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MESA Gala celebrates student and employer excellence in Management Co-op

CELEBRATION OF EXCELLENCE: Students in the Management Co-op program gathered to celebrate with employers, faculty and staff at the MESA Gala held on March 26. From left to right are: Sandra Nazeer, Julia Arr, Jessica Vieira, Sandra Scepanovic, Jessica Renzella, and Cherry Cheung.

by Prashanth Mohan

Rewarding success in both school and the workplace is no easy task. The two environments are extraordinarily different in expectations, attitudes and intricacies of the daily routine. However, both academic and workplace excellence were celebrated recently by the University of Toronto Scarborough when the Management and Economics Students’ Association (MESA) held its annual MESA Gala on March 26 to honour the Management Co-op program.

This year, the Gala was back – and participants said it was bigger and better than ever. Serving as the departmental student association for Management, MESA aims to hold events that are informative and intuitive in nature, such as the popular CA and Marketing Facts Night. However, the Gala is regarded as the culmination of a successful year and highlights include the distribution of awards, stellar group performances, and speeches by notable figures within MESA and Management Co-op. Two employer awards and seven student awards were presented by co-op program officials, and five additional awards were presented by the MESA association to student recipients.

Held at the Crystal Fountain banquet hall in Markham, the Gala was an elegant gathering that boasted attendance of 260 people, including employers, students, professors and alumni. The evening theme was “The Pursuit”, which highlighted a comical mystery that unfolded as the night progressed. Student emcees Omi Ahsan and Hilori Kaloti stated that the audience was invited to play a major role in helping solve the mystery, and participants said they enjoyed the interactive event. A short video was shown detailing the issue and more video clues were given throughout the course of the show, leading to the solution of the mystery and raising the enjoyment level for the audience.

The main purpose of the Gala was to celebrate and recognize students, employers, and professors associated with Management Co-op and MESA. Much of the evening was spent honouring key employers and co-op students, with various awards presented.

One such honour was the Dr. Jon Dellandrea Award, named after the creator of the Co-op programs in Management at the University of Toronto Scarborough. This award recognizes an employer who has actively fostered the growth of Management Co-op throughout its organization, providing skill-developing opportunities and nurturing the co-operative education partnership between students and employers. This year, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) was named the recipient. Chosen by the Management Co-op office, OTPP was cited as a longstanding employer of Management Co-op students that exemplifies excellence in recruitment, training and challenging work opportunities. Over the five years of close collaboration between the co-op programs and OTPP, a culture has flourished that promotes and invites return work offers and often leads to full-time employment for students, according to the nominators. Co-op officials praised the OTTP and described it as impressive for its overall interaction with co-op students, its attendance and participation in different MESA and non-MESA events, and its ongoing dedication to and innovation in co-op programming.

Through a nomination process, Management Co-op students got the chance to select the employer who received the 2008 Student Choice Award. This prize went to TELUS and Ian Cruickshank, Manager of the At Home Agent Program for TELUS. According to U of T Scarborough co-op student Daisy Magboo, who completed an eight-month work term on Cruikshank’s TELUS team, she had the opportunity to learn a great deal during that experience. Through a series of one-on-one meetings with various human resource professionals at Telus, Magboo also learned more about career opportunities in her area of interest. Magboo added that the TELUS Leadership Development Program, along with her manager, Ian Cruickshank, pushed her to be constantly learning during her time at Telus. The work term required her to break out of her “comfort bubble” and strive to become a better leader.

“Students are our Number One concern,” according to officials in the co-op program. Therefore, recognizing students for excellence in the workplace is a key decision – one that requires much deliberation. This year, six Work Term Recognition Awards were given out to the following students:

  • Lina Liang, who did a work term at Rogers Cable;

  • Taha Lodhi, who was at Schlumberger;

  • Sarah Loucks, who was at GE Digital Energy;

  • Daisy Magboo, who was at TELUS;

  • Melissa Tam, who was at Bell Canada;

  • Nisha Vijh, who went to Yahoo! Canada.

The above awards honour high achievement in the workplace and a strong level of professionalism. Recipients are also recognized for projecting a strong and positive image of the Management Co-op program at UTSC. Having input from both co-op staff and the employer itself, the award is truly an accurate representation of visible, overall excellence in the workplace.

The final award presented by the program staff was the Co-op Student of the Year, which is given to a current student who consistently demonstrates a commitment to the betterment of the co-op experience for themselves and fellow students through creativity, demonstration of initiative, and the implementation of program enhancements. Fourth-year student Derrick Fung, president of MESA, won this award. Fung was cited for his high level of involvement over four years at U of T Scarborough and his ongoing passion for and dedication to the enhancement of management student life. Malcolm Billing, Acting Director of Management Co-op Programs, said that “Derrick has always been thinking about ways to improve the co-op student experience,” said Billing. “In addition to his significant role as president of MESA, he launched the ‘Crack the Case’ seminar and the ‘Breaking into Bay Street’ series, ran the Finance 101 event, and consistently played a leadership role in the co-op program.”

The second portion of the awards presentation involved the announcement of the MESA Student Awards chosen by the student organization. The association gave out four awards to MESA supporters. Student Irene Phan was named the MVP Associate of the Year, and was said to display great initiative and intuition in organizing mentorship events, fostering the development of younger students. Student Wendy Lo, Marketing Manager for the LIVE national business conference, was named the recipient of the LIVE Conference Award. Although many of the conference organizers demonstrated excellence, Lo stood out for her complete involvement and persistence through the preparation, planning and execution of the conference, according to conference co-chairs Sherry Feng and Akhil Gupta. Student Loretta Ko was named MESA Associate of the Year for demonstrating keen appreciation of all MESA events and participating in initiatives outside of her own respective duty as Human Resources Associate. This year, the MESA Executive of the Year went to student Amanda Chin-Loy, who served as Marketing Manager, described as a “bubble of energy and enthusiasm”, exemplifying MESA principles of professionalism and dedication to fellow students.

Two musical events took place after the awards – a performance by Derrick Fung’s band and the dance group Fo’Reel. The evening culminated in the Presidential Address, delivered by MESA president Derrick Fung. Organizers and students described this year’s gala as the best ever, and attendees expressed appreciation for the students, employers, professors, program officials and everyone who supports the co-op program.

Prashanth Mohan is a first-year student in management co-op at U of T Scarborough.

© University of Toronto Scarborough