October 2021
Written by: Lisa MacNeil, Co-op Coordinator, Co-operative Education

(L-R) Lauryn Landry and Katie Feltmate
(L-R) Lauryn Landry and Katie Feltmate

BPR Grad, Katie Feltmate is passionate about mentoring co-op students and providing them with meaningful learning experiences. As the Communications Manager with Construction Safety Nova Scotia, Katie is responsible for leading all marketing and communication initiatives, managing social media platforms, and working closely with the leadership team in strategic and operational planning. Being a part of a small team with a growing portfolio, Katie was keen to start hiring public relations students. “My co-op experiences helped me to grow as a person and I learned how I like to be managed and what worked best. I think that’s why it feels so rewarding to be supervising students. I was in their shoes once and it’s been so nice to give back and feel more connected to the Mount community.”

Katie credits her co-op experience as being instrumental in her personal growth and in helping her become an effective supervisor. “Going through the co-op program not so long ago gave me perspective and the ability to put myself in the shoes of a co-op student. I walked around in those shoes for three work terms and went through the entire process from start to finish. This allowed me to reflect and to think about what things were helpful and what I could do to make it the best experience for students.”

One of the biggest things Katie took away from her own experience was the importance of treating co-op students like they are part of the team and reminding them that their work is valued. “I think it’s important for co-op employers to be open-minded and to involve their students in as many conferences, workshops and team-building exercises as possible. Even though students are only there for a short time, they can learn so much from being involved in a meeting, observing and asking questions. It also provides employers with a fresh perspective and can result in new ideas.”

In September, Katie’s team met for a two-day strategic planning meeting off-site. She invited her current co-op student, Lauryn to participate and thought it would be a great way for her to meet members of the team, while also learning about aspects of the business. Lauryn commented that the meeting was a great way to get to know others on the team, especially in the first few weeks of her work term. “I went along to the meeting and any feedback I had to give was welcomed. It was basically a fast-track into getting to know the company and the different programs offered. It was also interesting to sit back and watch the team build plans together. I was seeing what I was learning in school come to life in a practical application.”

It is also evident that Katie values a collaborative approach in helping students identify projects that meet their interests and skills. “I think it’s important to give students projects that they can feel autonomy over. This is why it is important to establish a safe and trusting environment where students feel comfortable taking risks and knowing that they have support.” Katie recommends asking students directly what they are interested in learning about or areas that they would like to develop further. “I think it’s a good practice to ask co-op students ‘What would make this a great experience for you?’ and ‘What do you want to be involved in and how can we make this happen?’. When students feel like it is a collaborative effort, their passions and interests tend to come through and they feel more engaged and empowered in the work.”

These types of collaborative questions were very much appreciated by Lauryn, especially being a senior student completing her third work term. “It was nice to be able to express areas of interest and to have projects that gave me the chance to build new skills. It has also helped that Katie went through the co-op process and is open to checking in with me.”

Currently, Lauryn is leading a project on mental health where she is promoting psychological safety through the creation of posters, written content and a video. She is also leading a youth partnership with Techsploration, an organization that supports young women in the trades industry. In addition to these tasks, Lauryn also expressed interest in getting involved with the diversity committee where she has been participating in regular meetings, organizing events and brainstorming ideas. “I come into work every day and there is diversity in the tasks that I have each day. I feel like I’m getting to dip my toes in a lot of different projects and things on the go. I’ve also really enjoyed the independence. I feel like a full-time employee here and that my contributions are valued.”

For Katie, the benefits of having a co-op student on the team have been mutually beneficial. “We are learning from one another. She has shown me different software programs and has great design skills. PR students are keen and are up for a challenge.”

When asked what advice she would give to co-op students, Katie is all about encouraging students to take risks and step outside of their comfort zone. “Don’t be afraid to communicate to your supervisor the types of projects you want to be involved in as well as your interests. In addition to this, don’t underestimate the value of your co-op work terms. Having the work experience under your belt will give you a huge advantage when you graduate. Make the most of each experience and don’t be afraid to share your ideas and be an active participant in your learning.”

Katie recalls the nerves that she experienced when entering new work environments, but the importance of having trust in herself and in her capabilities. She credits a work term she did in Ottawa as being instrumental in her personal and professional growth. “Relocating to a different province for a work term gave me the confidence to eventually end up backpacking around the world.”

Katie continues to take leaps in life as she most recently published a memoir of poems titled ‘Love in the Age of Quarantine’. The memoir is real and raw, exploring topics like love, heartbreak, trauma, mental health, healing and womanhood. Her experience writing the memoir has been a way for her to process difficult emotions, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.

Katie is an inspiring Mount alumna who is committed to supporting students in their co-op journey. “It feels really good to be able to give back to the program that gave so much to me. I’m happy to be reconnected with the Mount community again and feel fortunate to be working alongside Lauryn this term.”