Drexel University’s cooperative education program, also known as the co-op, has been helping students gain professional experience and networks since 1919. Today, more than ever, the co-op system is a centerpiece of what Drexel does to enable students to explore up to three different co-ops, and career paths, before graduation. This year’s Cooperative Education Awards, held May 24 and sponsored by the Steinbright Career Development Center, celebrated the best of Drexel’s historic co-op program by honoring the extraordinary students, employers and faculty who have contributed to the high standard of excellence of the co-op program.
“It’s particularly important to have co-op in today’s job market, which, despite the fact that unemployment is starting to lower, is still very, very competitive,” said President John Fry at the event. “The experience that our students get, and the networks that they’re able to build from co-op, is more important than it has ever been.”
This year marked the 27th Cooperative Education Awards. Drexel, already celebrating the 125th anniversary of its 1891 founding this year, will mark the centennial of its own co-operative education program in 2019. Out of all the American institutions offering co-op programs today, only four have programs older than the University’s.
“It’s a virtual circle of learning and doing, and that’s something that’s especially nice to reflect on during the 125th year of our university,” said Fry. “It’s something that was probably in A.J. Drexel’s mind as he began the [Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry] and thought about the continuum between learning and doing.”
This year’s eight exceptional students honored at the ceremony as co-op award winners were chosen out of 149 nominated Dragons. Additionally, Joseph Urbano, a computer science major in the College of Computing & Informatics, won the Bentley Systems Career Networking Award, which is given every year to an outstanding undergraduate student demonstrating academic achievement in a related field, exceptional performance in a co-op experience at the company, and an interest in software solutions for the infrastructure lifestyle.
“These recipients really exemplify the quintessential Drexel student: they excel not only in the classroom but also on the job, they bring new ideas and energy and vigor into their workplaces and they help their employee partners achieve results,” said Fry.
The students were honored alongside two employers of the year: The U.S. Army Research Laboratory of the U.S. Army Research Development and Engineering Command, or the Army’s corporate laboratory, and SAP, the world’s third-largest independent software manufacturer and an industry pioneer in cloud computing and e-commerce business network development. Kate Hughes, associate director of Global Studies and Modern Languages in the College of Arts and Sciences, was recognized as the faculty of the year.
Here are the co-op award winners honored at the event:
Alexander Bock, an operations and supply chain management major in the LeBow College of Business, was recognized for his skill and performance on co-op with Independence Blue Cross. During his co-op, Bock applied skill in data organization and identifying trends and opportunities related to the insurance industry and helped build and, with the legal team, implement yearly organization vendor contracts, among many other accomplishments.
Amelia Fisher, a global studies major in the College of Arts and Sciences, completed a co-op at Drexel’s UConnect, a program in the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement that trains Dragons to assist local neighborhood residents while navigating the city’s complex social service sector. At the then-emerging organization, Fisher helped create processes and best practices for UConnect and also exemplified the goal of the organization by creating a safe and nonjudgmental space for all.
Alyssa Foley, a nursing major in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, was nominated by her co-op employer, the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania. In addition to steadily remaining calm in a fast-paced environment and devoting extraordinary time and care to patients and their families, Foley also helped implement an improvement project titled “The Power Team” that developed a format to provide patients with increased staff and interaction.
Melissa Frendo-Rosso, a biomedical engineering major in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, was the first Drexel co-op ever hired by Drummond Scientific Co. She was given the very challenging project of leading several successful iterations of a new product prototype that the company plans to commercialize.
Alexis Fusco, a screenwriting and playwriting major in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, was also the first Drexel co-op ever hired at Millennium Films. During her time at the company, she exceeded every expectation in reading scripts, helping fix a movie in post-production and anything else that needed to be completed — which is why she continues working with the company part-time covering scripts while working toward her degree.
Michael Luker, a computer science major in the College of Computing & Informatics, completed his co-op at Lockheed Martin. Hired for his software development capabilities — which came in handy when he upgraded and modernized an important internal web application used by thousands of the company’s engineers — Luker went above and beyond in his duties by learning how to develop SVGs (a type of computer graphic) on his own time to fill a void on his team’s projects.
David Senko, a construction management major in the College of Engineering, completed two co-ops with Target Building Construction — and continued working part-time when he returned to his classes. Senko was so efficient and capable when completing his co-op that he was asked to help prepare project schedules, a task that is usually given to a project manager, and even helped schedule, interview, select and acclimate Drexel co-ops for the company.
Jourdan Skirha, a sport management major in the Center for Hospitality and Sport Management, worked with the Chicago Bandits professional softball team for several co-ops, gaining more and more responsibilities and roles with each co-op so that she was performing the tasks of a full-time promotions coordinator by her last working experience. She created innovative in-game promotions and found new ways to easily promote events while assuming the advanced leadership role.