Contributing to community – Co-op Students of the Year for 2020

Education, Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, Engineering, Co-op

- Lauren Frost

Kawaljit Singh, one of the 2020 Co-op Students of the Year. Credit: Provided by Singh

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, UVic recognizes 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, commerce
Business Co-op Program Award

Jadyn Isaacson
Isaacson. Credit: Provided by Isaacson

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.”

Tessa Dagenais, coaching studies
Optional and Professional Programs

Tessa Dagenais
Dagenais. Credit: Provided by Dagenais

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 who 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.”

Kawaljit Singh, computer science
Engineering and Computer Science

Kawaljit Singh
Singh. Credit: Provided by Singh

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 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.”

Learn more about UVic's Co-op Students of the Year


In this story

Keywords: student life, co-op, employment, computer science, technology, computers

People: Jadyn Isaacson, Tessa Dagenais, Kawaljit Singh

Publication: The Ring

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