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The Cooperative Education Awards celebrate the continued success of our Drexel Dragons' co-op experiences. These awards are given to students, employers, and faculty for outstanding work in the cooperative education program. In a year marked with unprecedented hardships, we are filled with pride by the excellence and resilience of our community, and we applaud the success of all the participants who make Drexel Co-op a leader of experiential education. Join us in commending all of our 2021 Cooperative Education Award Winners.

Please enjoy these celebratory remarks from Ian Sladen, vice president for Cooperative Education and Career Development.

2021 Cooperative Education Award Student Winners

The Cooperative Education Awards recognized seven exceptional Drexel students for their outstanding effort in fulfilling the goals and ideals of cooperative education.

Rahul Akkem

Major: Biomedical Engineering
Nominating Co-op Employer: Valentina Graci, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Rahul has participated in a wide variety of roles within the research scientific process since his first year at Drexel. As a member of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s research team, Rahul took initiative in designing a tool to increase muscle activity in children as well as a game to motivate young subjects during muscle measurements. His work during co-op has been extremely influential to three studies, and he has gone so far as to teach himself an entire programming language to accomplish his goals.

Celebrating: Rahul Akkem

Stephanie Ryan

Major: Computer Science
Nominating Co-op Employer: Mithila Athresh, Group One Trading

Stephanie took on challenging tasks at her new role and provided outstanding results to her team. Designing, developing, and testing a tool used to check trading positions, her skills were described as immediately being on par with full-time employees. Eight different tools that Stephanie created while on the job are still utilized on a daily basis by full-time analysts, all of whom were trained how to use each tool by Stephanie.

Celebrating: Stephanie Ryan

Justin Ponciano

Major: Computer Science
Nominating Co-op Employer: Amy Sullivan, University of Pennsylvania Student Health Service

Justin excelled at his new role interacting and preparing patients for their appointments. His proactive approach to performing tasks and completing assessments left his coworkers impressed, and Justin was asked to return for a part-time position after his co-op. His work was also vital in the recruitment of incoming co-op students, revising job descriptions and organizing the virtual interview process to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Celebrating: Justin Ponciano

Mallika Kodavatiganti

Major: Biological Sciences
Nominating Co-op Employer: Rodrigo Gamarra, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia — Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Described as the best student who had worked with him in the ten years of supervising co-op students, Mallika's employer was able to trust her with tasks spanning a variety of important roles, from maintaining multiple prospective databases and recording speech videos to doing literature reviews and medical chart reviews for research projects. Her work was also instrumental in developing remote work strategies during the pandemic as well as establishing a co-op training methodology.

Celebrating: Mallika Kodavatiganti

Oluwatamilore Ogunranti

Major: Chemical Engineering
Nominating Co-op Employer: Kareem Edouard, ExCITe Center

During her time on co-op, Oluwatamilore was the driving force behind keeping her lab focused during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is described as an invaluable team member by her supervisor as well as an instrumental resource to everyone she comes in contact with. Some of her work was on the front lines of the Philadelphia community, reaching out with dedication and creativity to high school students in West Philadelphia's Promise Neighborhood.

Celebrating: Oluwatamilore Ogunranti

Casey DuBois

Major: General Business
Nominating Co-op Employer: Maria Cino, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Casey stood out as a strong writer, communicator, and critical thinker during his time on co-op. His aptitude for policy work and interest in the public sector was reflected in his contributions to the optimization and organization of a new virtual environment. Attending congressional hearings in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, Casey's responsibilities included monitoring and reviewing government policy critical to his company and using that information to advise Corporate Affairs on trading policy and more.

Celebrating: Casey DuBois

MyeongJu Shin

Major: Interior Design
Nominating Co-op Employer: Marian Jacobs, Princeton University

MyeongJu used his design skill to create space plans for uniquely challenging projects, including turning a single-occupant office into a space that functioned for two or more employees. Putting in extra time and effort into all of his work, he would provide multiple solutions to problems, all of which satisfied criteria in an impressive manner. His work ethic and value as an original thinker attributed success to his team that was noticed by everyone who worked with him.

