Morgan Marshall

Associate Coordinator

Faculty of Management, Interdisciplinary Co-op Education
Currently on leave
Office: EME 2171
Phone: 250.807.8243


Fourth-year Bachelor of Arts student majoring in International Relations, Leah Plomp, becomes the 2023 UBCO Co-op Student of the Year 

As a mature student, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts majoring in International Relations, Leah Plomp has triumphed over significant challenges on her path to the UBCO Interdisciplinary Co-op Program. Plomp’s life and work experiences combined with her deep-seated desire to enact positive change in global affairs, has influenced her path both professionally and personally. Initially drawn to the Co-op program by the opportunity to explore careers in politics and global affairs, Plomp attributes her transformative Co-op journey to playing a pivotal role in discovering a refreshed career direction.

“My experience is a testament to the strength and resilience of embracing one’s unique path. I have gained professional expertise and a renewed sense of confidence and purpose.” – Leah Plomp, 2023 UBC Okanagan Interdisciplinary Co-op Student of the Year

Plomp attributes her diverse life experiences as impacting her journey at UBCO. Prior to embarking on academic studies, Plomp started her career in trades as an electrician in Northern Alberta, where she describes her experiences as difficult: navigating the challenges of a predominantly male industry, which she says often subjected her to discrimination and discontent. However, as her dissatisfaction grew, a spark of possibility ignited in Plomp’s mind, prompting her to reconsider her life’s trajectory.   

Driven by a deep desire for a fulfilling career that aligned her passion for politics, social justice and critical thinking, Plomp made a courageous decision to shift gears. Despite the uncertainties, she chose to leave her established career as an electrician and embark on an academic journey at Okanagan College. Within just a year, Plomp shares that her self-assurance flourished, leading her to confidently transition to UBC Okanagan for her studies.  

In her third year of study, Plomp suffered from a traumatic brain injury forcing her to postpone her first Co-op work experience. “After months of neuro-rehabilitation and 30 weeks of vision therapy, I felt prepared to start my job search.”  

As is the case for many Co-op students, securing the first work experience can be daunting.  Plomp shares that she experienced moments of self-doubt and imposter syndrome: “Would I fit in? Am I too old? Will my disability hinder my success?”. With the support of the Co-op Program Office, Plomp says she overcame her fears and secured a position with Global Affairs Canada’s Peace and Stabilization Operations Program (PSOP). “After months of dedicated rehabilitation, joining GAC’s PSOPs division was a triumph” says Plomp. As a Program Support Officer, Plomp faced a steep learning curve and admits she was first overwhelmed with the sheer amount of dense, technical information within the role. Plomp, however, pledged to embrace the challenge, reframing her fears into opportunities for growth. Within a few weeks, she knew she fit into the workplace; her colleagues viewed her age as an advantage, and her disability was a welcomed asset providing a unique and valuable perspective.  

 Plomp contributed to PSOP’s corporate reporting, strategic planning and performance measurement, including supporting on reports for parliament and the public. She conducted quality assurance reviews to ensure accuracy and reliability in quantitative and qualitative data during GACs annual reporting period, ultimately, she says contributing to accountability and transparency within the Canadian government. She also provided coordination support for a key results survey initiative to help ensure that PSOP provided compelling policy and programming statements to demonstrate changes in policy, practice, behaviors etc. 

“Leah has been a dream Co-op student. She has so completely implicated herself in the work of the division and department over the time she’s been with us that I can hardly remember a time when she wasn’t part of the team.” Joanne Minns, Director, Strategic Planning and Coordination Division for Peace and Stabilization Operations Program

Despite it being Plomp’s first Co-op experience, her PSOP supervisor and colleagues commend her outstanding time management and organizational abilities. They applaud her sound judgement and ability to work independently, and superb communication and problem-solving skills.  She exhibited an impressive ability to work collaboratively with a multitude of stakeholders across the large and complex organization such as Global Affairs Canada” says Marie Saikaley, Deputy Director at PSOP. Her colleagues went on to say, what sets her apart is her unwavering composure and kindness. Even when faced with a challenge, Plomp maintained a positive attitude when working under pressure, seeking help when necessary. When Plomp was formally offered an extension to continue her Co-op experience for an additional four-month Co-op term, it was clear that she had made valuable contributions to the team. 

Throughout her time with PSOP, Plomp reflects that her co-op work experience integrated the theoretical concepts learned in class with real-world insights on complex geopolitical issues. Plomp says, “seeing the intricacies of Canada’s international assistance first-hand reaffirmed my commitment to a career change into the federal public service.” 

“My co-op term reinforced my decision to pursue graduate studies in genocide and mass atrocity prevention, conflict studies and conflict mediation and a career in the Canadian foreign service.”  Her time at PSOP has solidified her dedication to this cause and provided her with valuable insights and experiences that will undoubtedly contribute to her future career endeavours.  

“She has been a notable, positive presence on the team, and I know she has an exciting career ahead of her, hopefully at Global Affairs Canada, if we’re lucky.”– Joanne Minns, Director, Strategic Planning and Coordination Division for Peace and Stabilization Operations Program

For Plomp, participating in the Co-op Program not only enhanced her university experience but also facilitated her personal growth. Identifying as an individual with a disability, Plomp emphasizes the importance of self-advocacy, urging others to “find allies, be open, and connect with people in your workplace”. This mindset not only helped Plomp establish meaningful relationships, but also grow within an inclusive and supportive team and work atmosphere. 

“The most valuable lesson from reflecting on my journey has been learning to transform challenges into opportunities for growth and learning” says Plomp. She encourages fellow students that although Co-op can be overwhelming at first, “don’t get discouraged”. Instead, she urges reframing fear and self-doubt as chances to acquire valuable experiences and confidence. Additionally, she highlights the importance of utilizing the support and resources provided by the Co-op Program. 

“My efforts highlight the program’s benefits in personal growth, conflict management, and leadership skills development. I stress that I would not have had access to this position were it not for the Interdisciplinary Co-op Program.”– Leah Plomp, 2023 UBC Okanagan Interdisciplinary Co-op Student of the Year

Reflecting on her experience, Plomp shares that the Co-op program allowed her to evolve personally and professionally as well as provided her opportunities to expand her network and further shape her passion for a public service career. “The Co-op Program opens doors that may be unavailable to you otherwise “ says Plomp; she emphasizes that work integrated learning provided invaluable practical context to her academic pursuits. 


UBC Okanagan Interdisciplinary Co-op Education seeks to recognize a student’s personal and professional growth and development through experiential learning. The annual award recognizes one outstanding UBC Okanagan co-op student in recognition of all aspects of their engagement, including academic standing, workplace performance, and professional/community involvement. A big thank you to the co-op faculty advisors for adjudicating all the nomination packages this year. 

If you have any questions about the Co-op Student of The Year Award, please contact