When I read interviews like this one with Lauren Rabindranath, it occurs to me that if I had known one could do English degrees by co-op, there’s a good chance I would have never: a) gone to theatre school; b) fled theatre school; c) ended up in a PhD program. Lauren has managed to work for the Stratford Festival as a co-op student while also making them the subject of her Masters research. I may be just a little bit envious!–JLH
JLH: What made the MA by co-op so appealing? Did you have reservations?
LR: The MA by co-op was a perfect balance for me, and a major deciding factor when I chose the program. The combination of work terms and study terms allowed to me to continue to experiment with ideas and theories I enjoyed as an undergrad while building more practical skills, making new contacts, and exploring different career options. I don’t have aspirations to complete a PhD, so getting work experience and developing relevant skills were my top criteria for a post-graduate program. Also, the work terms are paid, which helps offset the financial concerns of being a student. My only reservations were about UWaterloo’s co-op program at large; as a largely science-focused school, I wasn’t sure there would be many job options for an Arts student.
JLH: You’ve done two work terms now: how different was it going into the second one?
LR: I felt a lot more confident entering my second work term. My first work term helped me develop my design skills. I was using a lot of new programs with other students who had much more experience in the field. It was out of my comfort zone and a fantastic learning experience– I gained a lot of new skills in a short period of time, and quickly learned what I loved and hated about design work. The second work term was a marketing role, so I immediately felt more comfortable and confident that I could not only learn, but bring value and ideas to the role.
JLH: Do you find there is a disconnect between your classroom work and your work terms?
LR: Definitely. It becomes difficult to maintain connections to campus and studying when you’re working 9-5. It’s a different mindset and, while I learned a lot in both work and classroom settings, it was difficult to ‘switch’ between being focused on business strategy to theory and critical thinking. I was able to apply ideas and skills across both types of work, but the focus, values, and outcomes of both settings definitely diverge.
JLH: Can you tell us a bit about what you are doing with the Stratford Festival?
LR: The Stratford Festival is in the process of redesigning their website, and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to help with ‘Phase 2’ of the redesign. I designed the site map and page layout for the seat selection and checkout. The final wireframe designs are part of my major research project (MRP – equivalent to a thesis for my program). I worked closely with contacts at the Festival and completed the designs during my work terms. It’s been a great experience and I’ve learned a lot about pitching design ideas, business presentations, user experience design, and e-commerce. It’s also nice to have an MRP project that I can use as part of my professional portfolio in the future.
JLH: What is the biggest misconception about doing an English MA by co-op, do you think?
LR: For me, it was probably that the course work would be more connected to the co-op program and prepare students with more marketable skills. If it wasn’t for my previous work experience, I may not have had the opportunities that I did. From other people? Probably that we all must find jobs at newspapers or publishing houses. There was a lot of diversity in the types of companies and positions people found, and only one person I can think of works at a newspaper!