Office of Sustainability offers work-integrated experiences
Photo: Dr. Tatenda Mambo, PhD’16, postdoctoral scholar in the University of Calgary's Sustainability Studies program in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape and former engagement co-ordinator Amanda Mosca
When Amanda Mosca reflects on her first internship, she remembers executing basic tasks like picking up coffee or filing paperwork. But she wanted more from her work experiences — she wanted to be given responsibility and room to grow.
Fast forward to Mosca’s time at the University of Calgary, where she worked as the engagement co-ordinator for UCalgary’s Office of Sustainability from 2017-2021. Part of the engagement co-ordinator’s role is to work with a team to manage an internship program. During her time in the role, Mosca aimed to ensure students enjoyed a more rewarding internship than she did.
Since 2012, the Office has been supporting to students meet career and academic goals through a dedicated co-op (or co-operative) education program. Interns are challenged and supported in taking on tasks that develop skills and utilize their creative thinking.
Each year, the Office hires three students for a year-long work term to support their team. Students are able to volunteer before committing to the term, which helps them get familiar with the Office and its programs and, in return, provides suitable candidates for the co-op positions.
The co-op work terms involve specific learning outcomes and activities in each role to build a student’s skills and knowledge. An evaluation happens at the end of the co-op to determine what worked and what didn’t for both student and employer.
During the co-op term, students manage tasks such as office communications, co-ordinating volunteer cohorts, overseeing social media channels and planning events. Students often work on larger projects in the community, too. One recent project saw students collaborating with a community organization to set up a market on campus that sold affordable produce and groceries to students.
At a glance
- Dedicated co-op program; hires students every year for a one-year work term
- Volunteer opportunities
- Providing inquiry-based learning
- Hires students from any faculty
“Work-integrated learning for supervisors is not just about throwing projects at the student, but also onboarding, training and ongoing mentorship. In part, we create a meaningful learning opportunity for students, but they contribute hugely to the success of our office and its programs.”
Former engagement co-ordinator, Office of Sustainability
What is inquiry-based learning?
Mosca often used an inquiry-based learning approach in her mentorship, encouraging co-op students to explore how to address a problem by asking probing questions and engaging in a discussion of ideas. She stresses the importance of giving students a chance to trust their abilities to spark creativity. Reflecting on her UCalgary experience, Mosca says she learned, she has learned that students have a wealth of knowledge from their own lived experiences and are well-equipped to take on challenging and innovative projects.
A mutually beneficial program
The projects that students contribute to during their co-op work terms provide them with a portfolio to showcase their skills and experience when navigating the next steps in their careers. In turn, the Office is able to hire new students every year to transform existing initiatives or create brand-new events and programs that benefit students. Another bonus: the continuation of the co-op program is a way for the Office to stay connected to the current student community and their needs, as a large portion of its events and programs are designed for students.
Get involved with the Office of Sustainability
Available positions are posted on Elevate’s Experience Catalogue, an online portal for student success. Postings usually go up around February – March and hire to begin in May. For more information on other ways to get involved, click here.
Benefits to students
Through gaining work experience with the office, students are able to contribute to their own community and sustainability. Each work term provides students with a place to find their creative energy, develop professional networks and develop important professional skills like public speaking, event-planning, problem-solving, teamwork and communications.