.
“Dalhousie has certainly left its mark on me and I hope to have done the same.”
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