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#162: Shouri Bagchi – Use the right experience to get ahead in your chosen industry

“Targeting a particular industry or function? Find an internship where you can experience the day-to-day reality.” — Shouri Bagchi, MBA candidate

I came to Canada in 2002 to pursue an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering. I would always compare notes on courses and the method of instruction with those of my high-school classmates who were doing their undergrad studies in India.

What struck from me from the very beginning was that higher education in Canada incorporated a great deal of real-world experience. These were designed to give students an understanding of the careers and functions we could look forward to post-graduation.

It was also apparent that potential employers really valued relevant industry experience. Thus when an internship opportunity came up during year three, I took a leap and decided to delay graduation by a whole year to complete a 16 month internship at John Deere Canada, one of the largest farming and construction machinery firms in the world.

What I gained most from my time at Deere was a keen understanding of the product (I worked in machine design) and, critically, the customers who buy the product.

So how did I leverage my internship experience towards a career? During my last year of school I attended an info session hosted by Caterpillar (CAT) and instantly connected with their representatives, based on my story and was invited to pursue a Management Trainee role at CAT. The interview process consisted of two panel interviews: one with HR to assess my communication ability and another with two group vice-presidents. I found that my industry knowledge allowed me to relax in both interviews, such that I was able to be myself and convey a sense of assurance in my skill-set that impressed the panelists.

My recommendations for employers, career centres and schools

I attribute my internship and career success in no small part to the talented team of recruitment staff at the Faculty of Engineering at Western. They were immensely helpful in connecting the class with employers who were, at the time, actively recruiting to strengthen their talent base.

This is prior to the 2008 financial crisis when many senior employees were contemplating retirement. Also for any recruitment team, it is very important to understand the needs of your talent base. In my case (I was an international student requiring a work visa) one of the recruitment staff shared her husband’s (he is an immigrant like me) work permit application experience with me. It is this kind of personal touch that makes all the difference.

What I’m doing now

I have decided after 6 years of post-graduate work experience to come back to school and pursue an MBA. In that time I took every opportunity to improve my professional skills and my team-work abilities. After several years in B2B sales I decided that I want to do something more strategic. I am working on an MBA at the Schulich School if Business with a focus on Marketing & Strategy.

My advice for other students and recent graduates

Targeting a particular industry or function? Find an internship where you can experience the day-to-day reality.

This #StudentVoice belongs to:

Shouri Bagchi
International MBA candidate, 2015
Schulich School of Business

Click here to share your own story.

#161: Ceilidh Millar – Students, be open to exceptional opportunities for learning and growth

Ceilidh MI’m a recent broadcast journalism graduate. Before I’d completed my diploma, I was fielding employment offers and signed with Global Television News. At 19 years old, I’m the youngest news writer on staff. Was I the best or brightest journalism student? Absolutely not!

Fresh out of high school, I was accepted into BCIT’s Journalism Program. Just 17, I was the youngest student and discovered the majority of my classmates possessed a post-secondary education. Some already held English and journalism degrees. The School of Broadcast Journalism accepts 1 out of 4 applicants. The  stringent entrance requirements included a written entrance exam, transcript evaluation, personal interview and letters of recommendation.  Despite screening students beforehand, in my pod of 20 students, 4 dropped out within the first month. It quickly became clear that the program was designed to make or break. Yikes! I only had high school English and being a teen, I knew very little about politics, the economy and world issues – the hallmarks of good journalism.  What on earth had I been thinking? How could I possibly survive?

If you don’t challenge yourself, you’ll never know what you’re capable of achieving!
Ceilidh Millar, Graduate, British Columbia Institute of Technology

Were there times I wanted to quit?  ABSOLUTELY! By the end of the program, just over half the students remained. I recognized then, there are characteristics you need that cannot be taught. The ability to focus, work hard and persevere through difficulty. In the end, these traits serve you better in life than anything you’ll learn in college and are the traits employers seek.

A university or college education comes with no guarantee of a job. Today’s graduates must approach their job search without a sense of entitlement. Last year, an article I wrote was published in a national newspaper and a classmate inquired how much I’d been paid. Upon learning I received no fee, this person curtly remarked, “I won’t do anything, unless I’m paid!”  This individual missed out on some exceptional opportunities to learn and build their portfolio. Think that attitude goes unnoticed by prospective employers? Think again!  That student happens to be a grad without a job.  Hmm –  self-fulfilling prophecy?

