Convocation 2018: Get to know DeGroote’s class valedictorians, Blerina Ago and Kelly Scott White

| Hamilton
Contributed by Anna Verdillo, New Media Intern, Communications & Public Affairs

Blerina Ago, BCom ’18

Where is your hometown?
I was born in Erseke, Albania and moved to Brantford, Ontario when I was four with my parents and brother.

What made you choose McMaster?
Since my early teens, I had always heard McMaster was a great university. Being close to home was a huge factor in my decision, and coupled with the reputation Mac has, it seemed like it was the best choice for me.

Who is your favourite professor?
One of my favourite professors is definitely Linda Stockton, Assistant Professor, Strategic Management. I had the pleasure of getting really close with Linda this year after having her as my professor for International Business, and then being a TA in the class during the winter, as well as getting to take a trip with her for a case competition. Linda is honestly one of the most down-to-earth people to talk to. She really challenges students with questions and debates, and is always willing to talk about her views as well as listen to yours. I think the way she teaches, and her willingness and commitment to help students, is admirable. It’s nice to see a professor care so much about her students and their successes.

What will you be doing after graduation or see yourself doing?
After graduation I have a couple months to spend time with my family, friends, and do a little bit of traveling. At the end of August I start in a full-time role with Restaurant Brands International as a Leadership Development Associate. I interned with them last summer, and was given an offer at the end of my internship. It was a really great experience and I’m super excited to be joining them. I think everyone always has long-term goals and plans. Impact investing is something I’m interested in, so we’ll see where life takes me.

What would you say to your first-year self?
If I could give myself some advice in first year, it would be to get involved and make the most of university as soon as possible. It wasn’t really until second year that I started getting involved and really finding what my hobbies and interests were. During first year, I felt pretty discouraged at times because of the huge difference in comparison to high school. Looking back at it, I would honestly just tell myself to relax and enjoy it. Everything falls into place just as it should.

Do you have any advice for current and future students?
One of the best pieces of advice that’s ever been given to me was from my older brother, the summer before my third year of university when my life changed drastically in many ways. He told me that we have to live life the way it’s given to us, not how we plan for it. This outlook really changed my life, because it let me accept that sometimes life doesn’t go the way you want it to, and there is nothing you can do about it. Don’t let it stop you from being who you are or achieving the goals you set. In terms of school or activity-related advice, I’d encourage students to get involved any way they can. There are so many resources and clubs out there designed to help students succeed. The DeGroote Experience Fund (DEF) is a huge resource that students at DeGroote can utilize in order to get support for expenses related to conferences, case competitions, and events.

How has McMaster shaped the person you are today?
During my time at Mac, I met some of my closest friends, people I’ll know for the rest of my life. The different communities at McMaster are the perfect representation of the inclusivity we have in Canada, and should aspire to maintain throughout our lives. Mac allowed me to meet people from all different backgrounds and ethnicities, and I’m super grateful to be a part of a school that is very diverse.

What is your definition of success?
I wouldn’t really say I have a definition of success. I think everyone has a different version of success and fulfillment. However, when I think of success, or someone who is successful, I think of someone whose work has made a positive impact in their life, the lives of others, or the world as a whole.

What motivates you to work hard?
As cheesy as it sounds, definitely my parents. Being an immigrant and realizing my parents sacrificed so much (like every single family does) to bring me to Canada for an education pushes me to try to be the best version of myself. It might be odd to think this way, but sometimes I feel like this chosen Albanian child who was lucky enough to come to Canada. When I became aware of the fortunate life I have, it began to motivate me to try and look for ways to give back and help others do the same.

What emoji best represents you?
Probably the cowboy emoji. It’s not like I’m a cowgirl or anything, but that emoji just seems so happy and makes me laugh every time I send it. I’m not saying I make people laugh every time, but I make myself laugh. That counts, right? 🤠

Kelly Scott White, MBA ’18

Where is your hometown?
Toronto, Ontario.

What made you choose McMaster?
DeGroote’s Co-op MBA program was a great opportunity for me to gain a depth of business knowledge while gaining practical experience in the industry.

Who is your favourite professor?
Milena Head, Wayne C. Fox Chair in Business Innovation, has been a great teacher, mentor, and friend. Definitely a wonderful professor and a real asset to the DeGroote community.

What will you be doing after graduation or see yourself doing?
Working! Studying for my MBA was all about getting my career kicked-off. Shortly after graduating I bought a house and will be getting married to my amazing fiancée. So working will help me cover all those costs.

What would you say to your first-year self?
Nothing, you’re perfect. Jokes aside, I’d say don’t get blinded by temporary stresses. There will be a lot of assignments and exams and things to worry about in life, but you’ll get through them and come out stronger on the other side. Always think about the big picture.

Do you have any advice for current and future students?
Some of the best advice I got was at a town hall when I worked at PepsiCo. The head of the company sat down with us and said our department had to focus on “controlling the controllables.” What he really meant was to focus our mental effort on what we can have an impact on. If it’s out of your control, don’t worry about it, especially if that means losing control of something that is within your ability to keep on track.

How has McMaster shaped the person you are today?
The McMaster community has given me some of the closest friends and most rewarding relationships of my life. Those relationships shape who I am today, and wouldn’t have been possible without my time at DeGroote.

What is your definition of success?
It may be cliché, but to me success is happiness. It’s so subjective, but if at the end of every day you can say you’re happy with who you are, what you’ve done, and most importantly, where you’re going, then I would say you’re successful.

What motivates you to work hard?
I love making things. I like to think I’m creative, but in general, making new things, coming up with new ideas, and really growing something is incredibly motivating for me and gets me excited to get things done.

What emoji best represents you?
Probably the shades emoji 😎


The DeGroote School of Business’ spring convocation ceremonies will take place Tuesday, June 12 at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. at FirstOntario Concert Hall (formerly Hamilton Place). Can’t attend? Follow along on social media using the hashtag #MacGrad2018. The above interviews have been edited for length. 

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