Arts undergrads take on remote work, support faculty research

This spring, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted students’ plans around the world, drastically reducing options for summer employment. Recognizing the urgent need facing Arts students, the UBC Faculty of Arts moved quickly to launch the Arts Students Remote Work on Campus initiative.

“We saw that summer Arts Co-op jobs shrunk by 50% within a few weeks of the pandemic being called, and we were worried that our undergrad students would not have access to jobs,” says Laura Moss, Associate Dean, Students. “We decided to create our own.”

To support the creation of meaningful undergraduate employment as soon as possible, a total of 116 new jobs were created through the cooperation of faculty members, the Co-op office, and the Office of the Dean of Arts, along with federal COVID-19 relief funding. The newly created positions were open to all students in the Faculty of Arts and focused mainly on advancing faculty members’ research projects and supporting departmental transitions to online learning. Over $450,000 was allocated to student work through the program, which ran throughout Summer 2020.

Supporting research with fresh insights

Heidi Tworek, Associate Professor in international history and public policy, says working with Veronica Stolba, the student she hired through the program, was integral to a newly published report she co-authored with postdoctoral fellow Chris Tenove: Trolled on the Campaign Trail: Online Incivility and Abuse in Canadian Politics.

Working with Stolba helped strengthen their analysis of social media platforms’ policies around harassment and provided fresh insight to the project as a whole. “She brought in a new perspective,” Tworek says, for considering “what makes sense, what doesn’t, and how somebody who’s a little bit fresher to this research than we are thinks about it and how we can frame it. It was tremendously valuable for us.”

“The research I did in my placement delved into the personal experiences of elected officials with social media, giving me a deeper understanding of what it's like to be an elected official.”
UBC Political Science student

For Stolba, the position came at an opportune time, shortly after her previous summer internship plans were cancelled because of COVID-19. Stolba says the role has also helped her land her current position working as a Constituency Assistant for a local Member of Parliament.

“The research I did in my placement delved into the personal experiences of elected officials with social media, allowing me to gain a much deeper understanding of what it is like to be an elected official,” she says. “I think it’s really valuable for staff members to understand the advantages and disadvantages of social media as a political communication tool.”

Expanding creative possibilities

Hiring students through the Arts Students Remote Work on Campus initiative helped Christopher Patterson, Assistant Professor in the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice, get two projects off the ground. “For a long time I dreamed of creating a video game and of starting an online, social-justice based literary journal,” says Patterson. “Only by reaching out and hiring students was I able to do so.”

“I feel like as faculty we try to do everything, which really limits the kind of projects we can have – like creating video games or running journals.”
Assistant Professor, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice

One project involved adapting Patterson’s first novel, Stamped: an anti-travel novel, into a video game. He worked with students to create the artwork and design the game using the free engine Ren’Py. (See a screenshot from the game on Twitter.) The other project involved working with students to re-boot the online literary journal Decomp Magazine. The journal had existed since 2004, but had recently come under hard times.

Patterson stresses that student involvement was critical to each of these projects. He notes that “neither of the projects would have been possible without the students — full stop!” Each student he worked with provided skills that were needed to make these projects a reality.

“I feel like as faculty we try to do everything, which really limits the kind of projects we can have — like creating video games or running journals, says Patterson. “We should acknowledge our own limitations, and hire students who are either trained or can be paid to train in subjects related to their areas of study, or at least their passions.”

Work experience and funding opportunities

The Arts Students Remote Work on Campus initiative has concluded for 2020, but more opportunities are available for faculty and students looking to work together remotely.

Remote work opportunities for Arts students

UBC CareersOnline: The online job and volunteer board for UBC students and alumni.

Centre for Student Involvement and Careers: Remote career advising appointments are available — including same-day appointments.

Work Learn: UBC’s Work Learn Program subsidizes meaningful work experiences, offering current students the opportunity to develop professional skills.

Opportunities for Arts faculty to hire a student

Work Learn: UBC’s Work Learn program subsidizes meaningful work experiences for UBC students. The call for proposals for summer 2021 positions opens January 4, 2021.

Work Learn International Undergraduate Research Awards: Designed to support international undergraduate students interested in research, the Work Learn International Undergraduate Research Awards subsidize professors to hire students to work on their research projects.

Magnet Student Work Placement Program (SWPP): Magnet is a social innovation platform funded by the Government of Canada that offers employers wage subsidies to hire students in qualified work-integrated learning placements, such as the UBC Arts Co-op Program. Program funding reimburses eligible employers for 75% of wages paid to students (to a maximum of $7,500) for each qualified placement.

The Faculty of Arts Hire a Student initiative was funded through the Dean of Arts Endowment Fund, the Federal Government’s Student Work Placement Program (through Magnet)
, and funding from faculty members and departments.