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Gaining experience as an undergraduate: Communication major and SIAT minor expands diverse skill set at SFU

Elaina Styka was initially hesitant to join student clubs and get involved on campus, but during her first year she took a leap of faith and it paid off. Joining clubs created a domino effect of opportunities to develop her skill sets. 

With a passion for marketing and graphic design, Styka is going into her fifth year as a Communication major and Interactive Arts minor. Her wide range of experience within her areas of interest includes leading multiple high-profile projects within the SFU community.

During two co-op work terms as a communication, event, and design assistant for the Faculty of Communication, Art, and Technology (FCAT), Styka organized workshops for students and the 2021 FCAT Undergraduate Conference.

“I really enjoyed it, I learned a lot. Even though in the future I probably won't go into event planning, I learned a lot of great skills,” she shares.

She expresses her appreciation for the co-operative education program at SFU and the advisors in the program.

“I really enjoyed co-op and I recommend it to anyone even though it pushes you a little bit ahead in graduating. I'm going into my fifth year and I probably will do another co-op semester before I finish just because it's great work experience.”

Courses such as IAT 100 and 102 sparked her interest in graphic design and the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT).

This prompted her to continue her studies with SIAT and complete Information Design (IAT 235). This has been one of her favourite courses because it involves studying strategies behind media forms ranging from advanced aspects of the web to interactive 3D visualizations. 

In addition, Styka’s interests in marketing and feminism led her to take courses such as Cultural Dimensions in Advertising (CMNS 323W) and Women and New Information Technologies (CMNS 455W). While exploring existing interests, these classes taught her how communication applies to various aspects of life and work.

Because both schools are under FCAT, she can diversify her studies and build stronger connections within the faculty.

“It's really nice that I can put my communication skills and my graphic design skills together.”

In addition to learning from her courses, Styka has gained experience by joining clubs at SFU.

During her first year, Styka joined the Kappa Beta Gamma sorority as the recruitment chair, then eventually the public relations chair.

Graphic design was purely a hobby until Styka was tasked with designing recruitment materials for the organization. This opportunity allowed her to pursue her love for design while gaining more work experience in her craft.

“Joining a club gives you connections,” she emphasizes. Styka’s sorority eventually led her to Young Women in Business (YWiB).

In her third year, Styka applied for the YWiB marketing coordinator position and stayed in the role until she became the International Women’s Day Conference chair. 

In March 2021, Styka was promoted to co-president of the club and continues to lead alongside her counterpart.

In addition to this role, she currently works as a community manager for Mercer Creative, which she also discovered through her sorority.

“Even though it’s challenging [to look for work experience], you just have to try at least once,” Styka emphasizes. “It's important to try different things, because you never know if you'll like it until you try it.”

Styka hopes to pursue a career in graphic design. However, she aims to continue gaining a diverse range of work experience until she graduates.

“It's great to take that leap of faith because you never know what opportunities will come from it. Since joining a club in my first year, I've gotten so many opportunities.”