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Selkirk College GIS student lands dream internship with World Food Programme in Rome

Bob Hall
By Bob Hall
April 8th, 2014

 When Alexandra Winter began researching internships as part of her Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Advanced Diploma, she dared to dream. Next week, Winter travels to Rome to begin a four-month stint with the exact organization she coveted.

It started earlier this year when Winter was sitting in the Selkirk College Co-op Education and Employment Services (CEES) office on the Castlegar Campus discussing her options with CEES Manager Brenda Smith.

“When Brenda asked what my dream internship would be, I kind of said it as a joke ‘the World Food Programme,’” says Winter.

On April 12, Winter will leave Canada to begin a four-month internship with the World Food Programme where she will have the opportunity to apply skills acquired over the last eight months at the Castlegar Campus.

“This position I have taken is exactly what I have been looking for, emergency management and food security,” says the 25-year-old.

Making the Right Choice

Winter grew up in Ottawa and graduated from Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, Quebec with a degree in environmental studies and geography. Three years ago, her drive for adventure and passion for the outdoors drew her to the mountain lifestyle of British Columbia.

Winter was working for the Town of Golden in the winter and Parks Canada in the summer, but wanted to begin a more rewarding career. With an interest in food security and mapping, she started her internet search and came upon two schools that specialized in GIS: the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) in Burnaby and Selkirk College.  

“If you appreciate the Kootenay lifestyle and a slower paced life, then Selkirk is the better option for sure,” says Winter.

She enrolled and moved to Nelson in August to begin her studies at Selkirk.

More Than Expected at Selkirk

The GIS Advanced Diploma is one of the many sought after streams of study in Selkirk’s School of Environment & Geomatics. Winter quickly found out that she was in for an intense eight months of study on the Castlegar Campus.

“The program provides a very wide variety of courses,” she says. “When I arrived I thought GIS was just making maps, but there are so many different elements.”

The program includes database management and design, data analysis, GIS multimedia, Global Positioning System (GPS) surveying, internet mapping technologies and remote sensing. It was while working on a project that included building a website that Winter delved deeper into the work being done by the World Food Programme.

The World Food Programme is part of the United Nations and is the largest humanitarian agency that fights hunger worldwide. When disasters strike or conflicts arise, the programme provides food relief to people in need. More than 90 million people are provided food through the program annually and the ultimate goal is to create sustainable food sources in those areas where it’s needed the most.

“It has always been a local and global issue, and providing a sustainable food source is more valuable than relying on the provision provided during an emergency,” Winter says of food security. “It’s important that we figure out how to sustain ourselves. The World Food Programme brings food when there is a disaster or conflict, but they try to incorporate their knowledge so that the countries can then sustain themselves.”

The Co-Op Advantage

When Winter arrives to the World Food Programme headquarters in Rome she will be working in the emergency preparedness and response division. She will be assisting in producing and updating maps related to natural hazards, as well as drafting documents that explain the risk analyses for several countries.

“It’s great to be involved in a program that has co-ops and internships because you have that guarantee of experience which is different than what you do in the classroom,” says Winter.

The paid internship lasts until August 21 at which point Winter hopes to have turned enough heads that they will keep her around.  Regardless, she feels that the next few months will propel her towards the career she was seeking when she enrolled at Selkirk College.

“Working in Canada you would certainly make a lot more money than this internship, but what I will gain from this experience is extremely valuable,” says Winter. “This will open so many doors for me because food security is exactly what I want to get into. I’m really happy to be in a field where you are contributing and having a positive impact on society.”

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Categories: EducationGeneral

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