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From fish studies to finance models

The two latest additions to experiential learning at Concordia: biology, plus mathematical and computational finance
April 6, 2016
By Elisabeth Faure and Tom Peacock

“We are always looking to increase the depth and breadth of experiential learning opportunities for students,” says Gerry Hughes, director of the Institute for Co-operative Education. “We are always looking to increase the depth and breadth of experiential learning opportunities for students,” says Gerry Hughes, director of the Institute for Co-operative Education. | Photo by Dave Bezaire (Flickr CC)

Concordia is expanding its co-operative education offering once again.

In 2014, the university introduced four options in anthropology, sociology, journalism and political science. This fall, it will add new programs in biology and mathematical and computational finance (MACF) to the list of more than 35 experiential opportunities, offered through the Institute for Co-operative Education.

MACF: ‘a very interdisciplinary program’

The new MACF Co-op option was years in the making.

“It’s geared toward modelling and quantitative aspects of finance,” says Cody Hyndman, program director and associate professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

“Our students take a lot of courses in math and statistics, commerce and finance, computer science, and specialized courses to tie everything together,” he says. “It’s a very interdisciplinary program.”

Hyndman says the department hopes the new option will complement its successful existing Co-op programs in actuarial mathematics, statistics, and pure and applied mathematics.

“The work these students will be doing requires more in-depth knowledge of the advanced mathematics behind some of the models that are used in finance, and really understanding how they work. It’s not just, here’s a formula and use it,” explains Hyndman.

This Co-op program will follow a new model: rather than applying straight out of CEGEP, students will complete one term of courses at Concordia before being eligible for a Co-op schedule with three work terms.

“We’re going to have students who have more program-specific knowledge when they do their first work term,” says Hyndman of the decision to structure the program differently.

Examples of the fields of Co-op work available to students include finance, capital markets, investment banking, treasury, risk management and insurance.

“This also allows us to present multiple Co-op options to an employer to make it that much more interesting to partner with us,” explains Gerry Hughes, director of the Institute for Co-operative Education. He’s quick to praise Hyndman’s and senior program coordinator Nadine Benjamin’s efforts to get this new option off the ground.

“Cody is a very dynamic leader who is fully committed to our Co-op program,” Hughes says. “His total dedication is very much appreciated. All of these programs have become some of our top ‘flagship’ Co-op programs at Concordia.”

Daniel Eklove, BA 13, says this Co-op option provides valuable networking opportunities for students that can translate into future employment offers. “One thing that I've noticed in the couple of years since graduating is that there's a big hole in the financial workforce just waiting to be filled by MACF graduates. But it's not an obvious hole. It's subtle.”

Eklove is speaking both as a student and a potential boss. “Now, as an employer, this program is a good opportunity to explore potential future talent while connecting with my alma mater,” he says.

Hyndman is looking forward to getting the show on the road. “I think this is going to be a very popular option with students, and one which will help them launch successful careers upon graduating.”

Biology: ‘There is a need for qualified interns’

Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, the food industry, environmental testing firms, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, hospitals, universities — there are plenty of places that benefit from biology graduates’ scientific expertise.

Starting this fall, undergraduates students enrolled in the Department of Biology at Concordia will be able to gain invaluable on-the-job experience during their studies thanks to the department’s new Co-op option.

“There is a need in industry for qualified interns,” says Madoka Gray-Mitsumune, a senior lecturer in the Department of Biology who spearheaded the creation of the biology Co-op program, one of only two in the province.

She says the opportunity to alternate work and study terms will likely attract more top-notch biology undergraduates to Concordia.

“What students do outside of the regular curriculum is so important,” she says, “They have to have a good CV when they graduate, because when they start looking for a job, it's already too late.”

Lucia Plescia, coordinator at the Institute for Co-operative Education, says the plan is to grow the program sustainably, ensuring that Co-op students are set up with engaging and dynamic work opportunities.

She adds that students who do apply will be encouraged to be open to working anywhere in Quebec, Canada or even internationally. “This will enhance and diversify the quality of work terms as well as provide enriching life experiences," she says.

Gray-Mitsumune agrees that flexibility is key, pointing out the federal government’s need for qualified interns to carry out research in the field. “One example might be a station in Mont-Joli that hires undergraduate students for fish studies.”  

To be eligible for the biology Co-op program, students must be enrolled in a specialization or honours program and have a CRC (La cote de rendement au collégial) score of 28.00 or higher. However, even students who meet the requirements are not guaranteed admittance to the program.

Those who want to find out more about the selection process are encouraged to contact the institute.

The biology Co-op option consists of six study terms and three work terms, completed consecutively over a three-year period, including summer terms.

“We are always looking to increase the depth and breadth of experiential learning opportunities for students,” says Hughes.

“We were delighted to provide the support to both departments in getting these programs up and running, and obviously we’re all excited to begin accepting the first cohort and preparing them for future academic and professional success.”

Find out more about Concordia’s
Institute for Co-operative Education.


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