Engaging in a Co-op with SFU Co-op: Why There's So Much to Learn on the Hill

Engaging in a Co-op with SFU Co-op: Why There's So Much to Learn on the Hill

By: Samantha Grandinetti
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After nearly a year working as a Special Projects Assistant for SFU Arts and Communication Co-op, my term is coming to an end. I’m sad to leave a job and department that has taught me so much, but I’m stoked, if not overly zealous to show people what an amazing opportunity this has been, and all of the reasons to consider applying for a Co-op term with SFU Co-op.

“But Sam,” you may ask, “I already spend so much time on campus. Why would I want to work up here as well?”

Trust me, I didn’t choose a position here just because I couldn’t get enough of Renaissance coffee, or because I loved standing nose-to-nose with strangers on the 143 during rush hour. It was an experiment that truly paid off, and one of the better decisions I’ve made.

When I first started, working for Co-op felt like kind of a safe bet for me, after taking a major risk and spending my first Co-op across the country. I was going to be working up at the school I already went to everyday, living where I always did, and not disrupting a whole lot of my routine. In fact, it was hard for my friends, so used to normally seeing me up around campus, to remember why I was always wearing dress pants when they bumped into me in the halls.  Contrary to what I initially thought, this position has a steep learning curve, and I’ve been able to learn about the hiring process, event planning, graphic design and more.  I’d like to share a few nuggets of wisdom for anybody who is interested in working on the hill.


Thing I’ve Learned #1: Graphic Design

When I started this position I didn’t know the first thing when it came to creating a brochure or a web banner or designing a poster to any kind of departmental standards. I did, however, focus on Art in a pretty big way when I was in high school. Despite my lack of knowledge with using computers for art, it gave me a pretty good background in colour theory and composition which definitely gave me a leg up when it was time to begin the daunting task of learning graphic design on the job.

To give you an example of just how far I’ve come, here’s some sample work

September 2013, ~ 8 hours and 4 revisions:

Sample Postcard

June 2014, ~ 6 hours and 3 revisions (but a much more complicated design):

Design Sample tech







July 2014: ~ half an hour, zero revisions

Design Sample banner


I can’t think of another situation where I would have been able to hone my skill this much, while getting paid to do so. I started by asking some SIAT Co-op students working for Co-op for pointers, and attended a brief Co-op sponsored Illustrator orientation session, but it was through hands-on practice and constant googling that I’ve been able to learn a lot of what I know.

Thing I’ve Learned #2: Public Speaking

If you had asked me at the beginning of my Co-op placement to attend a student reception and strike up a conversation with complete strangers about studying Arts, or participating in Co-op, my reaction would look a lot like this: 


No thank you, please

I was asked by the Co-op Communications and Marketing Coordinator to fill in as a student speaker for a Co-op Info session one fateful day in September and it ended up going well – so well that it’s become a frequent gig. I was really nervous at first, but constantly practicing at these sessions made me a lot more confident in my speaking abilities. Because of this gig, I have also been asked to do classroom presentations for Communication Co-op and Arts Co-op, as well as speaking to prospective students at SFU Info Eve, Arts Orientation, and The Dean’s Entrance Scholarship Reception. This has been a huge learning curve for me. I’ve gone from talking about myself in front of groups of 15-20 students, to presenting in 300 person lecture halls, and providing high school age prospective students and their parents with information about Co-op.

Thing I’ve Learned #3: Blogging

There’s a huge difference between academic writing and humour writing and my job has me doing something in the middle. Being a fourth year English major, I’m used to churning out formulaic essays that follow a strictly formal writing style. When asked to curate, edit and create content for the SFU Communique blog, I was at a loss. I mean, I like Buzzfeed and the Oatmeal but I knew I had to strike a balance between creativity, humour and professional career advice – it was mystifying at first. 

Not Blog Appropriate(Spoiler alert: not appropriate for a student career blog.) 

Before I really got it, my supervisor had to help me understand that using words like “tumultuous” or writing huge, text heavy paragraphs wasn’t the best way to entertain while informing readers. With her guidance and my perseverance, I’ve been able to be funny without being crude, and professional without being boring, and best of all: we’ve been able to revive the blog after nearly eight months of inactivity, to something that both her and I are proud of. We are constantly looking for students with unique perspectives for top-tip lists and advice articles that I then edit and format for the website. It’s then our job to promote these articles through every Twitter page we can get our hands on, LinkedIn, the SFU site and spamming my own Facebook friends. 

All in all, this position has been one of immense growth – I have been able to learn technical and soft skills, but have also been given an inside look at the hiring processes of Co-op employers, which has helped me to learn more about what employers want from a job applicant. With a high level of trust from the Arts and Communication Co-op staff, as well as all of the other departments I come into contact with, I feel like an integral part of the team, and appreciate the consistent open channel of communication and feedback.  This position can be demanding as I constantly take work from multiple Co-op coordinators and advisors, but it is excellent generalist position for someone looking to try their hand at event planning, graphic design, and blogging and general marketing.

I hope that I’ve been able to show you why working for SFU Co-op is a more dynamic and challenging position than you may have thought.

Posted on July 25, 2014