Co-op placements build career options for humanities grad


- Suzanne Ahearne

It’s probably not on many graduates’ lists of what to do after convocation, but it’s at the top of Chelsea Falconer’s: she’s going to get cracking on the post-apocalyptic novel she’s had in her head for almost as long as she’s been at UVic.

The English major (and Humanities, Fine Arts and Professional Writing Co-op student) promises that no UVic profs will figure in her dystopian fiction, nor will the campus. In fact, she loved her experience here as a student.

One of the best discoveries, she said, was the co-op program. “I knew about co-op programs for engineering and business students, but didn’t know that humanities students could do it,” said the 29 year old, who transferred from Camosun College four years ago.

When she was 18, she started in nursing at Camosun, since she wanted to do something meaningful and it would also provide her with good career options. “But it just didn’t speak to me,” she says. After the first year and a practicum, she decided to leave the program.

Falconer took a few years to think about what she wanted to do next, knowing that whatever it was, it needed to have that magic spark. She knew she needed a degree to go further. While she was considering her options, her mind kept going back to her high school years at St. Margaret’s School where she had been a shy kid who, in English class, lost her fear of talking.

“Mostly, it was the modern drama. I can still recite whole lines from Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie,” she recalls. “It spoke to me on some kind of fundamental level. It just made me feel more alive.”

Sure of her desire, but not sure of a career path, Falconer did two years of university transfer courses before coming to UVic.

“You hear a lot in the news that humanities degrees are not the most lucrative in today’s economy, but I think that’s where co-op comes in,” says the ginger-haired grad, who describes herself as “bi-coastal,” having lived in Pacific and Atlantic port cities growing up in a military family.

By the time she started at UVic, Falconer had been out of high school for nearly a decade. “I didn’t really have the option of going back home after university, or traveling. I had to start a career right away, and co-op really made that happen,” she said.

While she studied, co-op helped her build practical job-seeking skills and provided access to a network of local and national—even international—paid co-op positions.

During her four years in the program, Falconer did 12 months of paid co-op work. Her most recent was a 14-week gig as a communications writer at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, a local employer who hires about 50 students each semester across the humanities, business and engineering faculties. She wrote everything from video scripts, web content and press releases to briefing notes for the admiral.

“It was interesting putting myself into the mindset of an admiral,” Falconer said. “I’m creative, so it was a great exercise.”

And she’s found her way to give back to the program she credits with making such a difference in her university experience: she just started a job as a Marketing and Events Coordinator at UVic Co-op and Career. Which still leaves time in the evenings for dreams about dystopias.


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Keywords: co-op, student life

People: Chelsea Falconer

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