By: Ryan Kehoe (he/him)

Each term, Waterloo co-op students bring their outstanding skills and provide valuable contributions to Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE).

CEE’s five business units (CEE Business Services, Centre for Career Action, Work-Integrated Learning Programs, Work-Learn Institute, Co-operative Education, and International Strategic Initiatives) hire co-op students each term.

During the Winter 2022 term, 18 students from a variety of programs and years worked in CEE.

“Co-op students within CEE play a vital role in what we do,” says Ross Johnston (he/him), executive director of Co-operative Education. “They bring fresh perspective and ideas that allow us to evolve and continue to be a world leader in co-operative and experiential education.”

Seeing the positive interaction between students and our staff and the amazing work they produce is a highlight each year for me. It shows why we are here and it profiles how special work-integrated learning is in preparing our students and ourselves for the future.

Ross Johnston, executive director of Co-operative Education

Hybrid workspace

Throughout the term, as CEE staff returned to in-person work so did many of the co-op students working in CEE. 

Abby Nickelson (she/her) is a second-year Kinesiology student who worked as a client services and project assistant for the Centre for Career Action (CCA). The CCA supports students, alumni and staff with career advisement, work search methods, school preparation and co-op assistance.

As part of her role, Nickelson handled student inquiries through phone calls, live chats, emails and WaterlooWorks—Waterloo’s online recruitment system.

She did so with a hybrid model of working both from home and in-person in the Tatham Centre.

Nickelson had the opportunity to take a course offered by the University’s Organizational & Human Development team called “Leading and Working in Hybrid Teams”. The content helped her to better understand both how to be valuable in her role and how others manage their roles.  

“I already kind of knew what a hybrid team was like because I was working in one for a month by the time, I took the course. But taking that course gave me a broader aspect of what goes into it—not only on my part but for managers and my other co-workers,” says Nickelson.

Abby Nickelson (she/her), second-year Kinesiology co-op student
Abby Nickelson Second-year Kinesiology co-op student

The course helped her to learn that even though she would not physically see her co-workers every day, there were ways to connect as a team.  

The course also helped her improve her skills in client service, an important aspect of her role.

Supporting students

Nickelson made suggestions, like how CCA support staff could more efficiently manage appointment scheduling, that demonstrated the fresh ideas and perspectives students can offer to a workplace. Her contributions helped students manage a variety of issues that came up through their own co-op experiences over the term. She helped students and alumni with career planning and reorganized files for her team.

Although it was Nickelson’s first work term experience, communicating effectively with others was a requirement of her role. The experience meant she improved her own communication skills over the term.

“You have to find what type of communication works best for every person. And it was nice that I was able to work on many different kinds of communications,” she says.

Student voices brought to the forefront with #MyCoopExperience campaign

Fatima Muni worked two consecutive work terms for the digital team in CEE Business Services.

During her terms, Muni gained an understanding of what fellow Waterloo co-op students experience during their own work terms.

As the social media campaign coordinator, Muni was responsible for putting together weekly blog posts. The weekly #MyCoopExperience blog highlights the experiences of Waterloo co-op students. Muni wrote 23 blog posts and prepared content for months ahead—a critical piece for the digital team.

“It was tricky for me at first, but through the term, getting feedback and experience, I began to gradually see my improvements,” says Muni, a Psychology major in Waterloo’s Arts and Business program.

Fatima Muni (she/her), Psychology major in Waterloo’s Arts and Business program
Fatima Muni Psychology and Business co-op student

As part of her role, Muni found students who had interesting co-op experiences, interviewed them, and put together captivating blogs. Over the two terms, she experienced a hybrid work environment, including working from home and in-person at the office in Waterloo’s Research and Technology Park. 

“Fatima’s work was critical for us to keep momentum on the blog campaign,” says Amanda Vos, digital engagement specialist in CEE and Muni’s supervisor. “She did an outstanding job telling unique stories about our co-op students.” 

Muni interviewed almost 20 students across the university to learn about their co-op experiences.

To ensure the stories were authentic, she was sure to include some of the struggles and challenges students faced as well as the high points.

In March, Muni wrote a blog post featuring each of the 2021 Co-op Student of the Year (CSOTY) winners. With a tight timeline, she had to work efficiently and effectively to ensure that all the blogs were ready in time. 

 “I would definitely say that task was overwhelming at first. But, once I took it step by step, it was not as bad,” Muni explains. “It was a challenge but looking back it was also a pat on back for myself to be able to accomplish as much as I did.” 

Readers can see the blogs Muni wrote on the My Co-op Experience Blog including one about one of the CSTOY winners, Sarah Odinotski.

About the author:

Ryan Kehoe is a recreation and leisure studies co-op student. Ryan spent his first work term working as a content development associate in CEE’s communications department in Winter 2022.