Co-op student profiles

Co-op Profile: Interview with Jacky Zhai

Jacky ZhaiMy name is Jacky and I am currently an Honours Political Science Co-op student at the University of Waterloo with a specialization in Public Policy & Administration.

One of the most common questions I get asked is why I chose Political Science as my major?

Throughout high school, I enjoyed a wide variety of subjects in the social sciences. When the time came to choose the Arts program that I had to major in, it was a pretty hard choice because I was interested in so many things. However, one program that did stand out to me was Political Science. Political Science offered me the opportunity to dive into such a wide range of subjects including law, history, geography, politics, and economics, with course offerings from many different topics. The best part was that you could choose which areas you wanted to specialize in. The interdisciplinary nature of the program combined with the freedom to do the courses I wanted helped me shape my PSCI degree towards my own personal interests and career goals.

What co-op positions have you held? 

Junior Policy Analyst -  Ontario Ministry of Education, Capital Policy Branch
Research Analyst -  Ontario Treasury Board Secretariat, Economic Infrastructure Branch (8 months)
Research Assistant - University of Waterloo, Secretariat & Office of General Counsel

What advice would you give to upcoming co-op students?

My PSCI major helped me develop many transferable skills that are useful on the job. These included writing, analysis, research, project management, and communications skills. The assignments I did in my courses were very useful as they mirror much of the work I did on my work terms.

Co-op has allowed me to gain real-life work experience and has helped me realize my strengths and weaknesses and allowed me to experience new opportunities I didn’t expect. Some advice I would give to new co-op students is to volunteer and get involved early on! This will help you build experience and add to your resume. Secondly, focus on your academics in first year. A strong early academic record will help support your application. It’s a lot of hard work, but it pays off immensely in the future. When the time does come to apply for jobs, try to apply to a wide variety of jobs. Many students have excellent co-op jobs in completely different industries and ended up loving their jobs. You never know what you might like.

Which PSCI course did you find most useful?

I found that PSCI 331 - Public Administration has been the most valuable course as it provided me with the skills and knowledge I needed for my work terms. I learned about how decisions and policies are created, as well as how all levels of the government bureaucracy function. Course assignments such as writing briefing notes and presenting to small groups helped me develop skills which contributed to my success during my co-op terms.

What are some activities that you are involved with? 

Getting involved is one of the most rewarding and exciting things you can do as a student at the University. You get to meet new people, make connections, and gain valuable experience. I encourage all students to join clubs, volunteer, and also connect with both your fellow students and professors.  

Much of my involvement on campus has been focused towards helping other students and prospective students. I want to make sure that every student feels welcome and have the resources they need to excel at the University of Waterloo. Some of my on campus involvements include membership on the Co-op student council, in which I represented the student body and raised concerns regarding our Co-op program, volunteering for open house days and orientation, and roles as Political Science department peer mentor and a volunteer note-taker for Accessibility services.

Co-op Profile: Interview with Natasha Crasto 

profile pictureMy name is Natasha and I am currently an Honours Political Science Co-op student at the University of Waterloo with a specialization in Business and minors in Legal Studies and Management Studies. 

What co-op positions have you held?

Contract Administrator Assistant - City of Brampton
Database Developer Intern - City of Brampton
Project Control Officer - CGI Group
Market Intelligence Analyst - Greystone Managed Investments

What was your best co-op experience?

I would say my best co-op experience was as a Project Control Officer at CGI Group. Having worked in the Public sector during my last co-op term, CGI opened new opportunities for me and allowed me to work in a field not related to government or politics. Being placed in the private sector environment allowed me to gain a more fast-paced experience while realizing my strengths and weaknesses - ones I didn’t know I had. This also allowed me to use information and skills I developed in the Business portion of my major and minors. In addition, I met a group of talented individuals who were able to train me and help be harness my skills to assist with various new projects. Being able to experience a wide variety of jobs has allowed be to be part of extremely different industries and gain an enormous amount of professional experience. 

