Drexel Recognizes Career-Defining Co-op Experiences, Exemplary Students Amidst Pandemic

The Steinbright Career Development Center announced the winners of their annual Cooperative Education Awards despite the fact that COVID-19 halted plans for an awards ceremony.

Please visit the ‘Drexel’s Response to Coronavirus’ website for the latest public health advisories.

The COVID-19 pandemic has halted many plans for people to come together and celebrate this year, but at Drexel University, congratulating extraordinary co-op students on their accomplishments just couldn’t wait — especially as the University rounds out its 100th anniversary of the cooperative education program.

Preparing for a Changing World: The Future of Work
Over 125 years ago, Drexel University's founder, Anthony J. Drexel, had a vision to create an institution that would empower every student to graduate from Drexel ready to begin their career. And in 1919, one of the most expansive university cooperative education programs in the world was formed: Drexel Co-op. To this day, students gain up to 18 months of résumé-enhancing experience by exploring up to three different co-ops and test-driving career options all by the time they graduate. And when they return to the classroom, they are able to make an impact on instruction as they share their new industry insights with all those around them. This unique combination of knowledge and experience allows Drexel students to effectively work with the leaders of today as they develop into the leaders of tomorrow. #ambitioncantwait

So, instead of an annual ceremony recognizing the 2020 student winners of the Steinbright Career Development Center’s Cooperative Education Awards, those Dragons were invited and most agreed to participate in the above video produced by Drexel’s Division of Enrollment Management & Student Success in order to share information about their award-winning experiences and their impressions of the co-op program as a whole. Each student was nominated for the awards by a supervisor on their job site, and also were mailed a physical award in lieu of one being handed to them on stage at Behrakis Grand Hall, as was the case at previous ceremonies.

Below is also the full list of student winners and information about their co-op contributions which qualified a nomination from their employer:

Aakankschit Nandkeolyar, a biomedical engineering student who completed a co-op at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Nominating supervisor: GSK Investigator Matthew Bahr

Explanation of co-op: Nandkeolyar stood out from the start at GlaxoSmithKline by facing challenges with an ever-present smile and a strong sense of determination. He spearheaded multiple projects such as the generation of scientific data to support a collaboration between GlaxoSmithKline and two external universities and connecting a new analytical instrument in the lab to an existing platform in a way that had never been attempted before. In addition to his scientific contributions, he became the GSK student ambassador for all co-ops and interns at the Collegeville site.

Dahrah Muhammad, an entrepreneurship & innovation major who completed an entrepreneurship co-op with the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship.

Nominating supervisor: Chuck Sacco, assistant dean of strategic initiatives for the Close School and director of the Baiada Institute for Entrepreneurship.

Explanation of co-op: Muhammad’s entrepreneurship co-op provided her with the opportunity to accelerate the design, planning, and development of her startup, Musa’s World. This technology platform is designed to help make the world a better place for children with autism, as well as their parents. Muhammad was diligent, professional, and persistent – shining far beyond her work on co-op and even finding time to act as president for IDEA (Innovative Drexel Entrepreneur Association). She has proven to be a leader and role model for other entrepreneur students.

Mruga Shah, a computer science student who completed a co-op with Radian Group.

Nominating supervisor: Joshua Feldman, vice president of security architecture, engineering, and operations for Radian Group.

Explanation of co-op: Shah showed great initiative in research, analysis, and implementation of several projects, such as developing a formulated protocol for Radian’s reaction to a ransomware infection, evaluating coding flaws in their application portfolio, and detecting vulnerability issues within internal devices. Through consistent communication and research, she showed impressive dedication that set her apart from her peers, far exceeding the expectations of her employer.

Jeremiah Ham, a health services administration student who completed a co-op at the Gift of Life Donor Program.

Nominating supervisor: Volunteer Coordinator for Gift of Life Colleen Duran.

