Where experience meets impact: Introducing Dalhousie’s 2023 Top Co‑op Students of the Year

Record 76 students nominated

- March 28, 2024

Dal's 2023 winners. (Tim Richard photos)
Dal's 2023 winners. (Tim Richard photos)

When it comes to work-integrated learning, Dalhousie students are not afraid to give it their all. They are ambitious, hardworking, and their work benefits organizations across Canada and beyond.

In 2023, a record-breaking 76 students were nominated for Top Co-op Student of the Year. This is the highest number of nominations received in a single year since the awards began in 2016, further proving that Dalhousie students are making an impact on their employers every day.

Each year, Dalhousie’s co-op offices — Management Career Services, and Work-Integrated Learning & Co-operative Education — celebrate these work experiences, along with the employer partners who make them happen, at the Dalhousie Top Co-op Awards. Coinciding with the National Day of Work Integrated Learning, this year’s celebration took place Wednesday (March 27) at the Atlantica Hotel in Halifax.

Learn more below about the six exceptional students chosen as the 2023 Top Co-op Students of the Year.

Danté Coulter, Bachelor of Engineering

“I knew I wanted to work within the biomedical space. I just wasn’t sure if I wanted the security and organizational style of a large company or to work in a start-up where it’s riskier, but I get to have bigger responsibilities,” says fourth-year Electrical Engineering student Danté Coulter, "Each of my work terms gave me an experience to base my final decision on, starting with my first work term at A.H. Roy & Associates LTD as a Student Engineer. In a team just shy of 15 employees, I was drawn to the large impact that junior roles can play at start-ups.”

Danté had the opportunity to complete his second work term at Michelin North America Ltd. and was grateful to work alongside a large group of engineers who helped him navigate the expectations of bigger companies. Although he had a great experience with the organization, he was still intrigued to explore the opportunities that start-ups could offer.

During his final work term, he acted as an Electrical Engineering Specialist for Dalhousie Emera ideaHUB, where he worked with various start-ups of one-to-six employees, gaining exposure to the mindsets and challenges of different founders. While there, Danté had the opportunity to attend the Atlantic Venture Forum, an assembly of some of the boldest and most innovative emerging and established tech companies in Atlantic Canada. He declares this conference was “one of the most impactful moments in my co-op career.”

Following the conference, Danté posted on LinkedIn. “As a student attendee on the cusp of my university journey, the conference provoked thoughts of the endless possibilities that lie ahead. In these moments, I am filled with both trepidation and excitement surrounding the next steps in my journey.”

After three successful co-ops in a variety of work environments, Danté is now working full-time as a junior product development engineer (EIT) at ClearDynamic, a biotechnology research start-up in Halifax.

Dina Elsebai, Bachelor of Computer Science

From a young age, Dina Elsebai was fascinated by the power of technology and how it shapes our everyday lives. “My decision to study computer science was driven by the realization of how profound an impact this field could have on society. I saw the field not only as an academic discipline, but as a pivotal tool for solving complex global challenges, improving people's lives, and driving innovation across diverse sectors,” she says.

Computer science’s potential for positive transformation, coupled with the intellectual challenges it presents, has fueled Dina’s ongoing passion for the discipline for the last four years as she finishes up her studies. Dina asserts that participating in Dalhousie University's co-op program was a “pivotal experience” in shaping her career trajectory toward software development.

As part of her first work term, Dina was the recipient of CAE’s Canadian Industrial Leadership Award, which aims to increase employment, development and advancement opportunities for Canadian women in the defence and security sectors. The award included a $6,000 bursary and an executive mentorship and co-op work term at CAE. Dina completed all three of her co-ops with CAE, deeply immersing herself in the field of software development. This consistent exposure not only reinforced Dina’s passion for software development but also enabled her to apply theoretical knowledge from her computer science degree to practical, real-world projects.

Amongst these real-world projects were notable contributions to CAE’s Maritime Helicopter Program, for which CAE provides an Integrated Information Environment supporting the operations and maintenance of Department of National Defense’s fleet of Cyclone aircraft.