Although I carried a heavy course load throughout college, I volunteered my time as a writer and reporter. I LOVED volunteering and enjoyed many wonderful experiences which helped me grow both as a journalist and as a person. I never expected to receive anything in return or had the, “What’s in it for me?” attitude. I realized the students who fared best in securing employment were again not necessarily the best or brightest, but those who took it upon themselves to go beyond what was taught in school. They volunteered their time in the industry, learning skills, gaining valuable experience and making connections. The old adage is true, “You learn best, by doing!”

Upon reflection, what have my college years taught me? Perhaps the greatest lesson learned, is knowing I still have SO much to learn. Oh, and that old cliché actually IS true, “It’s not the final destination, but the road travelled which will provide the adventure.”

As I begin my career, I’m excited to embark on this new journey which I’m sure will have many twists, bumps and surprises along the way! So to all you new grads out there, in the words of Horace, “Begin, be bold and venture to be wise.”

Where I am now

I am a writer for Global News BC and host of “Turn It Up!” –  a new series profiling artists in the music industry on Delta TV. The founder of “End Bullying Through Peer Advocacy,” I’m the 2013 youth spokesperson & ambassador for Kids Help Phone (Western Region.)

Awarded the 2013 Association of Broadcast Communicator’s Scholarship Award and the 2012 Clarion Award for “Excellence in Communications” by the Association for Women in Communications, I’ll be moderating Youth Bulge at the 2013 International Women’s Forum in Vancouver this October.

My recommendations for employers, schools & career-centres

Establish mentoring programs for students and new graduates. Pairing a young person with a mentor is one of the best ways to provide opportunities for enhanced learning and help foster a positive work environment.

My recommendations for students

Be open to exceptional opportunities for learning and personal growth. Don’t be afraid to attempt things outside your comfort zone.  If you don’t challenge yourself, you’ll never know what you’re capable of achieving!

I wish to share one of my favourite quotes by Robin Wiszowaty, author of My Maasai Life. “Opportunity isn’t a chance; it’s a choice. And it is the choices we make that define the paths our lives will take.”

This #StudentVoice Belongs to:

Ceilidh Millar
Broadcast Journalism
British Columbia Institute of Technology

Click here to share your own story.

#160: Candy Spencer — Employers, take a chance on recent grads

I’m unemployed, frustrated and trying to stay positive. I graduated from St. Francis Xavier University in 2007 with a B.Sc in Nutrition. I did well in my classes but learned I did not want to be a Dietician. I decided I wanted to be a Community Nutritionist so I went on to do a Master’s in Public Health Nutrition. My ideal job would be working in a community centre or a food bank on programs that address food security.

I moved to Toronto in 2011 and applied to many jobs in my field with no success. Everyone seemed to want experience that I did not have as a recent graduate. Frustrated, I gave up the search completely while I worked in restaurants and played in a band. Now I live in Montreal and have spent the past 3 and a half months applying to any job even remotely related to what I spent 5 and a half years studying. Unfortunately I’m not having any luck here either. I even have an offer from the Quebec government to pay half of my salary on behalf of anyone that hires me just so I can gain experience! If that’s not incentive to hire me, I don’t know what is.

It’s a little ironic that I went to university so I could learn how to help people who don’t have enough food to eat and now I’m very close to needing help myself. I just want to work somewhere that promotes the health of the population. At this point in my life I’m willing to dedicate all of my time to my work. I’m young, I don’t have kids and I’m ready to start a career. I really don’t think it should be this hard.

What I’m doing now

Applying to jobs, volunteering, and doing university courses online (for free) to stay current in my field.

My recommendations for employers, career centres and schools

Employers should be willing to take a chance on recent grads. We’re eager, willing to learn and won’t expect to be paid much. What we lack in experience we make up for with enthusiasm. As well, hiring a recent grad can help keep your organization fresh and up to date.

My advice for students and recent grads

For prospective students, I would say don’t go to university unless you’re sure there will be a job for you afterwards. If I could do it again I’d probably go into Nursing or Social Work. As for recent grads I guess I’d say don’t give up, something has to happen eventually right?

