Meet E’layna Baker:
E’layna Baker is a University of Guelph Bachelor of Arts – Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics graduate, having recently graduated in the Summer of 2021. As part of her degree, she enrolled in an Experiential Learning course called Flexible Internship in Agri-Food, or UNIV*3140, a course being offered again this Fall. In this course, she learned about social media and communications in the agri-food industry through a hands-on internship at Synthesis Agri-Food Network. She improved her interview skills and confidence in public speaking, as well as faced her fears by challenging herself to do unfamiliar things. E’layna currently works as the Communications Intern at the Ontario Agricultural College where she has continued to develop her social media, writing, and presentation skills. E’layna talks about her experience in UNIV*3140 and as the OAC Intern, as well as her insights on the importance of flexible and experiential learning.
How did you find out about UNIV*3140? Why did you decide to take it?
“I found out about the course through an email I received from the Chair of the FARE department. He sent out an email to FARE students the day before classes were set to start, informing them of one more spot being available in the UNIV*3140 course. His email included a course description and a lot of detailed information that persuaded me to jump at the opportunity to enroll. I was interested in everything UNIV*3140 seemed to offer – learning more about the many jobs out there in food and agriculture, gaining valuable job search skills and practicing interview etiquette.”
Where did you do your internship for this course? How did you gain this internship?
“I did my internship for this course at a communications and consulting agency called Synthesis Agri-Food Network. I gained the internship through utilizing the cold-calling/cold-emailing method the course instructors talked to us about. I researched agri-food companies in Guelph and made a list of all those I potentially had an interest in working for. I also ranked the companies and planned to reach out to them in that order. The first company on my list was Synthesis, and after sending them my resume and having the interview, I obtained the job!”
What was your role during the internship?
“During the internship I got exposure to social media management and social media campaigning surrounding topics relevant to agri-food stakeholders. I was also able to play a key role in organizing data that would be used for consultation on changes to a code of practice within the industry. My attention to detail also allowed me to play a small role in a number of other projects such as, testing software for industry use, data entry for an online database of product information and compiling preliminary information for a food waste related report.”
What was your favourite thing you learned?
“My favourite thing to learn about was all the social media related work. I was able to draft messages for a professional Twitter and Facebook account, and coordinate with the communications team about campaigns and special messages. In my personal life, I was never really interested in social media – I actually avoided it at all costs – but I’ve grown to enjoy learning about social media tools and how it can play a key role in the success of a person, a business, or an idea.”
Tell us about your experience preparing for the interview for Synthesis Agri-Food Network. What did you do to help prepare and did it help you?
“I remember reviewing a lot of the course content about preparing for an interview. I made note of the potential types of questions they would ask and thought about how I would approach answering it based on the guideline detailed by my course instructors. We also got the opportunity to do a mock interview during class time. This was a great opportunity for practicing the pointers we got from instructors, while getting valuable feedback. My whole preparation process was very helpful for me, and I was able to stay calm and composed while answering all of my interview questions.”
Talk to us about your internship takeaway of "Flexible Learning". What does flexible learning mean to you and why is it important?
“Flexible learning is all about adaptation. Keeping an open mind, being willing to problem solve from different angles, and asking different types of questions are all key parts of flexible learning. Being a flexible learner is important because you would likely be able to get along with diverse groups of people and you would even be well suited for different types of projects. I believe that flexible learning can be important in both your professional life and personal life.”
What is your role in OAC?
“I currently serve as the 2021 summer communications intern for the OAC Dean’s Office. My role includes managing social media accounts such as the students of OAC account on Instagram and the OAC intern account on Twitter. I have also been given the opportunity to develop my writing skills completing writing projects such as the OAC student perspectives blog, the LIBRANNI alumni magazine and more. I also have gotten exposure to creating social media campaigns, conducting one-on one interviews and public speaking through online platforms.”
What is your favourite part about your job?
“I really enjoy being given the opportunity to write more. Article-style writing has been a great learning experience for me, and I believe I would love to explore this more in the future. I also enjoy the fact that I’ve gotten more comfortable in front of the camera and I’m now able to speak fluently on the spot for something like live interviews or recordings for videos. This is a long way from where I used to be – shy and soft-spoken. Getting experience in this field has both taught me a lot about myself, and in a way has brought out the best in me!”
How will your role in OAC, in combination with your experience in UNIV*3140 help you with your future career path, if at all?
“They both definitely have helped me to develop self-confidence, especially in a professional environment. I don’t necessarily have a clearly thought-out career path to describe, but I certainly plan on walking through life confidently, while not being afraid of making mistakes.”
What does experiential learning mean to you?
“To me, experiential learning means learning by doing, and learning in a way that allows you to un-learn and re-learn right on the spot. Seeing your own self in action, assessing your strengths and weaknesses in a team setting and being able to ask questions in a judgment-free learning environment is all a huge benefit to growth and professional development. It’s also what experiential learning is all about.”
What is your advice for anyone considering experiential learning courses?
“Go for it! You’ll literally never know just how good you are, and how much is out there for you to learn until you try something, so don’t rob yourself of a valuable learning opportunity simply because you are intimidated or fearful. In my case, before enrolling in UNIV*3140 I was afraid I would be unable to find an employer, or I would be the underachiever of the group of students. This was a horrible mindset to have, and I soon realized that having a positive mind and being open to learning and growth was the best route I should take to participate effectively in this course.”
To learn more about E'layna's experience with UNIV*3140 and her main takeaways, read her article, "Student Perspective: Takeaways from my 40-hour Internship and UNIV*3140"