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Seniors honored for their outstanding co-​​ops

North­eastern hon­ored a group of extra­or­di­nary seniors on Thursday after­noon at the Coop­er­a­tive Edu­ca­tion Awards, an annual cer­e­mony high­lighting stu­dents who’ve demon­strated out­standing accom­plish­ments on their co-​​op experiences across the globe.

In opening remarks, Susan Ambrose, senior vice provost for under­grad­uate edu­ca­tion and expe­ri­en­tial learning, noted that “co-​​op both com­ple­ments and sup­ple­ments our aca­d­emic cur­riculum by enabling stu­dents to enact the knowl­edge, skills, and per­spec­tives they have in authentic con­texts, which helps to deepen and strengthen their knowledge.”

Stu­dents, Ambrose said, bring what they’ve learned on co-​​op back to the class­room to enrich their own learning and that of their class­mates. She added that fac­ulty, advisers, and co-​​op employers play a vital role in the co-​​op program’s success.

Co-​​op is the sig­na­ture program in Northeastern’s century-​​old expe­ri­en­tial edu­ca­tion model, which combines rigorous classroom learning with real-​​world work expe­ri­ence. Nearly 8,000 stu­dents were placed on co-​​op in the 2012–13 academic year; between 2006-​​07 and 2012–13, stu­dents were placed in experiential-​​learning opportunities—including co-​​op, study abroad, and research—in 114 countries.

Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice pres­i­dent for aca­d­emic affairs, con­grat­u­lated the students and presented them with their awards. “You’ve worked hard and we’re very proud of your accomplishments,” said Director, noting that many seniors will begin working full-​​time jobs and enrolling in prestigious graduate school programs immediately after graduation. “Our students being rec­og­nized today—and in fact all of our students—have demonstrated exceptional professional growth as a result of their co-​​op experiences.”

The event began with a video featuring interviews with the student awardees as well as faculty and co-​​op employers. Students described how their co-​​op expe­ri­ences provided valuable knowledge to bring to the classroom and research projects, improved their con­fi­dence in them­selves and their work, and provided an opportunity to explore new cultures, interests, and entre­pre­neurial endeavors.

“Co-​​op got me to see the real-​​world appli­ca­tion of what it is I’m learning,” said Nate Bessa, CIS/DMSB’14, a computer science and business combined major whose co-​​ops included developing tools for biochemists to help identify bio­markers for disease and developing software to help increase pro­duc­tivity at Brigham & Women’s Hospital. “I got even more excited about being in the classroom because now I can really see why I’m learning what I’m learning.”

The awards were estab­lished in 1987. Maria Stein, asso­ciate vice pres­i­dent for coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion and career develop­ment, intro­duced this year’s awardees and described the out­standing co-​​ops and other accom­plish­ments throughout their North­eastern expe­ri­ence. Of the 17 stu­dents hon­ored, three received spe­cial named awards.

Bessa received the Thomas E. McMahon Award, which rec­og­nizes a senior who dis­plays out­standing char­acter and integrity com­bined with a high degree of devo­tion and com­mit­ment to serving others through co-​​op.

Emily Teb­betts, CAMD’14, a com­mu­ni­ca­tion studies major whose self-​​founded pho­tog­raphy business served as her third co-​​op, received the Paul M. Pratt Award, which rec­og­nized a senior who demonstrates exceptional personal and pro­fes­sional growth through the coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion program.

Chem­istry major Elise Miner, S’14, who developed her own co-​​op in Northeastern’s Center for Renew­able Energy Technology, received the William Jefferson Alcott Jr. Award, which rec­og­nizes a senior who uti­lizes his or her academic knowledge in a creative way to make a pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tion to society and demonstrates exceptional achievement in coop­er­a­tive education.

Four­teen stu­dents received Out­standing Coop­er­a­tive Edu­ca­tion Awards, including phys­ical therapy major Lil­lian Nelson, BHS’14, who devel­oped a co-​​op as an inter­na­tional research assis­tant at the Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town in South Africa, where she worked with a phys­io­ther­a­pist on a research project related to child­hood obesity. Rachael Tompa, E/S’14, a mechan­ical engi­neering and physics com­bined major, worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as part of the Thermal Technology and Fluid Systems group.

With many stu­dents in the audi­ence set to launch their careers, one speaker reflected on how co-​​op pre­pared him to succeed. Stephen Olive, E’87, MBA’96, now the group chief infor­ma­tion officer for Royal Philips, completed three co-​​ops at the defense and government electronics firm Avco Textron Systems from 1983 to 1987. “I look back on this as the most important foun­da­tional elements of my career. It taught me discipline, it taught me how to be successful, and most of all it taught me that if you preform flawlessly and constantly your managers will recognize and respect you for it,” Olive said.

Addressing the stu­dent awardees directly, he added, “This is a launching pad for your careers.”

The North­eastern expe­ri­ence gives stu­dents a career edge after grad­u­a­tion. Ninety per­cent of 2012 grad­u­ates were either employed or enrolled in grad­uate school nine months after grad­u­a­tion, while 87 per­cent of grad­u­ates with jobs were employed in fields related to their major. What’s more, 51 per­cent of 2012 grad­u­ates who worked on co-​​op were offered a job by a pre­vious co-​​op employer.

– By Greg St. Martin

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