Students Learn About Jobs That Make A Difference At Social Justice Fair
By Aaron Epp
Where on earth do you get a job in line with your beliefs and values?
It’s a question all university students ask themselves at one point or another. It’s also the question David Northcott posed at the beginning of his keynote address at the February 6 social justice fair at Menno Simons College (MSC), CMU’s campus at the University of Winnipeg.
|Jenna Sparling speaks with Social Justice Fair organizers Bre
Woligroski and Zoe Gross.
Photo by Aaron Epp.
Northcott, executive director of Winnipeg Harvest, a non-profit food bank, addressed the question in a presentation titled “Please, Sir, I Want Some More.”
During the presentation, Northcott listed three ways it’s possible for students to find jobs and make a difference: government; business and organized labour; and the not-for-profit sector. The best, he said, was the non-profit world.
“The benefits are bad and the wages are low,” he warned, “but I love the idea that we can change the world.”
Following his address, Northcott was part of a panel with careers in social justice with Helene Kadi, an analyst with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) Afghanistan task force, and MSC alumni Abdikheir Ahmed and Noelle Depape, both of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM).
“Don’t wait for your fourth year to start what you want to do,” Ahmed advised students, encouraging them to volunteer now and get to know people in the fields they’re interested in.
Depape suggested students take advantage of as many internship opportunities as they can, adding that while a Master’s degree is helpful, sometimes a good idea and the willingness to pursue it are just as good.
“We need social innovators, and we need people with new ideas,” she said, noting that this could include documentary filmmakers, travel writers or people who want to start non-profit organizations. “There are a lot of people who are willing to support good ideas,” she added.
One student told the panel of her experience working with a non-profit organization in Botswana. She questioned whether or not people from the West
One student who had worked with a non-profit organization in Botswana questioned whether people from the West have the right to work in developing countries— wouldn’t it be best for her to stay in Canada and work on social justice issues here?
“If you’re an IDS student and you’re not asking that, you probably have some more thinking to do,” Depape reassured the student.
“It’s fine to be confused, and it’s fine to be
sceptical,” Kadi agreed. “Just stay engaged.”
In addition to the panel discussion, Caitlin Peeling of La Siembra, an Ottawa-based worker’s cooperative that produces certified organic chocolate, cocoa and sugar products, led a workshop on fair trade issues. Peeling discussed what a co-operative model of development looks like, why it’s important, and how people can take action.
In between workshops and addresses, students browsed displays by over 20 social justice organizations, including Mediation Services, UNICEF, Mennonite Central Committee, and Siloam Mission. Students were able to meet with representatives from each organization, and pick up promotional materials.
“It’s inspiring to find out what all of these organizations do,” said Jenna Sparling, 23, a fourth-year MSC Conflict Resolution Studies student. “It gives you something to aspire to.”
Bre Woligroski, the director of student services at MSC, noted that while the event started out as a career fair, the focus for the past two years has been on social justice issues.
“The fair is a great opportunity for students to connect with professionals in the social justice fields,” said Woligroski. “While the connections students make at the fair can lead to practicum, scholarship, internship, bursary and maybe even job opportunities, the focus is on showing them how they can get involved in the community.”
Students appreciated that focus.
“All the issues here, and all the booths here, get us thinking about Canadian culture and how we’re living,” said Zoe Gross, a first-year Conflict Resolution Studies student who helped organize the fair.
“It’s not just about what I can do in a few years,” said Gross. “It’s about what I can do now.”
Menno Simons College is CMU’s campus at the University of Winnipeg. It offers majors in International Development and Conflict Resolution Studies.
Posted February 14, 2008.
For more information contact CMU Communications Director, 500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, Manitoba R3P 2N2, telephone: 204-487-3300 ext. 630, fax: 204-889-1694, (www.cmu.ca)