University of Waterloo’s Dr. Judene Pretti recognized with prestigious Graham Branton Research Award

Tuesday, December 15, 2020
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In a year of immense change and a drastically changed work landscape, a University of Waterloo researcher is being recognized for her significant contributions to research on work-integrated learning (WIL).

Dr. Judene Pretti, director of Waterloo’s newly launched Work-Learn Institute (WxL), has been named winner of the Dr. Graham Branton Research Award from Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL Canada).

The launch of the WxL coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing Pretti’s research to focus on the shift to students working from home during their WIL experiences.

Pretti is thrilled to receive this award, which was instituted in 1989 to “to recognize and encourage significant contributions” to research in co-operative education and WIL. 

“It means a great deal to me to be honoured with the Dr. Graham Branton Research Award from CEWIL,” says Pretti, who has been involved with the association for more than 10 years.

“I’ve met great people and worked on interesting and important projects through my affiliation with CEWIL, leading the research committee for a number of years. There’s no doubt that my work at Waterloo has been positively impacted by my affiliation with CEWIL. It’s very special to be recognized with an award by an association that means so much to me.”

Pretti received the award at CEWIL’s annual general meeting on December 14.

She received high praise from her peers, including this excerpt from the nomination:

“Judene is internationally recognised as a high achieving researcher who has published a range of robust and impactive research outputs, in addition to her substantive service to the WIL research community. I have no doubt that Judene is Canada’s leading WIL researcher and one of the most recognisable names in the international WIL research community.”

In 2020, Pretti led the evolution of Waterloo’s Centre for Advancement of Co-operative Education (WatCACE) into the Work-Learn Institute. WatCACE was established in 2002 and Pretti has been its director since 2011.

This year, Pretti has provided several webinars relaying her research to practitioners, WIL employers, and other researchers. Her focus on remote work for students paves the way for helping support students during a particularly difficult time. 

Recent research from Pretti and the WxL found that socialization, meaningful work and productivity are three key factors contributing to successful work terms from home for students. Meanwhile, positive and negative WIL experiences have been found to play a role in developing entrepreneurs, as determined by another recent study by Pretti.

“I was really grateful to have so many students willing to share their experiences with us at such a disruptive time,” Pretti adds. “I was also very grateful to my team, including our fantastic co-op students, for the incredible amount of work they did in a short amount of time to make that study happen.”

Launching the WxL has been exciting and a little bit exhausting, Pretti says. The new name was decided prior to COVID-19 and plans were set out for what it would look like. That all shifted of course when the pandemic escalated.

“If I’m looking at it from a silver lining perspective, it gave us a unique opportunity to conduct relevant and timely research as students and employers navigate new ways of working,” she says. “This has meant that we’ve been able to generate and share insights to help students and employers enhance the remote working experience.”

Launching the WxL has also emphasized the importance of a number of projects that were being worked on before COVID, including examining themes related to the future of work, and the development of the Future Ready Talent Framework.

In terms of future projects for the WxL, Pretti says data is being collected for students worked a full term remotely. Earlier work focused on partial remote work terms.

 The new research will help determine how onboarding tactics play a role in performance, satisfaction and organizational commitment. Preliminary results from the study will be available in the new year.

“The momentum we’ve built in 2020 for the Work-Learn Institute will continue into 2021 when we will be launching a newsletter, a webinar series and unveiling a resource hub for employers or host organizations looking to recruit a co-op/WIL student,“ says Pretti.