Latest Blog Post: Work that Matters: My Co-op Experience at the Live Work Well Research Centre

Work that Matters: My Co-op Experience at the Live Work Well Research Centre

When pursuing co-op positions as part of an undergraduate degree, many students believe that their employment options are limited to administrative positions consisting of monotonous work that does not seem impactful in the larger scheme of things. Working at the Live Work Well Research Centre (LWWRC) as part of my BA in both Political Science and Philosophy, I was excited to learn that the initiatives I supported were actively used to help equity-deserving groups claim representation in social and political life. During my time at the LWWRC, I felt the work I was doing mattered, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute to and learn from this important work over the fall semester.  

While applying for co-op opportunities for the fall of 2021, I was reaching the end of a four-month position with the City of Guelph, where I worked in the Department of Policy and Intergovernmental Relations. There, I collaborated with Guelph’s Indigenous partners and community stakeholders on projects of mutual interest. I quickly found a passion for ethics and policy, and I knew that working with the LWWRC on the Engendering Disability-Inclusive Development (EDID) project would satisfy both these interests and much more.  I was therefore thankful when I received an offer of employment.  

My time working on the EDID project began with a literature review of the research that already existed on the subject of women and girls with disabilities in Haiti, South Africa, Vietnam, and Canada. As an undergraduate student with little formal research experience, this project seemed daunting, but with the support of Kate Ducak, EDID’s Project Manager, and the wonderful help at the University of Guelph library, the work seemed far more manageable. I learned a great deal about the research process, which will undoubtedly help in my academic career, but also about how women and girls with disabilities are often left out of the international rights conversation. Beginning with a literature review also helped me to contextualize the work that followed on the EDID project. 

Over the course of the semester, I felt that my most impactful contribution to the EDID project involved conducting research on Canada’s funding to other nations to support women and girls with disabilities. Throughout the research process, I was disheartened to learn that the Canadian federal government offers very little in support to persons with disabilities around the globe. Women and girls with disabilities, in particular, have been neglected despite their more limited access to education and services, as well as their increased risk of experiencing gender-based violence. After identifying the lack of funding from Canada in this field, I had the opportunity to present my findings to the EDID Leadership Team. The EDID Leadership team then used these findings to inform their submission to Canada’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) shadow report, which will be presented to the United Nations. I felt privileged to be able to support this work in the small way I did, and I am very excited knowing that Canada’s CRPD shadow report will be used to empower the lives of diverse women and girls with disabilities.  

Getting to meet and learn from the EDID Leadership Team over the course of several meetings was another highlight of my co-op semester. I was thankful to learn from the experiences of Bonnie Brayton, Director of DAWN Canada, Elizabeth Jackson, Director of the Community Engaged Scholarship Institute (CESI), Steven Estey, international human rights consultant, and David Black, Professor at Dalhousie University. Hearing their respective stories gave me valuable insight into what a career at a civil society organization in the field of policy would look like. Before my co-op, I was unsure if I could see myself working in this discipline, but now I see it as an exciting career path that would be very rewarding!  

My co-op experience would not have been the same if it were not for the wonderful LWWRC team who have fostered a welcoming and inclusive environment. I appreciated getting to go into the office each Thursday for team meetings, which always began with a round of check-ins, where team members could share personal updates from their lives. The LWWRC team truly cared, and this made it so much easier to collaborate on projects throughout the semester. I would like to thank Deborah Stienstra for her thoughtful leadership and hard work – I learned a lot through her shared wisdom. Rana El Kadi and Benedicta Hughes were also of great support through the semester and were always willing to lend a hand, no matter what. Lastly, I would like to thank Kate Ducak whom I worked with most closely – her positivity and enthusiasm made working a joy, and with her guidance, I feel I was able to succeed in my position. My co-op experience at the LWWRC was one I am thankful to have had, and I will certainly hold onto it as I return to classes in January. 

~ Written by Michael Lanc, Live Work Well Research Centre Co-op Student

Key Words

Co-op, Student, Undergrad, Research