This #StudentVoice belongs to:

Candy Spencer
Master’s in Public Health Nutrition
University of Queensland

#159: Katherine Lam – Encourage students to travel and reward them for doing so

I recently graduated from UBC as of May 2012 and I had the fortune of doing an internship in Davao City, Philippines during the summer of 2012. I volunteered for a community health development project where I was immersed in a low income ‘barangay’ (village) and organized a medical mission, family planning events, and feeding programs to address some of the most pertinent issues raised by the community. I had the opportunity to collaborate with 11 other international students through AIESEC, as well as local health workers, community leaders, city counselors and the mayor. My experience serving the global community was both eye-opening and life changing.

What I’m doing now

I just finished my interviews for medical school in 2013 and am awaiting acceptance! I am currently looking for a temporary job and enjoying time with my family and friends since coming back home.

My recommendations for employers, career centres and schools

I definitely recommend schools and career centres to encourage students to travel abroad, for internship or for volunteering. My global experience led me to become more mature and more understanding of people from diverse cultural backgrounds. After my volunteer placement in Davao, I went off to backpack through South East Asia and that experience in itself was mind-blowing and so fulfilling. Our world is vast and beautiful – I encourage all students to become travelers (not tourists!) to experience this for themselves.

My (biased) advice for employers: give special attention to students with travel experience during your recruitment. Students who have travelled have overcome many challenges and barriers in an unfamiliar environment that have enabled them to become quick thinkers, efficient problem solvers and effective communicators.

My advice for students and recent grads

Again, travel abroad!

Here’s a quote from chef Anthony Bourdain: “If you’re 22, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.”

This #StudentVoice belongs to:

Katherine Lam
Bachelor of Science
University of British Columbia

#158: Ana Parfenova – Students must learn how to look within themselves for the answers

“In order to successfully transition into life after university, it is essential to have a clear understanding of who you are, your skills and abilities, and your goals for the future.” –Ana Parfenova, Student, University of British Columbia

I’ve noticed that a lot of young people in university struggle with finding their right path in life. After all, there are so many doors that you can go through, so many careers and internships out there to try and pursue, and so many different paths that you can take on this exciting journey of young adulthood.

Certainly, if you are unsure about who you are and unclear about exactly what it is you want, it can be extremely confusing finding your footing in a world that is constantly changing and pushing you into different directions.

A year ago, due to a few unexpected major life changes, I found myself in a strange and vulnerable position – for the first time in my life, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do after graduation.

As a result, I was left terrified, confused and uncertain. My plans for law school fell through when I came to the realization that I would not be happy in a career that I found uncreative and boring. As systematic and future-oriented that I am, I was absolutely horrified by the thought that I no longer had a sense of direction in my life. After all, my entire undergraduate degree was planned for the purpose of attending law school.

I knew that it is impossible to navigate through life without a clear sense of direction because the tide will push you farther and farther off track from where you ultimately want to be. After I realized that the path I always wanted to go on no longer appealed to me, the thought of what I would do instead kept me up for hours every night. I became increasingly more confused and begun searching for validation and advice from my family and friends. Finally, after receiving some good advice but mostly conflicting opinions, I realized that the only way I could gain clarity was to rely solely on myself… and look within.

What I’m doing now

After I discovered what I truly wanted, and understood what I truly enjoyed doing, I decided to pursue a career in marketing and public relations. I made a chart of my goals and created a step-by-step outline of the things that I needed to accomplish in order to actualize my goal. I decided to join a club on campus and run for a Public Relations position in order to gain relevant experience in the public relations field while still in university. I am now a member of AIESEC where I have the chance to gain real world experience while finishing my last semester of university. AIESEC is one of the world’s largest student-run organizations that excels in bridging the gap between the classroom and the workplace. As a Public Relations coordinator in AIESEC, I have the opportunity to connect with media companies on a frequent basis, and have already developed a clear understanding and appreciation of the public relations field. I can proudly say that after several months of confusion and uncertainty, I am now gaining valuable experience that is in complete alignment with my goal.