Celebrating: MyeongJu Shin

Employers of the Year

Amy Baniewicz

Associate Director for Raw Materials,
Center of Excellence at Merck & Co.
Nominating Student: Amy Tieu

Amy created a professional environment that was both inclusive and involved for co-op employees. Not only was her time at Merck met with professional development opportunities but also, thanks to Amy's supervising, it was a valuable networking experience in which virtual happy hours and team building made the most of working during the pandemic.

Darshil Patel

Associate Principal Scientist,
Cabaletta Bio
Nominating Student: Sachinthani Arambepola

Dr. Patel was referenced as incredibly supportive, ensuring that Sachinthani was engaged in meaningful work during their co-op. Providing a strong sense of community, working during the COVID-19 pandemic was a far smoother transition due to Dr. Patel's consistent and diligent work in teaching his employees the new work protocols.

Faculty/Staff of the Year

Brea Heidelberg

Associate Professor, Program Director,
Entertainment & Arts Management
Nominating Staff: Ariel Jones and Desiree Easter

Brea was able to leverage professional connections around the country to take on student employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The efforts that she made connected many students to co-ops that created the experience our program is known for. Her work with her students and Drexel Co-op has made a lasting impact that will continue to be celebrated.

Co-op Alumni Spotlight

Experiential education is a cornerstone of Drexel University's academic model, and it cannot be carried out without the talented and passionate students that lead the way. Drexel recognizes these alumni for their exceptional time on co-op and their continued success in their professional lives.

Photo of Vicki Poponi.

Vicki Poponi

Class of 1984
Drexel University
BS, Chemical Engineering, College of Engineering

Ms. Poponi is a Vice President at American Honda Motor Co., Inc., where she leads the enterprise-wide alignment of Honda's digital services across all product lines, including automobile, powersports and power equipment and their sales, service, and finance functions.

She was honored by Honda as a Trailblazing Woman in Labor and Business, received the STEP Award from the Manufacturing Institute, and was selected as one of the Top 100 leading women in the North American auto industry by Automotive News in 2010.

Her three co-ops at Gulf Western, Sun Oil, and Sun Refining & Marketing Company provided impactful real-world experiences that drove her to success.

Photo of Lawrence James.

Lawrence James

Class of 2002
Drexel University
BS, Information Systems, College of Computing and Informatics

Mr. James is President and CEO of Philadelphia-based Connexus Technology, a provider of Artificial Intelligence-driven data extraction services, and onsite IT business and technical consultants.

His three co-ops at Unisys Corporation, WebLinc Communications, and his final independent co-op, where he launched his first company, provided invaluable experiences that helped establish his successful business career. Although all the co-ops were great experiences, it wasn't until he completed his third independent co-op that he discovered he was happiest and most fulfilled as an entrepreneur.

His success as an entrepreneur earned him the U.S. Small Business Administration Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Innovation Business of the Year Award, Drexel's 40 Under 40 Award, and the Philadelphia Business Journal 2012 Healthcare Consultant of the Year Award.

Photo of Jessica Sharp.

Jessica Sharp

Class of 2002
Drexel University
BS, Communications, College of Arts & Sciences

Ms. Sharp's co-ops in provider communications at Independence Blue Cross and partner communications at PECO Energy, along with a third co-op at Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau, shaped her career.

With the experience she gained, she was able to work for public relations firms before co-founding Maven Communications, a strategic communication agency, where she serves as Principal. She specializes in creating and executing strategic communications campaigns for organizations in arts and culture, health and wellness, financial services, nonprofit, professional services, real estate, and technology.

Her success gained recognition, and she was named 2019 Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia.

Photo of Alison Carroll.

Alison Carroll

Class of 2010
Drexel University
BS, Business Administration, LeBow College of Business

Alison Carroll built a successful health and home goods brand from the ground up. She co-founded Wonder Valley, a producer of olive oil, hand-harvested and expertly milled from the groves of Northern California. This olive oil is not only used to enhance food but also in Wonder Valley's unisex skincare collection, sold online, in Wonder Valley's brick and mortar store in Joshua Tree, CA, and in stores across the globe.

