One may have noticed the swarms of undergraduate students wandering around campus in business attire last week, looking uncharacteristically put together. The unusual dress was probably attributed to the McMaster World Congress.
The annual World Congress is “a learning event,” explained Arush Goyal, a fourth-year Commerce student and one of two speaker recruitment directors for this year’s conference. Now in its 33rd year, the McMaster World Congress is, according to its website, “one of the largest student-run events at McMaster” and “one of the longest running business conferences in Canada.”
“It’s a misconception that it’s just a business event, but it’s not; it’s open to all students from every faculty,” said Goyal.
An estimated 250 to 275 students attended each session, for a total of over 4,000 delegates. Although open to all McMaster students, Goyal estimated that “close to 95 per cent” of the attendees were business students.
Why such a large majority of Commerce kids? “They have an incentive,” said Goyal. “The first years [attend] because they get bonus marks, and second and third years as well.”
However, there’s more to it than that. “Once you attend the conference, you realize that you do learn a lot. As students get older, they become more mature and they say that there actually is a benefit to going to this conference.”
The theme of this year’s conference, which took place on Feb. 1 and Feb. 2 in CIBC Hall, was the “triple-bottom line”: people, planet and profit. The phrase was first coined in 1994 by John Elkington, a British businessman and founder of a consulting firm called SustainAbility.
The three pillars focus on achieving corporate social responsibility, with a focus on sustainable business practices.
In keeping with the theme, the conference welcomed 16 guest speakers, all industry professionals and entrepreneurs. For example, Dave Gardner, Honda Canada’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, spoke on hybrid cars and the growing role of clean energy.
“I think all of them have added something fantastic,” Goyal said of the guest speakers. “They all give a different point of view.”
One aspect of the event that often goes unnoticed is the planning component, which was led by two conference co-chairs whose primary responsibility was to oversee the efforts of undergraduate students from varying levels involved in the organizing efforts. The executive committee started planning this year’s event in March of last year.
According to the committee, planning the World Congress is even more beneficial than attending. “It’s a great experience … We’ve built on skills like teamwork and networking. You meet a lot of new people that can influence your career in the future.”
And it seems that all the hard work paid off. At the end of the day on the Thursday, Goyal had nothing but good things to say.
“In the last four or five months, we’ve committed a lot of time, a lot of effort,” he said, “and it’s gone fantastically.”