We had a chance to spend one year with Isabelle Louie (far right) as she did her Co-op with our office. I'm here with Isabelle, Rachel and Nav. (Photo courtesy of Isabelle Louie)

It’s all about CO-OPeration: My experience with SFU Co-op

May 16, 2022

Last year — for the first time since I became Executive Director of SFU’s Surrey campus— we hired an SFU Co-op student. Isabelle Louie, a 4th year SIAT student, joined our campus administration team and has worked with us for the past year, a total of three Co-op terms. As I reflected on the experience of working with Isabelle, one big question stood out for me: what took us so long to hire a Co-op student?

Isabelle supported campus communications under the direction of Nav Chima and Rachel Wong. From working on weekly communications to helping us launch The Journey Here, our brand-new podcast hosted by yours truly, Isabelle provided excellent support to our office. Isabelle also took on special projects such as the Virtual Vibe poster that can be seen in the reception area of our office. This exceptional piece of art, designed and produced by Isabelle, consists of a collage of Zoom screenshots featuring the many faces of Virtual Vibe participants from across our campus community.

Isabelle made this poster to celebrate the "Vibe" of the Surrey Campus, a collage of many Zoom squares from the various Virtual Vibes held over the year.

As we worked with Isabelle, I also came to understand first-hand the amazing support that our Co-op office provides to students across SFU. As Harriet Chicoine, Program Director for SFU Surrey’s Co-op Programs notes, Co-op “is not a placement agency...[it is] an educational program.” As an educational program, the amazing Co-op staff provide support to students before, during and after their time on their work term.

And the value of a Co-op experience to students goes beyond receiving place-based, hands-on learning in a setting related to their studies. SFU data shows that half of those who completed Co-op terms had secured employment prior to graduation, while 97.6% of alumni who completed Co-op terms found their first job within a year after graduation.

Co-op also has an important role as an economic driver in support of local, national and international workforces. Over a period of about four years (2018-2022), a total of 2,563 Co-op students in Surrey-based programs like Mechatronics, SIAT, Sustainable Energy Engineering and Software Systems were deployed to companies and organizations locally and globally. These students provide added value services and, as noted above, are often hired permanently post-graduation.

And what of our friend Isabelle? Here's what Isabelle had to say about her experience on Co-op:

“My experience on Co-op has been extremely valuable! Prior to my work term, I knew that I was interested in working in marketing or communications in the future. My work terms provided insight into the impact of effective communications within an institution and its community, and has solidified my interest in the industry. 

Through the projects I worked on, I was presented with many opportunities to take on new roles, gain new and relevant skills, and build upon my existing experiences. In particular, I developed skills such as information design, event planning, and graphic design. Additionally, juggling multiple projects also provided a fantastic opportunity to improve my time management, organization, and communication skills.”

Having a Co-op student like Isabelle really made a difference in our work environment, and I’m grateful that she worked three terms with us. I look forward to bringing on other students to work in our department. I know that students learn and enjoy the experience as much as we enjoy working with and learning from them.

A big thank you to Harriet Chicoine for her help on this blog post, and to Stephanie Greaves and Isabelle for their work and support over the past year!

Isabelle also shared her reflections on her year on Co-op with the Our Learning Community (OLC) blog, which you can read here.

Interested in learning more about SFU Co-op? Here are the best links to learn more: