Co-op Students of the Year

Each year, we recognize three co-op students who have made outstanding achievements in their academic achievement, workplace performance and community involvement. Winners are announced in November.

One student is selected from each of our three major program areas:

  • Business
  • Engineering and Computer Science
  • Optional and Professional Programs (all other programs)

One recipient each year is also nominated for the provincial and national awards: the Association for Co-operative Education in British Columbia/Yukon (ACE) Student of the Year Award and the Canadian Association for Cooperative Education (CAFCE) Student of the Year Award.

2020 recipients

From Saskatchewan to Northern Alberta to right here in Victoria, co-op students are contributing to communities and organizations across Canada and the globe.

Each year, we recognize the extraordinary ways that co-op students contribute to their workplaces and communities—we’re pleased to announce that our 2020 Co-op Student of the Year recipients are:

  • Jadyn Isaacson (Co-op Student of the Year for the Business Co-op Program)
  • Kawaljit Singh (Co-op Student of the Year for the Engineering and Computer Science Co-op Programs – Computer Science)
  • Tessa Dagenais (Co-op Student of the Year for the Optional and Professional Co-op Programs –Coaching Studies)


About the students

Jadyn Isaacson

Jadyn Isaacson (commerce): Business Co-op Program Award

When fourth-year business student Jadyn Isaacson first started her program at UVic, she aspired to travel abroad and work in the fashion industry. Three co-op jobs, several changes of career goals and a global pandemic later, she is a thriving young professional in the Victoria tech sector.

Over the course of her degree, Isaacson has built an impressive portfolio working for highly-acclaimed tech companies in Victoria including LlamaZOO, and, most recently, Shift, a Redbrick portfolio company. At Shift, she worked as a customer success co-op student, supporting clients with software support, troubleshooting and guidance. Soon after starting with Shift, Isaacson’s supervisors noted her exceptional capabilities and began trusting her with additional responsibilities. “Jadyn has been such a dependable, positive light for our team,” says co-op supervisor Jessica Huebner. “She has risen to every single challenge and always exceeds expectations.”

The ability to rise to challenges has never been more important than in the past year, when the world was thrown into a cycle of changed plans and shifting priorities. For Isaacson, the pandemic not only meant starting a new co-op job remotely, but altering her plans to finish her degree. “Upon finding out that my final academic term—originally scheduled to take place in Fall 2020—was postponed until April 2021, Shift offered me the opportunity to extend my co-op term,” she says. “Altering my life plans to work at Shift has enhanced my career, as I will have now obtained a full year of experience at one of the top employers in Canada!” 

When she finishes her final co-op term, Isaacson is looking forward to going on her previously scheduled international exchange at Wesada University in Tokyo, Japan and then to graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce degree. Next up on her career development list is a Master’s degree in Supply Chain Management that will prepare her to contribute to a more sustainable business world. 

Despite the twists and turns of her academic and professional journey, Isaacson feels that co-op has equipped her with the skills and confidence she needs to exceed at whatever she does next. “The co-op program has created meaningful turning points in my personal, academic, and professional paths,” she says. “These turning points pushed the boundaries of what I previously expected of myself, and I am now more confident than ever in my abilities.” 

Kawaljit Singh 

Kawaljit Singh (computer science): Engineering and Computer Science Award

Third-year computer science student Kawaljit Singh’s academic journey hasn’t been an easy one, but he’s grateful that a year-long co-op term was a part of it. After facing significant academic and health challenges in 2019, Singh was ready for a change. When he received a co-op job offer from Vendasta Technologies, a Saskatoon-based e-commerce company, he accepted with great enthusiasm.

Working as a software developer, Singh had the opportunity to greatly advance his coding and problem-solving skills. His natural aptitude for flagging and resolving software bugs earned him the nickname ‘Bug Crusher’ within his team. Over the course of the year, Singh resolved many different bugs, some of which were quite complex. “Very early in Kawaljit’s work term, he showed us that we could delegate pretty much any task to him and we could trust it would be completed correctly,” says co-op supervisor Justin Guenther.

Throughout the year, Singh refined his career interests and was able to gain varied experience within the field of software development. He was particularly interested in working to minimize the impact of system failures, which inspired him to volunteer as the system reliability engineer for his team. As part of this role, Singh set up monitoring systems that would identify software defects pre-emptively. These installations would also alert his crew to any system failures, allowing the team to act and resolve the issue as soon as possible.

But for Singh, the co-op term meant much more than improving his software development skills. “As the work term started, I was ready to make the most of this opportunity to not only become a better software developer but also get in a better physical and mental state,” he says. “All the positive feedback I got from my team injected confidence and instilled self-respect into me—since the beginning of the work term, I’ve been more mentally charged, happier, physically healthier and more focused.”

