Kristine Villaluna (BSc Co-op '21) will receive her Bachelor of Science degree in applied statistics, with a concentration in economics and a minor in computer science this spring. As a co-op student, she completed two work terms with Statistics Canada as a Junior Statistician/Mathematician in Ottawa as well as an applied study, followed by a summer co-op with Livestock Water Recycling (LWR) based in Calgary as a Data Scientist. At uLethbridge Kristine involved herself in the community, sitting on the local committee of the World University Service of Canada (WUSC). She will begin her next chapter at the University of Toronto for the Master of Science (Statistics) graduate program starting this fall.
What is your most memorable uLethbridge experience?
My most memorable uLethbridge experience was my club involvement in the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) local committee. I was first inspired to join the club after I heard about the Student Refugee Program (SRP) which financially supports a refugee student to come and receive a post-secondary education at the university. In the spring of 2018, we put together a photo exhibition and silent auction and raised over $4,000 for the Shine a Light initiative which supports refugee girls’ educations. It was truly a memorable event.
Tell us a bit about your co-op work term(s).
My very first co-op experience was in January 2020 at Statistics Canada as a Junior Statistician/Mathematician in Ottawa. I was originally interested in this position as I had always been keen to understand the methodology and the process of the production of official statistics. The statistical analysis about Canada’s economic and social structure is very important as it helps decision-making that benefits all Canadians. I finished my term and really enjoyed the work I was doing.
Additionally, I was able to turn my part-time work with Statistics Canada into an Applied Study. Applied studies provide students the opportunity to earn academic credit for learning gained through employment or volunteer experiences. In my case, Career Bridge coordinator, Lukas Neamtu, worked with me to create a class which focused on project management in the workplace. From the initial inception of the project, to creating a learning plan, setting objectives, and finding resources, I had full support from Luke and the Career Bridge team.
Between those work terms at Statistics Canada, I had the chance to complete a summer co-op with Livestock Water Recycling (LWR) based in Calgary as a Data Scientist. During this time, I had the opportunity to assist with migrating SQL databases onto the cloud, conduct data analysis to examine relationships between different nutrient levels in manure, as well as train and test models used in the company’s predictive analytics system using sensor data collected via MQTT and the Internet of Things (IoT).
What was the best thing about co-op?
The best thing about co-op is that it offers you an opportunity to experience what working in the “real-world” is like. Work-integrated learning allows students to apply their learning from academic studies in real workplace settings. It is the bridge between the classroom and the workplace. Everyone is very kind and encouraging throughout the process, both in the Career Bridge office and your employers. It is a great steppingstone between school and work, and I would encourage every student to check it out.
What is the most important lesson you learned during your time in the Faculty of Arts & Science at uLethbridge?
The most important lesson I learned during my university career is that there is no singular correct way to “do school”. It is not always about getting the best grades or 100% on all of your tests. In fact, many students take an additional year or two to finish their degree. The path is not always linear.
Going to university offers you an opportunity to learn how to learn. There will always be things that you don’t know how to do, but you will have the right tools in your toolbox to be able to learn and grow your skills. This is something that you will be able to carry with you for the rest of your life, both personally and within the workplace.
Is there someone specific who had an important influence on your uLethbridge experience?
This is a very hard question because I am truly blessed to have had multiple people play significant roles in my uLethbridge experience. Most notably, statistics professors Dr. John Sheriff and Dr. Aminmohamed Adatia, and economics professor Dr. Kien Tran, have been my #1 academic supporters. They have guided me through my degree and have offered valuable advice in terms of pursing graduate studies.
Career Bridge director Jasminn Berteoti, Lukas and everyone on the co-op team have been the most supportive in terms of my professional development. I would not have been able to land my first co-op if not for the resume edits, interview practice, and all the help provided by the team. They are truly the best.
Lastly, a special shout out to all of my friends – my best friends, stats friends, and the computer science boys – who spent countless of hours studying with me both in the library and in the computer labs.
What are your hopes/plans for the future?
I have recently been admitted to the University of Toronto for the Master of Science (Statistics) graduate program starting this fall. All I can hope for at the moment is that one day once COVID has settled down, I can make a trip back to Alberta to give my grandma a hug.
What advice would you give to those who are about to begin their journey at uLethbridge?
Remain curious and do not be afraid of failure or rejection. Use your resources. There are many services available to students that they do not find out about until it is too late. Speak to your professors! They are human too and ultimately just want you to succeed. Your time in university will go by very quickly, even though it may not feel like it at times. Try to enjoy it as much as possible!