Aug. 27, 2019Print | PDF
Those who believe the months between winter semester and fall semester are nothing but fun in the sun haven’t met Wilfrid Laurier University co-operative education students.
Offered in more than 60 academic programs at Laurier, co-operative education (co-op) is a paid work opportunity that allows students to integrate in-class learning with practical experiences. Co-op students engage in on-the-job activities to explore career options, develop skills and network with employers.
This summer, there are close to 600 Laurier students working to make a difference locally and globally through co-op employment. The group represents nearly one-third of the 1,900 co-op work term positions filled by Laurier students each year.
Meet three Laurier Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Science students experiencing real-world learning through co-op positions this summer:
The option to engage in co-operative education gave Hanna Lynch peace of mind when thinking about her future career path.
“I knew co-op was a great option to get my foot in the door,” says Lynch, who is studying in the Department of Global Studies. “I don’t know exactly what job I want, but I know it will involve travel and helping people.”
For her summer co-op term, Lynch landed the role of volunteer management coordinator with the Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival. The festival is run by the Georgian Bay Folk Society and requires nearly 750 volunteers – many of whom will be screened by Lynch.
“This co-op experience is allowing me to build a wide array of skills that I am able to use professionally and in the classroom.”
Along with screening volunteer applications and matching volunteers with the right opportunities, Lynch has familiarized herself with standards provided by Volunteer Canada, an organization established to provide leadership and expertise on volunteer engagement to increase participation, as well as improve the quality and diversity of volunteer experiences.
“I’ve grown a strong attention to detail by making myself aware of specific processes and policies in the non-profit industry,” says Lynch.
Beyond musicians and artisans, the festival also includes a sustainability element, which aligns with Lynch’s priorities in her role as EcoHawks coordinator at Laurier.
“The festival is banning plastic bottles this year and the long-term goal for the festival is zero waste,” says Lynch. “It’s been great to see how what I’m learning in the classroom and through co-curricular activities is echoed in the workplace.”
In her work term as a summer research intern at the Julien Lab in the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, Simranjit Dosanjh performs tissue cultures and purifies a protein used by her team and their collaborators for experiments.
The Julien Lab’s goal is to better understand molecular interactions between immune receptors to provide roadmaps for the design of improved vaccines and immunotherapies for cancers and autoimmune diseases.
“This co-op experience is allowing me to build a wide array of skills that I am able to use professionally and in the classroom,” says Dosanjh, who is studying in the Department of Health Sciences.
“My abstract understanding of international development has transformed into real-world insights about humanitarian work, public policy and foreign aid.”
During her time in the lab this summer, Dosanjh has gained knowledge about laboratory procedures conducted for biochemistry studies. She uses laboratory equipment to filter, purify and test protein, collects and records data and makes calculations.
Dosanjh has learned the importance of efficiency in the lab. She’s developed improved multi-tasking skills in order to balance her time throughout the day. She’s also gained greater communication skills by working with a diverse team of researchers with different areas of expertise.
“Time management and technical lab skills are directly transferrable and I can use what I’ve learned to enhance my academic success,” says Dosanjh. “I have built on the foundation of knowledge I have developed through courses at Laurier.”
Before she began in the Global Studies program at Laurier, the idea of co-op hadn’t crossed Hayley Newman-Petryshen’s mind.
Once she discovered co-op was offered in her program, she jumped at the chance to gain new connections and learn directly from professionals in international development, her field of interest.
Newman-Petryshen is on a co-op experience as a student outreach specialist with War Child Canada in Toronto. War Child works in countries including Afghanistan, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo to protect children from the impact of war.
Newman-Petryshen is working to review the organization’s student engagement strategy, as well as research trends related to youth engagement and student fundraising for humanitarian issues. She has conducted focus groups to test assumptions and explore behaviours and motivations.
“My abstract understanding of international development has transformed into real-world insights about humanitarian work, public policy and foreign aid,” says Newman-Petryshen.
The contributions she’s made during her time at War Child Canada will directly inform the content and design of a new student handbook for young leaders.
“We’re excited about the potential that Hayley’s work has to spark new grassroots, youth-led movements across Canada,” says Brock Warner, director of community giving and innovation at War Child Canada. “We see co-op placements as excellent opportunities to give bright young people projects they can enthusiastically pursue, which often lay just outside our team’s limited capacity.”
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