Student award winners of the 2018 Cooperative Education Awards.
For the last 28 years of Drexel University’s nearly century-long co-op history, the co-op and University community have gathered to celebrate the best of the best at its annual Cooperative Education Awards ceremony.
This year was no different as the students, faculty, staff and employers nominated for their exemplary contributions to this important Drexel tradition were honored May 1 in the Behrakis Grand Hall at the Creese Student Center.
Large prints of this year’s winners in the Steinbright Career Development Center Co-op Photo Contest framed the hall where the honorees and their supporters gathered to celebrate the University’s co-op-related achievements.
“Today reminds us why this University has been focused on this model of experiential education for nearly 100 years,” said Vice President for Cooperative Education and Career Development Ian P. Sladen at the start of the ceremony.
Executive Vice President and Nina Henderson Provost M. Brian Blake, PhD, gave the formal greeting to the event. He commented on the fact that co-op is a cornerstone of Drexel’s innovative learning environment, and that the program is what distinguishes Drexel from other universities. Whereas before most high school and college students had part-time jobs while in school, Blake said many students nowadays choose to focus on their studies which, while commendable, means they graduate with little-to-no work experience.
“Fortunately, that’s not the case at Drexel,” Blake said, beaming at the audience. “Our students actually get experience. Students complete as many as three co-ops by the time they graduate. Those co-ops provide rich experiences that inform what they learn in the classroom and what they apply in the real world. The co-ops also provide a built-in network. Upon their graduation, that’s something that students from many other universities lack.”
One hundred and ninety-five student nominations were received by employers for the 2018 Cooperative Education Awards, Blake said, adding that this was a true measure of the impact Drexel co-op students bring to the workplace. Out of these nominations, 11 students were selected as finalists to receive co-op awards.
“These award recipients excel not just in the classroom, but in the workplace, and offer new ideas for helping our employer partners increase productivity,” Blake said. “The results are just amazing.”
Some other impressive numbers? Blake recounted that more than 5,500 students participated in co-op in the past year with a 98.2 percent employment rate. These students work with more than 1,600 employers, and 86 percent of employers said they would consider hiring a Drexel student for a future co-op or a full-time position. Most notably, 48 percent of last year’s graduates accepted a job offer from a former co-op employer.
The Drexel co-op had traditionally expanded around the world — in the last year, 885 students worked in co-ops outside of the Philadelphia region, and 224 students completed co-ops abroad in 46 different countries.
“The Drexel Study Abroad Office and Steinbright Career Development Center are working to expand the number of international opportunities, which as a Provost, I’m delighted to see that because the more our academic innovations span behind borders, the more impact our research and our academic programs will have,” Blake said.
Before the winning students were recognized, awards for Faculty/Staff of the Year as well as Employers of the Year were given out. Rebecca Weidensaul, assistant vice president for Student Life, was recognized as Faculty/Staff of the Year for her many years of collaboration with the Steinbright team in support of student athletes while on co-op as well as many other diverse student populations.
“It was really my years in athletics that helped me understand more intimately the impact that co-op makes in students’ experiences,” she said while accepting the award. “I hope that this day is very memorable for all of students in the room. This is just another reason why I continue to fall in love with this amazing University.”
Three co-op employers were recognized as Employers of the Year following student nominations: Aspire Bariatrics, Inc.; Sartomer Americas; and The Patrick Center for Environmental Research.
“Our co-op partners not only provide excellent professional experience and professional development for our students, which is instrumental to their success,” said Randall C. Deike, PhD, senior vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Success, “but the insight we gain from our co-op partners through direct feedback from them and the feedback they provide to our students really informs our curriculum and informs the experience that our students have.”
The 11 student award-winners were then recognized with remarks from the employers by whom they were nominated.
Jessica Nebolsky, a senior game art & production student who was nominated by her supervisor at Procedural eXpression Lab within the Games, Artificial Intelligence and Media Systems Research Center at Drexel, said that it was touching to hear her employer’s meaningful remarks about what she accomplished during her co-op. She added that the fact that Drexel sponsors such events as the Cooperative Education Awards to recognize student achievement and the importance of co-op was also very meaningful to her.
“I think it shows a lot that they care enough about what we do and the accomplishments we have during co-op to recognize us with these sorts of awards,” she said.
Maren Larsen, a senior with a custom-designed major in digital journalism and cultural studies who was nominated by both Drexel’s ExCITe Center and local start-up MilkCrate, said this recognition gave her a boost of confidence as she looks toward graduation and entering the workforce.
“It’s good to sit at a table with a bunch of people who believe in you,” she said.
Additional student co-op award winners included:
Rachel Bomysoad, psychology
Jessica Cellinesi, nursing
Christian Coassin, sport management
Mary Hayles, biomedical engineering
Ou Suk Kwon, public health
Ethan Meth, culinary science
Kristin Sullivan, accounting
Timur Vafin, mechanical engineering
Lisa Wen, information systems