After a year of interpersonal and professional growth, Singh is returning to his studies with a renewed excitement for his courses. He’s also looking forward to his next co-op experience. “I will absolutely take the opportunity to do another work term to get more industry experience,” he says. “Maybe explore a different city, meet new people and create joyful life experiences.”

Tessa Dagenais

Tessa Dagenais (coaching studies): Optional and Professional Programs Award

There are few careers that have a more direct impact on children and youth than teaching, and Master of Education student Tessa Dagenais is living proof of how educators can enrich the lives of children and their communities.

Before she enrolled in the Coaching Studies Program at UVic, Dagenais had worked at the Bill Woodward School in the remote town of Anzac in Northern Alberta for four years as a physical education and science teacher, coach, and athletic director. When she learned that she could complete co-op work terms as part of her current teaching job, she saw an opportunity to grow as a physical educator. “I participated in co-op because I needed something to challenge me as a coach to go outside of my comfort zone,” says Dagenais. “During my work term, I immediately felt more connected and invested in my team at the Bill Woodward School than ever before—co-op helped me to become a more driven and impactful coach.” 

Largely attended by Indigenous students with Cree, Dene, and Métis backgrounds, the Bill Woodward School depends on its teachers to have strong cultural competencies. Dagenais is passionate about gaining a deeper understanding of each of the diverse cultures represented by her students, and strives to build trust, respect and community through sport. “It’s important to me that our students and their families feel welcome at our school and on our sports teams,” she says. “By keeping a strong connection with the players’ communities, I hope to continue learning about my students and their cultures.”

Those who work with Dagenais say her dedication to the students and local communities is undeniable. “Tessa is one of those rare educators that gives everything she has and is always looking for ways she can help others,” says Bill Woodward School principal and co-op supervisor Cal Johnson. “She has a great work ethic and is very knowledgeable, but her greatest strength is her positive attitude and bubbly personality—she is a lot of fun and students love when she is involved.” 

Dagenais believes there is always something to be gained from participating in co-op, whether you’re brand new to the workforce or a seasoned professional. “Co-op has influenced my coaching direction immensely,” she says. “I’m excited to keep setting goals for myself and work to build our school’s bond with the community as I continue my career as a coach with a whole different mindset.” 

2019 recipients

Our Co-op Students of the Year for 2019 are:

  • Siena Testa (Co-op Student of the Year for the Business Co-op Program)
  • Kyle Coralejo (Co-op Student of the Year for the Engineering and Computer Science Co-op Programs – Biomedical Engineering)
  • Lena Price (Co-op Student of the Year for the Optional and Professional Co-op Programs –Political Science)

 About the students



SIENA TESTA (commerce)

To some, moving across the country to work in a completely new industry would seem like a risky decision. To fourth-year business student Siena Testa, it was the decision that took her career, academics, and professional confidence to the next level.

For her first co-op work term, Testa accepted a job offer from the Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks (CENGN) in Ottawa. “When I first received the job offer, I was unsure about taking it,” says Testa. “It meant moving across the country and working in an industry I was completely unfamiliar with.” But those fears didn’t stop her from accepting the human resources specialist position and facing the challenge of screening applications for the highly coveted CENGN Internship Program.

It wasn’t long before Testa began to excel at the job. When she brought the idea to expand the internship program to her supervisor, she was given the freedom to follow through. This independent project, combined with her extraordinary ability to forge meaningful relationships with hiring managers, won her the CEO WOW award, an honour given to a CENGN employee who makes an extraordinary impact on the organization. “The impact of Siena’s departure at the end of the work term has not gone unnoticed,” says Siena’s supervisor Nathalie Guthrie. “She has raised the bar for CENGN’s standard of excellence.”

Not only was Testa exceptional at her job, but she also thrived in building community within her workplace. “Siena swiftly forged relationships with department heads to better understand the responsibilities of each role she strived to fill,” says Guthrie. “She championed CENGN’s drive for a motivated and engaged team by driving new initiatives for team building and development.”

Although she initially hesitated to move across the country for her co-op, jumping outside of her comfort zone opened the door to a life-changing experience. “I am seriously considering a career in Human Resources now and Nathalie and I have talked about returning for a second co-op term,” says Testa. “Deciding to accept a job with CENGN was one of the best decisions I have ever made.”


