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Meet Quebec's top Co-op student

Jason Azzoparde, mathematician and former Stinger, is a master of the art of multi-tasking
November 26, 2014
By Tiffany Lafleur

Jason Azzoparde is the second Concordia Co-op student in the past four years to win the Bourse Gilles Joncas, awarded to the top co-op student in Quebec Jason Azzoparde is the second Concordia Co-op student in the past four years to win the Bourse Gilles Joncas, awarded to the top co-op student in Quebec. | Photo by Concordia University

There is no mystery to Jason Azzoparde’s success. He just works hard.

“It comes down to time management, but you have to be balanced,” says the third-year actuarial mathematics and finance student in Concordia's Department of Mathematics and Statistics and a member of the Institute for Co-operative Education.

“Get involved. Volunteer. There’s no secret, you just have to put the work in.”

On November 7, Azzoparde was awarded the Bourse Gilles Joncas, given to the top co-op student in Quebec by the Association canadienne de l’enseignement cooperative (ACDEC), Quebec branch.

The honour recognizes a student’s academic achievements, performance during work terms, participation in extra-curricular activities and volunteer contributions.

Azzoparde’s work-term supervisors have nominated him twice for the Co-op Employer’s Choice award, and he was one of only 46 actuarial students in the world selected to attend the Society of Actuaries’ (SOA) international student conference in Chicago this past August.

By the time Azzoparde officially graduates in spring 2016, he’ll have completed three internships in three different departments — retirement consulting, health and group benefits consulting, and investment consulting — at the Montreal branch of Towers Watson, an American global professional services firm.

“Jason impressed us with his high level of maturity, his motivation, his technical capabilities and his ability to learn quickly,” says Marie-Pier Otis, Azzoparde’s supervisor from Towers Watson during his work term last winter.

Gerry Hughes, director of the Institute of Co-operative Education at Concordia, says Azzoparde was a highly recommended candidate for this bursary, along with two other Concordia Co-op students: “He has an incredible balance in that he wants to succeed, he has the drive to succeed, and he always treats people in a respectful manner.”

Azzoparde says the fast-paced, stimulating working environment has allowed him to learn a lot in a short time, setting him up well for when he finishes school.

“Each team offers something different, which is good for any student hungry to learn. It allows me to see many different aspects of the actuarial industry, so I can decide what track to take upon graduation.”

Finding balance

Although he has just added a major provincial prize to his resumé, Azzoparde says the accomplishment he’s most proud of so far is passing five professional, actuarial exams while balancing his busy schedule, maintaining a high GPA, and earning strong reviews from his work-term supervisors.

“Sports gave me a balance to the stress of performing academically,” says Jason Azzoparde. “Sports gave me a balance to the stress of performing academically,” says Azzoparde. | Photo by Tiffany Azzoparde

Every morning during his work terms, Azzoparde would arrive at the office early to study. The hard work has paid off and he’s already managed to pass more actuarial exams than most students he spoke to at the SOA conference last summer.

Ranked in the top 15 per cent of his academic program, Azzoparde is also a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society and played two seasons with the Concordia Stingers football team.

It’s unusual for a Co-op student to become a member of a varsity team at Concordia, due to the time commitments required. But Azzoparde’s exceptional work ethic earned him a spot on the squad.

“Sports gave me a balance to the stress of performing academically,” he says. “It was a passion for me. My mind was off my studies and it helped in the long run.” After two seasons, Azzoparde was forced to leave the team this year to participate in a work term.

In spite of everything he’s achieved so far, Azzoparde remains modest, saying he didn’t expect to be selected for the Gilles Joncas Bursary.

“It was an unbelievable feeling. I don’t go through life expecting things. I treat every achievement like it’s my first, and I don’t take anything for granted.”

One thing Azzoparde shouldn’t have to worry about when he graduates from Concordia is finding a job. However, he does want to make sure that whatever he ends up doing is meaningful. “I really want to make a difference in whichever role I assume in life,” he says.

With his resumé, the sky’s the limit.

Read the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada’s 
press release about the employability of co-op and internship students.

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