All it takes is a group of enthusiastic and dedicated students, determined to represent their peers by sharing ideas and providing support for the co-op program, its services and relations with students. The benefits of forming a co-op council can be rewarding, not only for the institution, but also for the students themselves. The ability to observe from different perspectives helps to encourage changes and strengthen the co-op program overall.
Laurier’s Co-op Student Advisory Council (CSAC) is a success story in the making. This diversified group is comprised of second, third and fourth year students in Arts, Business, Economics and Science programs. It also includes alumni advisors. Our mandate:
“CSAC is striving to make a difference for co-op students; here to listen, advise, and connect. Providing a forum for student communication, CSAC will act as a liaison between students and the cooperative education environment. By building stronger relationships, CSAC will foster a sense of community and excitement within Laurier Co-op, making the experience memorable and enjoyable for all students.”
To ensure goal congruency and attainment, it is critical to establish a strong mission statement. This is the driving force and a key guideline not only for CSAC members, but also for Laurier students and administration.
Expect some rough times! While many obstacles will arise, it is important to work together as a team and overcome them. For example, at Laurier we had a stormy period during the start-up phase where we could not agree on a mandate— we did not simply want to be a complaint mechanism for students, rather we wanted to build relationships, student to student, and student to administration. Based on this premise, visibility among our peers is crucial.
At Laurier, CSAC has helped to influence significant changes and bring Laurier Co-op students together into a more unified community. A CSAC website has been developed which publicizes names, activities and up-to-date information from members and peers. The website features CSAC general information, a calendar of events, housing links (CSAC has joined forces with Laurier Student Housing to advertise local sublets), and a general sublet board which allows students to post by city. A speaker series for business and economics co-ops was launched last fall to give newly admitted students the opportunity to hear about co-op experiences from senior students— it was so successful that a similar series is planned for this fall. CSAC has partnered with the Co-op department in preparing workshops, co-op socials, and fundraisers. A future mentoring program is also in the development phase.
The chair position for the council is rotated each term and is responsible for facilitating meetings and ensuring that all members are current with the latest progress. A co-op staff member takes on an advisory role, being present at meetings to provide leadership, support and guidance. Meetings can be set up according to the amount of ongoing projects and the schedules of the members.
By sharing CSAC’s story, we hope you can learn from our tips and ideas and use them as a source of guidance. If a council does not currently exist at your university, this may be the opportunity for initiating progress and new beginnings!
Alexandra Smali Wilfrid Laurier University, Co-op Student Advisory Council 2005