Dina pioneered the development of a new software product that streamlines software updates and script execution for the Department of National Defense personnel, and she crafted a comprehensive monitoring site that ensures the health and performance checks of various hardware and software components provided by CAE during deployment.

The experience enhanced her technical skills, professional network, and understanding of workplace dynamics, providing a solid foundation for her desired career path in software development.

“Beyond the technical skills, the co-op program has been pivotal in honing my soft skills. Working in diverse teams, managing project deadlines, and navigating professional environments have all contributed to my personal growth,” Dina says. “These experiences have not only built my confidence but also shaped me into a well-rounded professional, ready to embark on my career with a strong foundation.”

Kiah Heneke-Flindall, Bachelor of Science

Kiah Heneke-Flindall’s passion for engaging the local community and advocating for climate change action was fueled by her first co-op experience. The fourth-year environmental science student spent her first work term as an environmental auditor at Folklore Reforestation in British Columbia, where she recorded the quality of trees, compiled data samples into reports, and reforested an entire mountainside that had been wiped out by a forest fire. 

Kiah was flown in by helicopter and described the landscape as “a skeleton forest, with black trees and no canopy,” expressing concern that devastating events will continue to happen as the climate crisis worsens. “There is a significant gap between public knowledge and scientific knowledge on climate change, and my first-hand exposure as a scientist responding to a climate-related event made me realize how severe it was,” she says. 

For her second co-op, she advanced into a supervisory environmental auditor role at Ravenwood Silviculture. As a supervisor, she needed to understand every detail of the data collected so she could report back to her clients, who consisted of private landowners, the government, and large private companies. Kiah learned that to understand all this data, she needed to maintain effective communication within her team and be diligent in creating reports. 

During her third work term, Kiah used her education and in-field experience to create change in the local community with Hope Blooms. Hope Blooms educates and empowers youth in the community of North End Halifax to create environments for long-term impact in food security, education, social inclusion, and disrupting the cycle of poverty.

Among working on their many projects, Kiah piloted Hope Bloom’s climate action youth program, Green Labs. “Taking the lead on the design of a Green Labs program rapidly progressed my confidence, leadership, project management and science communication skills. I was challenged to adapt my academic knowledge to engage diverse audiences in sustainable practices, resulting in a newfound ability to connect with others, impart knowledge effectively and have fun doing so,” she says. Kiah found the work so fulfilling that she remains in the role of Green Labs program coordinator since completing her work term and resuming her studies last year.

Recommended reading: Leadership academy offers Dal students an opportunity to sharpen skills

Stavros Kondeas, Master of Architecture

With credits from an undergrad in Engineering at McGill University and a passion for design, Stavros Kondeas entered Dalhousie’s Bachelor of Environmental Design (BEDS) program to pursue his passion for design and wasted no time completely immersing himself in all the program had to offer.

For his BEDS co-op, Stavros made and tested flexible formwork to produce non-rigid pieces of concrete alongside Professor James Forren in the Material, Body, and Environment lab. “You think of concrete as rigid blocks cast as straight walls and floors and columns, but we were interested in tapping into the fact that before concrete cures, it’s liquid,” says Stavros. Ultimately, the two ended up producing the installation ‘Urban Curtain’, which was displayed outside of the Emera ideaHUB building for its opening in 2018. 

Stavros completed his BEDS degree and then entered the Master of Architecture program, where he studied under Susan Fitzgerald, a professor at Dalhousie and Design Director at both Susan Fitzgerald Architecture and FBM Architecture. Stavros paused the program’s traditional two-year academic sequence during COVID-19 to work at FMB with Susan from 2020 to 2023. His final eight months with FMB were his co-op work term.

As an architectural designer, he worked on an elementary school in Wedgeport, Nova Scotia, and private homes in Halifax. “Being an architect is like being the director of a symphony: consults with clients, weekly meetings with sub-consultants like engineers and landscape architects, drawings of sites, and supervising construction progress are all pieces that an architect must coordinate,” he says.

