James McAra: An entrepreneur who loves to dance

Peter B. Gustavson School of Business

- Dianne George

James McAra, this year’s Gustavson School of Business Bachelor of Commerce Program silver medalist, likes a challenge. “I heard about this medal when I was in first year,” says McAra. “I like having something to aim for so decided that I was going to try to win it.”

The medal is given each year to the BCom student with the highest GPA. McAra considers himself lucky and says he’s a fairly good student if he pays attention in class and follows the readings. It was more than luck that helped him earn an A+ or 8.38 out of 9 GPA, which put him at the top of the dean’s list. It was an attitude that allowed him to see possibilities everywhere. One of the highlights of his BCom experience was the entrepreneurship specialization.

“I look around and see business opportunities everywhere, and I wanted to have the tools to make them work.” McAra has started two businesses, one successful and the other not. He and a fellow classmate have another venture under way; however, he’s staying quiet on the topic until they’re further along.

McAra has given himself a deadline of September 2012 to launch the new enterprise, as that’s when he starts his new position with PricewaterhouseCoopers. He completed two co-op work terms with this Vancouver-based firm and really enjoyed the company. He plans to obtain a chartered accountant’s designation and has registered with the CA School of Business. Once again, he is looking for a challenge.

“Becoming a CA is hard work, but it’s a rewarding career and can take you anywhere.” He’s following a time-honoured path. His father is a CA, and McAra was mentored by Bill Anderson, CA, a retired KPMG Partner, and member of the Gustavson School of Business board of advisers. He also knows that the school’s namesake, Peter B. Gustavson, is a CA and a very successful entrepreneur, and McAra hopes to follow in his footsteps.

McAra arrived at UVic from Scotland where he spent two years at a boarding school. Prior to that he lived in Brazil with his family where he and his sister Betsy, now a third-year student in the BCom program, return as often as possible. The business school was recommended to him, but he says it was the beauty of the campus that sealed the deal.  “I heard it was warm, and once I saw the aerial photo that was it—it was hard not to fall in love with the place.”

While at UVic, he balanced academics with sports and participated in several activities including sailing. However, it was during his third year that he joined the UVic Ballroom Dance Club and found a real passion for dance, spending nearly 40 hours a week learning salsa and ballroom. “Now I’m a dancing addict! It’s a challenge, and I am by no means a natural, but it’s a lot of fun and a great social activity.

“The BCom program was a fantastic experience, which I will sorely miss, but I’m looking forward to the new challenges ahead.”

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Keywords: entrepreneur, student life

People: James McAra


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