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  • 1. Sarah Klionsky Cooperative Education Coordinator Northeastern University College of Science s.klionsky@neu.edu The Role of Cooperative Education in Sustainability Massachusetts Sustainable Communities & Campuses Conference 17 April 2014
  • 2. Cooperative Education (co-op) • An educational model that integrates long-term internships into students’ curricula – Most students complete 1-3 six month long co-ops • Students have the opportunity to explore their fields of interest – They apply knowledge and gain new knowledge, learn skills, experience workplaces, and develop a professional network • Co-op experiences inform classroom experiences and vice versa
  • 3. Co-op • Students do not take classes during co-op – Can fully devote themselves to their positions • Co-op fulfills an experiential education requirement but does not have associated credits – Students do not pay tuition while on co-op – They are still considered full-time students – They are evaluated by their employer and Co-op Faculty Coordinator and receive a pass/fail grade – Affords flexibility to best benefit student and employer
  • 4. Co-op Cycle • Co-op faculty members facilitate a cycle of preparation, activity, and reflection – Students must take a 1-credit preparation course – Students spend time developing and evaluating goals and learning objectives – We focus on all the benefits of the experience and how it integrates into academics Preparation Activity Reflection
  • 5. Why Co-op? • Multiple opportunities for immersive experiences – Important for discovering what you do AND don’t like • A lot of support from Northeastern – Co-op Coordinators prepare students, develop positions, vet applicants, maintain a database – Almost all of our students participate • Experience navigating a competitive job market – Students must apply, interview, and be selected by employers – They are not simply “placed” • Employability/graduate school acceptance
  • 6. Co-op Numbers • Across Northeastern almost all undergraduates participate in co-op – 6500 undergrad and grad students participated during academic year 2013/14 – 1000 students from the College of Science alone – I work directly with undergrad Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, and Marine Biology students • 75-80 students start each co-op cycle (2 cycles per year) and 55-70 accept co-ops – Additional students from many other majors and colleges are interested in “sustainability”
  • 7. Co-op & Sustainability • Co-op plays an important role in students’ sustainability education – Many faceted, multi-disciplinary field • Applications and dimensions that students had not thought of or had the opportunity to learn about – Academic coursework can’t cover the same breadth – Many available roles within sustainability fields – Bring knowledge and ideas back to campus and to future positions • Important for campus and community sustainability
  • 8. Co-op Opportunities • Companies, organizations, agencies, institutions – Campus sustainability & sustainable living – Environmental remediation/restoration – Sustainable food systems & environmental health – Environmental advocacy, policy, and law – City planning – Scientific research – Socially responsible investing – Corporate Social/Environmental responsibility (triple bottom line) – Renewable energy – Conservation – Community organizing – Environmental education • We are always looking for more!
  • 9. Employer Benefits • Longer timeframe (6 months) – More return on training • Potential for year-round coverage – Not just summer • Students may bring useful skills – Technological skills – Different perspectives • Fairly inexpensive
  • 10. Challenges • Lack of funding and time • Matching desired qualifications and interested students – Graduate level positions in areas of undergraduate interest – Environmental Science/Studies students are the ones interested in positions targeting marketing/communications/engineering students • Content and financial reasons for mismatch
  • 11. Advice • Students – Get experience – as much as possible • On campus, volunteering, internships, jobs, outside learning – Build your professional network – Learn how to articulate what you bring to the table • Employers – Undergraduate students can often do more than you think • Take a chance on them • Ask a lot of them and hold them to high standards – Don’t get too wrapped up in looking for specific majors • Work ethic, skills, interest, willingness to learn matter a lot – Think ahead about possible funding • Even a little compensation goes a long way
  • 12. Student Perspective “I worked at The Food Project, a non-profit organization in Dorchester, MA that works in urban communities to promote sustainable and local agriculture while placing youth in positions of leadership. [There], I worked as a Community Programs Assistant… This job was both challenging and really rewarding. Because I was working in a community and with youth, I could see the results of my work around me every day… Having the chance to be a part of this amazing organization was not just a great learning experience: it helped me decide to pursue a career in Environmental Education.”