Kyle Coralejo standing outside the Engineering and Computer Science Building

KYLE CORALEJO (computer science)

When Kyle Coralejo came to UVic to pursue a degree in computer science, he knew that hands-on learning would be a part of his experience. He’d already completed a chemical engineering degree at the University of Alberta, but it hadn’t included experiential learning, so he was eager to take part in the co-op program at UVic. Now, with three work terms under his belt, the fourth-year student has gained the hands-on experience he was hoping for.

For his first work term, Coralejo worked for the BC Public Service Agency as a full stack developer before going on to complete his second and third work terms with the City of Edmonton, where he was in charge of prototyping devices to support municipal initiatives and enhance the lives of Edmonton residents. Using his technical expertise and creative problem-solving skills, Coralejo was able to design products that exceeded the expectations of his supervisors, such as a device that counts pedestrian traffic using thermal cameras and computer vision algorithms.

“Kyle was able to find a solution to a problem that other experienced analysts had been unable to solve,” says Coralejo’s supervisor Norman Mendoza. “His work prevented larger scale projects from being delayed, saving the City of Edmonton hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Coralejo made such a positive impression on his employers that he was asked to act as a mentor to other co-op students who were new to the team. “I delegated tasks, answered questions, and offered my assistance any time something unexpected happened,” says Coralejo. “I felt like my co-op experience had come full circle—I was able to watch the other co-op students gain the same confidence under my mentorship that I gained in my first work term.”

With this well-rounded skillset, Coralejo is ready to continue making significant impacts as a seasoned software developer. “The co-op program helped me realize my true potential,” he says. “I have gained the confidence to step out of my comfort zone and the courage to step up to any challenge that comes my way.”


Lena Price outside the David Turpin Building

LENA PRICE (political science)

Lena Price has always had a community-oriented attitude. The third-year student’s desire to help people brought her to UVic to pursue a unique degree—a major in political science with a minor in public administration, combined with a Human Dimensions of Climate Change certification. Her passion for making a difference fuels her various campaigning efforts with the university's student society, and led her to accept a co-op work term with the BC Public Service Agency.

During her work term, Price worked as an employment programs assistant in the Employment Programs Resources Office (EPRO), which facilitates a variety of special hiring programs within the provincial government. Tasked with planning and implementing the corporate co-op program, which supports all co-op employers and students in the BC Public Service, Price put her passion for people into action. She created a new initiative called Online Orientation Day, which allowed co-op students working for the BC Public Service across the province to attend orientation in a way that was previously only available to those working in Victoria.

“My favourite part of the job was being able to support other co-op students during their work terms,” says Price. “Through all the events I hosted and attended, I saw how each cohort of co-op students benefitted and grew from their co-op experiences.”

“Lena demonstrated a high level of dedication in helping other co-op students succeed,” says Lena’s supervisor Tamalyn McKean. “She epitomizes why we continue to hire co-op students—their work holds so much value for our organization.”

Price is confident that the connections she made during her work term will help her launch a career in any direction she chooses. “I have no doubt that the people I worked with during this term will continue to play a role in my personal growth,” says Price. “They helped me realize how much I love project management and event planning, and how valuable those skills are to promoting advocacy and affecting change.”

2018 recipients

Our Co-op Students of the Year for 2018 are:

  • Andres Agresot (Co-op Student of the Year for the Business Co-op Program)
  • Anona Wiebe (Co-op Student of the Year for the Engineering and Computer Science Co-op Programs – Biomedical Engineering)
  • Hallie Rounthwaite (Co-op Student of the Year for the Optional and Professional Co-op Programs – Law)


About the students

Andres Agresot, co-op student of the year for business in 2018


Co-op Student of the Year – Business Co-op Program

Commerce student Andres Agresot believes in the power of connections. As an international student from Colombia, he embraced every opportunity to become an active member of his community within the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business. He serves as the Vice President of Marketing in the Commerce Student Society, volunteers as a student ambassador at UVic and abroad, and he recently presented at the Core Experience Convention as a panel presenter where he shared his perspective on third-year academics, the co-op program and extra-curricular opportunities.

Agresot has also volunteered as business advisor for UVic’s Submarine Racing Club and was part of the team that represented the university at the 2018 European International Submarine Races in the United Kingdom.

Recently, Agresot found another connecting role during his co-operative education (co-op) work term at Babcock Canada. As a marketing/human resources co-op student, Agresot was charged with leading Babcock’s STEM strategy, as well as identifying gaps in the current Victoria Engineering Labour market. During this project, he acted as a liaison between two departments, allowing him to connect theory and practice and gain a holistic view of the organization’s overall strategy.

