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Convocation 2014: from Green Path to PhD program

Co-op student jumps from undergrad to doctoral studies

UTSC's Serena Song hopes to become a professor (photo by Ken Jones)

When Serena Song was a high school student in Jinan, China, the last thing on her mind was a career in academia.

“I wanted to start a business and make money,” she says with a laugh.

But today, Song, a fourth-year Management student, is headed to the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School to get her PhD in Accounting. And her goal now is to be a professor.

Song came to the University of Toronto Scarborough through the Green Path program. The 12-week program helps students from China adjust to life and study in Canada. The students experience a Canadian-style classroom environment, which includes the expectation of active participation. They also work on academic skills such as English reading, writing and grammar, and get help as they adapt to life in Canada. Once students successfully complete the program, they go directly into first-year undergraduate studies at U of T.

After completing the Green Path program, Soong was admitted to the Management Co-op program in Finance. During her time as an undergraduate, she did well in all her courses, but was most excited by her work as a teaching assistant and as a research assistant.

As a teaching assistant in B- and C-level economics and finance courses, she found she enjoyed seeing students develop.

“I liked connecting with the students,” she says. “It’s so fulfilling to help them solve their problems.”

That passion for problem solving extended to her research work at UTSC. She participated in two projects, both supervised by Professor Ling Cen. The first was an examination of the different information roles of sell-side and buy-side financial analysts in earnings conference calls. The other investigated how adding historical information about a company to sites like Wikipedia can affect the company’s stock price.

“I loved seeing how dedicated our team members were,” Song says.

At the Simon School, Song will be researching the diffusion of corporate governance mechanisms along the supply chain. She’ll examine why and how different companies in the supply chain develop similar forms of governance.

“It’s very rare for an undergraduate to go straight into a PhD,” says Cen. “She has worked really hard and is a great example for other students.”

This wasn’t the only offer she had, but Song cites the Simon School’s prestige, long history and its proximity to Toronto as the reasons for her choice.

“I’m nervous, but I think my past experience shows I’m a quick learner,” she says.