Our co-op option enables students to combine their academic studies with practical work experience in positions related to their professional interests. Following the MA coursework terms (Fall and Winter), students apply for co-op positions in public and private organizations. Co-op work terms are either four or eight months in length and are followed by a term back on campus for writing the MRP or thesis.
2018 Co-op placements
- IT and Business Compliance Analyst -Toronto Transit Commission
- Research Assistant - Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Government of Alberta
- Junior Program Advisor - National Research Council Canada
- Research Assistant - National University of Singapore
- Policy Analyst - Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade
- Anti-Money Laundering Investigator - Bank of Montreal, Financial Intelligence Unit
- Analyst - Environment and Climate Change Canada
- University of Waterloo Secretariat
- Treasury Board Secretariat
Zeynep Arslangiray Yasar
Anti-Money Laundering Investigator, Bank of Montreal
For my co-operative placement, I was employed as an Anti-Money Laundering Investigator at Financial Intelligence Unit of Bank of Montreal from May until December 2018. This opportunity stemmed from the co-operative option in the MA program in Political Science at the University of Waterloo and although I had previous work experience in this profession, the co-op program allowed me to gain further experience as an international student.
Anti-Money Laundering investigators analyze the typologies, trends and anomalies in complex transactional and customer data to detect, prevent, mitigate and report suspicious activity related to money laundering, human trafficking and terrorist financing. Over the course of my placement, I was able to familiarise myself with new typologies specific to Canadian financial system and expand my knowledge through various responsibilities.
Bank of Montreal’s Financial Intelligence Unit performs adjudication and investigation services for the enterprise in a similar way. It adjudicates system generated unusual transactions (i.e. alerts) and investigates cases for determination of suspicious transactions that must be reported to Canada’s financial intelligence unit, The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC). During my placement, I was assigned with numerous system-generated alerts with various typologies. While working on these alerts, I conducted research based on an end-to-end and risk-based approach, determined whether the activity is unusual or not and if a continued relationship with the customer or customers represents an unacceptable risk to BMO Financial Group.
In addition to these responsibilities, another significant part of my co-op placement was training. Bank of Montreal has a premium training program provided by seasoned team leaders where each new employee undergoes a comprehensive tutoring process based on various aspects of prevention of money laundering, human trafficking and terrorist financing. This training program exposed me to new money laundering and human trafficking schemes and diverse approaches to establishing customer relations. Moreover, Bank of Montreal provides further opportunities to its employees to improve themselves by attending seminars outside of the bank such as Community Forum on Human Trafficking in Niagara.
In short, I have learned a great deal from my co-op placement and I attribute this to the fact that I was given the opportunity to be challenged as a professional. Not only have I developed my current capabilities, but I have cultivated new skills as well. Ultimately, my two co-op terms prepared me for my future role at Bank of Montreal and provided me with the opportunity to network and meet people in various roles in anti-money laundering. I eagerly look forward to the next step in my career and thank the co-operative program at the University of Waterloo for providing me this opportunity.
Research Assistant, Ministry of Economic Development and Trade
In summer of 2018, I had the opportunity to work with the government of Alberta as a co-op student. I was a Research Assistant at the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade (EDT) in the Division of Economic Development (ED), at the Industry Development Branch (IDB). IDB focuses on the development and implementation arm of the Alberta government’s industrial growth strategies. It emphasizes on targeted investment attraction, and serves to facilitate industrial business development, diversification, productivity and innovation within the province. Over the course of the co-op placement, I was able to familiarize myself with the policies surrounding the above issues through various responsibilities assigned to me, such as writing briefing notes, providing analysis and research on policies, and organizing seminars.
One of the major assignments during my placement was to provide research, analysis and secretariat support on a $3.1 billion project in the Petrochemicals Diversification Program (PDP), Petrochemicals Feedstock Infrastructure Program (PFIP) and Partial Upgrading Program (PUP) designed to diversify Alberta’s petrochemical sectors. During this period, I played a crucial role in providing analytical and research support to the secretariat committee in assessing applications, and providing coherent recommendations on a potential course of action for the evaluation committee members. For this project I not only provided research and policy analysis during the proponents’ evaluation process, but also for the after-care plan where we focused on the Royalty announcements and future opportunities.
This co-op opportunity allowed me to polish on my current abilities and skills and challenged my abilities to learn new skills in communication, research, analysis, and excel. It also taught me how to contributed to an urgent and large-scale policy items such as $2.1 billion PDP and PFIP projects for government while providing carefully balanced and sound analysis and recommendations to ensure successful executions of policies. Furthermore, it also provided me an opportunity to ‘collide’ with colleagues from across the government of Alberta and work together on complex, larch-scale, and important policy items.
