Inside Story: How to Have a Positive Class Chemistry

Written by Marilyn Camaclang,  PRMSC Class of 2014


Winter Get-up

Sorry for being a spoiler! Some of you arrived here in Winnipeg during this fall season experiencing its splendid colours and breeze. This is just to prepare you for the crazy winter weather that’ll sweep the city soon!

But what I’d really like to say is “Congratulations on your daring decision to move recently!” I was just like you two years ago. That mixed feelings of excitement and fear for new people, places, and phenomena that you brought yourselves into, I’ve been there!

While Winnipeg is a city of never ending snow, it’s also the city of opportunities. You can start shoveling, rather uncovering yours here at PACE!

Indeed, opportunities knock with my new credentials from PACE. I recently got two job offers, one from the provincial government and another from a crown corporation. With my background in social services, I decided to gain real-life experience in marketing and communications through completing my internship in this department at the University of Winnipeg. I haven’t had enough time yet to contemplate on my whole-year PACE experience. Thinking about what makes ours a great class is a good starting point.


If you’re looking for a perfect class chemistry, you can’t find it here. Simply because you don’t have time. You’re in a very intensive program where sleepless nights are normal even for those who thought that they’ve perfected their time management skills already.

Everyone entered the program for a specific purpose. In my case, I wanted to be integrated into the Canadian system quickly. In your coming here for varying reasons, your ultimate measure of success is whether you’ve achieved that purpose or not. Having a great class, that bunch of special people whom you’ll share the ups and downs of this program with and whom you can call your family and friends, is only a bonus! I’m very grateful for accomplishing both during the year with my beloved classmates!


Who doesn’t want a positive chemistry? We strive to have this in all human relationships. If we fail to, some choose the easiest way out, TO QUIT! Although I’ve thoughts of this sort during the program, I’d never advice this. My goal is to encourage you as much as possible while giving you a clear picture, including the good and the ugly, of what it’s like in the program.

Ensuring a positive class chemistry will go a long way in keeping you in your senses all throughout the year. Here’s how:

Be open. Most of our classmates came into the program with wealth of experience. They’re on to their first to third degrees or aspiring to move up after a number of years in their careers. As well, half of the class came from different continents. It’d be great listening to their unique stories and understanding their diverse perspectives. Being open to their ideas and their ways of doing will contribute to your professional as well as personal growth and development.

Meet Urvashi, who’s completed her 4th post degree with us after her Bachelors and Masters in Commerce and MBA in Marketing

Be patient. Another step towards a positive class chemistry is being patient particularly when waiting for your classmates to be in the same page with you. Apart from not having English as a first language, the industry where they thrive on maybe different from yours. You should also be mindful of their learning curves and their ability to adapt to their new environment. Moreover, they maybe entangled with other out-of-school responsibilities and commitments just like you. Always endeavour to give as much leeway as possible when you decide to work together as a group.

Breno & Ladies
My classmates coming from different professional backgrounds

Be available. This is an area where I had the most difficulty. With two part-time jobs for weekday-evenings and for weekends, I ended up sneaking-out my break times for doing future assignments. I didn’t have much time with my classmates for personal chats and if given an option, I did group projects on my own. Halfway through the program, in February 2015, I let go of my jobs and devoted all my waking (and sleeping hours) to the program. That’s when I realized the time I lost in knowing my classmates more.

My advice to you then is to spend some time with your classmates. Strike some personal conversations, if you feel it’s the right time. Go out and relax together. It’ll be very refreshing to breathe some out-of-school air in between. In addition, be vulnerable to ask help when you need it and be willing to extend a hand when you have the capacity to. Availability also comes with willingness to divert from our regular school life patterns.

Dec 2014
During our December 2014 Christmas break

Furthermore, being available for school-related activities will reap many benefits. Whether you’re new to the city or not, this is a venue for expanding your networks and your horizon beyond the classroom setting. Some are arranged by PACE and still others are through a third party. Attend those that’ll fit-in with your goals and with your schedules. PACE has a committee taking care of student life events. Your first event will kick off in October 9th, your Thanksgiving Potluck. This will highlight your traditional clothes and recipes from your home countries. Student Life events is where you’ll meet students from other classes and the staff. Your first steps to learning about big group chemistry start here.


Let’s face it, we can’t evade downward slopes along the way. As all relationships, our one year in school was replete with struggles, with others and ourselves. Here’s some ideas on maintaining a positive class chemistry, if not avoiding all obstacles:

Have a class agreement. It may not be as explicit as engraving it on stone or the like but having a brief conversation on what are expected of the class will help guide you throughout the year (e.g. respect one another, help each other, etc.).

Be aware and sensitive. Knowing your classmates’ personality types and work styles will bring out the best in your class. It’ll also help you mitigate conflicts that may arise from lack of a fit.

Make the most of every opportunity. Grab any chances of strengthening your group dynamics like in-class group exercises and your group projects. Also, flag those class topics that will surely drive success to your future team efforts. Examples are Tuckman’s Five-Stage Theory of Group Development in your Organizational Behaviour class and the Five Dysfunctions of a Team in Essential Skills for Managers. Remember that PACE is here to equip you for the real world of work out there.

Have a BIG HEART. Be ready to have a big space to contain new friends and extra spaces for those who will test your limits. Also, find those who will be there to give you listening ears when you’re stressing out to the highest level (mind you, this is normal!). Those who see through your beauty as well as your flaws. Those who have the courage and ability to check and correct and who will turn you into a better and stronger person in the end.

Me, Nivin, & Mia
My PR buddies, Mia (left) and Nivin (middle)



I remember one class presentation about an analogy of a boat applicable to any groups or organizations. It’s your responsibility as a class to continue moving forward, come high or hell waters! If you don’t have the time or willingness to look after your classmates, then your share is simply not to be the one who’s going to sink it.

You’re about to embark on a challenging but rewarding PACE experience. I can assure you that starting off with being open, patient, and available and applying some of my suggestions above will help you make it, BECAUSE MY CLASS AND I DID!


All the best to your 2015 PACE program!

P.S. Message me on Facebook if anyone needs mentoring. I have books for sale as well!


One thought on “Inside Story: How to Have a Positive Class Chemistry”

  1. Great post Marilyn. As always, you bring a beautiful, accurate, and passionate view to your writings. And I agree, I would have loved to spend more time with you guys, but out of class responsibilities kept me home and working. I appreciated every invite from people who knew that I couldn’t get there. Still loved being invited.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s