Students crucial to world’s largest co-op program

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

A collage of University of Waterloo Co-operative and Experiential Education co-op students

By: Hirumal Munasinghe & Sam Byers

Before starting her work term with the University of Waterloo's Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE) team, Amy Bee never expected her work to go viral.

Bee, a third-year Arts student, worked as a social media marketing associate for the communications, employer and digital engagement team (CEDE) in CEE in Spring 2021, exhibited strong social media savvy during her work term by creating an Instagram reel that resulted in record-breaking views. Bee's work helped to showcase students and employers behind the world’s largest co-op education program.

A Fine Arts Major in the Honours Arts and Business program, Bee specialized in developing content targeted at students and used popular TikTok trends linked to co-op at Waterloo.

She is returning to the CEDE team in Fall 2021.

“After posting a series of Instagram reels that did relatively well, researching trending hashtags related to our content, and the algorithm working in our favour, one of our reels saw a significant increase in views beyond our followers,” describes Bee.


Students key to operations

Students worked in various roles across CEE in Spring 2021, including in Work-Integrated Learning Programs (WIL Programs), the Centre for Career Action (CCA) and the Work-Learn Institute (WxL). Students, from the junior level to senior level, and from a variety of programs, work in CEE.

“Every term, co-op students within CEE play a vital role in what we do,” says Ross Johnston, 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 just how special work-integrated learning is in preparing our students and ourselves for the future.”

Mariah Excel Rebortura, worked as an employment relations associate for the Co-operative Education team within CEE.

Rebortura exemplifies this through her involvement in CEE’s initiatives to improve support and services for student mental health and well-being. Rebortura was part of the co-op embedded Counsellors Committee as well as the Student Mental Health association.

“Being able to listen into those meetings and contribute to conversations on developing programs and resources was very rewarding,” she says.

Rebortura’s contributions also helped students find work terms. Supporting the employment relations team in co-op includes helping to build productive relationships with employers and students that lead to retention of jobs, job opportunities for creditable work terms and an overall positive work term for students and employers.

Mariah Excel Rebortura headshot
Mariah Excel Rebortura
Fourth-year Arts student

 

“They were able to secure employment and I think that’s really special,” says Rebortura in terms of assisting students finding work terms.

Nickie Kumar headshot
Nickie Kumar
Second-year Environment, Resources & Sustainability student

Nickie Kumar, a social media campaign coordinator working on the CEDE team,
made a substantial impact over her
eight-month work term by launching the #MyCoopExperienceCampaign, a weekly
blog featuring co-op experiences from Waterloo students.

“I really appreciate how I was able to be a part of initiating a brand-new campaign where I was able to develop my communication skills further,” says Kumar, a second-year Environment, Resources and Sustainability student.

Kumar interviewed more than 30 students in different faculties, highlighting their experiences. She scheduled and facilitated Instagram takeovers while also writing mini blog posts.

 

Kumar and Rebortura have completed multiple work terms at CEE.


Students feel empowered by roles

Rebortura and Bee felt empowered during their terms and were given more responsibilities and creative freedoms than they expected.

“It ended up being more like, ‘what are your ideas?’ as it had me contributing more to the team, rather than them just telling me what to do,” says Bee.

This sense of creative freedom proved to be relevant to Bee’s personal development.

Bee found personal value during her time at CEE. While being a creative student, CEE presented Bee with the opportunity to create for “the bigger picture.”

While finding success in the realm of Instagram Reels, Bee says she is most proud of her work producing animated GIFs, which is an area of art that she has been strengthening over the past few months. She points out that this level of production has projected her confidence and comfort with her skills to great new lengths.

“I was going to gain opportunities to further develop my digital communication skills by being able to speak with team members that are actually within that industry, as well as being able to develop content that I could later add to my portfolio.” says Bee.

Amy Bee headshot
Amy Bee
Third-year Arts student


 

As the term wraps up, Rebortura and Bee encourage upcoming co-op students to look to CEE as a place of not only quality work, but as a place that fosters a sense of community and ongoing skills development. 

For their work term experiences, they not only had opportunities to produce meaningful work, but also to learn and grow and prepare for their future academic or career choices.

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