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1,800 avid experiential learners

The Institute for Co-operative Education celebrates a year of student accomplishment and employer support
May 24, 2016
By Tom Peacock

It was a celebration of students who go beyond their studies to gain experience at companies that range from software giants to music instrument innovators.

Concordia’s Institute for Co-operative Education hosted its yearly Co-op Awards of Recognition Event (CARE) in the atrium of the John Molson School of Business (MB) Building on May 19.

“This is an opportunity to express our gratitude to our students and admire the accomplishments they've been able to achieve over the last year,” said Gerry Hughes, the institute’s director, before handing out more than $10,000 in prizes, awards and scholarships.

Hughes went on to thank the many Co-op employers on hand, as well as Concordia staff, faculty and alumni, for playing a key role in the institute’s success and continued growth.

Students on the move

Attendees were greeted by the Co-op Showcase, featuring 25 of the top senior students. They stood beside posters bearing details about their work terms and what they had gained from their various on-the-job experiences.

Megan Brown, who graduated from Concordia’s computer science program last fall, spent her final work term at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, where she developed an application for a remote-controlled car that can be operated using any Windows 10 device.

Brown has accepted a job with the software behemoth, and she’s relocating to Washington in a few weeks.

Computer engineering student Vincent Bilodeau spent his last work term at the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation in Scottsdale, Arizona, optimizing audio effects and performing hardware performance profiling. “It’s pretty cool, you get to work on something, then play guitar, work on it a little more, then play some more guitar,” he said, smiling.

Bilodeau has a few courses left before he graduates, but he signed a contract for freelance work with Fender this summer, and he’s hopeful about his prospects for a future with the company.

Accountancy student Nicholas Chin recently completed a work term at the professional services company KPMG where he helped corporate executives with their personal tax returns. He’s found his passion, he said. But before looking for his first job after he graduates this spring, he’s going to take some time off to travel. The ticket to Italy’s already booked. 

This year, journalism undergraduate Casandra De Masi and electrical engineering student Nicholas Boudreau shared the Alexandre Quintal Co-op Student of the Year Award. This year, journalism undergraduate Casandra De Masi (far left) and electrical engineering student Nicholas Boudreau (second from left) shared the Alexandre Quintal Co-op Student of the Year Award.

Co-op’s $8 million contribution

Hughes provided some figures to illustrate the program’s growth and diversity: Currently there are more than 40 Co-op programs at Concordia, including three new ones this year, in mathematical and computational finance, biology and aerospace engineering.

Close to 1,800 students are enrolled as Co-op members, and they secured 1,400 work placements over the past year. On an annual basis, students in the program earn in the neighbourhood of $8 million. “This helps them with their education, but it also helps the local economy,” Hughes said.

A vital bridge

Catherine Bolton, Concordia’s vice-provost for teaching and learning, compared Co-op to a bridge, connecting the classroom to the workplace. “It results in an increase of possibilities — to communicate, to meet, to work together and to learn from each other,” she said. “This bridge partnership is vital to us, not only at the Co-op institute but also at Concordia.”

Bolton underlined the role Co-op’s experiential learning opportunities play in Concordia’s new strategic directions.

Embrace the city, embrace the world speaks to the idea that Concordians can use their talents, expertise and energy to affect social change and to give back to the community that we live in, whether it's locally or globally,” Bolton said. “It is very clear that Co-op students and Co-op employers have long been helping us to achieve this goal.”

Co-op’s ‘win-win’

Co-op employer Angela D’Angelo, vice-president of training and client experience at National Bank Financial, highlighted the benefits of hiring Co-op students. “It’s win-win. It’s a two-way street,” she said. “You have no idea what these millennials can bring to your business, to your life and to your development.”

This year, journalism undergraduate Casandra De Masi and electrical engineering student Nicholas Boudreau shared the Alexandre Quintal Co-op Student of the Year Award.

De Masi said being a part of Co-op allowed her to face her fears and anxieties head on and develop the confidence needed to decide her career direction. “I've learned that it's important not to let people place you in a labelled box and tell you that that’s what you have to be in life,” she said. “I'll kick the box open and politely say, ‘No, thank you.’”

Boudreau praised Co-op for allowing students to gain invaluable experience while working for employers who take a vested interest in developing their interns. “I really experienced this working on flight simulators and antennas for satellites. It was really remarkable to work with so many employers who would just listen, and be there when you needed help,” he said.

“I learned to think a little less like a student and a little more like an engineer, and it reflected in the way that I came back to school.”

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



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