“Andres was a brand champion for Babcock which was above and beyond what was expected for the role,” says his supervisor Steven Holmes, Manager of Human Resources. “Andres actively took it upon himself to get involved in projects and drive new initiatives.” This included helping to facilitate a meeting between Babcock’s President and UVic’s Dean of Engineering.

By bringing a global view to his position, Agresot was able to go above and beyond in his projects and as a brand champion; this had a meaningful impact not only to the organization but also to Agresot. “I am certain that the achievements gained through co-op have significantly impacted multiple areas of my life,” says Agresot. “Co-op has created meaningful turning points in my academic experience, career development and personal growth.”

Anona Wiebe, co-op student of the year for engineering and computer science in 2018

ANONA WIEBE (electrical engineering)

Co-op Student of the Year – Engineering and Computer Science Co-op Programs

Anona Wiebe is always looking to make a positive impact. From helping University Systems develop a cybersecurity awareness program for students, to supporting Syrian refugees’ transition to Canada, the third-year electrical engineering student has made a lasting impression.

Wiebe has a knack for linking human behaviour with systems design, making her the perfect candidate for her co-operative education (co-op) position with University Systems, where she developed a unique online program to help students acquire/gain cybersecurity awareness. The resulting project has seen huge success; more than 2,000 students have accessed the online training since August.

Wiebe’s Director at University Systems, Nav Bassi, credits her hard work and technical skills for the project’s success. “Her efforts were so successful that we were able to develop a case to continue the program on an annual basis,” he says.

Outside of class and work, Wiebe is an active volunteer, splitting her spare time between coaching tennis and supporting Victoria’s efforts to welcome Syrian families to the city. She was also recently elected as an Engineering student representative to University Senate.

Wiebe is grateful for her time with University Systems and appreciates how her work term bolstered her intellectual confidence and analytical thinking skills. “This co-op gave me the opportunity to develop my career by showcasing and strengthening my leadership skills,” she says. “It’s piqued my interest in project management, I’m excited at what comes next.”

Hallie Rounthwaite, the co-op student of the year for 2018

HALLIE ROUNTHWAITE (anthropology and human dimensions of climate change)

Co-op Student of the Year – Optional and Professional Co-op Programs

As a fourth-year student of Anthropology and Human Dimensions of Climate Change, Hallie Rounthwaite is passionate about the intersection between culture and community. On top of having an impressive 8.5 GPA, Rounthwaite has been actively engaged in Victoria’s “Good Food Summit,” a knowledge sharing initiative focused on good food work in the Capital Region. She also recently curated and developed an interactive exhibit that connected archaeology with modern food sharing practices at the Royal B.C. Museum, as part of a project with her ANTH 392: Archaeology & Storytelling class. 

For her last co-operative education (co-op) work term, Rounthwaite was hired by Beecher Bay First Nation to lead a youth program centered around food security and the revitalization of cultural food systems. This included developing strategies to engage youth with traditional food harvesting and preparation, building a community garden, and teaching youth about budgeting and cooking. Rounthwaite also provided peer guidance and support for children and youth in the community.

Rounthwaite’s commitment and enthusiasm to her work was recognized by her supervisor Denise Chewka, a social development worker with the Beecher Bay First Nation. “Through her hands on and experiential approach to educating, strengthening and empowering children and youth, Hallie has inspired youth to have fun while learning, which has been priceless,” she says.

Throughout her work term, Rounthwaite developed relationships with the community and grew her understanding and interest of food security and Indigenous food systems. “My co-op term literally changed my life, and the direction of my academic studies,” she says. “I learned so much from the people of Beecher Bay First Nation and have continued to stay connected.” Rounthwaite intends to continue her studies with graduate research in ethnoecology and hopes to continue working closely with Indigenous communities.

2017 recipients

Our Co-op Students of the Year for 2017 are:

  • Miaoxin (Cheryl) Cui (Co-op Student of the Year for the Business Co-op Program)
  • Brianna Carrels (Co-op Student of the Year for the Engineering and Computer Science Co-op Programs – Biomedical Engineering)
  • Gabrielle (Ga) Grant (Co-op Student of the Year for the Optional and Professional Co-op Programs – Law)

About the students

Miaoxin Cui


Co-op Student of the Year – Business Co-op Program

Miaoxin Cui has always been someone who thrives on bringing people together. A fourth-year business student, she currently mentors two second-year students in the Gustavson mentorship program, actively volunteers with UVic’s International Conversation Café and has helped more than 20 UVic students find international internships and volunteer opportunities as the vice-president of student-run organization AIESEC.

It’s no surprise that she carried the same dedication to others into each of her co-op positions. During her last work term at the China Everbright Bank in Beijing, she took it upon herself to develop an English Q&A resource to help employees who were working with non-Mandarin-speaking customers, helped develop a professional LinkedIn page for the branch and spent her after-work hours creating a training package for future interns.

