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Concordia’s 24 new opportunities for experiential learning

Co-operative education program expands to four new disciplines
March 5, 2014
By Louise Lalonde

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Concordia has long stressed the importance of learning outside the classroom. Since its inception 30 years ago, the university’s Institute for Co-operative Education has allowed students to take the knowledge and skills they acquire, and apply them in the workplace — an experience designed to give them an edge in both their career and education.

Now 24 more students from the Faculty of Arts and Science, mainly in their second year, will be able to take advantage of four new Co-op programs in anthropology, sociology, journalism and political science. The work terms are set to begin as early as May 2014.

“One of our mandates is to increase the depth and breadth of experiential learning opportunities for students,” says Gerry Hughes, director of the Institute for Co-operative Education.

He points to the new programs, as well as the three new professional experience options in physics, computation arts and design, as examples of how the university is supporting students by offering new ways to learn — and to put what they’ve learned into practice. An added benefit, Hughes says, is that Co-op students also become more engaged with the community.

The Faculty of Arts and Science was a pioneer in co-operative education when it introduced work-study programs in chemistry and biochemistry more than 30 years ago. Today, all of Concordia’s faculties offer experiential learning programs that see students alternate between academic and work terms throughout the school year.

Hughes is proud of the training Co-op participants receive. “They are determined and talented, and offer employers brand-new knowledge and a willingness to learn in the workplace, four productive months at a time,” he says.

The decision to introduce programs in the four new disciplines was informed by studies of other universities — including the University of Waterloo, the University of Victoria and the University of Toronto — with similar offerings, all of which demonstrated measurable success.

Research was also conducted to gauge interest from employers in Quebec and across Canada. In fact, Concordia was receiving requests for students in these areas even before the new programs were approved last November.

An exceptional pool of student talent

Jane Fairhurst, Co-op coordinator for the Faculty of Arts and Science, expects potential employers to be impressed by the students’ skills and enthusiasm.

“We have a lot of students interested in sustainability and social justice, as well as government, foreign affairs and international relations,” she says.

To be accepted to the Co-op program, applicants must meet a minimum GPA requirement, submit a letter of intent and take part in a group interview.

According to business development coordinator Lucia Plescia, the 24 new participants will arrive with an impressive skill set. “Our students are able to perform socio-economic and market research,” she says. “They are also skilled in communication, and they understand human behaviour and the importance of conflict resolution and dialogue in negotiation strategies.”

And often, their abilities go even further: “Many are trained in sustainability. Some have specialized geographic training and a socio-political understanding of specific regions.”

These facts are not lost on employers. Among those interested in Concordia students for the May 2014 work term are Environment Canada and the Treasury Board of Canada (Ottawa, Ont.); the International Air Transport Association and the Quebec-Labrador Foundation (Montreal, Que.); the Green Timbers Heritage Society Environmental Outreach Team (Surrey, B.C.); Husky Energy (Calgary, Alta.); and BC Hydro (Vancouver, B.C.). Journalism students will be able to take advantage of opportunities at the CBC and Concordia’s University Communications Services office.

While recruitment for many of these positions will come through the Co-op program, students are expected to search for work as well.

“Co-op is not a placement agency, but we are here to support students,” says Fairhurst. “They’re not left on their own.”

If you’re an employer looking for a student to hire, or a student interested in applying to the Co-op program, email the Institute for Co-operative Education at

Read more about student success at the Institute for Co-operative Education.

The National Co-operative Education Week runs from March 17 to 21. Watch for a collection of articles on our news page and in the next newsletters.

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