Unconventional path leads BBA alumna to the United Nations

Feb 15, 2024

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Photo credit: Jolly Ann Maulit

When Jolly Ann Maulit embarked on her academic journey at SFU’s Beedie School of Business in 2003, she did not have a career path in mind. Then executive director of undergraduate programs gave her some confidence-boosting advice to take risks, try new things and trust her gut when making decisions.

As a result, both Maulit’s academic and career journeys were unconventional, but ultimately led her to an unexpected and satisfying career bringing water, sanitation, and hygiene services to vulnerable populations with UNICEF’s WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) program.

In Maulit’s third year of studies at SFU Beedie, SFU’s School for International Studies was established. With an interest in international business, she took some courses offered by the new school and found they complemented her business studies. As a result, Maulit convocated from SFU in 2009 with a BBA with Honors from Beedie School of Business, and a concurrent major in International Studies.

Through her business studies, Maulit learned how to approach complex issues, a skill she says she further honed in case competitions . “I can quickly assess a situation to understand the key bottlenecks, gather relevant information, analyze the data, and then use the tools I learned in business school to employ solutions.” She credits her BA in International Studies with helping her to go even further. “International studies pushed my critical thinking,” says Maulit. “I was encouraged to form opinions in addition to identifying problems and finding solutions. I learned there is no one correct solution to a complex challenge—especially social challenges.”

SFU Beedie’s study abroad programs in Vienna and Budapest further rounded out Maulit’s education, something she recommends other students consider. “Being exposed to diverse perspectives and ideas helps us to be better citizens, develop empathy, and consider alternative ways of doing things, to make things better,” she says. “These are invaluable experiences for students.”

Maulit returned to Europe after completing her studies at SFU with hopes of starting a career in international business. Instead, she took a risk, and accepted a job with Engineers Without Borders Canada in Malawi, her first step towards her now successful career with the UN.

“When we leave business school, we are well prepared to address challenges strategically,” says Maulit. She believes that sometimes these skills give her an edge the engineers she works with. “Maybe we don’t need to always design a better toilet; instead, we need to figure out how to get existing products to market and to the people who need it most.”

As her career and expertise in the field grew, Maulit decided to complete a master of public health degree at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. “A career path is not always linear,” she says. “We should be constantly evaluating what we have to offer, and the value we want to bring to our work and the world.”

Maulit is contributing to the well-being of billions of people around the globe who have no access to safely managed water, sanitation, and hygiene services. Her work drives economic growth while improving health, safety, gender equality, and dignity.

Her time at SFU Beedie is something Maulit holds close to her heart because of the advice and support she received from staff and mentors, and she is keen to pass it on. “Students seem stressed to decide on their concentration or to have a five-year plan,” she says. “It’s ok to not know exactly where you’re going, to dabble, discover, and change course along the way. There are so many opportunities—from reconciliation to the climate crisis, both locally and globally—to find a career and to make a change for the better.”