June 6, 2019

Class of 2019: Undergrad Haoze Zhang champions diversity and inclusivity through mentorship

2+2 geoscience student helped others learn about Canadian culture and academics


Susan Cannon, for the Faculty of Science

Graduating geoscience student Haoze Zhang says the support he received throughout his years at UCalgary inspired him to join the Science Mentorship Program to help other international students.

Haoze Zhang says the support he received inspired him to join the Science Mentorship Program.

Adrian Shellard, for the Faculty of Science

As a young boy in Yangzhou, a city in China’s Jiangsu Province, Haoze Zhang couldn’t have known that one day, he would be living in Alberta, Canada, and graduating from the University of Calgary with a BSc in Geology. But two years ago, Zhang’s curiosity sent him 9,400 kilometres across the ocean to a world of new experiences as a participant in the 2+2 international articulation program.

“I was interested in a change of environment and wanted to experience other cultures,” says Zhang. “I came to the University of Calgary because I found its 2+2 program very interesting and thought it would be beneficial.”

The Faculty of Science 2+2 program in geology is offered in partnership with the China University of Petroleum, Beijing.

Heather Clitheroe, international co-ordinator for the Faculty of Science, explains: “In a 2+2 program, students complete the first half of their degree in their home country, and then complete the second half at the University of Calgary. At the end of their studies, they receive a bachelor’s degree from each institution.

 “These programs tend to attract high-achieving students, particularly because of the challenge of completing senior-level courses for their major at a new school, and in a different country.” 

Pursuing his love of math and quantitative analysis

The reputation of the China University of Petroleum’s geoscience program attracted Zhang.

“I chose geoscience because it is the best program in my Chinese university and I liked math and physics in high school,” says Zhang. “I enjoy doing quantitative analysis work and I’m good at it. That’s why my geology courses are more related to math and my research is in geophysics focusing on the mathematical aspect.”

Zhang was the recipient of a 2018 PURE Award, which provides UCalgary undergraduate students with the financial support to conduct research over the summer.

“With my PURE award, I was able to conduct research into estimating Earth structure from seismograms using unknown earthquake source characteristics,” says Zhang. “During this process, I learned a lot — from mathematical to computer science skills."

Zhang continued his research in the winter 2019 semester through an independent study course with his PURE supervisor, Dr. Jan Dettmer, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Geoscience.

“This research experience gave me enough time to dig into some specific knowledge and use that to produce new ideas, solve a specific problem and obtain some very meaningful results,” Zhang explains. “Dr. Dettmer helped me a lot. Without his support, I don’t know if I would have made this much progress.”

From mentee to mentorship leader

Zhang joined the Science Alumni Mentorship Program in the fall of 2017 and was mentored by a ’92 Faculty of Science geophysics alumnus.

“I participated in the Alumni Mentorship Program because I wanted to meet more people, especially industry professionals who I could consult with when I had some questions about my career,” says Zhang. “My mentor Vladan helped me a lot, giving me a very deep analysis of the oil and gas industry.”

The support he received inspired Zhang to give back. In 2018, he joined the Science Mentorship Program as a mentorship leader.

“I wanted to help other international students because I got a lot of insight from my mentor. From that experience, I realized the importance of having someone I could go to for suggestions when I was not sure about my future studies and career.”

Zhang took a special interest in helping to ‘translate’ his experience as an international student to new students as they learned about Canadian culture and academics. He also shared his experiences with local students to encourage them to see, understand, and appreciate different perspectives.

“Haoze’s role as an international mentorship leader in our faculty is a really great example of intercultural learning at a grassroots level — students working together to support diversity and inclusivity in their community,” says Clitheroe. “And it’s something that Haoze has championed during his studies at the University of Calgary.”

On April 29, Zhang was recognized with a University of Calgary International Achievement Award, which speaks to the impact of his contributions to fellow students and the connections he made between the university’s international strategy and lived experiences of its international undergraduates.

What’s next?

In addition to his mentorship role, Zhang was also a science ambassador in his final year of undergrad studies. He made some very good friends as an ambassador for the Faculty of Science and believes his event-organizing experiences with teammates and student engagement co-ordinator Kathleen Ralph gave him a general idea of the working environment in Canada.

“I really want to thank Kathleen for giving me the chance to work with the amazing Science Ambassador team and the chance to talk about my experience here,” says Zhang. “I’m also grateful for the opportunity to have volunteered with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists in the past year. I was able to serve as a meeting coordinator and volunteer at many APEGA professional events that benefit university students.”

Getting a master’s degree is the next step for Zhang. Beyond that, he isn’t sure what path he’ll take.

“I haven’t really thought of a definite career yet,” he says. “I just want to fulfil my potential and be able to produce or create some valuable things.”

In the meantime, Zhang is continuing his research with Dettmer over the summer. And having acquired a driver’s licence and buying a car since he came to Canada, he’s going to continue exploring Calgary.

“I really enjoy driving in my car around the city. That makes me calm — except for the traffic jams.”