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Students from two very different programs end up at the same office for co-op

Jikai Long, a second-year computer science student at U of T Scarborough, is doing his co-op placement at the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO). (Photo by Matt Ross)

They took separate paths but somehow two University of Toronto Scarborough students found themselves ending up at the same place. 

“I looked for a co-op term that would help enhance my political science background where I can make an impact in the community,” says Aatika Moollabhai, a third-year political science student Moollabhai.

When Moollabhai and Jikai Long searched for their co-op terms they had very different learning goals in mind.

Long, a second-year computer science student, was interested in developing his data analysis skills. “I love challenging myself and using my ideas to find solutions for hard problems,” he says.

They applied to various organizations including the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), a place that needed both their distinct expertise. HEQCO investigates issues around access, quality and accountability within the postsecondary sector of Ontario, studying ways to improve the provincial education system.

Although the two students work at the same office they have completely different jobs. Moollabhai works as a research intern while Long puts his computer science knowledge to work.

According to UTSC’s Arts and Science Co-op office this isn’t something new, as workplaces need talented people from a broad range of backgrounds to succeed.

The office found “in 2016, just under 40 per cent of co-op employers hired UTSC students from multiple different programs – for example, some of the program breadth ranged from Computer Science to French, from Cell & Molecular Biology to History, or Environmental Science to Public Policy.”

“This co-op term is helping me with my soft skills too, things I didn’t learn inside the classroom,” says Long.

There are many things that can’t be learned from a simple lecture, so before students start their co-op term they receive more than 55 hours of hands on training from in-class teaching and networking events such as careerSpark and the Junior/Senior. With careerSpark coming up on March 22, it’s a great opportunity for students to get prepared for interviews and gain insights into organizations through senior co-op students and partner employers sharing their stories. 

As the first person from her family going to University, Moollabhai understands that through her internship she can widen the door to post-secondary education for students like herself.

“I am the type of student HEQCO looks to help. I want to make a lasting impact to help them improve systems, bring more vulnerable students and make it easier for students,” she says.

When deciding where to pursue post-secondary education Long and Moollabhai credit the co-op features of their programs as their reason for choosing UTSC.

After such a positive co-op experience Long is looking forward to further enriching his current skills. “I enjoy co-op and for my next one I want to learn more and hopefully work as a developer,” says Long.

Despite being closer to graduation Moollabhai isn’t done with academia yet, as her co-op term ignited her passion for social justice issues. “In the beginning I thought after four years I would be done with school, but now I want to pursue a Masters or even a Ph.D,” says Moollabhai, “I will never be done learning.”


© University of Toronto Scarborough