Over the next few months, you’ll meet the ACE-WIL Membership Committee, the committee that welcomes and takes care of our association’s members. First up, we’re excited to introduce Drew Jenkins, Co-op Coordinator at Simon Fraser University this month.
Episode 1: Drew Jenkins – the man, the myth, and the gilly
I consider myself a lucky guy. Some might say happy-go-lucky. And luck was how I happened upon my career in Co-op. Technically I was “networking” with a friend of a friend at a dinner party, back in the days before Covid, when that sort of thing was allowed. There might have been beverages involved, but I cannot remember or confirm that.
One thing led to another and in a few weeks, I had an interview at Simon Fraser University (SFU). A few weeks later, a job offer. On October 30, 2000, I began what has been a long, strange trip indeed – starting in Engineering Co-op and eventually transitioning to Computing and Engineering Sciences Co-op. To be honest, prior to applying, I had very little idea what Co-op was, but it sure seemed better than what I had done at university and in the years immediately afterwards. (Two degrees, yet very little actual experience—a few short-term jobs to pay for skiing and travel but no real career prospects.)
Right from the start, I knew it was a great job. So much better than night-time security at a halfway house for Federal parolees, and even better than being a “professional” dog walker. The job itself and the tools to do the job have evolved since I started, but three things have remained constant:
- Students recognize that Co-op is good for now, and good for the future
- Employers know that Co-op is a great source of fresh, young talent
- My peers are incredible educators, researchers, and leaders
Over my time at SFU, I have been lucky enough to supply support to literally thousands of students. And amongst those students, a few have stood out for various reasons. There were, of course, the rock stars—the engineers that went on to be doctors, lawyers, and teachers. I enjoyed working with them. But I got my greatest delight from helping students at the other end of the academic spectrum. To see a student facing challenges and self-doubt go on to become a confident and successful professional has brought me the greatest joy in my work.
I have remained friends with many of my alumni years after graduation, but I have also developed lasting relationships with employers. Beyond that, many of my former students have gone to become my Co-op employers. I have been around long enough to see a few of them return as professors at SFU and then employ Co-op students in their labs. This is amazing considering the glacial rate of change in my Faculty!
The final side of the triangle is my peers. I have had a dozen or so close colleagues over the years. Some have gone elsewhere—on new adventures—whereas others are still close by at SFU. The team has grown larger and with each new face, I learn over and over again that it takes a village. I can truly say that despite the expected ups and downs we have been through, the team has only grown stronger with time. Each of my peers bring their own special skills and passion. Together, we have been successful in harnessing those superpowers and through discussion and debate (and minor revolution), we engaged in innovation and have moved forward.
I hope to be part of that revolution for a few more years. However, at the same time, I am being more mindful in the activities that I take on now, so my transition to the next phase of life goes smoothly (and by that, I mean retirement). Even after I leave Co-op, I will keep my SFU network active and continue to contribute to the community as a whole through my involvement in the University Community Association, the gardening committee, and my support of the local flyfishing and Ultimate frisbee scenes. I will not leave Verdant (SFU staff and faculty housing) until my kids kick me out or they wheel me out on a gurney. I hope for the former. I also hope to see my twins graduate from SFU. It is not important what courses they take, or even where they end up studying. But whatever they do and wherever they go, I will make sure they do Co-op on the side! Because some things take more than luck—some things take experience.