Stavros was inspired by Susan’s bridging of research and professional practice, and their working relationship persists to this day. Thanks to a grant in 2022 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Stavros continues to conduct research under Susan for her project ‘The Hidden Social Dimension of Infrastructure,’ which aims to uncover the qualities of infrastructural spaces that enable societal, cultural, and environmental exchange. 

While fast-paced and demanding, Stavros thrives in this discipline and is interested in moving back to Montreal to pursue a professional career in architecture. He is also passionate about sharing his knowledge with others, having been a teaching assistant and mentor to new students. One day, he hopes to complete a PhD and work in a university setting as a professor.

Greg Shannon, Bachelor of Commerce Co-op

Teamwork has always been important to third-year Commerce co-op student Greg Shannon, a value that has persisted throughout his work terms. In winter 2023, Greg worked at Grant Thornton for his first work term, and was asked to come back in the fall, but this time in a new role. In fall 2023, he completed his second work term at Grant Thornton with their Business Support Team. On this team, he had a variety of tasks assigned to him across multiple departments. “The best thing about Grant Thornton was the people. I wanted to contribute the most value that I could to make them proud. I did not want to leave feeling like I left anything behind.” Throughout his work term, he employed many strategies to help him excel. “I read the book The Power of Habit; that book taught me routine building and simple things you don’t always think about, but when I applied these things to my life outside of the office, it translated to the workplace.”  

Greg shares how teamwork has been a present theme throughout his life, and it was his goal to apply this value to his work term experiences. “I was on many different basketball teams growing up, and the biggest thing I learned through playing is teamwork.” With a teamwork mindset, Greg offered to take on additional tasks around the office to help his colleagues during busy times. “If I was able to contribute to the team, then I would get it done.” He also knew the importance of working as a team and the environment that is built when collaborating with people you respect. “One of the biggest things I learned there is the importance of working with great people.” 

Greg was challenged to train across multiple departments of the company, but despite these challenges, he was always ready to learn more. “The reason I got to participate in all the aspects around the office was because I was so eager to learn. With all the different experiences that Grant Thornton allowed me to do, it let me see the big picture. This really helped me learn and grow, and I can now use the information I learned in the next chapter of my life.”

In addition to his co-ops, Greg is also a member of the Dalhousie Commerce Society, which he says has helped him become the student he is today. This past fall, he began his current role of corporate relations rep.

Greg is proud of where he has worked and contributes that to his growth. “I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to have my co-ops at Grant Thornton. Other than the life lessons I learned, the most important thing was all the people I met and the great memories I made.”

J.A Veloso, Master of Planning

In Grade 12, J.A Veloso and his friends were in geography class when they took notice of a planning information poster. Reading about how planning is a growing profession that helps improve communities sparked his interest in the field and shaped his education. 

J.A grew up in Scarborough, Ont., and pursued Urban Studies at York University for his undergraduate degree. He attended classes on the Keele campus in Toronto; around 30km from his home. While at school he learned how much North America is car-oriented, as he was experiencing it first-hand every day on his commute. Without a car, J.A’s commute ranged between an hour and a half to two hours each way on public transportation. 

Beyond the inconvenience of a significantly longer commute by transit, the system was also unreliable with delays, cancellations, and inconsistent timing. This experience was one of many to fuel his passion to improve communities and go on to become a successful student in Dalhousie’s Master of Planning program.

For his co-op, J.A expanded his excellence beyond the classroom working as a research training advisor for the City of Toronto’s Employment Service. J.A humbly acknowledges “in a team of 20 co-op students, I visited the most neighbourhoods, surveyed the most businesses, made the most calls, and never missed a day of work.” This daily communication with diverse individuals refined how he presented himself and approached businesses to obtain the best results. The data he and his team recorded on GIS software will be synthesized by the policy planning department into a yearly report. 

“The advice I have for future-co-op students is to start your job search early and to completely immerse yourself in whatever work you are handed. Prove to your supervisors why they were right to hire you.” 


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