Cui is thankful for the foothold that co-op has helped her make in the financial industry. “The structure of many companies makes it nearly impossible to connect with employees if one does not work there,” she says. “Having the privilege to work in a bank as part of the co-op program has provided me with so many networking opportunities.”

Brianna Carrels

BRIANNA CARRELS (biomedical engineering)

Co-op Student of the Year – Engineering and Computer Science Co-op Programs

Biomedical engineering student Brianna Carrels is always looking to take her learning to the next level. Not only has she achieved an impressive 8.73 GPA, but she also found time to compete on the Vikes’ women’s golf team and volunteer in the Willerth stem cell research laboratory on campus.

Carrels carried that same dedication to her most recent co-op work term at the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, where she helped develop a method for detecting Type 1 diabetes in children by measuring tiny levels of a hormone made by insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

Carrels secured this work term by reaching out to researcher Dr. Bruce Verchere to discuss how she could contribute to his lab. He was intrigued by Carrels’s background and previous volunteer experience researching stem cell biology.

“It was risky for me to hand such an important task to an undergraduate student,” says Verchere. “But Brianna’s systematic, diligent and careful approach brought immediate improvements to the project.”

Today, Carrels encourages others to follow in her footsteps. “Having experienced the benefits of co-op work terms, I never give up an opportunity to encourage other students to pursue at least one co-op term during their degree.”

Gabrielle Grant


Co-op Student of the Year – Optional and Professional Co-op Programs

For Ga Grant, studying law has been a way for her to advocate for human rights, social justice and equality. She has been a strong supporter of queer legal rights through events she has organized as the president of the UVic OUTLaws club, and she has shared her voice at workshops and panels on the topics of consent and human rights.

Her passion for reconciliation led her to complete a co-op term at the Upper Skeena Counselling and Legal Assistance Society on the lands of the Gitxan and Wet’suwet’en peoples in Hazelton, BC. This experience had a profound impact on her view of the legal system.

Grant worked to support Indigenous parents and grandparents of children taken into care, and spent her term developing and reforming legal aid services to support Indigenous people. She hopes to turn her experiences into a career that makes an impact in the community, and credits much of her devotion to the mentorship she received from her supervisor at Upper Skeena.

“I had a mentor unlike anyone I had ever met,” she says. “I learned that one person who brings her heart into all that she does can really make a difference in the community.”

2016 recipients

Our Co-op Students of the Year for 2016 are:

About the students

Paul Kim

PAUL KIM (biochemistry)

Co-op Student of the Year – Optional and Professional Programs

Paul Junhyuck Kim has always been motivated to better the world around him.  The fourth-year biochemistry student has channelled his energy into contributing to the field of public health, and has proven himself to be a dedicated student, disciplined researcher and inspiring leader during his time at UVic.

After arriving at UVic, Kim quickly became interested in the experiential learning opportunities offered by the UVic Co-op Program. He successfully applied to the Biochemistry/Microbiology Co-op Program and secured his first co-op work term conducting research at the Centre for Microbial Diseases and Immunity Research (funded by the Centre for Blood Research). He made such a good impression as a researcher that he received a Science Undergraduate Research Award (SURA) from UVic, which allowed him to gain even more experience through his second work term at the BC Cancer Agency Deeley Research Centre.

 “My work term at the Deeley Research Centre was one of the first opportunities I had to create an impact in a field that I’m truly passionate about,” he says. Having watched people close to him struggle with the disease, he jumped on the chance to make a difference in leading cancer research.

Kim worked with Dr. Julian Lum at the Deeley Research Centre, where he conducted research involving lymphocyte infiltration in tumour microenvironments—research that could contribute to streamlining cancer treatments in the future.

Kim’s significant contributions have not only added a great deal of understanding on basic lymphocyte biology but also provided Lum’s lab with a strong backbone for future research grants. “Paul’s performance and work were nothing short of outstanding, and his contributions to the lab have been enormous,” says Dr. Lum. “He’s demonstrated outstanding passion, drive, commitment and integrity.”

For Kim, experiential learning has been a crucial aspect of his university education.   “Through co-op, I learned that the only way to bridge the gap between my university education and the fast-paced environment of a research lab was to work in that setting,” he says. “Applying my university education to groundbreaking research helped me to see the bigger picture of my degree.”

As a vocal proponent of co-op on and off campus, Kim is eager to continue building strong relationships and working on collaborative projects in future work terms.  “Working with inspiring researchers has developed me into a lifelong learner,” he says. “I am looking forward to creating synergies through co-op that will ultimately generate large-scale impact in the medical field.”

