EDGE offers a unique way to ignite students’ work experiences

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Celebrating National Work-Integrated Learning month next to a video of test tubes in a lab

Celebrating work-integrated learning (WIL) month

By: Matthew King (he/him)

The desire to create meaningful volunteer opportunities for science students led Arianna Poon (she/her) to the EDGE program. The 3B Honours Science student knew her peers in the faculty wanted to make an impact in the science field. She used her EDGE work experience to make it a reality.

Three EDGE ambassadors at an eventThree EDGE ambassadors working at an event

The Centre for Work-Integrated Learning’s EDGE program is an experiential education certificate.

EDGE gives University of Waterloo students in traditional (non-co-op) programs an opportunity to develop key professional skills, explore career options and market themselves to employers.

Poon secured a work experience with a medical case competition called IgNITE. Through the competition, students who have never stepped foot in a lab can develop and present novel research proposals to industry-leading professionals.

Poon is the director of the University of Waterloo branch of IgNITE. She is planning to bring the competition to her peers in the Science faculty.


What attracted you to the EDGE program?

Because BioMed and Honours Science are not
co-op programs, there are not as many curated work or volunteer experiences available. I thought EDGE was a cool opportunity to gain work experience in the field.

I also like having that chance to be a part of something that really meant something to me, which is why I chose IgNITE. I could see that there was a correlation between science students wanting volunteer opportunities and what IgNITE had to offer.

That's why I'm working on this project with EDGE, in hopes to promote IgNITE, so that people in non-co-op programs have a chance to do something like that.

Arianna Poon
Arianna Poon
EDGE student

What was it like working in an EDGE experience?

At first, it was a transition period. I had to focus on my academics and my other commitments. I felt actively committed to the EDGE program because I knew it required me to work a certain number of hours. The best part is, because of how flexible the EDGE program is, you're actively thinking about it in your spare time.

You also have the time and the flexibility, which is really why I love it so much. Once you get used to it, it becomes second nature. I thought, “I'm doing this EDGE experience or EDGE milestone, oh my gosh, this relates to my professional development (PD) course.” It gives you a higher level of reflection into the working field.

Why would you recommend others take part in the program?

I think a lot of students, who don't have the co-op option, think of this as a great chance to have the ability to say, “I wasn't a co-op student, but I did have these experiences.” There are many aspects you don't think about until you're in it.

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EDGE provides such a perfect way of gaining experience. One where it gives you enough guidance with the PD courses highlighting the things that are useful. It also allows you to reflect on your experience and take it to the outside world.



What attracted you to IgNITE as your EDGE work experience?

IgNITE’s premise is that it's an opportunity for science students who are eager to go into the research field or graduate programs. However, it's kind of a "catch-22" situation — to obtain experience, you must have experience to begin with, and it gets hard that way.

IgNITE provides an opportunity for students to take initiative, do the research themselves and compete. That really motivated me to go into the organization. As a science student, I thought that there were not many organizations that provide opportunities to undergraduate students who are eager to learn. IgNITE welcomes students who want to take the initiative to go into the field.

Igniting the passion for others

Bianka Bezuidenhout (she/her), is the co-founder of IgNITE and a second-year medical student at the University of Toronto. Bezuidenhout was Poon's employer throughout her EDGE experience.

Bianka Bezuidenhout, co-founder of IgNITE
Bianka Bezuidenhout
Co-founder of IgNITE

If someone approached you with an EDGE opportunity in the future, would you do it again and why?

I would 100 per cent do it again. When I was an undergrad student, I always wished that there
was a resource for us to have an in-depth understanding of the medical and research field.

IgNITE is a resource for students to gain hands-on experience and in-depth knowledge of the medical and research field. By taking part in EDGE, Poon had an outlet to explore her desire to make an impact while gaining real-world experience.

Stay tuned for the next WIL month feature!


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