U of T student wins honours for work during UTM economics internship course
University of Toronto student Alyssa Nurse says applying to U of T Mississauga’s economics internship course was the best decision she made in her undergrad.
Nurse is graduating this year with an impressive slate of achievements and accolades, including provincial and national honours, resulting from her internship at the NATO Association of Canada — made possible by the UTM course.
She won student of the year awards from Experiential & Work-Integrated Learning Ontario (EWO) and Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL), which are two leading organizations for work-integrated learning in Ontario and Canada, respectively.
“The [internship course] gave me practical experience,” Nurse says. “It was designed with our own personal and professional growth and development in mind.”
The fourth-year economics internship course, called ECO400Y, is a credit-based internship offered to students across U of T’s three campuses. The competitive course has grown in the last five years, with 37 students enrolled out of 70 applicants in the most recent year. The work placement offers students a chance to work in economic data analysis, international relations, law, accounting, finances, marketing, and more.
Those internships are made possible through partner organizations, including the Bank of Canada, NATO, the Government of Ontario and others.
“The program is growing, hugely,” says assistant professor and program director Nicholas Zammit. “A lot of students in economics, commerce, politics, they want practical experience, something on the resume.”
The internship offers a matching model, making it different from many other internship programs, Zammit explains.
Program coordinators work with students and employers to find meaningful and appropriate matches, while students indicate in their applications particular interests suited for them.
“We connect with employers, we get them to have this trust relationship, we interview the students,” Zammit says about finding an optimal match.
Nurse learned of the course through an economics newsletter distributed to economics students across the three campuses. Her application involved course completion requirements, a personal statement, a resume, an interview process with faculty members, and then an interview with the organization where she was to work.
The eight-month-long internship at NATO offered her the opportunity to publish articles for the organization, to serve as a program editor and event coordinator, and to execute other planning and executive tasks.
Nurse says her most memorable internship experience was coordinating an event for the British High Commission in Ottawa last November. NATO Association of Canada president Robert Baines called her work “simply outstanding.”
While she was nervous, the experience helped her grow, she says.
“I was given such a high level of responsibility, but I’m really happy it came together,” she says.
“A lot of the roles at NATO helped me refine skills I’d learned through the undergraduate economics program.”
In addition to her work placement, Nurse was the editor of Caribbean Quilt, a student-run, editorial journal on Caribbean Studies. She was the co-president of the Caribbean Studies Student Union.
She credits the internship course for her achievements, but more importantly the help and guidance of Zammit and internship coordinators Corrine Bent-Womack and Ramya Uthayakumar.
“It felt like a community, like we were all collectively on this journey together,” Nurse says. “They really showed their dedication and support for students.”
Zammit proudly described Nurse as a “positive force for women’s empowerment and racial equality” in the nomination for her CEWIL award.
“It’s a great program, a great student, a great win for UTM, and a great reason to pay attention to what we’re doing,” Zammit says.