2018 Undergraduate Co-op Student of the Year, Honourable Mention

Each year, the Arts Co-op Program recognizes an undergraduate co-op student for outstanding achievement in all aspects of the student’s performance, including academics, the workplace, and professional/community involvement. This year’s honourable mention, Ashwini Canagaratnam, was recognized for her work term with TRIUMF. “To say Ashwini went above and beyond her job description would be a mammoth understatement,” shares Lisa Lambert, Ashwini’s team leader at TRIUMF. “In a complex and demanding environment, she seamlessly supported and ran alongside every member of our team.”

Excellence in the Workplace

In her role as a Communications Assistant with TRIUMF’s Strategic Communications team, Ashwini’s work spanned a variety of fields, including marketing, event planning, educational outreach, media relations, corporate communications, and project management. She tied all these together as she supported a major lab-wide initiative led by her team: TRIUMF50, a year-long portfolio of programming celebrating the lab’s 50th anniversary in 2018. On the digital marketing front, Ashwini collaborated with her team to garner a forty-four percent increase in TRIUMF’s social media following by executing content strategies and copywriting campaigns.

Ashwini admits that at first, she did not know how her International Relations degree would be helpful when working at a multidisciplinary science laboratory, however, she kept an open mind and discovered that she had a lot to contribute. Given TRIUMF’s prominent role in the Canadian science and technology landscape, it intersects with research, government, and industry and interacts with representatives from all these sectors. Ashwini was able to apply her academic knowledge when coordinating site visits to host government officials, including the Governor General of Canada who came for a very special visit to kick-off TRIUMF50 celebrations. In addition to planning high calibre events, she acted as a liaison to connect STEM outreach initiatives with various communities across the Lower Mainland collaborating with local and international organizations.

While Ashwini accomplished a lot in the eight months she spent at TRIUMF, one highlight is the legacy she has left behind: a resource guide for future co-op students working in the Strategic Communications department. This guide consists of everything Ashwini “wishes she knew” at the beginning of her co-op term, including resources such as recommended programs, websites, documents, files, people, and tips that she hopes will help future co-op students succeed. From learning different writing styles for proposals and news articles to how to network and contribute to meetings, Ashwini feels that TRIUMF helped shape her into a more well-rounded, self-aware individual, and she hopes to pass on the insights she gained through this thirteen-page guide that is now an official resource in the TRIUMF document management system.

Community Involvement

In addition to Ashwini’s hard work at TRIUMF, she is actively involved in the community at UBC, especially with Arts Co-op. She is a member of the Arts Co-op Student Association, has promoted the benefits of the program as an ambassador at student recruitment information sessions, and assisted with facilitating a group application review and networking session for new students at a pre-employment training conference. Ashwini also expanded co-op’s reach into her workplace, launching a multi-platform interview series titled ‘Co-op Covers.’ She developed this campaign to communicate the advantages of co-operative education based on the experiences of current co-op students, sharing the stories on TRIUMF’s social media channels. Outside of co-op, Ashwini is the President of the Tamil Students’ Association of UBC and the UBC International Relations Students Association’s Public Relations Coordinator, the latter being a position she believes her experience with TRIUMF both gave her the skills and confidence to pursue.

Co-op: Inspiring New Passions

Ashwini began her position at TRIUMF with the intention of a four-month term, but when her supervisor asked if they could extend her contract to eight months, Ashwini was ecstatic to stay on, finding the work there to be very rewarding. She shares that at the end of her work term, she realized her interests had started to shift from research and policy towards the public relations sector, as she worked on several government projects that required working with the media, drafting proposals, and executing social media strategies. Ashwini feels that working in the Strategic Communications department at TRIUMF taught her how diverse the communications field is, and because of her team’s support, guidance, and mentorship, she has found a new passion for public relations. In her own words, “I find myself ready and eager to pursue my passion of public relations because the co-op program has prepared me with the educational experiences necessary for success.”