Confidence and career success: Students, graduates share impact of co-op and experiential learning

A grid of six headshots of smiling McMaster students

(Clockwise from top left) Earth and Environmental Sciences student Erika Bullen, Department of Greek and Roman Studies student Andrew Melo, Political Science graduate Tanya Rumble, Computer Science student Yuvraj Jain, Integrated Biomedical Engineering & Health Sciences student Deena Al-Sammak, and Commerce student Fawaz Saaed.

At McMaster, learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom.

It happens at archaeological sites, in health care settings, industry placements and at national competitions, to name a few.

All these experiences give students the tools to launch businesses, pursue innovations and forge steps on their career pathways.

Learn more below about the experiences of five students and a graduate who used the many and varied experiential learning opportunities at McMaster to build upon their success.

Co-op takes science student to the top of the world  

A headshot of Erika BullenErika Bullen calls herself lucky to have worked in a part of the world so few people have experienced.

The fourth-year Earth and Environmental Sciences student spent four months working in Alert, Nunavut at an atmospheric baseline station operated by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Bullen.

Learn more about how Bullen dealt with the snow and ice, isolation and how she thinks the co-op opportunity will shape her career here.

Talk about getting your hands dirty  

A headshot of Andrew MeloExcavating a real, active archaeological dig site was a dream come true for Andrew Melo.

The Department of Greek and Roman Studies student was among a group of McMaster researchers who spent part of last summer excavating a Roman villa in Italy.

“When I learned that I was going to be a part of this trip, I was so giddy because this is not a typical thing that you get to do as an undergrad,” says Melo.

Learn more about the project, and how artifacts uncovered by students like Melo are helping shed light on lesser-known areas of history here.

One of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women on embracing experiential learning 

A headshot of Tanya RumbleTanya Rumble’s career has spanned both public health and the philanthropic sector. The political science graduate, who was named one of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women of 2023, says her success was built in part by the foundation of skills and experiences she had while earning her undergraduate degree.

“At McMaster, I took every opportunity to participate in co-curricular and experiential learning opportunities,” says Rumble. “I was really able to benefit from the relationships that I formed both with friends, faculty and staff that supported me along the way.”

Rumble shares how her involvement with McMaster’s World Congress, the Student Health and Education Centre, and Student Wellness Centre set her on the path to success here.

A transformative journey through co-op 

A headshot of Fawaz SaaedYuvraj Jain went from uncertain new international student to a soon-to-be McMaster Engineering graduate with confidence and a clear vision for his career.

And in the time between those two perspectives?

He received mentorship from a McMaster career advisor, completed several successful co-op placements and grew as both as an engineer and as a person.

“I am incredibly grateful for the experiences McMaster has given me to let my best self shine through co-op and being a member of such a special community,” Jain says.

Learn more here about how co-op placements at Purolator and RBC taught Jain invaluable professional skills that he says he will take into his next chapter.

A crash course in entrepreneurship  

A headshot of Deena Al-SammakFor pianist Deena Al-Sammak, music is a form of communication.

“There are certain things that you can’t put into words — music allows you to do that,” says Al-Sammak.

It’s why the third-year Integrated Biomedical Engineering & Health Sciences (iBioMed) student wanted to create an assistive device for people with limited hand mobility to access musical instruments.

With an idea and a prototype, Al-Sammak entered the Health Innovation Bootcamp, an immersive program that helps participants move their health innovations forward.

Learn more here about how her experience in the program, which she describes as a “crash course to entrepreneurship in health care” gave her the tools to launch her own business.

Preparing students for career success  

A headshot of Fawaz SaaedFor Fawaz Saeed, an internship in his second year helped him make a pivotal decision: to pursue a major in supply chain or accounting.

The fifth-year student in the DeGroote School of Business chose accounting and has been pursuing that pathway ever since.

He will tell you he learned many skills along the way — namely, setting career goals, searching for jobs, preparing applications and getting ready for interviews.

All skills he’s now helping other students learn.

“I want to share my advice and experiences with other students. People at McMaster have done so much for me throughout my academic journey, and I want to give back to the community here.”

Learn more here about how Saeed is helping other students by taking on a mentorship role with DeGroote’s Student Experience, Career and Professional Development team.

March is Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning month in Canada. Stay tuned to the Daily News and McMaster’s Instagram page for more stories about experiential learning.  

Learn more about work integrated learning and how this can support learning beyond the classroom by visiting the Student Success Centre’s website.  

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