Zoe Paterson is back. Having spent her second year at UVA as an exchange student, the 2021 University of Glasgow graduate in Anatomy made the decision to return to both her interest in business and to Grounds.
Why the shift from her undergrad work to Commerce? Though Paterson studied business for three years in high school and felt she had a natural aptitude for it worth pursuing, curiosity about a medical career lured her away from it. Yet eventually, that plan also changed: “There came a time during my Anatomy degree when I knew for sure a future in science wasn’t for me,” the Stirling, Scotland, native says.
Facing the logistical challenges of starting from scratch that students attempting to switch majors often find in her home country, she sought out a master’s program that gave her the flexibility to support her changing professional aspirations. Committed to studying business again, she researched pre-experience programs and discovered McIntire’s M.S. in Commerce.
As an undergrad, when she first decided to come to UVA as an exchange student, it was tied to a desire to study abroad in the U.S., as she had spent much time here in her formative years, and had already formed a network of friends.
“I wanted somewhere that was familiar to me, but also provided a completely new experience,” she says, explaining that she narrowed down UVA as one of her top choices, due to it boasting a similarly excellent academic reputation to that of the University of Glasgow. And Charlottesville itself proved alluring.
“A college town was unlike anything I had experienced in Scotland, particularly studying in Glasgow, which is the largest city in the country. I definitely sought out the ‘traditional’ American college experience when applying to study abroad at UVA, as cliché as it sounds, but it was definitely everything I could have hoped for and more,” Paterson says, shouting out the Men’s Basketball team for making her time as an exchange student at the University even more special by winning the National Championship in spring 2019.
Once she chose to earn her master’s, Paterson says she knew she would do it in the U.S., “and it just so happened UVA had the exact coursework I was looking for. I had such a great time the first time around; I knew coming back would be like coming home in a way,” she says.
Excited for the chance to spend her final academic year as part of McIntire, and to also enjoy a wholly different experience at the University than she had the first time around, Paterson was also thrilled with what the M.S. in Commerce offers and how it fits with the skills she developed as an undergrad.
“I loved that I would have the ability to pick a track, and having extensive statistics experience through my Anatomy degree, I felt Business Analytics provided the best fit for my interests. I was also extremely interested in learning more about the Global Immersion Experience, which was definitely a major selling point to me of the program,” she says. “I’ll take as much experience working and learning abroad as I can get!”
Roles around the Globe
That enthusiasm for living and working internationally has defined a great deal of Paterson’s wide-ranging resume of roles she’s held and positions she’s assumed. Among them, volunteering has also been an important part of her story.
While at UVA as a second-year, she gave of her time at the University Hospital through Madison House. She also completed a medical volunteer internship in Nepal, and most recently in Ghana, where she independently led health and wellness workshops in local schools.
“My interest and work in equality and inclusion efforts are also reflected in my final year university outreach honors project, ‘Promoting Equality and Diversity in the Life Sciences: Decolonizing the Anatomy Curriculum,’” she explains. “I created online learning resources for use by the life sciences department to enhance awareness of E&D-related issues and work towards decolonizing the Anatomy curriculum at the university.” Her project has been nominated for the STEM Inspiring Diversity Award at the SAMEE (Scottish Association of Minority Ethnic Educators) Recognition & Appreciation Awards 2022.
She’s amassed quite a collection of volunteer, internship, and professional positions at such a young age, but Paterson insists that it’s because she has always explored changing ideas about what a fitting job or career path might be for her.
“I’ve been everything from a summer camp counselor in New York to a social media manager for an influencer in Italy, and I am extremely grateful and glad that I decided and had the opportunity to pursue such varying roles,” she says, pointing out that while transitions can be stressful—especially in an unfamiliar country—she’s confident she made the most of the opportunities by remaining eager to meet challenges.
“You could say this approach hasn’t been particularly conventional or traditional, but it has taught me more about myself as a person and where I feel I would best fit when pursuing a career path after college, whilst also allowing me to tap into other interests,” she says.
Those varied experiences have given her an understanding about her ability to thrive in people-facing roles and when collaborating, self-knowledge that she plans to use when she begins her job search.
A Better Future through Commerce
Paterson may not be sure where she will ultimately land, but she’s perfectly clear about her goals for the near future. She’s come to McIntire intending to expand her business knowledge and build upon the skill set she cultivated as an undergraduate, and like many Comm School students, also aims to secure a job with those learning experiences.
Where that may be—both employer and location—remain undetermined; however, she remains unfazed, thanks to the School’s stellar Commerce Career Services.
“As an international student, if I do decide to stay in the U.S. and pursue job opportunities here, my search will obviously look a bit different to the average student, but I know McIntire is well equipped to help assist me in any way I need.”
In the meantime, she has been considering a career in consulting, since she enjoys working alongside others in varying capacities and can envision the position gelling well with her personality. Even still, she remains open to what lies ahead and where it might lead.
“I am looking forward to getting stuck in with classes, and, who knows, I might discover an interest in something I never even thought of as an option before,” Paterson says. “I think that’s the great thing about this program and McIntire in general: Every option you could think possible to help in your job search is available. Whether it be from career fairs, guest speakers, or the extensive alumni network, I know the School will be behind me all the way in helping me reach my fullest potential and, hopefully, a job I’ll love too.”