I believe this co-op added new experiences to my list of skills that will continue to aid me for my future career whether academic or professional. I owe this to the University of Waterloo for creating such an opportunity for its students.
IT and Business Compliance Analyst, Toronto Transit Commission
I spent my co-op term as an IT and business compliance analyst working with the IT Audit and Compliance team within the ITS department at the Toronto Transit Commission.
To ensure the City of Toronto acts responsibly and remains transparent to the taxpayers they serve, accountability offices such as the Auditor General’s office and internal audit teams conduct reviews of the various City Agencies and Corporations. The Auditor General’s office periodically releases audit reports detailing the findings and recommendations for the better management of the Agencies and Corporations. As a City Agency, these audit reports may include findings relevant to the TTC, or specifically to the TTC's ITS department.
One of my duties as part of the IT Audit and Compliance team was to summarize and provide updates to senior IT management regarding the audit reports relevant to the TTC ITS department. My team and I assisted senior IT management in responding to the AG’s Office’s findings by creating action plans to address the areas for improvement. To ensure that TTC ITS would be on track to meet the AG’s Office recommendations, my team and I would conduct follow-up audits to track the improvement progress.
In preparing for future assessments by the AG’s Office, my team and I would preform internal audits for the continual improvement of business processes based on industry standards. We conducted audits to determine the effectiveness, efficiency and the responsible use of public funds for all TTC IT-related projects and service management processes.
I became familiar with the industry standards outlined by the IT Infrastructure Library (called ITIL) and the Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies (called COBIT). I adapted these private sector frameworks to fit needs of a public service agency. I analysed TTC’s IT service management processes against the ITIL and COBIT standards and identified areas for improvement. This included the analysis of policy and procedure documentation for the different business processes and building Excel spreadsheets to analyse raw data extracted from our tracked SLAs. My assessment findings were used to improve the IT service delivery of the business processes in our department.
My team and I would then present these results and recommendations to senior IT management and the CIO.
I had experience working in various IT operations roles from my previous work and joining the audit and compliance team at the TTC gave me an opportunity to look at the work the organization does from a level beyond that of the day to day business. I had the opportunity to conduct IT audits and improve my skills relating to research, data sampling and analysis, and using clear audit language when writing assessment reports. I am very grateful to my knowledgeable co-workers and team members for their mentorship and guidance, and of course very thankful to the University of Waterloo for providing this co-op opportunity.
Policy Intern, Northern Policy Institute
In the summer of 2016, I had the wonderful opportunity to be a Policy Intern for the Northern Policy Institute. NPI is a non-partisan, evidence-based think tank located in Northern Ontario and they focus on a variety of policy areas concerning the north such as the environment, Aboriginal affairs, the economy, infrastructure and so on. Over the course of the co-op placement, I was able to become familiar with these issues through my various responsibilities such as writing blogs, gathering primary and secondary research, analyzing Northern Ontario news, attending cultural events and so on.
During my placement I was assigned several projects, the first of which revolved around directional signage. For this project I was given the opportunity to not only conduct qualitative research, but to design and carry out a research trip to gather primary data in different parts of Northern Ontario. In addition to this task, my colleague and I were a part of a collaborative project between Northern College and NPI in which we led interviews and organized qualitative data. Between these two responsibilities, I was able to code and analyze data, design and conduct interviews, create a field study, and finally, evaluate and synthesize research findings. I believe all of these experiences have helped me to become a better researcher.
In addition to these projects, another important part of my coop placement was writing blogs. As someone who had very limited experience with Northern Ontario, the opportunity to research, analyze, and critique policies that affect northern communities allowed me to become familiar with not only with how the north functions, but also the how the policy-making process is carried out in this region. Since my own research involves the study of how certain policies affect rural groups, there were some parallels between my coop responsibilities and my Masters work. Finally, another takeaway I had from the blog process was how to become a more dynamic writer. I believe this is an important skill that will be of use in my future workplace.
In short, I have learned a great deal from my coop placement and I attribute this to the fact that I was given the opportunity to be challenged as a researcher, a student of political science, and as a professional. Not only have I developed my current capabilities, but I have cultivated new skills as well. So to this I say thank you to the University of Waterloo coop program and NPI; you have helped provide me with aa engaging experience that will continue to aid me in my school and work life.
