Agents of positive change: UVic's Co-op Students of the Year for 2017

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

- Julian Sketchley

Co-op Students of the Year Miaoxin Cui and Brianna Carrels speak about how the co-op experience helped them explore their futures.

Collaborative, innovative and driven to make a positive impact—these are qualities shared by the three 2017 Co-op Students of the Year, who were recognized by their respective co-operative education programs for their outstanding contribution in class, in the workplace and within the community.

Miaoxin (Cheryl) Cui (business)

Business Co-op Program

Miaoxin during her work term in Beijing
Cui during her work term in Beijing, where she worked for China Everbright Bank.

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 vice-president of the youth leadership organization, AIESEC.

It’s no surprise that Cui 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. She also 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 (biomedical engineering)

Engineering and Computer Science Co-op Programs

Brianna Carrels in a UVic lab
Carrels in the stem cell research lab on campus.

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 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 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 (Ga) Grant (law)

Optional and Professional Co-op Programs

Gabrielle Grant in front of a poster
Grant displays a poster she developed while working with the Upper Skeena Counselling and Legal Assistance Society in Hazelton, BC.

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

Grant’s 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’d 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.”

Details about the recipients can be found on the co-op website.


In this story

Keywords: co-op, student life, business, law, engineering

People: Miaoxin Cheryl Cui, Gabrielle Grant, Brianna Carrels

Publication: The Ring

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