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Psychology students focus on their future careers

by Anita Grace

Psychology students filled a large lecture-room on Loyola campus last Thursday to hear a speaker talking about job opportunities. It was part of dynamic shift in a student association committed to the needs of their members.

"In psychology, it's very easy to get lost in the textbooks," said Gry Johansen, a graduating Psychology student and VP external for CUPA (Concordia Undergraduate Psychology Association). "We try to see that students get extra support and we offer a way to explore different opportunities."

Johansen said in the past, there had been little interest in the student association. "The turnout had been nothing, zero." That all changed this year, when seven students formed an executive with clear goals.

"Individuals stepped up who were willing to take responsibility," said Dinesh Melwani, CUPA president. While there is a social element to the association, their primary focus is on providing information and workshops relevant to student needs.

"We created a 60-page survival guide at the beginning of the year about what individuals in psychology need to know," Melwani said. He added with a laugh that if he'd had something like this when he began his studies, he would have been saved a lot of trouble.

The career session on Thursday with André Gagnon, coordinator of CAPS, Concordia's Career and Placement Service, was the sixth in a series of workshops organized by CUPA. They have had lecture series on clinical and health practices, on the psychology of communication and on creative theories. They also organized trips to expose students to potential work environments.

CUPA was also the initiating force in an inter-university council with McGill, UQAM and Université de Montréal. It has established an academic and social network aimed at pooling resources and contacts to create a job bank for Montreal students. Although the association runs social events like a ski trip and a visit to the sugar shack, the executive are primarily interested in offering something useful to students.

"We want to give students something more," Johansen said. "Psychology is so theoretical. It doesn't give an idea about what it is like in the world."

Attendance at the sessions has doubled, with the first one bringing in around 25 students and this last one more than 60. Executive secretary Nadia Bakir has created an e-mail network for the more than 200 members.

In a show of approval for what the executive has accomplished, some members were recently re-elected and no one ran against Melwani for president. The third-year student is happy to stay on for another year. The executive feels like his baby now.

André Gagnon gave the students encouragement. "You are in the best time in recent years for the job market," he said. "As long as your goals are realistic, if you know what you want, and you know where your strengths are, you can pretty much get what you want."


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