Impact of Giving

Helping arts students benefit from the co-op experience

Author: Development and Donor Relations

Posted on Dec 21, 2022

Category: Creating Opportunities for Students , Donor Stories , Scholarships and Bursaries

UNB graduates John and Laura Runcie drew on their own memories of university life in establishing a co-op bursary program for arts students on the Saint John campus.

John (BA’12) and Laura (BN’13) say they both received financial support from UNB during their undergraduate years and realize how much it helped them succeed in their studies.

John said he wishes there had been a co-op program he could have applied for while he was a student because he believes work experience provides an essential element of life experience beyond classroom learning.

“I am convinced, and research supports, that exposure to the work experience throughout post-secondary education leads to better employment opportunities post-graduation,” he said. “For me, as an arts student, I loved most of the topics I studied but I wanted to find a way to take the tools I gathered, such as critical thinking, research, and making an argument on paper, and find relevant work experience to support and further enhance those skills while I was in school.”

The Runcie Family Co-op Bursary is their answer to making sure that invaluable work experience can be achieved by arts students. It is awarded annually on the basis of financial need to a Saint John campus student enrolled in the co-op program within the faculty of arts. The bursary is held during the recipient’s co-op placement.

“Hopefully, this is an incentive for students who want a co-op-like experience, and the extra financial support is enough to enable this to occur,” Laura said.

John and Laura still live and work in Saint John. Laura is a registered nurse who specializes in cardiac care in the Heart Centre at the Saint John Regional Hospital and John works at the Port of Saint John, on the business strategy team.

John and Laura went on to complete graduate studies at other universities but they have always maintained strong ties to UNB and a desire to see its graduates succeed.

“We are convinced UNB is a university that punches above its weight and needs to do a better job of telling its story and promoting the quality of education that it gives to students through its amazing faculty,” John said. “I hope that by establishing the bursary we can provide an incentive to students to have an impact earlier in their community of study, and hopefully future employment.”

Laura said the bursary is also a way to show appreciation and a chance to give back to their alma mater and their community.

“Our time at UNB created a strong educational foundation that allowed us to pursue unique experiences within our professions and the community,” she said. “I hope that the bursary shows a sense of appreciation for the experience that I had while I was at UNB and enables others to experience positive post-secondary education as well.”

The UNB Saint John bachelor of arts co-op program allows students to gain real-world experience in public, private, and not-for-profit organizations. The co-op students complete paid work terms that complement their course-based learning.

“There was no arts co-op program when I was at UNB,” John said. “I had to seek out opportunities. I am so thankful that individuals such as Heather Campbell, Mary Duffley, David Emerson, and Peter McGill mentored and presented me with opportunities to use my skills both within UNB, and in the community.

“Without those opportunities I do not believe I would be where I am today.”

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