Celebrating the 2019 Co-op Student of the Year
Justin Budyk’s passion for aquatic sciences has taken him across Canada and soon, Australia
If it wasn’t for the co-op program in the Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources, Justin Budyk says he wouldn’t have seen such incredible places around the world.
Budyk, the University of Manitoba’s 2019 Co-op Student of the Year, will be completing his sixth co-operative education placement this coming summer.
Offered through seven different faculties across campus, co-op programs provide both students and employers with an opportunity to work together in a meaningful partnership. Students have the ability to combine practical paid work experiences with their classroom based education to further enhance their skill set and work experiences. Budyk, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Environmental Sciences (Honours, Co-op), experienced fieldwork with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). These positions revolved around the field of limnology and fisheries research.
“Thanks to co-op at the University of Manitoba, I’ve had ample opportunity to network with a multitude of professionals, academics, federal and provincial representatives, not-for-profit organizations and Indigenous peoples, which has helped me to prepare for a career in freshwater fisheries biology,” said Budyk.
Before his work at DFO, Budyk worked at the IISD-Experimental Lakes Area for two years (four placements) where he worked in a variety of roles including limnology, fisheries and chemistry to conduct whole lake ecosystem research.
“I’ve been able to acquire a huge amount of practical experience, in the laboratory, field and in a supervising capacity, that I likely would not have had access to without my co-op program,” he said.
Budyk will be continuing to expand his skillset in the field of aquatic sciences. This summer, he will be working on Brook Trout, an invasive species of trout, in a series of alpine lakes in British Columbia and Alberta.
While that work keeps him in Canada, he will be finishing the final semester of his degree at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, again learning about marine systems.
Through the co-op program, Budyk has had the opportunity to visit places he never would have been immersed in otherwise.
“I was incredibly lucky to interact with elders in the local Indigenous communities on Great Slave Lake and incorporate their Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge with my scientific background and apply it to the sampling program we were conducting,” said Budyk. “The opportunity to network with a vast array of different people is undoubtedly one of the biggest advantages to being in a co-op program as it forces you to get out of your comfort zone and make contacts that further your career ambitions.”
Budyk received ample help from colleagues at the university during his time as a co-op student. His biggest support came from faculty member, Leslie Goodman in the Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources.
“Leslie has consistently pushed me to get the most out of my placements and pursue jobs that have required me to take larger leadership roles,” said Budyk of Goodman. “She was always willing to edit my application materials to give me the best chance of being chosen for a job and was a valuable reference that fought on my behalf.”
In the current job market, Budyk says merely having a degree isn’t enough to be competitive for the most desirable jobs. He encourages all students to take advantage of a co-op program if they have the opportunity to do so.
“Co-op gives you the chance to gain actual work experience which not only helps you be hired after graduation, but allows you to determine where your specific interests truly lie and make relevant contacts along the way,” he said. “You really never know where you are going to end up when you enter a co-op program, which I have found very exciting, and it can lead to positions that you never would have considered or been competitive for otherwise.”
Justin was awarded Co-op Student of the Year at the Co-op Week keynote event on March 21. At the same event, co-op student Bianca Dahlman from the Faculty of Architecture received an honourable mention.
For more information on the co-op education programs at the University of Manitoba, visit the Co-op website.