Lots of times with history, you think you're going to be in a little dark room doing research on your own, whereas the public history side of things is completely different.
Cheyenne Clow is a third-year history major with a minor in liberal education. For Cheyenne, one of her most impactful experiences at the University of Lethbridge has been her two co-op work terms, which Cheyenne self-initiated. As with many arts-focused disciplines, many jobs are available. However, they may be a little more difficult to define and find, and not as readily available on the co-op job board. For motivated students like Cheyenne, that didn’t stop her. While Cheyenne initiated both work terms, the co-op office provided a place of support, working tirelessly to give her university recognition and support for each position.
As a historical interpreter employed by the Government of Alberta, Cheyenne worked at Stephansson House Provincial Historic Site, specifically in a tiny house, "Pink House on the Prairies." She gave visitors information on the significance of this place to Alberta's history. On top of this, Cheyenne would give tours in time-period specific dress and plan events, for example, Canada Day and Poetry day.
For her second co-op, Cheyenne worked at Brooks and District Museum in her hometown as a programming assistant. "What I did there was more so museum work. I worked hands-on with artifacts, cleaning and dusting everything behind glass," Cheyenne described. Due to Covid-19, many outdoor and public exhibits were closed. Rather than keep her head down and dust, Cheyenne put her creativity and spirit to use, developing a base of online programming. Primarily through Facebook, Cheyenne explained, "I created a now and then segment of everything in Brooks, doing one post per week. We profiled the aqueduct and old pictures of buildings here that are still standing." Adding that she, "also opened up the schoolhouse and did a video with the superintendent of Grasslands Public School here in Brooks. In this segment, he went through describing how schools are different from the one-room schoolhouse of the past. That was pretty fun."
When restrictions loosened nearing the end of the summer, the museum put on a morning day camp, one of Cheyenne's most involved experiences. Working with a fellow student, Cheyenne described, "he and I threw together a day camp with different themes. We had dinosaurs for Dinosaur Provincial Park near here. We did a pioneer day and a water day, which fits in with the Bassano Dam and the Brooks Aqueduct." When asked if there were water balloon fights, Cheyenne added, "No, but we did throw buckets and sponges at each other filled with water." A gratifying moment.
Although not all fun and games, Cheyenne's co-op work terms have added significantly to her university experience. For Cheyenne, a big takeaway was "meeting people. Lots of times with history, you think you're going to be in a little dark room doing research on your own, whereas the public history side of things is completely different." Her connections spanned Alberta and further and Cheyenne, "was meeting people from all over," adding, "these are travelling sites, people come to learn, so they're really interested in it. We had people from Newfoundland and Labrador, people from British Columbia and people from Alberta, who didn’t know their own history!"
Cheyenne learned alternative ways to approach history, putting her classroom skills to real-world use. For Cheyenne, co-op was not only a captivating and involved experience, but also a way to build a foundation for her future career. "I have connections now in different places. If I wanted a job with the Government of Alberta, I have someone who works there. I met more people locally, so I have some ins there," Cheyenne mentioned. With an end goal of going into education and teaching, co-op is one way Cheyenne sets herself apart in the competitive job market for social-studies teachers. However, Cheyenne plans to finish her history degree first while balancing course-work and related experience. She advises other students to take advantage of the personalized experience the U of L makes possible, adding, "you have to talk to your professors." For Cheyenne, making connections with her professors helped her gain the courage she needed to ask questions she might not have otherwise in a large classroom.
Cheyenne's favourite classes are the four levels available of liberal education, which she took with professor Bruce MacKay, who she "really got to know," adding that she "stuck with him all the way through." Her favourite study spot would have to be "by the windows in the Dhillon School of Business, I like the chairs," and apart from academics and work, one of Cheyenne's preferred activities is a trip to the gym with friends. Cheyenne chose the University of Lethbridge for its kind reputation and proximity to home, but her experience here has been rewarding academically and professionally. For Cheyenne, co-op has been one of many educational and exciting university experiences.