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The Future of Work Is Building Connections

Play video 'Preparing for a Changing World: The Future of Work.'

Preparing for a Changing World: The Future of Work

Steinbright: Building Connections

Download this guide to the Steinbright Career Development Center, which includes everything from the impact of Drexel Co-op and career services offerings to the many ways that Steinbright supports employer partners in solving their business challenges and growing their talent pipeline.

Steinbright: Building Connections [PDF]

2018–2019 Addendum [PDF]

The Steinbright Career Development Center

The Steinbright Career Development Center is one of the largest university co-op and career services teams in the world, providing a wealth of experience and knowledgeable assistance for Drexel University students, alumni, and employers. With a comprehensive staff of skilled and dedicated professionals, Steinbright is an invaluable starting point for connections between Drexel students, alumni, faculty, employers, and the world. This University would not be the innovative destination for experiential education that it is known as today without Steinbright moving the University forward and connecting a constantly growing network of employers to talented Drexel students.

A Talent Pipeline for Employers

Drexel's renowned cooperative education program, also known as co-op, provides extensive preparation and professional employment experiences for students. And the value of co-op is obvious as it acts as a powerful recruiting pipeline for partnering organizations while producing excellent outcomes for our Dragons. Co-op allows students to learn firsthand from industry leaders and bring this knowledge and enhanced perspective back to the classroom, enabling them to serve as valuable resources for their fellow students and their professors. In line with our academic model, this cycle equips students with a unique combination of knowledge and experience that will empower them to become the leaders of tomorrow as they work with the leaders of today.

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Co-op: A University-Wide Commitment

The loop of learning where World-Class Academics and Real-World Experience feed into one another.

The Value of Co-op

Since 1919, Drexel has made professional work experience and skill development central to our academic model and curricula in the form of our cooperative education program, 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. This combination of co-op and classroom experience drives curricula forward as faculty members adjust their instruction based on their students' industry knowledge in order to transform theory into practice by combining world-class academics with real-world experience.

The loop of learning where World-Class Academics and Real-World Experience feed into one another.

This form of experiential education enables employers to actively engage with our academic model and have a role in shaping Drexel's dynamic curriculum. Together, we will equip the next generation of industry leaders to face the business challenges of the future.

Q: How do we know experiential education delivers results?

A: We study it like it’s a science.

Drexel is home to the Center for the Advancement of STEM Teaching and Learning Excellence (CASTLE), run by an interdisciplinary team working to identify best practices in experiential education. The CASTLE group builds tools to assess co-op as well as other real-world learning programs, such as study abroad and service-learning, to understand how experiential opportunities impact students.

By asking questions and examining extensive co-op data, Drexel is able to create new areas of academic excellence that position our graduates for cutting-edge careers and solidify our leadership in the cooperative education field.

Q: How do we infuse real-world connections into our classrooms and projects?

A: We partner with industry.

Through Drexel’s Business Solutions Institute, companies collaborate with Drexel on research, custom training, and evidence-based solutions.

We connect companies such as Vanguard, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Campbell’s Soup Co., and Independence Blue Cross to faculty and students through interdisciplinary projects, classes, executive education opportunities, and custom industry lab research. Past projects have related to business analytics, the "Internet of Things," and UX/UI experience testing.

Drexel students also solve culinary challenges for food industry clients such as The Hershey Co., Bumblebee, and Aramark through the Food Lab, a student-run interdisciplinary food research group. Since its founding in 2014, the Food Lab has earned a reputation for developing innovative recipes and sustainable food products that have led to patent applications and licensing agreements.

Drexel also partners with organizations in the arts and cultural and nonprofit space through the Lenfest Center for Cultural Partnerships. Since 2017, the center has used its $3 million endowment to fund 25 (previously unpaid) co-ops at organizations like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Delaware Museum of Natural History, and Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.

The endowed co-ops give organizations additional resources to publicize their cultural assets while contributing to the training of future museum curators and nonprofit managers.

As Drexel further develops its tech-commercialization resources, opportunities for partnerships will accelerate. For example, the University runs ic@3401, one of the city’s most diverse early-stage startup incubators, where faculty and students collaborate with independent entrepreneurs. And in its final phases, the massive building complex Schuylkill Yards will house academic classrooms and innovative corporations side by side in a collaborative environment.

Q: How do we know our curriculum matches the needs of the workplace?

