Meet Alicia Bowland
Alicia is a fourth year Food and Agricultural Business Co-op student, minoring in Sustainable Business. Her third co-op work term, set to begin in May, was delayed due to COVID-19 until July. Alicia was given the opportunity to continue her position with the Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge (SPARK) program, where she has worked during the academic semesters since 2018. SPARK is a part of Research Communications at the University of Guelph in the Office of Research, and provides students with the chance to develop their written communications skills. Alicia writes and edits scientific, agricultural, and economic research articles in nationally recognized publications, such as the OMAFRA Yearbook, Research News, and Milk Producer.
Have there been any changes to your current job because of COVID-19? If so, what changes?
“Since COVID-19, SPARK has gone completely to a work-from-home format. We no longer have access to our office, which was set up in a news-room style where we always had open space to communicate and work with each other, so that has been an adjustment. We also can’t meet with any researchers or staff in person, so we often have to communicate by email, phone calls, or video chats.”
What are some strategies you've used to adapt to these changes?
“Our office meets on Microsoft Teams video chats every morning at 10am with our manager, where we update each other on work assignments, catch up, and plan for anything else we need to for upcoming days.”
What have you learned while working in this time?
“I have mostly had to learn how to manage my time on my own, in days that generally have no structure. It’s been important for me to make some structure for myself, so I can be effective as a worker, while also making sure I am giving myself breaks and time for myself.”
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced while working during COVID-19?
“I am definitely someone that benefits from being able to be face-to-face with my co-workers and bounce ideas off people, so it has been tough not being able to get immediate feedback or advice from my team. But, our team is very active in our chat groups, and our daily meetings help when I have challenges, too.”
What are some projects you are currently working on within your position?
“I have been in the midst of writing articles for Research News, a couple of which were COVID related pieces on research from a special edition of the Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics. I have also been writing articles for this year’s edition of Research Magazine with an Innovation Theme, and the OMAFRA Yearbook. My team is working on social media campaigns for SPARK and the Office of Research accounts to grow our engagement and make research exciting for readers.”
How do you think the experience of working during COVID-19 will benefit or impact you in your future co-op terms/career?
“I think working from home has taught me a lot about my own limits with self-discipline, and creating a work-life balance. It’s also taught me about clear and effective communication within teams, since face-to-face communication and planning isn’t an option. Another big take away for me has been prioritization, which I’ve historically had trouble with. Learning how to balance several assignments of different sizes at once, with different deadlines, has been important for me to get better at.”