As one of the frontline employees for the newly-restructured Assiniboine Park Conservancy, Karen Cox gets to avail herself of some pretty breathtaking on-the-job perks.
So while the rest of us are toiling away in cramped cubicles or harshly-lit retail outlets, Cox spends her days at one of the city’s best-loved tourist destinations — a 1,110-acre site that has for decades been described as Winnipeg’s “crown jewel.”
“Assiniboine Park is really a one-of-a-kind place in Winnipeg,” says Cox, 24, a recent graduate of RRC’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program.
“We have so much greenspace to offer newcomers who are visiting the city or the province for the first time, and also local residents. It’s just a great place to spend time with your friends and family — an overall fun place to be.”
Raised in Teulon, Man., Cox moved to Winnipeg directly after high school, enrolling at the University of Manitoba, where she’d originally considered a career in recreation. A year later, she decided that university wasn’t the best fit, so she instead enrolled in RRC’s two-year Hospitality program, where she majored in Tourism Management
“I knew that I loved working with people, so I thought that tourism would be a great career path for me,” says Cox.
“I know the tourism industry is continually growing and full of opportunities — people are always coming and going — and because I really enjoy working with people, I thought it would be the perfect choice.”
Cox speaks fondly of her time at RRC, praising everything from the smaller class size to the quality of the instructors. (She even assigns high marks to the cafeteria food, noting it was often advantageous to share a hallway with students in RRC’s Culinary Arts program!)
“The teachers are real-life hospitality and tourism professionals, so it was great to hear their insight,” she says.
“And I found that (my classmates and I) were working as a team more. In one of the classes I had in university, there were up to 300 students, so it was hard to get to know anybody. With the smaller class size at RRC, we all became like a family.”
As part of her work placement, Cox spent the summer of 2007 working as a tour guide and events assistant at Assiniboine Park’s Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. Following the placement, she was hired as assistant to the curator of the Pavilion Museum Gallery, and was later hired by Partners in the Park (the not-for-profit group that once managed the sculpture garden, the gallery, and the Lyric Theatre) to assist with wedding bookings and the Lyric’s summer concert series.
In early 2010, Partners in the Park was absorbed by the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, which has for months been rolling out new and exciting developments aimed at capitalizing on the Park’s status as both a major tourist draw and a beloved destination for local residents.
Cox now works for the Conservancy as the Event Support & Technical Assistant, which in addition to many of the above-mentioned tasks also finds her updating the Park’s website and assisting with events planning.
“Every day I enjoy working here in Assinboine Park, meeting new people and assisting the Assiniboine Park Conservancy to make the park a great place for everyone to enjoy,” she says.
“It’s our job to make sure everyone who visits the park has a great experience. My training has provided me with the necessary skills to be successful, to be hardworking and to do the best job possible.”
Click here for more information about Red River College’s Tourism Management course.
Click here for more information about the Assiniboine Park Conservancy.