How I spent my summer

September 18, 2013

For some students, summer is the time to relax, travel or catch up on reading. But then again, it also provides students an opportunity to get a jumpstart on building their resumes.

After working in Career Services for several months, Taylor Witiw applied and was hired for the academic research assistant role in MacEwan University’s Research Services. The Bachelor of Arts student works with faculty members of all disciplines at the university.

“I do research for every discipline,” he says, adding with a laugh, “I’m every professor’s grunt.”

At the beginning of the Spring term, Research Services hires a student for the summer and puts a call out to faculty to submit their work requests. Depending on the research assistance needed, Taylor spends 30 hours a week helping faculty members with their research.

“It’s the diversity of the role that makes it so interesting,” he says. “Usually when you’re getting to this part of your degree, you have to specialize, and I like that kind of renaissance-man feel where you do a little bit of everything. What was fun about this was that I could have a little piece of each faculty’s cake.”

He says the role has given him the chance to meet with various faculty members, and that it’s these kinds of on-campus positions that make networking more natural for him. “If you’re a person who is not a natural networker, putting yourself in places where you don’t have any option but to network is a good idea.”

The position also allowed him to connect with the university and discover the important work Research Services does for students. He learned about the Undergraduate Student Research Initiative and all the research work that MacEwan University students are doing and getting grants for—while they’re still in school.

“For a summer job, having this kind of interdisciplinary experience was really exciting,” Taylor says. “This position has opened a door for me that may not have likely been opened if I hadn’t have said, ‘let’s do this.’”

Madison Mitchell, in her fourth year of the Bachelor of Communication Studies program, began looking for her summer job in late February, because, she says, the best summer jobs are posted early. She discovered the research officer role for Initiatives Prince George—which she would later be hired for—in early March.

Initiatives Prince George is the municipally owned economic development corporation for the City of Prince George. Its marketing programs target investment and promote trade development for Prince George businesses.

In her role, Madison was responsible for a number of different projects, including a “hefty” community profile document that called on her knowledge of and ability to evaluate statistics; a research paper advocating for the introduction of engineering programs at Prince George’s post-secondary institutions; and a study on downtown vacancy for the municipal government and the Downtown Business Improvement Association.

“The job appealed to me because of its slant toward research, the opportunity to meet and network with like-minded professionals in Prince George, and because the outlined projects were based heavily on writing,” says Madison.

Madison’s education in communications complemented her previous coursework in research and statistics. And of course, her understanding of grammar gave her another advantage. “The job relies on your ability to assess information, choose the messages to be conveyed, decide how to best frame the information you’re to relay—all to make the best impact on the target audience.”

Both Taylor and Madison returned to their studies in early September with new skills and experiences, but the jobs they held over the summer have given them some food for thought about their post-graduation plans.

Taylor is considering graduate school, but says, “I may take a year off to hunker down and pick one area I want to go into.”

After she graduates, Madison plans to return to Prince George. “The job was an unparalleled opportunity to network with professionals in my community.”

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