The University of Lethbridge is committed to providing students practical hands-on experiences to develop their professional skills and better prepare them to enter the work world after graduation.

Thanks to a generous endowment from Art and Mary Jane Crooks and family, the Crooks Work-Integrated-Learning Program in Liberal Education supports opportunities for students to analyze and apply the knowledge they have gained in the classroom in a more applied setting.

The Crooks WIL program supports opportunities for students to analyze and apply the knowledge they have gained in the classroom in a community setting. The program provides paid internships for several students per year to work on research, teaching or community projects. Students undertaking these internships are supervised by a ULethbridge professor and/or a business or community supervisor and can earn course credits through an independent or applied study, or a co-op work term.

“These internships offer students the chance to do paid work that involves the skills they’re learning in the classroom,” says Dr. Shelly Wismath, who was the dean of the School of Liberal Education when the program was established. “Students who have learned theory and developed skills get to analyze and apply them outside the classroom.”

What’s unique about the Crooks WIL program is that it provides career-related, resume-building employment opportunities for students across the University. The program also gives community organizations, especially non-profits, the chance to hire a student to work on a project they might not otherwise be able to launch on their own.

In its first year of operation, the Crooks WIL Program funded full-time summer internships with two organizations — Volunteer Lethbridge and the Lethbridge School Division. Alieza Cyr, a Dhillon School of Business student, was the first student to do a summer position in the human resources office of the Lethbridge School Division.

“I was able to try a wide range of activities, including helping with the hiring process the school division does every May/June for the next fall term,” says Cyr. “I helped sort applications, contacted those who would be moving through the interview process and scheduling when successful candidates were able to sign their contracts. I also helped sort HR records and assisted with recognition events for staff.”

As a student studying human resources, the internship gave Cyr an inside look at how a human resources office operates day-to-day.

“The biggest thing I’m taking away from the position is how a large HR office can be run with efficiency and kindness,” she says. “I was able to find out more about what it is like to work in an HR office and if I really like talent acquisition and recruitment, which I did.”

This year’s Crooks WIL program is underway with six funded employment options available for students, including the on-campus radio station CKXU, the Lethbridge Public Interest Group’s Fresh Food Box program and the Lethbridge Historical Society.

The Crooks family previously established the Evelyn Hamilton Chair in Liberal Education. In September 2022, Dr. Miranda Leibel was appointed the inaugural Evelyn Hamilton Chair in Liberal Education. The Chair was established in 2021 following a $2-million donation from Art and Mary Jane Crooks, and named in honour of Art’s mother, Evelyn Hamilton. This appointment highlights the importance of liberal education in fostering a culture of lifelong learning, collaboration across diverse disciplines and preparing students for a changing world.

“The ability to think critically, to spot a weak or specious argument, to express, to persuade, and to argue effectively, to be an informed, engaged and ethical citizen – these are the most important skills that a person can possess,” says Hew Crooks. “Our hope is that the Chair serves as a platform to support the University’s core mission to develop thoughtful and engaged undergraduates who are strengthened by an institution that allows a diversity of opinion and thoughtful discussion and who are then unleashed on a world that sorely needs more Evelyn Hamiltons.”

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