VIU students share lessons from co-operative education experiences

September 17, 2012 - 4:03am

Diane Awad spent the summer working toward her Hospitality Management degree at Vancouver Island University by keeping things magical for visitors to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café at Walt Disney World in Florida.

Tourism Management student Alyssa Deggan took to the waters of the Salish Sea where she used her newly acquired skills to guide paddlers for Pender Island Kayak Adventures.

Awad and Deggan are among the fourth-year students in the Recreation and Sport Management and Tourism Studies and Hospitality Management programs who will share their workplace experiences at VIU’s Faculty of Management Co-operative Education Symposium on Friday, Sept. 21.

Awad put in a three-month stint at one of the world’s largest quick-service restaurants as she completes four years of study into the hospitality industry – two years at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton where she grew up and the past two years at VIU.

She didn’t earn a lot of money for her time behind the counter but it was a rewarding learning experience. “It’s very helpful to be able to apply things we’ve learned to a job – all those little management things and business concepts,” says Awad. “And, I met people who I know I’ll be friends with for a very long time.”

Deggan, who grew up in Ladysmith and had limited kayaking experience, needed to prepare quickly for her co-op job.

“I was on a study abroad program in Mexico in March when I was contacted about the opportunity,” says Deggan. “I came home in April, took a five-day intensive kayak guide training course in May and started work in June.”

Both students are grateful for their learning opportunities.

Deggan experienced several benefits both in training to be a guide through VIU’s Outdoor Recreation program and working for the kayak outfitter at Poets Cove Resort and Spa.

“It was extremely valuable to me to be given so much responsibility. I needed to develop self-confidence and be assertive to gain the trust of the people on my tours,” says Deggan.

“I got a lot more out of my co-op experience than I anticipated. It taught me how to be confident in myself and my decisions,” says Deggan, who also trained in first aid and VHF radio operation for her job.

Awad, who had visited Walt Disney World in the past, says, “Watching the guests while you are working at Disney World is completely different from being a guest. It’s impressive to see the lengths they go to keep things magical for younger guests and adults who turn into kids at Disney World.”

Awad has set her sights on management of resorts or hotels. “I don’t know whether I want to be somewhere sunny on a beach or in a big city. Maybe one day, I’ll be back at Disney.”

While Deggan enjoyed her time on guiding West Coast paddlers, she is interested in the business side of tourism possibly working with a university on study abroad programs.

While co-op students will share their experiences and present case studies, the symposium is also an opportunity for the University to thank community partners who employ co-op students, according to organizers Micki McCartney, Co-operative Education Co-ordinator for Recreation and Sport Management and Tourism Studies, and Lynda Robinson, Co-operative Education Co-ordinator for Hospitality Management.

VIU President Ralph Nilson will present certificates of appreciation at the event to employers who hired VIU co-op students this summer.

“At VIU, we are committed to being relevant, responsive and innovative. We recognize the importance of strong partnerships for the continued success of our students and our institution,” says Nilson.

“Co-operative education yields dividends in many ways,” says Nilson. “Co-op students benefit from hands-on experience and the opportunity to apply classroom lessons on the job.”

Benefits to employers include reduced recruitment and hiring costs and access to students who are highly motivated and enthusiastic, according to McCartney and Robinson.

Co-op students also enrich the campus community as a whole as they complete their work terms and share their experiences with fellow students and faculty.

Over the past year, 186 students participated in a Co-operative Education work term with participants hired for positions based locally, regionally, nationally and internationally from May to September.

For more information on Co-operative Education at VIU or to hire a co-op student, contact:

Lynda Robinson

Co-operative Education Co-ordinator for Hospitality Management

Micki McCartney

Co-operative Education Co-ordinator for Recreation and Sport Management and Tourism Studies

Tags: In the Community

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