“As a student-centred unit, we’ve really missed interacting directly with our students! But everyone on our team remains committed to keeping students and employers our top priority, and luckily, we have some innovative technology available that allows us to make that happen,” says Jasminn Berteotti, Director of Co-operative Education and Applied Studies for the Faculty of Arts & Science. “We are a tight-knit team, so we’ve also missed being together, but we are keeping our bonds tight through daily Zoom meetings that include the ‘children of co-op,’ pets and plenty of laughs.”
Berteotti leads a talented team of co-operative education and work-integrated learning (CEWIL) professionals who keep busy managing co-op for all students in the Faculties of Arts & Science, Fine Arts & Health Science, as well as applied studies for all students at the University of Lethbridge.
You might ask how this crisis has changed the way they connect with students and employers. The answer is that, for the most part, it hasn’t. It has always been their top priority to serve students and employers partners in exceptional ways. So, that hasn’t changed. The only thing that has changed is the circumstances through which they deliver their programs. They are tackling the challenges of these circumstances with a positive attitude, creative thinking, and a pinch of humour.
Like all other departments on campus, the transition to working from home happened overnight. Once they were aware that faculty, staff and students were being encouraged to work from home and that courses would be moving online, they very quickly began to gather essential documents and tech and to set up their offices remotely. They were very lucky because their programs already use an online platform. So it was just a matter of physically moving their workspaces home and messaging out to our students and employer partners that they were ready to work and committed to supporting them through this transition.
They were very efficient at getting information out to their students and connecting with many of them individually. They had students out on work terms all over the country, and some of them internationally. So it was a collective effort, with support from the University’s Risk and Safety Services team and the EOC, to ensure everyone was well-informed and keeping safe. They have had very positive interactions with their students and employer partners, even through the challenges.
When asked about the transition, program coordinator and instructor, Stacey Gaudette-Sharp explained, “It has been very challenging to be sure. Many of us have young children and spouses who work in essential services. We are lucky to have excellent leadership in our programs and administration (looking at you, Jasminn Berteotti and UofL EOC), all of whom have demonstrated understanding and support as we adjust.”
It has been heartening to see the whole University come together to support each other with empathy and efficiency. Moreover, WIL programs across the country are networking and mobilizing. They are helping each other, sharing information, and advocating government for the benefit of students and employer partners. The team is proud to be part of the phenomenal community of dedicated University and WIL professionals. During this unprecedented time, they remain committed to delivering the best quality WIL experiences.