Co-op Student of the Year excels at problem solving

“Everywhere I go, I try to leave an indelible mark,” says Ronjay Clarke.

And that’s exactly what the Honours Bachelor of Business Administration (Management and Leadership) student did to deserve being awarded Georgian’s Co-op Student of the Year.

Ronjay completed his co-op work experience in fall 2019 as a transit co-ordinator with the County of Simcoe. His primary project was to help improve the transit fare system for Simcoe County LINX buses, for which his manager said he exceeded expectations.

“His curiosity led him to explore, investigate and learn and led him to become a subject matter expert,” says Dennis Childs, transit manager at the County of Simcoe. “Ronjay is genuine, honest, enthusiastic, and positive with a personality that lights up a room.”

We spoke with Ronjay about his co-op experience and what he gained from his hands-on learning.

Ronjay Clarke stands in the entrance of a bus

Firstly, how did it feel to win the Co-op Student of the Year award?

I was sleeping when I heard my phone vibrate. When I saw the congrats message I had to rub my face to make sure I wasn’t still sleeping. I was elated!

What tasks/projects did you work on during your co-op?

I spent the first week observing their operations because my overall task was to review their processes and look for efficiencies.

One of my main responsibilities was to collect the fares and count the funds. I also had to liaise with different departments. I’d work with finance for the fees. I worked with customer service to create a transit fare training manual and workshop. I worked with marketing to revise the transit promotional brochures. And I worked with the property and fleet department and attended meetings with the third-party bus contractor.

It was rewarding to hear results from these different departments based on my ideas and work. Transit terminology can be confusing, so once we revised the promotional materials, customer service reported they had fewer transit-related calls. And finance said it took them less time to count coins since more riders were using smart cards.

Ronjay Clarke stands in front of a bus with his hands on his hips

One of your biggest achievements was increased usage of smart cards. How did you promote this service to bus riders?

As the person who collected the fares and counted the funds, I immediately recognized that higher use of smart cards (reusable payment cards) would be an efficiency.

Our ridership data revealed that many of our riders are Georgian College students so I suggested promoting the smart cards at Georgian orientation. I visited the campuses in Barrie, Orillia and Collingwood to speak with students and teach them about the smart cards. I also started riding the bus to meet students who may not have attended orientation.

People got to know me on route 3 between Barrie and Orillia. Pretty soon, students weren’t just asking me questions about transit, but also about my co-op experience and my experience as an international student in Barrie (I’m from Jamaica).

What did you like best about your co-op experience?

When I started, I had no knowledge about transit, but I saw how I emerged through the experience. I had a super supportive manager and supervisor.

It was cool to learn how to read transit data. We’d get lots of calls from riders asking for new stops to be added to routes. With my manager and supervisor, I’d travel to the suggested locations to see if they’d be feasible stops. When it was time to create some new stops, my manager put me in charge of implementing the stop signage. For a short time, I was in charge of a roads crew!

What was the most challenging part of your co-op experience?

Without any prior experience in transit, every day was new. Tasks changed by the minute. I often had to adjust and prioritize my tasks.

The scale of this transit system also took some getting use to. I’m from Jamaica where it only takes a few hours to drive across the country. It could take three hours to do a round trip on one bus route in Simcoe County!

What skills and knowledge from your business degree program did you apply on the job?

First and foremost, I used the time management skills I learned by taking five courses per semester while working two part-time jobs.

I also used what I learned in my project management course to help make processes leaner. And everything from my leadership courses has helped me to be able to resolve conflicts in my customer service role, finding mutually beneficial solutions for all parties involved. I now see conflict as an opportunity for growth.

What did you learn on co-op that you can’t learn in the classroom?

Both my manager at the county and one of my professors told me that you can put something on paper and it will look amazing. But until you put theory into practice, you can’t truly test it. So, this was my test – to be alert for all the external factors.

What other opportunities have risen from your co-op experience?

A part-time job opened up in the customer service department at the County of Simcoe and my manager encouraged me to apply. I was the successful candidate so now I have a new part-time job.

Also, I had the invaluable experience to have met and interviewed the County of Simcoe Warden and CAO for an assignment in my governance and leadership course.

What made you want to study business?

My dad has an autobody repair shop in Jamaica. From a young age, I took an interest in his business and wanted to help the business thrive.

Why did you choose to study at Georgian?

I read Georgian is the #1 co-op college. I really wanted a program with work-integrated learning. It’s those experiences that actually create opportunities that make you employable. Every job posting asks for someone with experience and co-op is a great way to get it.

You’re almost done your program. What do you want to do once you graduate?

I would like to remain in Canada but I’m excited to visit home and share strategies with my dad about how to market and expand his business.

About the Co-op Student of the Year award

This Georgian award is given out annually by nomination. Read why Ronjay’s faculty and co-op consultant thought he was deserving.

Ronjay’s positive attitude, determination and willingness to make the most of every opportunity led him to bringing about a revolutionary, transformative approach to the department he worked for in his co-op and in turn, changed the way that the County of Simcoe has handled these services.

Sean Elliott, Employer Relations Consultant

Ronjay is a shining star. He lives the values of our program and exemplifies leadership in all that he does. He’s genuinely curious about organizational development and business process improvement. He asks good questions, recommends innovative solutions and has a great way with people. Ronjay has a very bright future ahead and will be an asset to any organization.

Kelly Duggan, Professor and Co-ordinator, Bachelor of Business Administration (Management and Leadership) program

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