Explanation of co-op: Ham demonstrated great professionalism and dependability early on in his co-op, frequently finishing his work ahead of schedule and immediately requesting more projects. His organization led to essential documentation of detailed notes, compiling and maintaining a comprehensive spreadsheet of community outreach events, collaborating with staff to implement a master inventory data base, and overseeing an event that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. Ham constantly proved to be trusted and reliable, inspiring interns in their department to act the same.

Emily Carey, a geoscience major who completed a co-op at Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, Inc.

Nominating supervisors: Senior Associate and Vice President at Langan Jared Green and Loÿc Vanderkluysen, PhD, assistance professor in Drexel’s Department of Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Science (BEES).

Explanation of co-op: Carey’s quick thinking and self-determination made her a valuable asset at both of her co-ops. In Drexel’s BEES department, Carey was always prepared, on time, and available to contribute to their research in any capacity, including assisting with a range of different instruments and techniques while on field research in Indonesia. At Langan, she was an integral part of her team, finishing assignments early and familiarizing herself with new geotechnical tasks. Thanks to her creativity and communication skills, Carey has secured a position at Langan as a full-time geologist upon her graduation.

Mariah Menanno, a public health student who completed a co-op at the Philadelphia Department of Health, Division of Maternal, Child and Family Health.

Nominating supervisor: Clinical Coordinator for the Philadelphia Department of Health Sharon Starr.

Explanation of co-op: Mennano acted as a professional team member who enhanced both the procedures and compliance for Zika surveillance in Philadelphia. Her work involved exposing trends in surveillance completion, interacting with medical and epidemiological partners, and synthesizing data for evaluation. Her paper on surveillance of microcephaly related to the Zika outbreak showed complete understanding of her data gleaned from Zika surveillance in our city. Her clear and concise communicative skills earned the respect of her colleagues as an expert in her field.

Marina D’souza, an environmental engineering student who completed a co-op at TU Bergakademie Freiberg.

Nominating supervisor: Andrea Guhl, research staff member at TU Bergakademie Freiberg.

Explanation of co-op: D’souza not only impressed her employer with an outstanding performance, but she was the first student to introduce them to the co-op program with her application. She is a perfect example of an ideal employee, tackling her assigned research project in a timely manner and being described by her lab partners as creative and efficient in doing so. Her communication went above and beyond as an engineer in a chemistry environment, even learning a bit of German to illustrate ideas to colleagues that spoke English as a second language.

Natori Tom Wing, an accounting major who completed a co-op at the City of Philadelphia’s Division of Aviation at the PHL International Airport.

Nominating supervisor: Joseph Messina, senior advisor to the executive team for PHL.

Explanation of co-op: Tom Wing displayed the highest initiative, always offering to work on projects outside of her scope of work. She streamlined a special project tracking Customs and Border Patrol wait times at several airports, an analysis that has been utilized around the world by PHL’s CEO Chellie Cameron. She thoroughly demonstrated a commitment to her work, delivering several high-profile projects including an annual report for PHL’s Government Affairs program and compiling research for all grant funding available to airports by government and non-government entities.

Peter Stolarski, a custom-designed major who completed a co-op with Group One Trading.

Nominating supervisor: HR Generalist for Group One trading Mithila Athresh.

Explanation of co-op: Stolarski advanced an entirely new type of study for Group One Trading’s Business Intelligence group, resulting in a white paper that was reviewed with high praise by management and trading staff. This study now serves as a template through which the Business Intelligence group is able to broaden the base of users that can access raw data. Through innovative thinking and statistical skills, Stolarski was able to improve the methods that Group One Trading uses to analyze data.

Anna Cushing, a graphic design student who completed a co-op at Alternative Investment Exchange (AIX), which is a subsidiary of FS Investments.

Nominating supervisors: multiple

Explanation of co-op: Alternative Investment Exchange (AIX) refers to Cushing as an essential part of the growth of the company — a dependable self-starter that consistently took the lead on projects and came up with creative design solutions that made an unbelievable impact on the firm. She further developed the company’s branding and designed their marketing website, coding sections of it that were outside of her realm of expertise. Her performance was so revered that Cushing has been invited back to work for AIX part-time for four additional quarters.