A: We ask.

We ask students returning from co-op what they learned. We ask employers that hire our students what those students need to know. And an interdisciplinary faculty committee meets regularly with co-op advisors to review feedback from employers and students. The result is better programs across the University.

Here are some recent ways co-op has transformed how we teach:

  • The Design & Merchandising program in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design eliminated outdated visual design and art history courses. Excel skills and practical retail math for calculating mark-ups and stock-to-sales ratios were built into courses. Environmental science replaced physics as the required science credit in recognition of the fashion industry’s impact on the environment.
  • The College of Computing & Informatics developed new required courses that bridge theory and practice. One uses project-based teaching to show students how theoretical computing concepts relate to typical industrial applications they may encounter on co-op (for example, the development of a custom database for a specific business).
  • The Department of Communication in the College of Arts and Sciences accelerated when students take required courses after second-year students returning from their first co-ops reported they needed more foundational courses earlier in their studies.
  • The Goodwin School of Professional Studies shortened in-class instruction time and began offering more project-based learning opportunities. Rather than offer à la carte courses, the school created an official pathway so adult learners can follow a logical course progression toward certification.

Celebrating our Employer Partners

What do you get when you spend a century building partnerships with companies of all sizes, in all fields, across the United States and abroad? You get endless connection points with employers invested in cultivating the next generation of leaders and committed to a curriculum grounded in experiential learning. We are proud of our expansive network of over 1,500 employer partners, which includes Fortune 500 companies, enterprising startups, and respected arts and cultural nonprofits.

And the strength of Steinbright's offerings comes from these employer partners providing valuable opportunities for our students. In coordination with the Employer Relations team, Steinbright invites employer partners to connect with current Drexel students and recent alumni in a number of unique ways. These include attending career fairs, hosting on-campus information sessions, holding online web chats, presenting at guest panel discussions, and sponsoring campus events. Why do employers choose to partner with us year after year? Here's what they have to say.

Steinbright: The Co-op Employer View


"[Drexel] students' unbiased perspective on the problems we are trying to solve provides valuable input and leads to improved results. […] We expect students to not only solve a problem or implement a solution; they have to map their approach to the problem, explain their design decisions and present their results regularly. Demonstrators and proof-of-concept implementations that have resulted from past Drexel co-op collaborations have remained relevant long after [students] leave."

David Buettner
Engineer and Software Architect


"The Drexel students that we have in our cafés are running the entire café, so they get full rein of all of the ordering and the profit-and-loss statements. They get to decide how they're going to hold different events or allocate their catering and interact with the community as a whole. Essentially, they are running a business on their own."

Chelsea Logan '17
Training Manager

Philadelphia Eagles

"Drexel co-op students are actually taking things from their six months of class into the workforce and taking things from the workforce back into their classes, keeping the circle going. That's appealing to us because we want people who can walk into the job and have experience under their belt, and knowledge of what it's like to be in a professional environment, with all the teamwork and relationships that come with it."

Kelly Rafferty
Event Production Coordinator

Photo of Justin Sweeney, Gwynith Godin, and Kunal Vinod Shukla.

Justin Sweeney, Gwynith Godin, and Kunal Vinod Shukla are three of the nearly 150 Drexel co-op students PECO hired in 2019.

Peco, A Model Co-op Employer

Rich Cornforth has spent nearly 40 years working at PECO, adapting to changes in the utility industry along the way. But he's found that a fresh, outside perspective from talented Drexel students can result in solutions that have eluded even him.

"Co-op students are just great resources," says Cornforth, who runs the engineering department at the Philadelphia-based natural gas and electric utility. "They bring skills that they've clearly picked up in their studies — data analytics and understanding the latest data tools, stuff like that."

PECO has been hiring Drexel co-ops for four decades and is one of the most loyal members of Drexel's co-op employer network. This is because at PECO, co-op students get real work done, and they are as valued as employees are.

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Cornforth has seen co-op students devise ways to automate rigorous tasks that have created lasting efficiencies by significantly reducing the time to complete them.

The students learn productivity hacks at Drexel that they bring with them to the job, which helps PECO's bottom line. But for the nearly 150 co-op students who work at PECO each year, there's always give and take.

Photo of Rich Cornforth.

