A summer well spent

Gaining summer work experience

- August 28, 2012

Amy Devereaux and Joe Rodrigues, who spend their summer on a co-op term with Ocean Nutrition. (Kevin Hartford photo)
Amy Devereaux and Joe Rodrigues, who spend their summer on a co-op term with Ocean Nutrition. (Kevin Hartford photo)

Each summer, the bulk of Dal’s students put down their books and face the task of finding full- or part-time work for the summer.

It’s rarely an easy task, which is why Dalhousie’s multitude of supports—the Career Services Centre and myCareer website, student co-op programs, and volunteer opportunities—help students make the connections to find their summer employment.

Amy Devereaux is a biology major who’s spending the summer mutating microalgae in the labs of the Dartmouth-based research and development company Ocean Nutrition. One of her goals during the summer months is to gain valuable work experience.

“You can go to the beach on the weekend,” she says. “I’m here because I want to be here.”

Ocean Nutrition, an Innovacorp affiliate recently purchased by Dutch firm DSM, specializes in producing Omega-3 for food. Ms. Devereaux is there as part of the Dal Science Co-op Program, as is chemistry major Joe Rodrigues, who’s spending his summer doing a pilot study on finding new ways to reduce moisture absorption in Omega-3 encapsulation.

“Doing a co-op helps tell you where you want to be,” says Mr. Rodrigues. “At first I was like, ‘Do I want to do research all my life or do I want to do something else?’ and being here has told me, ‘This is right.’”

Ms. Devereaux agrees. “That’s exactly why I came here. I was trying to figure out, ‘Do I do research? Do I do field work?”

When she first came to Dal, Ms. Devereaux was a microbiology major. Finding the subject “too specialized” for her tastes, she switched to biology, which she describes as “a really good program. There are a lot of branches you can go into.”

Considering she’s now doing microbiology for the summer, perhaps fate is trying to tell her something. “I know!” she says.

Mr. Rodrigues enjoys applying his education in a practical environment, even if he doesn’t always know where the knowledge comes from. “After a while, you realize there are some little things that you learn in school that you find in the lab, but you don’t necessarily remember where it came from. It just comes naturally and you’re like, ‘Oh, right, I studied this!’”

Getting involved

Not all science majors spend the summer months working in their field. Neuroscience major Chris Parent is working in Dal’s Career Services office, developing a conference on student leadership, offering career advice, and drafting materials for various campus events and programs.

“I didn’t even know Career Services existed a year ago,” he says, “and now I’m doing some pretty amazing work with them. I saw what they were doing and wanted to get involved.”

Mr. Parent began volunteering with Career Services in January, eventually being offered a job in April. “I think it’s a great service for students. We offer things like one-on-one advising, resume and cover letter critiquing. Students who take advantage of those services come back and thank us because they get jobs.”

Transferring to Dal from the University of New Brunswick, Parent originally lived in residence. “I came here all alone and I didn’t know anyone,” he says, a problem that was quickly remedied through volunteering. “Dal offers so much in terms of experiences not only on campus but out in Halifax as well,” he says.

These experiences included ongoing stints volunteering at the pediatric and emergency units of IWK hospital, taking photos for the Gazette, and co-chairing the inaugural East Coast Student Leadership Conference in November.

“I’m pretty swamped,” he says. He’s planning on attending med school once he graduates and is currently studying for his MCAT exams. He says having a lot on the go, for him, is a good thing.

“I thrive on constantly being busy. When I wasn’t involved at UNB, when I focused purely on academics, I did much worse. When I came to Dal and started getting involved, my marks went up.”

Developing skills for the future

Across campus in the Henry Hicks Building, Madeline Driscoll is busy doing research for the Human Rights, Equity, & Harassment Prevention office. “Having a job on campus is a great thing,” she says. “The Equity office does important work and the schedule is flexible, which is ideal for a student.”

Ms. Driscoll, a double major in the Master of Public Administration and Master of Library and Information studies programs, balances her work at Dal with a job as a librarian in the Anchor Archive Zine Library at the Roberts Street Social Centre.

“I’d like to do records management as a career,” she says, “and that’s what my job at Dal is about. I’m working with records management and government policy. The job is perfect for my future professional goals and the office is very supportive of helping me develop my skills for the future.”

Ms. Driscoll describes the Hicks building as “beautiful” and says that “walking through the quad to the building every day is like being in a movie.” Seeing the school from the perspective of an employee rather than a student “is very different. As a student, it’s easy to forget that the university is like a tiny city with layers of infrastructure and the hundreds of people necessary to make it work.”

And does she still find time for the beach? “I actually just took the Robert Street Social Centre’s artist-in-residence (Amber Dearest) to the beach – as part of work.”


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