Co-op program will provide students earn-learn work experience

Oswego is launching the SUNY system’s first multiple-major co-op program, which can place students into full-time paying jobs for up to six months.

The new cooperative education program draws the attention of accounting major Matthew Gibbs ’13, second from left, and Maxmillian Chen ’14, a business administration major. Cleane Medeiros, left, of the biological sciences faculty and Sheila Cooley ’03, M ’11, a financial aid adviser, explain the pilot program they help coordinate with eight academic departments.

As part of a major initiative across the SUNY system to improve the flow of the education pipeline “from cradle to career,” as Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher has said, the co-op program positions Oswego as a significant contributor of field-trained graduates to employers throughout the region and beyond.

“Cooperative education is taking on new importance nationally as more and more students seek experiential learning opportunities like internships, service learning, undergraduate research and study abroad to complement their academic coursework,” Interim Provost Lorrie Clemo said.

“Students here have already expressed great interest and enthusiasm about co-ops and the opportunity it provides for them to practice their field of study, network with professionals and connect learning to the classroom during a semester of paid employment,” Clemo added.

By utilizing summers to earn general-education and other credits, students will have the opportunity to graduate in four years. Participating students can maintain full-time status, which helps with financial aid and health insurance, while gaining work experience.

“I expect that our faculty will see enhanced academic performance from students returning from co-ops with increased understanding of their fields. An additional benefit is that it will help students earn funds to finance their education,” Clemo said.

“This initiative allows us to prepare our students better for entry into the work force and helps them have a greater opportunity for job placement after graduation, especially during these difficult times,” said Sheila Cooley ’03, M ’11, a financial aid adviser who coordinates the program.

Participating students will take theory into the workplace, helping companies such as Welch Allyn, IBM and Novelis on real projects as employees, while earning up to $16,000 for a half year of work. Working within a corporate culture can allow students to try a career before graduation, while developing a network of contacts and opening the door to full-time employment.

Marshall Magee, senior director of research and development at medical equipment manufacturer Welch Allyn in Skaneateles Falls, applauded Oswego’s approach and said his company has benefited for years from student employees, including Oswego graduate students in Festa Fellowships.

“We hire a lot of students,” Magee said. “I can stand up at my desk and count probably 20 people around me who were co-ops at one time or another.”

David Stone M ’12 was employed as a Festa Fellow at Welch Allyn this summer, designing line illustrations as a member of a team developing medical instruments. “I had such a good experience,” Stone said. “I want to help out any way I can promoting the co-op program to students and talking with them about the ins and outs of a co-op position.”

Stone said it was eye-opening for him to watch products go through development cycles in a work environment, as opposed to theoretically in a classroom. “I gained an excellent perspective on how the business world works,” he said.

Oswego’s rapidly developing pilot program hopes to have undergraduates gaining field experience with area companies by spring 2013 or spring 2014, Cooley said. Departments that have signed on so far include accounting, finance and law; chemistry; communication studies; computer science; marketing and management; mathematics; software engineering; and theatre.

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One thought on “Co-op program will provide students earn-learn work experience

  1. I was pleased to see that a co-op program has been implemented at SUNY Oswego, something I advocated during the time I worked there, based upon my positive prior experience as an employer of co-op students. It is truly a win-win for both employer and student. The student gains enhanced career opportunities and the employer the chance to hire proven performers. However, in order to make it work the school must restrict it to the best students and closely monitor the employer’s experience. I would recommend that each Oswego school participate to the fullest extent that they can manage.

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