My recommendations for employers, schools and career centres

In order to find the answers that I was searching for, I took the time to step back and re-evaluate what I truly enjoy doing and what I am drawn to. I thought about my interests, the things that I am drawn to, what kind of lifestyle I want in the future, as well as my strengths, skills, and talents. Looking at myself through a subjective lens allowed me to look within and discover what I truly wanted. Once I discovered who I really was as a person and what I truly enjoyed doing, I knew that I had to share that with the world. You see, what you give to the world it gladly returns back to you. But if you’re not getting much from the world, then you’re probably not giving much. So ask yourself: What gifts, talents, and abilities do I have that I can share with the world? The moment that you do, you officially unlock the door to your treasure. Within that gift also lies your happiness and your passion. When we conceal our gifts and fail to that remember they exist, or know they exist but don’t use them, we will continuously experience feelings of emptiness, sadness, anxiety, and endless frustration with life.

Everyone is blessed with a unique talent or skill that they are meant to utilize and receive financial compensation for. So if you are stuck at the crossroads, unsure of where to go, take the time to step back and analyze who you truly are. What do you excel at? It could be a particular technical skill, excellent communication skills, a creative mind, an artistic tendency to create beautiful things, or strong business savvy. What are you drawn to? What makes you happy and excited? Where does your mind wander? These are the difficult questions that, once they are assessed and answered honestly, will help you find your sense of direction in life during moments of profound confusion.

My advice for other students and recent graduates

In order to successfully transition into life after university, it is essential to have a clear understanding of who you are, your skills and abilities, and your goals for the future. Experiencing moments of confusion and uncertainty in university are common, but don’t let them get you into a rut. I firmly believe that our toughest moments shape us into the person that we are meant to become. The path of self-discovery is challenging, uncertain, and often downright uncomfortable, but it’s also extremely enlightening and liberating.

This #StudentVoice belongs to:

Ana Parfenova
Fourth-year student
Political Science and English
University of British Columbia

#157: Aisalyn Templin – Employers, don’t be afraid to invest in young people

“My employer took a chance on me when I was only 19, and it paid off for both of us!” – Aisalyn Templin, Graduate, University of Toronto

After attending three different universities and switching programs three times, I finally landed in Political Science at the University of Toronto. It was an unlikely decision considering my path began with Public Relations in a Media Studies program at the University of Guelph Humber. I quickly decided this was definitely not the right fit for me, and pursued studies in an Arts and Business program at the University of Waterloo.

After one and a half years at the University of Waterloo I landed my first co-op job at the University of Toronto in a student centre. I loved coming to work every day, even if I missed having classmates at school. This co-op position turned into a full time job for three years. When I did go back to finish my degree I transferred to U of T, which was my new home. Going back to school full time was a huge challenge! I got used to living a student lifestyle, but with a salary and no homework. When I did go back to class I wasn’t sure where it would lead me. Like many of my friends, I decided to apply for a post-graduate program at a college in Toronto.

Well it turns out life had another plan in mind for me! Three weeks after classes ended I saw a posting for the job I have today. Knowing my path has been full of twists and turns I decided to go for it. My philosophy of having a plan but embracing change paid off, and I love what I’m doing now.

Looking back, I resent years of ‘Career Planning’ that began in Grade 10. What happened to being flexible? How about the fact that many of the careers most of us will pursue don’t even exist yet? My job wasn’t even created until seven months ago.

What I’m doing now

I am working jointly with Alumni Relations and Student Life at the University of Toronto.

My recommendations for employers

My advice for employers is don’t be afraid to invest in young people. My employer took a chance on me when I was only 19, and it paid off for both of us!

Young people often bring a level of enthusiasm and a fresh perspective that can be a welcome addition to any workplace, especially an older, established institution.

My advice for students and recent grads

My advice to students and recent grads is, embrace change! Planning out your whole life at the age of 19, 20 or older is overrated.

This #StudentVoice belongs to:

Aisalyn Templin
Political Science
University of Toronto

Click here to share your own story.

#156: Courtney Hardwick – Every BA program should have a co-op or work study component

“What is the point of all the book learning if we never get any of the experience we need to actually GET A JOB?” – Courtney Hardwick, Graduate, University of Windsor

I always knew a BA in English wasn’t going to make it easy to get a job, but I thought having a university degree would at least count for something. Turns out, not so much. I ended up going back to school and just recently finished a post-graduate publishing program at Ryerson.

