BA 2002: Major English Literature, Minor Commerce


From Richmond, British Columbia to Boston, Massachusetts and all the way to the Netherlands, this graduate credits his whirlwind post-university career success to the Arts Co-op Program.

Before joining the Co-op Program, Jouel Tiu didn’t have a clear picture of which career direction he wanted to pursue. “Co-op helped me to decide what I wanted to do with my career,” he says. “It was the perfect way to try out jobs in a variety of different sectors and decide what I enjoyed and which paths to pursue.” His major in English Literature and minor in Commerce gave him the practical skills he needed to find a job in communications, but his co-op experience prepared him for day-to-day interactions in the workplace.

Tiu started gaining experience in communications early on in his undergraduate studies. In his first work term as a treaty negotiations research assistant with the BC Ministry of Attorney General, he developed public information packages and wrote internal briefing notes and press releases on topics discussed in negotiations between the First Nations groups, provincial and federal governments.

From there on, he gained valuable experience with a non-profit foundation in designing and writing final reports for stakeholders on how funds were allocated. This experience helped him in his next position with BC Hydro as a marketing and communications consultant where he designed posters, advertisements, and brochures for the Power Supply Engineering division of the corporation.

“Each of my co-op work terms ended with me getting involved in more creative communication work, and as a result, I decided to pursue a career as a graphic designer,” says Tiu.

Currently, Tiu works as a communication specialist for Inter IKEA Systems B.V. in the Netherlands, where he oversees the design and production of internal publications for IKEA franchisees around the world including manuals, magazines, and online channels. While most of his time is spent in the corporate headquarters of the ever-popular Swedish home furnishings retailer as an editor and art director, Tiu also spends a significant part of his time on the road, or in the air.

“Travelling to different IKEA stores around the world is my favourite part of the job. It give me the opportunity to connect with the heart of our business and open my eyes up to new and different points of view. Visiting retailers in different countries challenges my ability to interact with people in a global context, especially when English is not the first language of many people that I meet.”

“Because of this, I rely very heavily on the communication skills that I developed over the course of my co-op career and university education,” he continues. “The same principles used in writing term papers and press releases apply to what I am doing now, even if the media, messages and audience are different.”

Tiu was hired as a graphic designer at IKEA Richmond, BC after graduation and after a few years there, moved across the border to manage the graphic design department at IKEA Stoughton (Boston), USA. During this time, he was responsible for expansion projects and marketing in Canada, the US and Japan, and he trained newly hired and aspiring graphic design managers in the United States.

Soon after, Tiu went on to conquer the world. When his current manager spotted a piece he had developed back in Richmond, his manager was persistent in recruiting him – chasing him down in Boston. For Tiu, the opportunities came to him as he was open to different experiences. “My Arts Co-op experiences helped me think critically about each of my jobs and evaluate the skills I needed to move from one job to the next,” he says.

Tiu added to his depth of skills by becoming involved with the Arts Co-op Student Association (ACSA) and the Arts Co-op Advisory Board. He says, “Involvement in both arenas allowed me to develop other skills that I wanted, but may not have had the opportunity to do in my work terms.” He enjoyed working with a team of like-minded students to expand and develop the program.

Tiu says that the most important thing he learned from his experiences was to ask questions, as it shows that you are engaged and curious. He encourages students to continue to broaden their horizons by networking, which helps open up opportunities that may not have existed previously. “Put yourself out there and talk with people in fields that you are interested in, but also in fields that you may not be immediately drawn to. You never know what opportunities are hidden and waiting to be discovered.”

“I knew that I wanted to work in creative communication after I graduated, but didn’t realise that the blue and yellow box that I so frequently shopped at growing up would be where I would build my career. When I started working for the IKEA store in Richmond after graduating, the thought didn’t even cross my mind that I would eventually end up working here at the company’s corporate headquarters in the Netherlands,” he says with a chuckle. “It just goes to show what kind of exciting opportunities are available if you are open to them.”

For Tiu, involvement with the Arts Co-op Program was the ultimate experience that helped him succeed in the world outside the University Gates. “Joining the Co-op program was one of the best decisions that I made as an undergrad,” says Jouel. “Not only did I have marketable skills from my university education after I graduated, I also had the work experience to back them up when I entered the work force.”