June 8, 2018

Class of 2018: Haskayne grad a case study in resiliency

Coleton Strand tops in international business case competitions and in hearts of his peers
Coleton Strand successfully battled cancer to graduate from the University of Calgary.

Coleton Strand successfully battled cancer to graduate from the University of Calgary.

Adrian Shellard, for the University of Calgary

Resiliency. It is a word often talked about and rarely defined. When it is demonstrated it is always admired. Haskayne graduate Coleton Strand’s six-year journey to cross the stage is a case study in overcoming challenges.

During an internship at Canadian Natural in his third year, Strand found himself to be constantly tired and went to his doctor. After a series of tests, it was determined that it was not fatigue but Stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma. Strand took another year off school to fight the cancer with an aggressive 12 cycles of chemotherapy.

“I feel humbled to have had the support available when I have needed it. I had friends answer the phone at 3 a.m. for tough conversations, shave their head as I lost my own hair, produce videos to commemorate this time in my life and cancel plans to see me on a bad day,” says Strand.

In the last year of his studies, he advocated for his JDC West Club to fundraise for the Light the Night Walk in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. Together they raised over $16,000 and had more than 35 Haskayne students attend the walk. Strand now counts himself as a survivor of blood cancer.

Advocating for mental health

“Chemotherapy was really tough but the hardest thing I have dealt with (and continue to deal with) is mental health. I aim to be an advocate to increase transparency and communication for young adults,” says Strand.

Music was one of the outlets he turned to during his chemotherapy treatment to help with the feelings of sadness and loneliness. Together with fellow Haskayne student Aaron Archer, he released songs on a YouTube channel. In February 2017, Strand had his first music release and his latest collection hit SoundCloud in May 2018. Beyond his musical ambitions, Strand aims to put his problem-solving skills honed through case competitions to work in strategic consulting.

Looking back to the highlights of his UCalgary journey, Strand says, “I learned that getting involved was the best thing that I could have done. Before I got involved I felt disconnected and distant from my studies. My grades actually improved greatly the more connected I was with students here.”

Connection through business case competitions

Strand’s story highlights an important part of resiliency — your support network.

“JDC West changed my life completely,” he says, “as I got to meet a lot of new friends and felt truly welcomed and comfortable in the community here.” JDC West is the largest business competition in Western Canada. Through this competition Strand not only expanded his network, he also grew his skills.

Strand was invited to be a part of the teams for the Engineering and Commerce Case Competition and the RSM STAR Case Competition where 12 teams from business schools worldwide travel to the Rotterdam School of Management to explore real-life business cases.

“Today, Coleton is a tremendous presenter,” says Cameron Welsh, senior instructor, who was quick to recommend Strand as an outstanding Haskayne graduate of 2018. “He is also a tremendous teammate and does whatever is needed to help them succeed.”

“By getting involved, I think Coleton found a group of people who are like-minded and truly care about one another, and that is something he says he was always looking for in his final year of school," says fellow Haskayne student Kenya Rasmussen. "He brought so much camaraderie to every team he participated on … and inspired others to also do something bigger than themselves, which is truly special.” 

“I don’t know if he knows it, but he is truly an amazing young man,” says Welsh, as he congratulates Strand on graduating from the Haskayne School of Business.