Former WIL Students - Where Are They Now?


Jonathan Ferguson
Honours, International Relations with Minors in Environmental Studies and French, Mount Allison University
Parliamentary Intern, Parliamentary Internship Programme, Ottawa, ON

Jonathan Ferguson has a knack for seizing opportunities and running with them. After high school, he participated in a Rotary Youth Exchange and spent a year in Vichy, France before enrolling in International Relations at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. Although Mount Allison does not have a formalized co-op program, Jonathan integrated experiential learning opportunities throughout his degree, beginning by working as a Parliamentary Tour Guide in Ottawa at the end of his first year.

In order to receive credit for French as part of his double minor, Jonathan returned to France to complete this academic requirement at the University of Strasbourg. After a year abroad, he returned to Mount Allison for his third year and balanced his studies with being a Teaching Assistant.

The ECHO Foundation entered a partnership with Mount Allison and provided funding for student work experiences with NGOs during the summer. Jonathan was one of the students selected for the grant, but unfortunately, his internship was cancelled. Not one to let a change of plans get in his way, Jonathan made a connection with a local non-profit, Community Forests International (CFI) and they offered him a position as a Sustainable Development Goals Liaison.

CFI does a lot of work in New Brunswick and with its sister organization on the island of Pemba, off the coast of Tanzania. Jonathan worked on a broad range of tasks including grant seeking, grant writing and established a connection between CFI and the United Nations, where he represented CFI at the 2019 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the UN headquarters in New York City. The opportunity to spend two weeks at the UN was a pivotal moment in Jonathan’s career.

Developing skills during a work term is expected, but students are also exposed to workplace culture and they bring this experience forward into their careers. For Jonathan, witnessing the deep care that CFI’s Executive Director, Daimen Hardie brought to his work, was inspiring. "I've never worked for a team leader that cares so much about the dynamics and wellness of the team they lead, nor worked with a team full of such caring people."

During his fourth year, Jonathan continued to work part-time for CFI thanks to funding from Venture for Canada, while remaining a full-time student. During this time, he was also elected President of the Mount Allison Students' Union. In March 2020, New Brunswick went into lockdown with the rest of the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In his capacity as President, Jonathan advocated for students who were negatively impacted by COVID restrictions.

Mount Allison was one of the few post-secondary institutions which returned to in-person studies in the fall of 2020. As the Atlantic bubble collapsed and a 14-day quarantine period kicked in, some students who had travelled home to neighbouring provinces had their studies interrupted by the new quarantine rules. Using the skills that he developed during previous internships and experiences, Jonathan, and his Students’ Union colleagues, navigated each problem as it arose.

Jonathan graduated in May 2021 and is currently one of 10 Canadians participating in the Parliamentary Internship Programme. Interns work for both a government MP and an opposition MP over the 10-month program.

From Sackville to France to New York City and now Ottawa, Jonathan is carving out a unique career for himself thanks to the strong foundation that he developed at Mount Allison.


Erica Ward
BBA, Business Administration with Co-op, University of New Brunswick
Culture Manager, Opportunities New Brunswick

Erica smiled as she told me the story about how she became one of the first two co-op students at the University of New Brunswick's Fredericton campus. She had returned to Fredericton after completing her second year at UNB's Saint John campus, where she had the opportunity to join the co-op program. Val Whyte was starting up the co-program in Fredericton and Erica's enthusiastic return to campus was the perfect catalyst to launch the program. Erica still has a copy of the new program’s first brochure that features her and the other student.

Erica's first co-op work term was with the purchasing department at JD Irving in Saint John. She worked on a project with three other co-op students to amalgamate the parts inventory for three JD Irving mills that were operating separate warehouses. The four students shared a cubicle while working on the project.

Erica’s next work term was an 8-month work term with icGlobal, a small startup where she was hired to work on their marketing plan and document administrative processes including the company's HR manual. The company was working in online learning, which was new in the early 2000s, but was quickly gaining traction.

During the second half of her work term, icGlobal was acquired by SmartForce. Part of the acquisition agreement required that all staff transition to the new company. Once the company was fully transitioned, the marketing role that Erica was hired to do, disappeared because the marketing function was being done in SmartForce's Silicon Valley office, so the question remained, "What do we do with Erica?"

In an instant, Erica’s job description changed and she was assigned to do voiceovers for the e-learning projects that the company was creating. With no experience and a willingness to learn, Erica became the voice for several e-learning courses that the company was producing.

Experiencing so many changes in such a short period of time helped Erica see firsthand, how change affects employees. "Large or small changes, they all have an impact on the workforce and their people."  She also learned the importance of having an open mind to the tasks that were asked of her and the opportunity that these tasks provided to learn something new. " Always have an open mind to all the tasks you will be asked to do.  You can learn something from each thing.  Things you like, pique your interest, and what you’d maybe not like to do again.  All these experiences will help you on your career path.  Rarely say no…keep saying yes as no career is a straight line!”

Erica brought this approach to her full-time position with the Economic Development Agency of New Brunswick, now called Opportunities New Brunswick. By being open to new tasks and saying yes to opportunities, over the past 15 years, she worked in several roles including working directly with clients, accounting, finance, account monitoring, human resources and culture.

Through these career transitions, Erica started formulating her leadership principles about what good company culture looked like. The pillars included creating a happy and healthy environment, building trust and building relationships. “This is where culture begins. There needs to be an atmosphere where you want to come to work.”

Erica's co-op experience has come full circle in her role as Culture Manager, where she leads the student program for Opportunities New Brunswick. Students are a big part of the culture; they are given real work and finish their work terms with practical skills and experience. Students meet weekly to talk about their experiences, network with other employees, discuss career topics and always have access to Erica.

Prioritizing employee culture has resulted in Opportunities New Brunswick receiving Canada's Most Admired Corporate Culture award for the second time and being named one of Atlantic Canada’s Top Employers for the 6th year in a row. Co-op students at Opportunities New Brunswick benefit from the importance that the organization puts on employee culture and will experience it under the leadership of the University of New Brunswick’s Fredericton’s campus’ first co-op student.