Paul was also named the 2016 Co-op Student of the Year for the Association of Co-operative Education BC/Yukon.

Nick Pineau


Co-op Student of the Year – Business Co-op Program

Driven by a pursuit of excellence and an appetite for knowledge, business student Nick Pineau’s continued success in the UVic co-op program is no surprise. A fourth-year student specializing in entrepreneurship, Pineau has proven himself to be an outstanding example of a Gustavson student both in and outside the classroom.

Pineau chose UVic because of the promise of hands-on experience through the co-op program and was quick to prime himself as a competitive candidate for the positions he was interested in. He spent his first work term conducting treasury and risk management tasks with Elbow River Marketing in Calgary, Alberta. Next, he secured a position with Nexen working in accounting and finance, where he focused on variance analysis, budgeting and cost allocation in the oil and gas industry.

Demonstrating strength in analytical thinking and working within a team, Pineau impressed his colleagues with his high level of professionalism and his eagerness to engage with staff across the whole organization.

The co-op program has given Pineau hands-on experience in his chosen field, allowing him to start cultivating his career long before graduation. Moving from the oil and gas industry to the tech sector for his current co-op term with Redbrick, he’s had the valuable opportunity to diversify his experience – an opportunity that will give him an edge when applying for future work. “Working in diverse business environments throughout my co-ops has helped me build a network to rely on post-graduation,” he says. “ I feel infinitely more prepared for my future career.”

Outside of the workplace, Pineau has dedicated himself to encouraging student engagement in through a variety of university initiatives. He has used his natural leadership abilities to mentor fellow classmates with their job searches, organized workshops to contribute to students’ professional development, coordinated speaker series and assisted in business co-op events. 

“Overall, co-operative education has been extremely beneficial for my future career prospects and for my university education,” says Pineau. “I’m thankful that I’ve been given the opportunity to demonstrate the skills I’ve learned in class in real-world settings.”

Anika Bell

ANIKA BELL (mechanical engineering)

Co-op Student of the Year – Engineering and Computer Science/Math Co-op Programs

A passion for environmental sustainability and renewable energy has led fourth-year student Anika Bell to new heights while studying mechanical engineering at UVic.

From completing a work term with the UVic ECOSat team—where she helped design a 1st-place satellite for the Canadian Satellite Design Challenge—to working on renewable energy projects with the Environment Department of the Vancouver Airport Authority, Bell’s co-op placements have offered diverse and enriching opportunities for hands-on learning. 

On her most recent co-op work term with the BC Ministry of Environment Climate Action Secretariat (CAS), Bell stepped into the role of Climate-Resilient Buildings Intern. Tasked with completing a climate risk and resilience assessment of a public sector building in BC, Bell far exceeded the expectations set out for her—she developed a novel assessment method and completed assessments for not one, but three buildings and building sites over the course of her four-month term.

“Anika’s impeccable work ethic, keen attention to detail and ability to produce quality under pressure, all while maintaining a positive and humble attitude, made her an invaluable member of the team,” says Bell’s supervisor Suzanne Spence, Executive Director of CAS.  “Her contributions are of lasting value to CAS, the owners of assessed buildings and more generally to BC public sector organizations interested in climate resilience in buildings.”

Bell credits co-op with enriching her academic experience, as it’s allowed her to diversify her studies in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without venturing outside the classroom. “The co-op program has allowed me to expand and personalize my education,” she says. “It’s provided me with a pathway to pursue my interests and demonstrated how I can interlace the field of mechanical engineering with my passion for climate action.”

Bell’s outstanding accomplishments have led to her being sought out for a fourth work term with BC Housing, where she is working to create a tool to assess their buildings for climate change resilience. 

“Designing for climate change resilience is a developing field, and one which I have been fortunate enough to work in,” she says. “Working amongst other environmentally-minded individuals has been incredibly empowering and inspiring—my experiences in co-op have encouraged my aspirations of finding an engineering career in climate action.”

2015 recipients

Ainsleigh Hill

AINSLEIGH HILL (physics and biochemistry)

Co-op Student of the Year – Optional and Professional Co-op Programs

Although Ainsleigh is only 19 years old, she has demonstrated a passion for problem solving and an aptitude for science well beyond her years. After graduating from high school at 16, Ainsleigh followed her love of math and science to UVic, where she is pursuing a degree in physics and biochemistry. For her first two co-op work terms, she joined the bioinformatics team at the BC Cancer Agency’s Terry Fox Laboratory, and immediately impressed her co-op supervisor Dr. Andrew Weng by teaching herself how to program in C++ and R within a week—skills that come in handy when the team analyses mass cytometry data for B Cell lymphoma using computer algorithms. Ainsleigh quickly proved herself able to brainstorm as an equal with the postdocs and bioinformaticians on the team. She is a natural problem solver and trailblazer; when a standard mathematical expression commonly used to measure data was yielding inappropriate values, she was able to modify the expression to remedy the issue—the new expression is now referred to as the “Ainsleigh index”. Her contributions to the team will earn her authorship on at least two papers next year.

