The Co-operative Education Office is pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 Carleton University Co-op Student and Employer of the Year Awards. The Co-op Awards are presented each year to recognize the outstanding achievements, contributions, and performance of our co-op students and their employers. Select an award name below to read about this year’s winner!
Undergraduate Co-op Student of the Year
Congratulations to Johanna Button, fourth-year Communications and Media Studies student, and winner of the 2020 Co-op Student of the Year Award.
Button completed an eight-month work term as an Outreach Assistant at Canadian Digital Service (CDS), a team that collaborates with other federal departments to make it easier for Canadians to access and use government services. Button was nominated by Aaron Snow, CEO of CDS, and Chelsea Novak, Head of Outreach at CDS, for consistently exceeding expectations and relentlessly advocating for the needs of all Canadians by ensuring that important government information is presented in a way that is relevant and accessible.
In their nomination form, Snow and Novak included how Button championed a social media listening project that helps inform how CDS frames the messages they share through the government’s new COVID Alert app. As part of this project, Button went through thousands of qualitative data sources and online comments people made about the app, coded and grouped the data into themes, and created weekly insight reports about what the most pressing concerns were for Canadians at that time.
“This project helps us capture bugs or general usability issues that the team may not know about, which we can then fix,” wrote Snow and Novak, “And this work has not only helped CDS share more relevant information with Canadians to keep them safe, but has proven so valuable that other government departments, including the Privy Council Office, has started requesting we share these weekly insights with them.”
One of Button’s other notable accomplishments involved ensuring all the content the CDS was sharing online (text, images, emojis, videos) followed accessibility best practices. Button shared her social media accessibility tips in a Twitter thread that reached over 18,000 people and received lots of positive engagement from those inside and outside the public service.
Snow and Novak ended their letter of support by saying, “Johanna truly is one of a kind and her work has been an integral part of the Outreach team – improving not just what and how we communicate, but changing perspective across government to be more thoughtful and inclusive.”
Graduate Co-op Student of the Year
Ritika Bhatia, a Master of Computer Science student, was awarded the 2020 Graduate Co-op Student of the Year Award. Bhatia completed an eight-month work term as an Automation Scripting Developer at Ericsson.
Dimple Thomas, Engineering Manager, nominated Bhatia for her strong technical competence, learning mindset, dedication, and utmost professionalism and respect she demonstrated in the workplace.
Bhatia’s top contributions throughout her work terms included using her strong machine learning background to teach 60+ senior engineers and members of Ericsson’s leadership team about the latest techniques and promising research studies in this niche field, facilitating multiple brainstorming sessions with the global team to generate and drive implementation of high potential business ideas, and driving Ericsson’s value proposition as a vendor of choice with their top-tier customers.
Thomas ended her letter of support by saying, “Her capabilities and approach to work helps her shine as an outstanding employee and one of the most all-rounded students I have had the opportunity to mentor. Within a month of working with Ritika, we knew that we absolutely needed her back in the company! And I’m happy to say that we are in the final stages of securing her full-time employment with Ericsson in 2021.”
Andre Edmonson, Technical Product Manager at Ross Video, is the recipient of the 2020 Co-op Employer of the Year Award. Edmonson was nominated by John Lutz, a third-year student in the Phototonics and Laser Technology stream of the Bachelor of Information Technology program. Lutz completed a four-month work term as a Software Developer at Ross from September to December 2020.
Lutz praised Edmonson for framing his co-op work term as a partnership between the student and the employer and for cultivating a “student-first” learning environment for his co-op students.
When nominating Edmonson for Co-op Employer of the Year, Lutz wrote, “While working at Ross within Mr. Edmonson’s team there is always something that needs to get done or be studied. [Andre] has made adjustments in his lengthy schedule to help me out on tasks and get me involved in projects I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work on within my hired position such as, website development.”
Lutz’s letter of support also expressed his overwhelming appreciation for the way Edmonson was able to create and maintain a welcoming and supportive work environment, even while working remotely. Lutz wrote that Edmonson’s efforts, which included making video mandatory to increase face-to-face interaction during regular meetings, coming up with fun challenges to engage staff in team building exercises, and asking meaningful questions for the benefit of his mental health during one-on-one meetings, had a significant impact on his co-op experience.
“[Andre] is someone who goes above and beyond to make their employees feel worth and give them the best chance to succeed. I am proud that I have been able to work alongside him at Ross Video.”
