Rebecca Klaassen

Posted on Thursday, March 5, 2015

#iLoveQV: the local roots of global change

An FSS CO-OP student launches a campaign


Rebecca Klaassen


In some ways, Rebecca Klaassen is just like other university students.

While pursuing  her undergraduate degree, she’s also trying to gain some valuable work experience that can prepare her for the job market. So maybe it’s the clarity and commitment with which Rebecca is fulfilling this objective that sets her apart. Even before she started university, Rebecca could picture herself participating in uOttawa’s cooperative education programs.

A brief exchange with this dynamic millennial is all that’s needed to notice a maturity and ability to self-question that are uncommon in most twenty-year-olds.

Rebecca is a third-year student at the School of International Development and Global Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences who has recently begun her second CO-OP work placement. Even though a government department was interested in hiring her, she opted instead for a less traditional placement with the Quartier Vanier Merchants Association (BIA).

Certainly, federal government work experience is important and can look great on a resume, but Rebecca had two specific reasons for deciding on the Quartier Vanier (QV) work placement:

“Creativity is important to me. I wanted to experience what it would be like to work in an environment where I would have some latitude to propose new ideas, lead projects and potentially make a real contribution. Also, I wanted to develop my community-building and organizing abilities, in my own city, before trying to utilize my skills internationally.”

The CO-OP office’s decision to match Rebecca with her employer seems to have led to a real win-win. At the time of Rebecca’s hiring, Suzanne Valiquet was the Executive Director of the Quartier Vanier Merchant Association. Ms. Valiquet had this to say about her CO-OP student:

"During the interview hiring process, I was struck by Rebecca’s sense of commitment to community involvement.  She had researched the area and already had ideas of how she would do the job. A real keener, Rebecca took notes during the interview and followed through on her suggestions without hesitation once in the position."

As far as the QV’s challenges were concerned, Rebecca explained that it continues to face hurdles in terms of how it is perceived by the rest of the national capital region. Her responsibilities within the QV included networking with community partners, surveying public perception and managing social media campaigns to help promote a more positive image of the area.

“Vanier is a neighbourhood that is so vibrant in its uniqueness and multiculturalism. In the QV, people are proud of their neighbourhood, which attracts an increasing number of residents and business opportunities. However, the area still faces some reputational challenges: Ottawa's old perception of the QV hasn't adapted to the changes and improvements the area has seen in recent years.”

Marcel Mérette, the dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, points out how Rebecca’s entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and energy “are all important in helping her generate socially innovative ideas that could make positive contributions to the QV.” Dean Mérette also remarked that some of the problems that international development researchers encounter abroad may be similar to those found in some of our own neighborhoods. Rebecca came to realize this as well, and explained the value of looking past stereotypes:

 “Let me put it this way: if I were working somewhere abroad and came across an area like Montreal Road, I would likely be open to it, to its people, and I would see it for all it has to offer. Yet, too often, we tend to be more reticent to apply the same openness in our own back yard. My passion is in community development and successful development requires really knowing an area, its challenges and accomplishments. I realized that I needed to learn more about the communities in my own city before I could take my skills abroad.

Rebecca chose to pursue her studies at uOttawa specifically because she was attracted to her program’s combination of theoretical and applied components. She offered the following advice to anyone considering CO-OP:

If you feel that there is any room to innovate, throw yourself into it! Don't be afraid to go beyond the specific job expectations because you might surprise both yourself and your employer with the ideas and leadership you can contribute.”

Link article to Metro News Online:

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