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2015 co-op students of the year

University of Waterloo honours its top co-op students, including national winner

A student from the University of Waterloo has won the award for top co-op student in Canada for her work coordinating a radiotherapy program for people in the advanced stages of cancer.

The Canadian Association for Co-operative Education (CAFCE) named Rachel McDonald, from the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at Waterloo, the winner of the national Co-op Student of the Year Award. This is the second year in a row a Waterloo student has won the CAFCE award. She also won the top prize in the province, the Education at Work Ontario (EWO) Co-op Student of the Year Award.

University of Waterloo's co-op students of the year

The 2015 University of Waterloo Co-op Students of the Year, from left to right, Joey Pereira, Emily West, Andrew MacDonald, Rachel McDonald, Vinita Dhir and Jordan Grant.

Waterloo honoured McDonald and five other students today with the University’s top award for students in a co-op program, for their contributions to co-operative education and their community.

“We take great pride in the strong contributions our students make on their work terms,” said Rocco Fondacaro, acting executive director of Co-operative Education & Career Action at Waterloo. “This year’s winners embody the world-class talent that thrives here at the University, finding solutions that drive innovation and improve the lives of people in their community and beyond.”

The following are the recipients of the 2015 University of Waterloo Co-op Students of the Year Awards.

Vinita Dhir - Science and Business, Biology Major (Faculty of Science)

Dhir worked at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto as an oncology research assistant and bone metastases project manager for two co-op terms. When conducting investigative studies, she took a lead role when submitting proposals, presenting research topics to the ethics board, collecting patient data and ensuring patient satisfaction.

Jordan Grant - Management Engineering (Faculty of Engineering)

Challenged to create something during his co-op term as an innovation analyst at Deloitte, Grant developed the Deloitte Tech Exchange (DTEX). DTEX is an event that gives Waterloo students the chance to work with high-end technology that would otherwise be unattainable due to cost. The event gives students the experience and resources necessary to take them through the design process, where they must find a solution to an industry problem.

Andrew MacDonald - Geography and Environmental Management (Faculty of Environment)

With a passion for the environment and education, MacDonald spent a co-op term at Pinery Provincial Park, delivering educational programs to the public, leading surveys on species at risk, and developing an interactive app for the park. The Explore Pinery app engages visitors by promoting park amenities, and giving them the chance to track and observe the different wildlife and natural beauty of the park. By providing tips on how to avoid poison ivy and other dangers around the park, and having easy access to the emergency contact information in the app, it helps improve customer safety. He received an honourable mention for the national co-op student of the year award.

Rachel McDonald - Health Studies (Faculty of Applied Health Sciences)

As a clinical research assistant with Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, McDonald coordinated the rapid response radiotherapy program, which provides palliative radiation treatment to advanced cancer patients. She led research projects and published work on the use of stereotactic body radiation therapy for non-spine bone metastases in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics and a manuscript in the peer-reviewed journal, Technology in Cancer Research and Treatment.

Joey Pereira - Computer Science (Faculty of Mathematics)

During his co-op term, Pereira worked as a software engineer and lead developer at PiinPoint, a UWaterloo software startup that helps retailers determine the best location to open shop. He took on a lead role in the development, improvement, and expansion of PiinPoint’s platform, creating a drivetime polygon generator, which attracted customers to the platform. He managed a team of engineers and co-op students, and made changes to the production environment.

Emily West - Psychology (Faculty of Arts)

Working as the assistant project manager at the Games Institute, West was the first point of contact for day-to-day activities, but also for the organization and execution of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Grant Mid-Term Meeting, hosted by the Games Institute. She organized guest speakers, catering, and equipment rentals, created the final conference schedule, and designed the brochures for the event. She also streamlined the communication process, creating an improved means of transmitting important information to the members and researchers of the Games Institute.

In addition to the students listed above, Abhirup Chatterjee (Applied Heath Sciences), Kai Slaughter (Engineering), and Emma Hawley-Yan (Environment) received honourable mentions for Waterloo’s 2015 co-op student of the year awards. 

The Canadian Association for Co-operative Education leads National Co-op Week, which celebrates the growth of co-operative education programs across the country. Waterloo is the world leader in Co-operative education, and is home to the world’s largest co-op program. 

Rachel McDonald

Rachel McDonald won the national Co-op Student of the Year Award. 

How is a student considered for the award?

  • An employer, like yourself, can nominate them.
  • A co-op student can apply and nominate themselves.
  • A fellow student, faculty member, or Waterloo staff may nominate them.

Nominate a student

If you feel that your co-op student provided an exceptional contribution to your organization that has proven them to go above and beyond their job description, please consider nominating them for the Waterloo Co-op Student of the Year Award.

The Waterloo Co-op Students of the Year Award

Criteria & Scoring:

  • Contribution to employer (15 points)
  • Evaluations received from employer must be "outstanding" for at least one work term in the award year and preferably "excellent" in other work terms of the award year (15 points)
  • Academic achievements (minimum 75% overall average) (10 points)
  • Contribution to co-op (5 points)
  • Volunteer and/or community involvement (5 points)

Please write up to a one page supporting letter on why your co-op student deserves a Student of the Year Award. Include a description of how your student went above and beyond the job description. We are looking for candidates who contributed more than just a job well done. Submit your letter  to Brent Thornhill, communications specialist.


Co-operative Education will choose up to two of the latest co-op student of the year award recipients and submit their names to CAFCE. For more information, please visit the the CAFCE website.

Criteria & scoring:

  • Workplace achievements (mostly "outstanding" rating on work term evaluations)
  • Academic achievements (80% average or above)
  • Volunteer or community involvement
  • Contribution to co-op

EWO Award

Co-operative Education will choose up to two of the latest co-op student of the year award recipients and submit their names to EWO. Follows the same criteria as the CAFCE Award. For more information about nomination, please visit the EWO website.