PECO puts its co-op students through a rigorous onboarding and off-boarding process that includes five training sessions and optional career workshops with résumé reviews and mock interview scenarios. At the end of their co-op period, each student delivers a poster presentation on the project they completed. And these projects aren't just theoretical — some have gone on to see implementation and millions of dollars of funding.

"We count on the co-ops to be productive members of the staff," Cornforth says. "They do real work. They have real assignments. It's almost like your six-month co-op term is a six-month-long job interview."

The company also hires interns from other local schools, but Cornforth says Drexel's six-month-long co-op cycle is unique and builds in time for training and accomplishment.

In fact, when Cornforth meets with company colleagues in other regions, he makes them jealous.

"As we compared staffing levels, the number of people and the amount of work that would get done, my peers were like, 'Well, that's not fair, you have extra people. You're getting work done but I can't hire more full-time staff,'" he reminisces. "I said, 'Well, that's your fault. Hire co-ops.'"

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Drexel Co-op by the Numbers

When hosting co-ops, employers often tell us that Drexel students bring a fresh and innovative perspective to their company and many employers even choose to hire these students after graduation. This means that Drexel Co-op employers are not only serving as mentors, instructing and inspiring the future of talent within their field, but they are recruiting motivated and enthusiastic employees. And, thanks to the support and preparation that our students receive from Steinbright beforehand, they are fully prepared to integrate into any workplace environment.

The benefits of hiring a Drexel co-op over a standard internship are obvious — just take a look at the Value of Drexel and you'll find that the proof is in the outcomes.


of co-op employers would consider rehiring their co-op student for a future co-op or full-time position.


of co-op employers found student academic preparation oriented to the needs of their organization


of co-op employers rated overall student performance as very good or excellent.

Drexel Co-op: This Is Experiential Education

Ready to Get Involved?

Once new employers join our vast network, a wealth of opportunities opens up to them — beginning with our world-class cooperative education program, Drexel Co-op, and extending to our many career services offerings that help companies raise awareness for their brand. Whether through attending career fairs or hosting information sessions, employers are invited to build connections with our students in order to find the perfect fit to support the growth of their organizations.

For some companies, joining the Drexel Solutions Institute (DSI) might be the best place to start. The DSI partners with organizations of all sizes to assist them with talent acquisition and development, crafting industry-aligned curricula, and much more depending on their needs. Through project-based learning opportunities, the DSI is bringing together faculty with multidisciplinary student teams and industry partners in order to develop new business solutions and, ultimately, retrain the workforce. In this way, the DSI acts as a gateway between industry and the University community. We believe that this is the perfect model for the future as we continue to support the broadening needs of all employer partners.

If you are an employer interested in learning more or are unsure about how Drexel Co-op can fit into your organization, reach out to Steinbright today!

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Alumni Testimonials

Photo of Kieran Billmann.

Kieran Billmann's co-op with Penn State Applied Research Labs set him on a path to his current career with the U.S. Navy at the Naval Air Warfare Center in New Jersey.

"The co-op program was amazing. You can tell they've been doing it for 100 years because it's very well-orchestrated and very well done. Everyone was there to help you. Everyone gave me tidbits of information for how to do better interviewing. So, when it actually came time to get a real job, I felt pretty comfortable with interviews because I had already had so many."

Kieran Billmann '11 and '15,
College of Engineering
Penn State Applied Research Labs

Photo of Riley Stanford.

While on co-op with Philadelphia-based startup Lia Diagnostics, Riley Stanford created a patent-pending film for the firm's flushable pregnancy test, which is close to commercialization.

"It's definitely a project I'm proud to be involved with. What they are doing is good for the environment and good for women, and both are things that I care passionately about. The Drexel co-op system ultimately gave me the chance to see everything through and effect change for the company."

Riley Stanford '19,
College of Arts and Sciences
Lia Diagnostics

Photo of Brian Lofink.

Brian Lofink is one of Philadelphia's most high-profile chefs and he says it likely wouldn't have happened without the opportunity to co-op for acclaimed chef and five-star restaurateur Georges Perrier of Le Bec Fin fame.

"Without working in that specific co-op, I'm not sure I would have lasted this long in the restaurant industry. It was such an intense period — immersive learning — that it set up my whole career. It catapulted me ahead of my peers because, by the time I left, I was 24 years old and had worked in one of the best restaurants in the city with one of the best chefs in the world."

Brian Lofink '03,
Food & Hospitality
Brasserie Perrier