Q & A with Anees Shaikh, 4th-Year Undergraduate Student

Anees Shaikh

Major/Specialization: Statistics with a Minor in Mathematics and HPS

Class of: 2021

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The ability to encourage and support students as they begin their journey at U of T is something that Anees feels passionately about. Beginning as a tutor for children in his own neighborhood, Anees’ appreciation for leadership in guiding students led him to become a mentor right here in the Department of Statistical Sciences. The ability to offer meaningful guidance to other students reminds us all that, at some point or another, we were all first year students too. As he approaches his final year, Anees’ meaningful experience as a mentor continues to inspire his passion for helping others.


When did you first become interested in studying statistics?

I ended up taking an introductory statistics course in my second semester of my first year, which really showed me all that statistics had to offer! Shortly after that course, I enrolled in a Statistics major and was introduced to all the really exciting courses that the program had to offer, such as an introduction to machine learning.

Could you tell us more about your personal background and education?

I grew up in the Middle East, India, and Canada; having spent most of my life here. Growing up, I had a strong interest in biology and knew from a pretty young age that I wanted to end up doing something related to this field. When it came time for applying to university, I applied strictly for biology. Once I started out in biology, however, I began to doubt whether it was really for me.

I stuck around for a year to truly explore whether or not I wanted to stay in the field. I took the required stats course and that’s when I was first exposed to the field. From that point on, I began planning on pairing a statistics major with something else. I explored Computer Science in my second year and took all the courses that I could without having to enrol in the PoST, as well as other courses that interested me.

What is something that you really appreciate about the statistics program at U of T? (This can be opportunities, program structure, whatever comes to mind)

I think that the diverse courses offered by the program really gives you the ability to have a tailor-made experience. You have the opportunity to mix and match courses in your final years of study to suit your own interests, and these interests can be quite different from one another.

The department also has fantastic TAs that really take an interest in the individual learning abilities of students. Additionally, the department presents students with a plethora of opportunities that cate to the diverse interests of students. Whether it be academia or the industry, the department can set you up for success in both.

Why did you decide to become a mentor?

I used to tutor children in my neighbourhood at an organization called Pathways to Education. Working there gave me the opportunity to help many students succeed in high school. A few summers later, I worked for the Toronto InnerCity Rugby Foundation (TIRF) by helping deliver rugby programming to more than 1,000 kids.

Having the ability to influence youth and support them through their lives was a great experience and something that I wanted to explore in university as well. Fortunately, through one of Megan Whitehead’s emails, I found this mentorship position. I thought I would be a great fit for it and decided to apply right away.

I had been a first year myself and I know that first year can be all sorts of crazy. Having someone to support you through that time to show you the ropes is immensely helpful. I knew that I wanted to have that kind of impact, so becoming a mentor was definitely a no-brainer for me.

What made your mentorship experience unique?

The mentorship program was set up in a way that enabled each individual to have more direct time with their mentees. This provided us with the opportunity to really connect with first year students and get to know them on a deeper level. Being at UofT, you’re reminded of the amazing diversity of experiences that everyone around you has had. Getting to know first year students on that level and having the chance to understand their diverse background was very special.  

How did your mentorship experience enhance your undergraduate experience as a statistics student?  
I think that If I had just strictly stuck to doing my courses, my university experience would have felt incomplete. I wanted to accomplish more than that. I realized that I wanted to help make a difference in the experience of first year students.

In a non-cliché way, I have learned a lot from them, which has certainly impacted my own experience. While being dedicated to course work and assignments is important, I think that there’s more to university than just academics. Being able to share that with first year students and introduce them to different avenues of expression to truly enrich their experience at UofT was very fulfilling.  

What is a class that you would recommend other students to take during their time in undergrad? Why?  
While there are a few courses that I really enjoyed, such as—NCM254, HPS222, and NEW315—I don’t think I’d recommend just one course. Instead, I think it’s important for the students themselves to dig deeper and find courses that stimulate their interests. The reality is that most students will have additional interests and at UofT, they have a fantastic opportunity to explore them in an academic context with some of the best Professors in the world.

My recommendation would be to see what your interests are or identify things you’d like to learn about and then go and look for a course that caters to those interests in Course Finder. 

If you limit yourself to finding “bird courses”, I think that you miss out on exploring all the other cool ones that are out there. And, if you ever find yourself enjoying the material but perhaps not performing as well as you would have liked, utilize your CR/NCR option.

What do you do in your free time? Any interesting hobbies?

I have quite a few hobbies: anime, working out, playing sports like rugby, tennis, badminton. I enjoy getting out there and being in the moment, even if it’s out of my comfort zone. My favourite quote is ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish’.


Interested in an undergraduate degree in statistics? Learn more about our diverse programs or connect with us at UofTStatSci@utstat.toronto.edu if you have any questions.

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Interview conducted by Mélina Lévesque
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