Lutz finished his final co-op work term in December 2020 and is now continuing his work with Edmonson at Ross Video in a part-time role while he completes his studies.
Honourable Mentions – Co-op Student of the Year
Third-year political science student Shaolin-Rose Gawat, and Master of Public Policy and Administration student, Cole Parkin, both received honourable mentions for Co-op Student of the Year.
Shaolin-Rose Gawat worked as a Project Assistant within the Office of Student Affairs at Carleton University throughout the summer and fall 2020 work terms. Gawat was nominated for her exemplary work by supervisor Shannon Noonan, Manager of Mental Health Strategy & Initiatives.
“When she interviewed for this position, having just finished her second year at Carleton, she impressed me right from the start,” Noonan wrote in her nomination form.
Gawat’s most notable contributions throughout her work terms included developing and launching Carleton Wellness’ new social media presence, editing and transforming the university’s Supporting a Friend and Here for You workshops to an online format, and creating a new resource for Faculty on how to support student mental health and provide proper referrals.
“I have seen firsthand Shaolin’s leadership stand out in my 10+ years of experience supervising students. She is an extremely welcoming, inclusive person who is also reliable and trustworthy with her commitments. She performed exceptionally well as a staff member, and was often found spending her extra personal time continuing to build relationships and be present for stakeholders,” Noonan wrote. “Having worked with her these past seven months, I truly believe she is a cut above the rest.”
Noonan’s nomination letter also included comments from colleagues in four other university departments that Gawat interacted with throughout her time at the Office of Student Affairs. Each contributor’s comments were overflowing with praise for how Gawat was a friendly and professional resource who brought creativity and enthusiasm to all the projects they had worked on together.
Cole Parkin completed an eight-month work term with the Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) at Carleton University. Parkin was nominated by Jerry Tomberlin, Provost and Vice President (Academic), and Norah Vollmer, Manager of Faculty Affairs. The primary focus of Parkin’s work term was to complete a report on faculty recruitment, looking particularly at hiring challenges and filling specialized positions.
“Cole’s work was conducted with integrity and a strong sense of tact and diplomacy. With over 45 Academic Units and six Faculties, the disciplines and qualifications for academic positions are diverse. Cole learned quickly to appreciate the intricacies of academic hiring as well as the requirement to adhere to, not only University policies and Collective Agreements, but to applicable legislation as well,” wrote Tomberlin and Vollmer.
Parkin’s final report, which included 14 recommendations, was presented to Deans and University Librarian and over the fall term, he was able to make significant progress in supporting the implementation of many of the recommendations.
“Cole’s impact on faculty recruitment at Carleton University cannot be underestimated. We have no doubt that Carleton’s academic hiring program will be positively impacted by Cole’s report and his work with Faculty Affairs and key Departments.”
Honourable Mention – Co-op Employer of the Year
Natalie Haywood, Laboratory Supervisor at Suncor Energy Inc., received an honourable mention for 2020 Co-op Employer of the Year. Haywood was nominated by Samuel Esenwa, a fourth-year environmental science student who worked as a Lab Technician at Suncor’s Mackay River site in Fort McMurray, Alberta from September 2019 to August 2020.
In his nomination form, Esenwa praised Haywood for being an exceptional mentor who created numerous opportunities that contributed to his personal and professional growth. Through his work with Haywood, Esenwa was given the opportunity to perform a wide range of lab tests, reports, and duties, lead monthly meetings, take on volunteer work and get involved in the Suncor student community, and work at multiple Suncor sites in the region, making him the first student to do so in the history of the company.
“Her relentless push to ensure I got the most experience out of my work term resulted in robust improvements to my leadership and workplace diplomacy skills, and provided me with the much-needed analytical skills to succeed in my honors project,” Esenwa wrote in his nomination letter.
In addition to her support in the workplace, Haywood went above and beyond to ensure Esenwa was evacuated safely when he was displaced from his living situation by a flood during one of his work terms.
Esenwa ended his letter of support by saying, “Natalie Haywood to me was not just an employer but a great leader, who treated everyone equally regardless of position, age, race, or gender, by ensuring everyone had an equal opportunity to grow and contribute to the workplace, company, and community.”
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Nikita Koziel Ly
April Qingke Yu
The Co-op Office would like to congratulate and thank all Co-op Awards winners, honourable mentions, and nominees for their contributions to Carleton University’s Co-op Program.