Ainsleigh has been a champion of co-op, encouraging many of her friends to join the program. She credits co-op with helping her zero in on the possibilities of combining computer science with research. 

Francis Charbonneau

FRANCIS CHARBONNEAU (electrical engineering)

Co-op Student of the Year – Engineering and Computer Science/Math Co-op Programs

Francis Charbonneau has a passion for making the world a better place. The fourth-year electrical engineering student has made a point of completing six co-op work terms with organizations committed to sustainability and renewable energy. He has also demonstrated a commitment to community through his volunteering and extracurricular activities. His most recent two work terms were with SgurrEnergy as a Renewable Energy Consultant. In addition to managing projects assessing wind resource and power performance of wind turbine generators, Francis provided technical reviews of wind farm cabling, compiled risk matrix reports for various projects and was involved with assessing wind resources at proposed and operational wind farm sites. He did such a good job that he was offered a full-time position with SgurrEnergy after graduation.

An exemplary student, Francis has also been active outside the classroom. He has been a member of the men’s novice varsity rowing team, and is currently a co-director of sports with the Engineering Student Society. He volunteers as a Big Brother and encourages fellow co-op students to embrace job shadowing opportunities to learn the most about their possible career paths. 

Karley Skaret

KARLEY SKARET (business)

Co-op Student of the Year – Peter B. Gustavson School of Business Co-op

Learning through work experience was a key factor in Karley Skaret’s decision to attend the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business. She knew that the mandatory co-op program would give her the opportunity to apply theory in real life workplaces, and with two co-op work terms under her belt, she has already learned a lot. Her first work term was with Calgary Wildfire Management, where she organized events to promote the Government of Alberta’s Sustainable Resource Development and created an organizational system to track and manage the office’s promotional material. Last summer, she was hired as an office accounting clerk with RGO Office Products, but was quickly promoted to work on a strategically important business processes improvement project. Karley was tasked with mapping internal processes, reporting areas of improvement and developing solutions to help guide the strategic direction of the company.

Karley has also shown a commitment to giving back to the local community. She has volunteered with Soup Sisters, the Canadian Diabetes Association, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and was the Vice President of the Young Women in Business UVic Chapter.

2014 recipients

Watch video: 2014 Co-op Students of the Year


Co-op Student of the Year – Peter B. Gustavson School of Business Co-op

Recognized for her high academic achievement and excellent work term performance, Gaëlle approaches both her university and work life with resourcefulness and creativity. She spent her first co-op term as a research assistant with UVic’s Department of Psychology and her second with GlobalFest in marketing and communications. For her final co-op term, Gaëlle acted as a corporate communications specialist for Ledcor Industries Inc., where she worked on communications and marketing projects, oversaw logistics for several major media events, and implemented successful social media strategies to increase online engagement. Gaëlle also has a strong interest in community engagement and volunteering—she served as treasurer and marketing assistant for UVic’s UNICEF Club and currently represents western Canada’s JDC West Organizing Committee as VP of Academics, freelances as a social media strategist for technology start-ups, and acts as social media coordinator for W100 Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneur (2012/13), Kelsey Ramsden.

SILVIA PENKOVA (mechanical engineering)

Co-op Student of the Year – Engineering, Computer Science and Mathematics/Statistics Co-op

Driven by a passion for continuous learning in her academic and personal endeavours, Silvia Penkova is known for her relentless work ethic and positive attitude. As a former Sea Cadet fascinated by ocean exploration, Silvia spent her first three work terms refitting submarines for the Royal Canadian Navy at Babcock Canada Inc. Her interest in the environment and green technology then led her to pursue a work term in the Industrial Engineering branch of the Department of National Defence. There, she worked on a wastewater treatment plant that allowed process water to be cleaned and returned to city sewage, resulting in less waste. Silvia is interested in materials engineering and is currently working on a research project categorizing the optical properties of Cadmium-Zinc-Telluride semiconductors.



