Grads use co-op experiences to advance education, careers

Dayna McNeill and Maddie Bell both chose to stay close to home when they picked Brock for their undergraduate studies, but thanks to their participation in the co-op stream of their respective degree programs, they are now ready for a world of possibilities.

While they are only a few days removed from their Fall Convocation at Brock, the two Thorold natives have used their co-op studies to fast track the experiences needed to take the next step in their academic journeys.

For Bell, who just received her Bachelor of Political Science degree, that meant zeroing in on the co-op program early and trusting that each of her work terms would progressively increase the experience she would need to get into law school.

“I remember going to the Ontario Universities’ Fair in Toronto and chatting with someone from Brock about how great their co-op program was,” she said. “They told me I could get real-world experience, and that stuck out to me, as I only had retail experience and I wanted to build myself up.”

To do this, Bell embarked on three different co-op work terms, which each helped her develop skills and confidence.

“In my first work term, working in customer service, I learned how to accept constructive feedback,” she said. “In my second work term, where I worked in Brock’s Co-op Education office, I learned how to communicate my needs better to produce the best quality work as part of a team. And in my final work term, at Global Affairs Canada, I honed in on my research skills and learned to present in front of people.”

Upon completion of her final work term, Bell tied all the skills together to secure admission into law school at the University of Ottawa.

“Co-op prepared me for my law degree and also encouraged me to think about how I could use that degree to help others,” she said.

McNeill, who graduated with a Bachelor of Public Health, said that she too was drawn to the advantages of co-op when she first learned about the program.

“I felt that the Public Health program including co-op would help level up my degree, and it definitely has,” she said.

Through two work terms with Niagara Health and one in Brock’s Psychology Department, McNeill said she was able to focus her career aspirations.

“Co-op helped me discover what I really enjoy,” she said. “Public health experiences are few and far between, and getting experiences in the back end of the health system and patient relationships was super helpful. Those experiences gave me the skills to get in and succeed in my master’s.”

Having begun her master’s studies in Global Health at McMaster University, McNeill was also thankful for the lessons the co-op program and its staff taught her about perseverance.

“I was not the most confident in myself coming into my program, and the first job search was hard while also balancing my first-year studies,” she said. “I had to improve my interview skills and learn how to study. Through all of those lessons, co-op kept me accountable and my master’s studies haven’t felt overwhelming at all.”

Both graduates said they were also thankful for the support of co-op staff.

“They taught me to trust the process. They were super helpful, responsive and always there to listen,” said McNeill.

Bell said the support of the department taught her to never doubt her abilities.

“Everyone was always available when I needed help, and they taught me to relate every question I receive to how I can succeed going forward,” she said. “That advice will stay with me forever.”

As they continue their graduate studies, the pair are delighted to be charting the path they had envisioned. Although her education journey has taken her elsewhere, McNeill said she will never forget Brock.

“I feel like the atmosphere was always great and the instructors were always very supportive of my learning and goals,” she said.

Bell said a piece of Brock will remain with her wherever she ends up.

“I can’t believe Convocation has already finished,” she said. “Four years have come and gone quickly. It feels good that it was my amazing experiences at Brock and in co-op that have allowed me to take these next steps.”

Read more stories in: Alumni, Applied Health Sciences, News, People, Social Sciences
Tagged with: , , ,