Even though I have focused in on the industry I want to work in, it has still been next to impossible to find a job. I have done two internships at publishing companies and although they were both amazing experiences, they don’t seem to count for much either. I had one interview for an internship where they told me straight up that my time there would not lead to a job, so I shouldn’t have any kind of expectations regarding that.

Now, I understand they are only telling me this to be realistic, but it is still discouraging to hear that at an interview and it is depressing to think that all I will ever be able to find are an endless string of internships that pay next to nothing.

I am at a roadblock. Do I continue to do internships and hope eventually one will pay off? Or do I look for work elsewhere just so I can make some money and actually start paying back that student loan that’s lurking just past another six-month repayment assistance term?

What I’m doing now

I got a post-graduate certificate and it helped me get internships, but that’s still not enough. I have done some volunteering as well. To pay the rent, I work in retail, and I can’t wait until the day I can quit and never look back.

My recommendations for employers, career centres and schools

Maybe the whole university model just needs an overhaul. What is the point of all the book learning if we never get any of the experience we need to actually GET A JOB? Sure, I can write a comparative essay on The Great Gatsby and some obscure short story in one of my literature anthologies, but who cares?

I think every BA program should have a co-op or work study component, no matter what the focus is. If I could go back, I would probably go to college instead, because the practical experience is so much more valuable than the book smarts.

My advice for other students and recent graduates

Anything you can do to get practical experience while you don’t have to worry about rent/paying back student loans/bills, do it!

Also networking, because unfortunately it really is true that it seems to be WHO you know rather than WHAT.

This #StudentVoice belongs to:

Courtney Hardwick
Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature
University of Windsor

Click here to share your own story.

#155: Timothy Boodram – New graduate positions need to cater to new graduates

“I find several listings that are advertised as being “new graduate” positions. However, they often list qualifications that no new graduate could possibly possess.” – Timothy Boodram, Graduate, University of Toronto

I am a recent graduate who is finding the transition to work difficult. I have been applying for work for almost a year now and have had little luck. I’ve been interviewed twice, but haven’t been able to land the job. For one job, I had made it through 3 rounds of interviews over the span of a month and a half, but they said they were looking for someone with more direct experience in a certain role. I think my age was a big factor.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to keep busy by coding websites, but nothing paid. I need a paying job to keep myself alive, and that keeps me motivated to find a job.

What I’m doing now

I’m keeping busy doing some personal work to strengthen my portfolio. Waking up every morning and scouring the internet for possible job openings.

Considering new career options since I have been an unemployed graduate for almost a year. I’ve also applied to grad school in September as a backup.

My recommendations for employers, schools and career centres

Employers in the area of web design/programming really need to focus on making more accurate job listings. I find several listings that are advertised as being “new graduate” positions. However, they often list qualifications that no new graduate could possibly possess.

Often I see posts requiring knowledge of 10+ programming languages and 5+ years of experience. From speaking with employers, they often say they do this to receive confident applicants only. From speaking with students and graduates, it’s very intimidating and discouraging for us because we ALL feel very unqualified.

New graduate positions need to cater to new graduates. Offer us a position where we can help, and provide a way for us to learn on the job.

My advice for students and recent grads

The majority of employed graduates from my graduating year got their job through someone they know. It’s all about who you know, and less about what you know (although this is still important to KEEP that job). Network, network, network.

This #StudentVoice belongs to:

Timothy Boodram
New Media
University of Toronto

Click here to share your own story.

#153: Samiha Fariha – Help students learn more about themselves and explore diverse career options

“I don’t know what drove me but I applied, and it was the best decision that I have made in my life because the internship opened my eyes to a whole other career possibility.” —Samiha Fariha, student, University of Toronto Scarborough

When I was applying to the Legislative Internship position at the Queen’s Park Office of MPP Rob Milligan, which was non-paid and was advertised on the UTSC Career Center website, I thought, what’s the point of applying to this position? It’s obviously going to be very competitive, there is very little chance that I might even get an interview, and to top all that, there was only one position.

I guess luck was on my side because I got a call to come in for an interview. After that, three weeks later, I got the call that I was hired.

So I guess what made me a competitive applicant for the Legislative Internship position was the diverse skills and experiences I had on my resume, as well as how well I was able to describe those skills and experiences on my cover letter and relate it to the position that I was applying for.

