Co-op AND Grad School? Meet MA Student Natalee Blagden


I admit I may have cornered Natalee  about an interview–but I was truly interested in hearing about her experiences in an English graduate program with a co-op option. My thanks to her for being so gracious about the process. –JLH

JLH: You were out in the world—what made you decide to come back to school for an MA program?
NEB: I have always wanted to pursue graduate studies, but I wasn’t in love with any particular research topic at the end of undergrad. After three years of work in journalism, I had plenty of ideas and I was keen to research more deeply than the media production cycles would allow.  I was also curious to see what other career paths might be possible in Canada.

JLH: What made Waterloo the obvious choice?
NEB: Waterloo offered an unbeatable combo: study topics that matter to me and gain employer references to reinforce the value of the degree outside the academic world. I was repatriating from Shanghai and I had high hopes that co-op would help me transition into the Canadian workforce, perhaps in a new industry. The MRP (major research project) option was also a strong selling point, as Waterloo is one of few universities supporting independent research projects at the MA level in English.

JLH: What has been your experience of co-op so far?
NEB: Co-op was a real eye-opener. Both the job experience and the connections forged within the student body have helped immensely. Several of the co-op students in my cohort had already worked in more than one industry, either through undergraduate co-op programs or in regular full-time permanent jobs. I probably learned as much from my colleagues as I did from employers, regarding hiring processes, corporate versus non-corporate jobs, and how to build and market my skills effectively. I knew that completing a Master of Arts would not open a direct route to a specific type of job, so I joined co-op for the opportunity to develop a broader range of skills, expand my writing portfolio, earn extra income, and to see behind the curtain, you might say. I am profoundly grateful to have met so many determined, inspiring, and helpful contacts in such a short period of time. Every time a friend tells me about an interview – for co-op or after – I’m learning more about the employer and the job than I would ever know from skimming job ads and reading labour market reports online. The connections available here are priceless, if you’re willing to go after them.

JLH: Given the semester on/semester off model of co-op, do you still feel like you are part of a graduate cohort here?
NEB: I do! I was able to find co-op jobs in Waterloo, so I had little difficulty staying in touch with my academic colleagues. Also, SAGE [Student Association for Graduates in English] events seem to double every time I turn around! That really helps make it easy to find a time and a place to mingle with lots of people, to feel embraced by the community.

JLH: Where are you hoping you might be in a year or so?
NEB: I’m excited to say that I have a few job leads right now; I’m not sure which one will be the golden ticket. A blend of writing, editing, training/presenting, and administrative tasks will probably occupy my days as a communications professional in a somewhat technical field, or as a technical documentation specialist with some marketing or training duties. My MRP is a rhetorical analysis of online resources for cancer patients, so I’m hoping that in my workplace or in my free time I will be able to support health and wellness programs too. I will probably have a dog. That is the most detail I can divulge at present! Thank you.



3 responses to “Co-op AND Grad School? Meet MA Student Natalee Blagden

  1. Natalee is one of those incredibly energetic and talented people that seem (thankfully!) driven in droves towards the grad English program. In addition to the more corporate experiences she gets on her work terms, she has put in a few semesters as a TA in online courses, where she clearly demonstrated that she doesn’t check her considerable writing smarts, admin abilities, and technical savvy at the Hagey Hall door. The employer holding the right “golden ticket” will be lucky indeed.

  2. Pingback: An English MA by co-op? |

  3. Pingback: Congratulations to ourlatest MA Grads! |

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