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Experiencing Experiential Education

Posted on May 7, 2021
This Is Co-op

As vice president of Cooperative Education and Career Development, I am constantly asking myself: "How do we take co-op into the future?" Cooperative education expands further than Drexel University, and we are one of its pioneering leaders, serving over 100 years of Drexel Co-op. The impact that our program has on students stands as testament to the power of experiential education. You may be wondering, "What is it that makes Drexel Co-op so successful as a program?" and "Has the pandemic affected the way that cooperative education operates?" All of this is explained, and more, in my 30-minute ExperiencED podcast and hour-long Perspective with Paradigm podcast.

In these podcasts, I have the opportunity to discuss cooperative education with Jim Stellar, professor of Behavioral Neuroscience at the University at Albany. Students are arriving at a higher rate to college without ever holding a job, and many may lack some of the professional maturity that comes with working — how to behave in a workplace setting, address a manager, speak to a client, etc. as a result. Drexel Co-op allows students to elevate their soft skills, and much more.

Co-op connects students to meaningful positions for six-month periods, returning to the classroom with real-world experience that informs our curriculum to meet the professional needs of today. Students are encouraged to use the skills they've learned on co-op to ask questions and discuss possibilities, connecting the professional world to the academic in a way that benefits themselves and their peers. In this way, a Drexel education exists at the intersection of theory and practice. However, this doesn't necessarily imply integration; so how can our academics reflect and enhance the professional experience for our students?

For employers, the program is utilized as a talent pipeline, and much more. Students work in these positions for a long enough period to surpass the on boarding process and contribute to the organization. Our Dragons often return to these jobs as full-time employees. This allows our partners to actively engage in our dynamic model of experiential learning and have a voice in shaping the curriculum for the workforce of tomorrow, using provided resources like attending career fairs, hosting on-campus events, and utilizing further strategies to increase brand awareness on campus.

Join me as I tackle these questions and more regarding Drexel Co-op and how the Steinbright Career Development Center prepares students to succeed before, during, and after co-op through dedicated career development resources. The success of updates made to Drexel Co-op during the COVID-19 pandemic are also explained in this 30-minute ExperiencED podcast and hour-long Perspective with Paradigm podcast. I hope you have the chance to listen to these podcasts, and you can continue to learn more about co-op by going to our Building Connections page.


Ian Sladen is the Vice President of Cooperation and Career Development at Drexel University. In his free time, he loves live music, hiking, collecting baseball cards, and spending time with his family.

Ian P. Sladen

Vice President for Cooperative Education and Career Development
ian.sladen@drexel.edu