An internship at Queen’s Park in Ontario offers a look at how government works. As a Legislative Intern to the Queen’s Park Office of MPP Rob Milligan, I had the unique opportunity to work alongside politicians and had the great advantage of supplement my academic training with valuable practical experience. The internship entailed a broad range of duties such as responding to inquiries from constituents and community groups, preparing correspondences with constituents, business and stakeholders, and researching and contributing to documents, reports and private members bills. It opened my eyes and gave me greater insight and knowledge about provincial politics.

What I’m doing now

I am currently in my second year at UTSC and focusing on school.

My recommendations for employers, career centres and schools

My recommendation for career centres is to provide students with more information and sights about how to standout in a competitive labour market. Probably give students access to more resources or hold useful workshops that will help students to learn more about themselves and to explore career options that will help students in the future.

My advice for other students

I am doing a double major in Mental Health Studies and Political Science, and I neither have an interest to pursue a career in psychology nor political science, or that’s what I thought. I like my psychology and political science courses, but I don’t know if I could pursue higher education in either subject, until one day when I was going through the internships that were posted on the UTSC career centre website that a certain position caught my eyes, and it was the Legislative Internship position at Queen’s Park.

The position sounded very interesting, but I had doubts about applying to the position – probably because I had not the slightest interest in Political Science, I don’t know what drove me but I applied, and it was the best decision that I have made in my life because the internship opened my eyes to a whole other career possibility. I suddenly became interested in provincial politics and I started enjoying my political science courses, and started asking more questions in tutorial about the government.

So basically what I really recommend to my fellow students is to explore different opportunities through volunteer activities and internships. It’s very hard to decide what career we want for ourselves in the near future, but if students start to explore their options through internships and other activities then their choices will broaden and their interests will expand to other career opportunities they never thought of before.

This #StudentVoice belongs to:

Samiha Fariha
Mental Health Studies and Political Science
University of Toronto Scarborough

Click here to share your own story.

#152: Beverly King – Career centres, it takes more than a career board to get your students jobs

I wish I could say I had a school-to-work transition, but that would be implying I transitioned. I am still in the same part-time retail job I had in school that I had as a way to supplement my student loan. My loan remains in repayment because I don’t make enough on a steady basis to make any form of substantial payments.

Although I am working in the industry I hope to have my career in, I have made no progress either within my company or with others. Every job interview I have been to either for an entry-level position or even an unpaid internship has had the same reply: you don’t have enough experience. I don’t know at what point employers decided that experience was needed for free positions or that they were not going to invest in new graduates, but when they did, they doomed us all to positions where we are overqualified, underpaid and unhappy.

After years of working with a company in my industry of choice, I have watched people from other companies get positions they already have. Companies have adopted a disgusting trend of horizontal employment; they hire people from other companies doing the same job they are looking for to save on training costs.

Frankly, I’m tired of being passed over while companies play red rover. I’m not frustrated – I’m furious. Don’t tell me to be patient. I went to school for six years and continue to do so. I’m tired of waiting. I’m ready now.

What I’m doing now

Nothing. Part-time retail. Part-time continuing education classes when I can afford it.

My recommendations for employers, career centres and schools

It takes more than a career board to get your students jobs. Stop letting companies pretend they are supportive of your students when they only employ the top 2% of classes. If they are not giving your students REAL opportunities, (and I don’t mean pitching tents at career day promoting entry-level retail sales associate positions!) then they shouldn’t be allowed to pretend they do anything for your students. And stop pushing the same industries and same jobs for your students. Job opportunities should be as diverse as your program possibilities are!

My advice for students and recent grads

I wish I had advice. I could use some.

This #StudentVoice belongs to:

Beverly King
Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing Management
Ryerson University

Click here to share your own story.

    What is Student Voice?

    Student Voice is an award-winning initiative to fight Gen Y under-employment by giving students and recent grads across Canada a platform to share your job hunting experiences, as well as your recommendations for employers.

    With your help, we are going to improve the way employers and students connect, and make the school-to-work transition easier.

    Student Voice appears in Metro newspapers across Canada every Wednesday.

    In June 2012, Student Voice won the CACEE Excellence in Innovation Award in the Student Engagement category!

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