Celebrating internships and experiential education successes in LA&PS

Featured image for the YFile newsletter shows three women smiling at the camera
Featured image for the YFile newsletter shows three women smiling at the camera

The Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) held its fifth annual celebration of Experiential Education (EE) on April 24.

This year’s celebration focused on the successful launch of the first LA&PS internship program, as well as 13 programs with placements.

Guests listen to the Ananya Mukerjee-Reed, dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
Guests listen to the LA&PS Dean Ananya Mukherjee-Reed

“The intent of celebration is, first of all, to thank our partners, professors and students who make experiential education such a dynamic endeavour in our Faculty,” said Narda Razack, associate dean of global and community engagement, in her opening remarks at the event.

“Experiential education transforms a student in multiple ways. Creativity, self-awareness, respect for diversity and social responsibility are all important outcomes of the experiences students come away with,” said Razack.

Teresa Abbruzzese
Teresa Abbruzzese

The placements fulfil the broader goals of educators like Urban Studies Course Director Teresa Abbruzzese. She actively liaises with Jim Faught, director of community engagement for LURA Consulting, to match the right student to an available role. The company has hosted students from the Urban Studies program for several years. “It’s about tapping into the tremendous energy and support that are outside the walls of the University and channeling our students to make successful transitions from undergraduate studies to future career paths,” said Abbruzzese.

Faught agrees. “The experience is second to none,” he said. “I enjoy having the students. I continue to support this program completely and look forward to having many more years with this program.”

Above: From left, Professor Jennifer Bonnell, student Sumaiya Jiwan, and Janet Reid of the Markham Museum

Professor Jennifer Bonnell, who teaches public history, has actively connected with many community partners, forming multi-year, mutually beneficial relationships. “The success of this program rests with the great supervisors that I work with across the GTA, who ensure that students step away with really valuable skills and who support students through the entire process,” said Bonnell.

One of those internship supervisors is Janet Reid, curator of the Markham Museum. She has found students to be indispensable to her lean staff complement. “Students bring all kinds of skills, and we certainly couldn’t get everything we want to do done in a year without the help of these many students,” said Reid.

Sumaiya Jiwan, a student in Bonnell’s Public History course was on placement at the Markham Museum with Reid. “Through Janet’s direction, she was able to connect me with so many important working professionals,” said Jiwan. “She allowed me to network with different curators, people who work with conservation of buildings.”

Jim Faught
Jim Faught

Hiring interns and placing students has the added benefit of finding just how well an individual will fit in the unique environment of an enterprise, with a short initial commitment, which often has positive outcomes for all. “In four years, we’ve had seven placements, all very successful, and although not a specific goal of the program we’ve hired four of those students over the years as well,” said Reid.

Alex Kvaskov
Alex Kvaskov

Placements can lead to internships, summer job opportunities and future employment. New graduate Alex Kvaskov is currently completing a Social Media Internship at The Shepherd Group. He shared the story of his growth as a professional and emphasized the shift he has made from anxiety to transformation when thinking about his future.

With York Region being at the heart of the GTA, representatives from the cities of Brampton, Burlington, Vaughan and the Region of Peel were attracted to the faculty’s experiential education initiative, creating a balance between participating private and public sector employers and non-governmental organizations.

“Our students represent the new Canada. They are bright, resilient, and driven by insatiable intellectual curiosity,” said LA&PS Dean Ananya Mukherjee-Reed.

“Unfortunately, the somewhat negative media discourse on their future in the workplace often instills in them an anxiety that diminishes their educational experience,” she said. “Our goal is to help them experience situations where people appreciate the intrinsic knowledge they bring with them, their depth and breadth – and they meet employers who are ready to devote time to mentor them. It inspires our students to be bold, to propose innovations, and to achieve their full potential as creative, thinking, active citizens. I am very grateful to our faculty and our partners for helping this happen.”

Mukherjee-Reed noted that LA&PS hopes to substantially expand meaningful experiential opportunities for its students noting that many innovative ideas have come forward, including the University’s Academic Initiative Fund, which is funding a project on Entrepreneurial Internships. Within the project, Innovation York and the School of Administrative Studies (SAS) in LA&PS are partnering to develop an internship program that will provide students an opportunity to give shape to new ideas. It will be open to all students in the humanities, the social sciences and the professional programs.

Additional placements in LA&PS will be added in courses for fall 2017, continuing the expansion of experiential education in the faculty.