Policy Analyst, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
I worked for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing as a Policy Co-op student from May until December 2015. This opportunity stemmed from the co-op option in the MA program in Political Science at the University of Waterloo. In this position, I worked in the PERL (Planning, Environment, Resources and Land) Secretariat, which is a cluster of 13 ministries that supports horizontal and integrated policy development and analysis through strategic discussion and annual research projects. I was responsible for the organization of the Directors and Assistant Deputy Ministers’ Committee meetings, where internal consultations took place concerning Ministry initiatives tracking to Cabinet and the legislative approvals process. In preparation for the meetings, I drafted policy papers, briefing notes and oral presentations. I was also responsible for implementing and maintaining a ‘Tracker Tool,’ which monitors early policy development, consultations and the policy and legislative approvals process of PERL member ministries’ initiatives. The tracker tool was utilized by an executive audience and was received with high acclaim.
Furthermore, I assisted with the development of a project report titled, “Aligning PERL Data and Evidence in Land-use Planning to support a Landscape-Level Profile of the Greater Golden Horseshoe.” Working on this report provided me with the opportunity to summarize research findings, as well as analyze, evaluate and synthesize various sources of information and data to establish a landscape level data-monitoring program of the GGH. This also provided the opportunity to liaise and consult with other branches and ministries as well as external stakeholders, to discuss research and exchange information regarding policy and program issues.
My two co-op terms provided me with practical knowledge of the government decision-making approvals process as well as policy development practices. I learned to effectively write policy papers and briefing notes for the executive level in Government. Moreover, I learned how to successfully utilize issues management skills, by accommodating multiple ministries’ competing interests and priorities pertaining to the data-monitoring program that I assisted with. I learned how to effectively deliver research findings, options and recommendations to senior level management in an effective and concise manner. Additionally, I learned political acuity, as I developed an understanding of the formal and informal structures and processes in the Ontario Government.
I believe that this experience will help me down the road, as it provided me with knowledge of policy development practices, research and analytical skills, presentation and communication proficiencies, as well as problem-solving abilities. These are transferable skills that provide an excellent foundation for anyone looking to purse a career in areas such as policy, research, consulting and law. Gaining this experience in the Ontario Public Service also provided me with the opportunity to network and meet people in various different roles in the OPS including positions in policy, law, IT, research, urban planning, finance, and business management. Ultimately, my two co-op terms prepared me for the position that I was recently offered, as a Policy Analyst in the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. I eagerly look forward to the next step in my career and I have to thank the cooperative program at the University of Waterloo for kick-starting this incredible journey!
Research Analyst, Policy Analyst, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change
For my first co-op placement, I was employed as a Research Analyst at a consulting firm. My primary role was to conduct extensive research and gather data via various methods on an assigned area to shed light on development challenges and business opportunities. First hand data collected through field survey and street interviews were preferred. I communicated my research findings through reports, presentations, graphs and infographics. My second placement was Policy Co-op with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. I mainly worked with the renewable energy team to provide program support for Ontario’s current renewable energy initiatives. My duties included preparing responses for management to incoming letters, drafting briefing notes, coordinating record research for Freedom of Information Requests, reviewing board decisions and public comments, etc.
I feel very lucky that both placements had a friendly work environment and that I was able to involve in very different projects. The precious experience enabled me to hone various skills, such as research, analytical, writing, communication, and software skills. In terms of research and analytical skills, for example, I feel more skillful in locating credible data sources, designing questionnaire questions, and evaluating survey results. Besides, my writing skills were refined through developing different types of documents, including wrap-up report, research report, letter response, briefing material, summary table, etc. Apart from writing different documents, I also had exposure to and became more comfortable with different types of communication tools in workplace, such as teleconference, webinars, emails and instant messages. Moreover, I got more skilled at using computer software and office equipment. I even had a chance to take a training on how to run webinars with Adobe.
Additionally, I have gained some industry knowledge and developed a better understanding of career progression in the organizations I worked/interviewed for. In my first co-op, my research focus was primarily transportation systems in China. Through extensive research, I not only honed my research skills, but got to know the transportation industry as well. In one project, I was tasked to investigate a secret local industry that I had never heard of. There were limited online reports and few local people were aware of the business. The investigation process was hard but rewarding. In my second co-op, I learned about Ontario’s renewable energy programs and other initiatives by working on different projects. Those industry insight is also helpful as I move on with my Master’s Research Paper. Besides, I gained a better understanding of the career progression and the organizational structure in the consulting industry and with the Ontario Public Service while working there. In addition to on-the job learning experience, the co-op application and interview process was a window to learn about career progression and potential employers. These are beneficial to planning my career.
What I have learned through my co-op experience is not only useful for school work and in workplace, it also has a positive impact on the way I act and think. I feel more confident about myself than before as I refined my skills and gained a better understanding of myself and the professional world.