How did your PSCI major prepare you for your jobs?

The PSCI major at the University of Waterloo is truly unlike any other. Ranging from the large amounts of courses to choose from, to the professors who are always willing to help and guide you in the right direction, the PSCI major has trained me to discover and explore different aspects of the Canadian economy. Whether it be political, economical or investment related, the PSCI major has introduced me to courses that touch upon many - if not all - of these aspects to the Canadian economy. Various courses in the PSCI department prep you for the skills you need in order to write, research and perform to the best of your ability.  The wide range of courses offered from law, politics, economics, history, business and more, allow you to choose which areas interest you the most, and make you more marketable to employers once you have knowledge in those areas. 

Which PSCI course did you find most useful?

I found two PSCI courses extremely useful for co-op preparation during my time at Waterloo. The newly introduced PSCI 299 course really prepares you for your work terms by helping you develop your interviewing, writing, research and interpersonal skills which many employers look for in a job candidate. If you’re interested in theoretical economics and learning about political economies, PSCI 300 was a compelling course which was applicable to the investment related jobs I encountered. Learning about relationships between politics, businesses and markets prepared me for my intelligence analyst position giving me insight to how markets work.  

What advice would you give to upcoming co-op students?

Some advice I would give to upcoming co-op students is to be open. Just because you are in a particular program doesn’t mean you are subject to those types of jobs. The great things about Political Science is that it captures a variety of information that you can shape and utilize to fit your interests. You never know what you might like and where you might end up! 

Co-op Profile: Interview with Anne Marie Hayman

Anne Marie HaymanWhat co-op positions have you held?

Junior Research Advisor, Research Branch, Ministry of Research and Innovation in Toronto, Ontario

Research Assistant, Resource Policy & Programs Directorate, Aboriginal Affairs & Northern Development Canada in Gatineau, Quebec

Research Assistant, Digital Innovation & Design Practice, Institute of Systems Science-National University of Singapore in Singapore

Research Assistant, Companeros Inc. & FIDEG (International Foundation for Global Economic Challenge)  in Managua, Nicaragua

What was your best co-op experience?

In terms of the work I was doing, I think my best co-op experience has been with the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation. Having the opportunity to return and complete a second work term, I was able to make strong connections with my colleagues and I was treated as if I was a full time regular employee and not just a co-op student. During the two terms, I got to work on two different research grants, assist with a submission to the treasury board. I also got to work with the international research team to help plan a workshop that was attended by 50+ industry, academic and government officials in the field of nanotechnology. Post-workshop, I was asked to write a strategic report which was submitted to the Assistant Deputy Minister to review regarding a potential nanotechnology partnership between Ontario and China.

In terms of the experience, my best co-op experience has been working in Singapore. Getting to experience another country, another culture, a different work culture and being able to travel around the area to countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia has been an absolutely amazing experience.

How did your PSCI major prepare you for your jobs?

My PSCI major helped prepare me for my jobs by giving me opportunities to learn and refine skills that will be necessary in any work place. This includes researching, ability to communicate your arguments/thoughts in multiple formats (written, verbal), balancing multiple projects/assignments on very different topics, sound reasoning skills and logical thinking.

Which PSCI course did you find most useful?

For my job in Singapore (and upcoming job in Nicaragua), I believe that PSCI 282 (Foreign Policy) has been the most useful as it provided an overview of the political situations and relations of many different countries, especially small states. I also found PSCI 255 (Comparative Political Economy) to be useful for my co-op positions in the government. The work I did in those positions did not align with the subject matter covered in PSCI 255, but the theories and ideas behind them, and understanding different policy options that are utilized by different countries.

What advice would you give to upcoming co-op students?

Don’t search through jobs specifically using the PSCI filter or based on job titles. Sometimes there are more obvious jobs, such as the ones I received working for the government, but the skills we learn in our classes can be applicable in many different industries and many of my fellow PSCI co-op students have had great co-op opportunities in jobs that one wouldn’t immediately think correlated with political science.