Former WIL Students - Where Are They Now?

Courtney Anderson
Bachelor of Applied Science in Environmental Management, Lakeland College
Vegetation Survey Field Assistant, Métis Nation of Alberta

We had the privilege of speaking with Courtney Anderson on the last day of her 8-months co-op work term at the Métis Nation of Alberta where she has been working as a Vegetation Survey Field Assistant. Courtney was busy preparing her final work term submission to her Co-op Coordinator - an act that was both a requirement of her program and a celebration of a long journey to obtaining her degree.

Courtney's educational journey began at the University of Calgary with her dreams of being a writer. The large class sizes and style of learning were not a good fit for Courtney and after two years of struggling to make it work, she decided to leave school. After a period of working full-time, Courtney was ready to continue her post secondary education and enrolled in Lakeland College's diploma program in Environmental Sciences focusing on environmental protection and monitoring.

Courtney attended Lakeland College's Vermilion campus and found herself at home in the smaller classes where students know the professors by their first names and where much of the curriculum is taught through hands-on learning. Her success in the diploma program prompted her to pursue a Bachelor of Applied Science in Environmental Management.

Like so many other students, Courtney found that there were limited co-op work opportunities available in the summer of 2020 because of COVID-19. She eventually was successful in being hired by the Métis Nation of Alberta as a Vegetation Survey Assistant and began working with their newly established environmental team in October. The Métis Nation of Alberta created the new division in response to concerns raised by citizens about the effects of climate change and other human impacts on the land. For example, citizens have noticed that the seasons are changing. The environmental division has recently hired three new team members in order to address these and other issues being identified.

Courtney worked remotely during her work term and the pandemic curtailed travel to many of the 23 traditional Métis sites across Alberta. Courtney really enjoys fieldwork so it was disappointing to not spend time much time in the field, but she was kept busy analyzing data from ongoing projects. Courtney’s capstone report was on a principal-component analysis that she ran on 2020 field data compared with climate and geospatial data. As a result of Courtney’s findings, additional monitoring plots have been added for this summer.

Courtney loves the variety that her work brings. She is able to participate in the full life cycle of the project from proposal writing to secure funds, data collection in the field, data analysis and report writing to share findings with the funding agency and citizens. Each project is book-ended by writing so Courtney has been able to incorporate her love of writing along with her love of being in the field.

The Métis Nation of Alberta has offered Courtney a full-time position on their environmental team.  Even though Courtney is a recent co-op student herself, she will be taking the lead on the plant monitoring projects this summer and will have a student from Lakeland to assist her on the projects. She plans to share some career advice that she received during her time as a co-op student, "Work is not more important than your mental health.”

As a student working remotely during the pandemic, Courtney put this advice into practice and tried to separate her work life from her home life. She also plans to be approachable as her mentor was to her so that the student feels comfortable to ask questions. Through the twists and turns of her educational journey, Courtney has landed exactly where she was meant to be.

Courtney would like to share some advice with students. “Students often have a lot of anxiety about not having ‘good enough’ work experience to get the jobs that they want. To them I’d say that they should give themselves credit for what they have done.  All experiences have value.”