By Raina DeBrouwer, Co-op Coordinator, Co-operative Education
Mount Saint Vincent University’s co-op employer partners have been fostering environments for students to develop professionally and personally since 1979. As a way to recognize these critical contributions, the Mount Co-op Employer of the Year Award was established in 2009. Ten years later, the awards were expanded to include two distinct categories: New Mount Co-op Employer of the Year and Longstanding Mount Co-op Employer of the Year.
Each year, students are invited to nominate employers on the selection criteria of work environment, leadership and mentorship, the supervisor’s demonstrated support of student learning, and the employer’s commitment to co-op. While all 19 employer nominees met this criteria, the following employers have been selected as the 2021 Mount Co-op Employers of the Year.
New Public Relations Co-op Employer of the Year
Kathleen Yurchesyn and Melissa Vickers
Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce, Sydney, NS
Nominated by: Michaela Epifano, Bachelor of Public Relations Co-op Student
Micheala Epifano’s two supervisors, Kathleen Yurchesyn and Melissa Vickers, went above and beyond to make Michaela’s co-op experience a standout one. They quickly identified Micheala’s interests and created opportunities for her to further explore them. Knowing that Micheala has an interest in owning her own business one day, Kathleen and Melissa offered feedback on her business plan, introduced her to their professional contacts, and briefed her on all the support the Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce has to offer. Micheala had this to say:
“Working under Kathleen and Melissa’s supervision has given me the confidence and strength to know that I am on the right path to making big change on our small island. From sitting down with me to teach me about the business community and how to cultivate growth, to teaching me life skills and telling me that I have the power to crumble every wall in my way – my personal and professional growth have skyrocketed beyond what I ever imagined for myself. The opportunities they have given me, like hosting the 2021 Excellence in Business Awards, have made me more employable because I got up in front of business leaders and made an impression.
Kathleen, who is a MSVU BPR graduate, shared stories of her trials and triumphs over the years working as a public relations professional. Her stories have taught me resilience, acceptance, and leadership. Melissa had an unconventional route leading to her current job, and she shared how she paved a path to make a name for herself in this industry. I admire and appreciate these two intelligent and strong women. Not only are they blazing trails as leaders at the Chamber, but they are two inspiring women in business in Cape Breton.”
Michaela was the first MSVU co-op student for the Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce. If this leadership is any indication of what’s to come for future students at the Chamber, we know they will be in good hands. Congratulations to the Cape Breton Regional Chamber of Commerce! We are very proud to recognize them as the 2021 New Public Relations Co-op Employer of the Year.
Longstanding Public Relations Co-op Employer of the Year
Parks Canada, Louisbourg, NS
Nominated by: Alyson Oliver, Bachelor of Public Relations Co-op Student
Parks Canada has been recognized as an incredibly engaged MSVU co-op employer for nearly a decade. Coady Slaunwhite, Acting Partnering and Engagement Officer in the Louisbourg division of Parks Canada, has demonstrated mentorship and approachability to co-op students for much of that time. Alyson loved her initial co-op term at Parks Canada so much that she decided to return for her third term. Said Alyson:
“Coady is an exceptional leader—someone who views their subordinates as their equal and who has the ability to recognize each individual’s strengths. Despite me being nervous in the beginning of my time with Parks Canada, Coady’s confidence and support in my abilities from the very first day never wavered. Coady took note of my interests and the experiences I wanted to gain from my co-op work term. He gave me projects that were in my wheelhouse as well as projects that pushed me to grow as a public relations professional.
From interviewing the President and CEO of Parks Canada, to trying my hand at leading an in-house media training session, Coady went above and beyond in providing me with an outstanding co-op experience. There was never a moment that I felt isolated from the external relations team as Coady always ensured I was in the loop and understood any higher-level organizational shifts that students may otherwise miss the memo on.”
Coady’s proven enthusiasm for the MSVU Co-op program and demonstrated commitment to all students he mentors have solidified his position as the 2021 Longstanding Public Relations Co-op Employer of the Year.
New Business Administration Co-op Employer of the Year
Sisters of Charity – Halifax, Halifax, NS
Nominated by: Bradley Watson, Bachelor of Business Administration Co-op Student
While the Sisters of Charity – Halifax hired co-op students in accounting roles years ago, this brand new communications role was introduced after a years-long hiatus. In this role, supervisor Angela Rafuse ensured that co-op student Bradley Watson got everything he could out of the work term. Bradley had this to say:
“Working for Angela isn’t just a typical work experience, each day it is a comprehensive learning experience. A transfer of skills, ideas, experience, information, and a glimpse into the decision-making process of a senior leader. Angela was extremely approachable. Early on, I needed her assistance due to my lack of experience with a specific software. Angela was happy to help. She is a natural leader who always leads by example.
Angela’s can-do attitude is infectious and motivated me to do better, to achieve. This made me feel confident to tackle complex problems with ease. Also, the training, mentorship, and leadership were likely well beyond what a typical co-op student may receive elsewhere. Angela’s entire staff possesses the same positive attitude.”
Angela’s contributions to student success, paired with this innovative new position from the Sisters of Charity – Halifax, has earned the organization the title of New Business Administration Co-op Employer of the Year.
Congratulations to these three incredible employers! Thank you for your continued dedication to MSVU’s co-operative education program. We are so grateful to all of our fantastic employer partners who make enriching work-integrated learning opportunities a reality for our students.