Alison's three co-ops working for public relations firms Tierney Communications and Lazar Partners prepared her to tackle anything headfirst.

After graduation, she worked as the Marketing Director for the California Olive Oil Council, where she was responsible for quality control for the state of California.

Photo of Monica Alston.

Monica Alston

Class of 1988
Drexel University
BS, Chemical Engineering, College of Engineering

After working for Rohm & Haas for all her co-ops, Ms. Alston was well prepared to embrace her career. As Director of Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) and Pandemic Safety Officer at Comcast, the global telecommunications conglomerate, she leads EHS and develops strategies to reduce EHS risks through effective sustainable EHS management practices.

After more than 25 years in EHS, she is a leader in her field, having worked for Endo Pharmaceuticals, the Kellogg Company, Eaton Corporation, and GlaxoSmithKline. Engaged in civic organizations, she serves on the Board of the Riverbend Environmental Education Center and serves as Chair of the Eastern Region Strategic Planning Committee of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.

At Drexel, she serves on the College of Engineering Advisory Board and is a member of the Drexel Black Alumni Council. In 2018, she was named to the Alumni Circle of Distinction by Drexel's College of Engineering.

Photo of Aubrey Reichard-Eline.

Aubrey Reichard-Eline

Class of 1999
Drexel University
BS, Design & Merchandising, Westphal College of Media Arts & Design

Ms. Reichard-Eline's career as Director of Merchandising has brought her around the world with key global brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, DKNY, and Swarovski.

She completed two co-ops with Neiman Marcus and Liz Claiborne, Inc., which were able to provide her with a full résumé before graduating, setting her apart from the competition. She continued working for Liz Claiborne as an Account Executive after graduating. Motivated by action, she co-founded the non-profit, WITH Grace Initiative, with her family, and led by her daughter Grace, in response to her pediatric cancer diagnosis to help others battling pediatric cancer through fundraising, advocacy, and direct care opportunities.

She also co-founded Unwind Yoga Studio and mentors those interested in entering the fashion industry or considering attending Drexel.

Excellence in Cooperative Education Award

Selected by members of the Alumni Board of Governors and presented annually at the Steinbright Career Development Center's Co-op Awards, this award recognizes a Drexel alumn who has completed at least one co-op experience while enrolled. Nominees demonstrate excellence in their chosen fields and serve as an example of the opportunities that experiential education can provide. Nominees should also demonstrate a commitment to sustaining such opportunities for current and future Drexel students, such as through hiring co-ops.

Kenneth R Fulmer

Kenneth R. Fulmer

College of Engineering, Trustee

Class of 1992 and 2010
Drexel University
BS Architectural and Civil Engineering, MS Engineering Management

Kenneth Fulmer became CEO and president of Urban Engineers in July 2016. Since beginning his career with the firm as a Drexel co-op, Fulmer has served in several leadership capacities, including deputy director of Construction Services and general manager for Transit and Passenger Rail. In those prior roles, he strengthened Urban's regional presence and expanded the firm's national profile. Fulmer is now involved in all aspects of the firm's operations, including serving on its board of directors and leading its executive committee, aligning resources to support client needs and growth initiatives, overseeing the development and implementation of the firm's strategic plan, communicating vision, and maintaining the Urban culture.

Fulmer's passion is spending time with family — his wife, two daughters, and dog Charlie — and joining in all of their accomplishments. He is involved in his community, serving as a coach and/or commissioner for youth recreational leagues, as well as serving as a board member for the Perkiomen Valley Foundation, an organization that provides grants to teachers within the school district to fund in-class needs. Fulmer serves on the Board of Directors of the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation, GVF TMA, and the Global Philadelphia Association. He also is a founding member of SWE HeForShe, an allyship group that empowers men to be advocates for women in engineering and tech. At Drexel, Fulmer has been a commonwealth trustee since 2018 and currently serves as a member on the Buildings and Properties, and Institutional Advancement Committees. As a Drexel student, he was a member of Delta Sigma Phi.