Student stories

Masters student combines research passion with fulfilling co-op experience

Lycia Rodrigues

Most of us know the UVic Co-op Program as a great way for students to explore possible career paths while gaining valuable experience. But for Lycia Rodrigues, co-op refined her already clear vision and landed her a dream job.  “For me, co-op was the bridge to my career!” she says.

Lycia spent the past few years in Vancouver searching for a Master’s program that combined hands-on learning with her research goals. Senior care programs were lacking in Brazil (her home country) when she moved to Canada 10 years ago and she had always been interested in researching best practices for enhancing care for seniors. She had heard great things about UVic’s Institute of Lifelong Learning and Health while in Vancouver, and was familiar with UVic’s reputation for community-centred research. She connected with her would-be Masters supervisor at the Institute and immediately applied to a multi-disciplinary program. After being accepted there was only one thing missing – relevant work to support her research goals.

Enter the co-op program. She met with Dave Hutchinson, Health Information Sciences Co-op Coordinator, who helped her get the ball rolling.  Dave pointed to where she could start her work search, which relevant events she could attend to meet contacts and provided tips on how to network. It was after this meeting that Lycia saw a poster for an upcoming talk with Marianne McLennan, Island Health’s former Director of Senior’s and Spiritual Health. After attending this event, she immediately emailed McLennan to introduce herself, her research interests and her desire to secure a co-op term. She heard back on the same day and met McLennan a few weeks later for what Lycia thought was an informational interview.  “I went to it, only to discover that it was actually a job interview!” she admitted with a laugh. “It was good because I get very nervous about interviews…so I was much more relaxed about it.” She was immediately offered the role.

Lycia’s first co-op work term involved evaluating evidence-based research that address senior’s health, with a particular focus on frail seniors. Her ultimate research and career goal is to further integrate seniors’ services between health authorities and not-for-profit organizations to increase accessibility. She found her co-op experience so invigorating that she contacted the Research and Capacity Building Department at IH to see if she could stay on. IH Director of Transition Planning and Community Integration Melie DeChamplain just happened to be looking for a co-op student, and reached out to Lycia. Together, they applied for two internal grants and Lycia was offered 18 months of employment with the Eldercare Project in Cowichan (EPIC): a dream come true!

When asked about the benefits of her experiences at UVic, Lycia says that “there are a lot of opportunities for international collaboration.”  In fact, she will soon be attending a conference in Brazil to share results and best practices from the EPIC program. “UVic has been empowering as I pursue research that is meaningful to me,” she says. What impact does this passion have for the community? In Lycia’s words: “To increase seniors’ quality of life and allow them to age in their community for as long as possible.”

Co-op has been instrumental in Lycia’s career journey. From Dave’s tips on networking, to her first co-op placement accelerating her career growth, co-op has been more than just a job.  “My co-op with IH let me take academic lessons and apply it specifically to my work. I put the classroom work where it was needed most – to enhance and develop programs that benefit seniors across Vancouver Island and even worldwide.”

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