UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 01 | Jan.
At home and abroad they prosper
The Arts Co-op Program is a hit with both students and employers
by Daria Wojnarski staff writer
The one-year-old Arts Co-op program at UBC is shattering the
myth that Arts students don't have value in the labour market, says
"In fact, in the knowledge-based economy, people with exceptional
communication skills are the hardest to find and the most
valuable," says Julie
"Employers tell us they're looking for problem-solving and critical-thinking
skills, the ability to analyse and the ability to write well. They say the
technical skills are more easy to teach in the workplace."
The past year has been incredibly exciting and challenging, she says.
The program placed 133 students with 100 Canadian and international employers.
Government and crown corporations accounted for 40 per cent of the employers,
40 per cent were in the private sector and 20 per cent were non-profit.
Walchli says the Arts Co-op plans to place 200 students this year.
Among the students who participated in the program in its first year of
operation was Michael Ross. He found himself teaching business communication to
marketing managers and accountants in Beijing.
The 24-year-old, who's completing an Integrated Bachelor of Arts in Economics
and Asian Studies, spent six-months in China with the Canadian Institute of
Business and Technology.
"The benefits are that you can try on several different hats without
having to make a career commitment," Ross says. "At the same time, you get to
learn more about yourself."
Ross's co-op experience has helped clarify his career, academic and personal
"I now know what I like and don't like about working," he says.
Ross, who wants to pursue a career in sustainable development and environmental
awareness, says the co-op experience showed him that he's a good teacher and
can easily relay his ideas.
While in China, Ross recalls he had a few closed door sessions with his
One of the issues they discussed was the 1989 events of Tiananmen Square when
thousands of Chinese students took to the streets to demand democracy and human
On an outing to a beach, Ross says he also had a chance to talk to members of
the People's Liberation Army (PLA).
"We broke down misconceptions -- their misconceptions of foreigners and ours of
the PLA," he says.
"We sat on the beach and played volleyball and drank beer. It brought a human
aspect to the competitive forces of China.
"The trip made me really appreciate UBC because it provided me with many
quality learning experiences," says Ross, who also participated in a six-month
student exchange at the University of Western Australia in Perth.
"I think the international opportunities here at UBC are fantastic. You
can plug into so many places here because the university is large and has so
While Ross laboured in China, Kirsten Thorarinson's experience took
place closer to home.
The 21-year-old, who's majoring in Modern European Studies, spent
co-op terms working in the policy and communications branch at the Dept. of
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO).
"Many people assumed that since I
was working with DFO, I must have a background in ocean sciences or biology," she says.
so many people in fisheries with Arts degrees, but I found I still had to explain why I was there. The writing, the research and
the communication skills I learned in my classes are important
aspects of these
Three of Thorarinson's colleagues at DFO began life there
as co-op students, she says.
Thorarinson says she was always interested in participating in a co-op program
and was glad when the Faculty of Arts introduced one.
"I wanted real world experience and to be able to put it on my resume,"
Thorarinson says there was no typical day for her on the job. One day
she would conduct interviews at the Pacific Biological Station in
next she'd be back in the Vancouver office working on the career
development Web site.
"My first day conducting interviews was definitely the most memorable," she
says. "I was outside in the pouring rain transporting chinook fry
from a hatchery
to sea pens with a community adviser. It was a long day, one made longer by
the fact that there were no toilets at the hatchery. Unfortunately,
popped up more than once over the summer."
The Arts co-op is the fifth co-op program on campus. The faculties of Science,
Forestry, Applied Science and Commerce and Business Administration also
offer co-op programs.
Students enrolled in the Arts co-op must file a report on each of the co-op
For her efforts, Thorarinson won the first Arts Co-op Work Term
Report Award, presented last month. She shares the award, which is worth $300,
with Eric Tung.
Walchli says the program's participants are exceptional and highly motivated
students who are keen to get the most out of their education.
"They challenge us to find jobs for them that are meaningful and connected to
their studies," she says.