Putting an Arts degree to work | Work of Arts
Putting an Arts degree to work | Work of Arts

Putting an Arts degree to work

Arts student Nicole Liesner reflects back on her internships with the Arts Work Experience program, which helped her realize the full potential of an Arts degree.

Over three internships and 16 months of work experience, the Arts Work Experience (AWE) program has changed my career goals. Originally I was hyper-focused on book publishing and book publishing alone. As a result, I was ignoring the other opportunities that my degree could offer me. Now, having worked in magazines, recruitment and government, I see that my skills are diverse, and my path is unknown and filled with endless possibilities—I find this exciting!

One of the strengths of the work experience program is the diversity of opportunities that it offers to students. Much like me with my narrow focus, many Arts students struggle to translate their degree into a career stepping stone. AWE exposes students to a variety of different avenues and career choices. It does this through low-commitment scenarios where the student can feel supported by the University. It also demonstrates that unconventional disciplines can be successful in attaining positions in unlikely fields.

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Photo: Botanical Loop tour bus in St. Albert. During one of Nicole’s work placements, she got the opportunity to tell people cool facts about St. Albert’s history as people shuttled to and from the Farmer’s Market, Enjoy Centre and St. Albert Botanic Park.

Personally, I have accepted two work experience positions that were initially seeking either marketing or economics majors—this demonstrates that an English major can “beat out” other more “conventional” degree programs. Through my AWE experience, I have proven that Arts students have the ability to compete with other degrees on equal footing.

These work experiences have provided me with confidence in interviews and knowledge that I can apply in other full-time, professional jobs. I feel as though I am qualified to be a productive member of any team I choose to work with—and that I do, in fact, have a choice. I think this is the most important outcome because, as a new grad, it can be hard to have confidence in what you know and want, particularly since some people assume you have no experience to back it up.

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Photo: View from the Galena Bay-Shelter Bay Ferry on Hwy 23 in BC while Nicole was on a recruitment event for the U of A. She got to see a lot of beautiful countryside and lakes during her four months on the road.

When I graduate in 2014, I will have a clear response to people who ask the pesky question: “An English degree? What can you do with that?” I will no longer have to worry about expressing unfounded hopes and aspirations because my AWE experience has taught me that my goals are attainable. I am confident in my skills and know their value to the right employer. For this reason I hope that other students take advantage of AWE and prove to the skeptics that a Bachelor of Arts is one of the most valuable degrees out there.

Nicole Liesner is in her last year of a Bachelor of Arts Co-op in English and Creative Writing. In 2011 she was awarded the University of Alberta Bookstore Prize in Non-Fiction WRITE 298 for her piece “The Mortal Question.” She has interned with Alberta Views Magazine, the University of Alberta and the City of St. Albert. When not in class, Nicole works with the team at Glass Buffalo Literary Magazine and volunteers on the Writers’ Guild of Alberta’s Youth Committee. She also has a writing blog at nliesner.wordpress.com. Nicole is always looking for new opportunities to learn and grow her craft. 

Related links:
The Arts Work Experience program gives Arts undergraduate students the opportunity to further develop the skills learned in the classroom with a full-time, paid work experience position. Positions start in September, January, or May of each year and can be four, eight, 12 or 16 months long. http://www.foa.ualberta.ca/Undergraduate_Programs/Careers/ArtsWorkExperienceProgram.aspx


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