Co-op Student of the Year – Optional and Professional Co-op Programs (all other programs)

Tesi Carmona Wagner has always been interested in animal behavior and wellbeing. For her first three work terms, she ventured abroad—she completed two co-op terms in Mexico researching birds in captivity and in the field and one in Germany through a German Academic Exchange Service internship, where she studied urban and rural blackbirds. Although she’d been primarily keen on the study of birds, Tesi rounded out her experience with a final 8-month placement as a research and animal care assistant in UVic’s Neuroscience Lab under Dr. Leigh Ann Swayne, where she managed and studied mouse colonies. Tesi’s natural curiosity and enthusiasm for science and research has made her a standout employee in Dr. Swayne’s lab, where she is still working. She has also undertaken many extracurricular activities related to her degree—she volunteered with the Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre and Parks Canada and currently helps out at Rocky Point Bird Observatory. Tesi hopes to continue in academia and pursue her Master’s and eventually a PhD.

2013 recipients

Connor Bildfell photo

Connor Bildfell (BCOM 2013)

Co-op Student of the Year - Peter B. Gustavson School of Business Co-op

Connor completed three work terms over the course of his degree, including two as a staff accountant at KPMG LLP, and one as special events and activities coordinator at Corvallis Parks and Recreation in Oregon State. While working at KPMG, Connor was recognized for his exceptional work ethic and team building initiative, and spent his spare time volunteering for the Immigrant Services Society of BC, where he used his Mandarin to support recently immigrated Chinese families. Throughout his degree, this straight-A student was recognized with more than 12 UVic and external scholarships and awards and made an incredibly positive impression on his peers, colleagues, employers and Co-op and Career staff. Connor is currently enrolled at the UBC Faculty of Law. For more information about Connnor, see his convocation story.

Angus Rittenburg photo

Angus Rittenburg (mechanical engineering)

Co-op Student of the Year - Engineering Computer Science and Mathematics/Statistics Co-op

Eager to embark on a wide range of workplace experiences, Angus has completed five work terms with five separate engineering companies, where he worked on electric bikes (Grin Technologies in Vancouver, BC), low cost cars for Africa (Mobius Motors in Kenya), rockets (SpaceX in Hawthorne, California), batteries (Tesla Motors in Palo Alto, California), and large scale robots (eatART in Vancouver, BC). Angus has selected work terms that allow him to contribute to positive change, whether that’s developing cleaner power methods, increasing safe transportation methods for rural communities, or stimulating socio-economic growth. He is known for his positive attitude and endless energy; in his spare time Angus has been an active volunteer with UVic’s ecoCAR and ECOSat teams.

Ross Prager photo

Ross Prager (microbiology honours)

Co-op Student of the Year - Optional and Professional Co-op Programs (all other programs)

Ross has leveraged his co-op experiences to explore the intersection of his academic studies and personal interests, and has impressed his colleagues and mentors along the way. His first work term was with St. John Ambulance Victoria, where he volunteered as a Medical First Responder in the community around Victoria. Next, his interest in neuroscience led to him to work in Dr. Swayne’s molecular and cellular neuroscience laboratory here at UVic, first as a volunteer and then on an NSERC funded work term. Ross is currently completing an honours thesis related to this research under Dr. Swayne’s supervision. Finally, Ross spent last summer as a paramedic with the BCAmbulance Service (BCAS) working in both rural and metro centers. He brought patience and humour to the position that saw him do everything from answering emergency calls in Vancouver’s east side to helping deliver a baby. His work experience has led him to focus on a future in healthcare, where he can combine his interests in the clinical, interpersonal, and research-related aspects of the discipline.

2012 recipients

Our Co-op Students of the Year for 2012 are:

Read more about this year's winners in The Ring and check out the video below:

2011 recipients

In 2011, we were excited to award three students with the Student of the Year Award:

  • Erin Stead was named Business Co-op Student of the Year
  • Bernard Lambrechts was named Engineering and Computer Science/Math Co-op Student of the Year
  • Jasmine Nielsen was named the Co-op Student of the Year for the Optional and Professional Programs group

Check out what these students had to say about the impact of co-op in their lives:

2010 recipients

Check out the 2010 award recipients on our Youtube channel.

Each UVic Co-op program area will nominate a Student of the Year each fall. To be eligible, students must have completed at least ONE co-op work term during the current calendar year. Nomination packages should consist of:

  1. A copy of the student's transcript
  2. A copy of the student's résumé
  3. A testimonial from an employer stating how the student demonstrated initiative and/or contributed to the workplace's organizational goals.
  4. A testimonial from the student outlining how co-op enhanced his or her career development, personal development and academic experience
  5. A testimonial from the student's co-op coordinator supporting the student's nomination.

For details about the nomination process, contact your co-op program office.