Drexel Solutions Institute students work with external partners on real-world problems, build new skills
For Drexel students, some of the best learning happens beyond the classroom through the University’s co-op program, which enables undergraduates an opportunity to apply theory learned in the classroom with practical, hands-on experience.
While businesses, nonprofits, government entities and other institutions provide the bulk of co-op opportunities, the Drexel Solutions Institute (DSI) offers a unique experience to students. DSI serves as the gateway to the University for external partners to tap the vast resources Drexel has to offer as an R-1 research institution. In that capacity, DSI draws from its faculty, staff and researchers to work with companies to tackle real-world challenges they face.
The partner projects that DSI undertakes frequently provide co-op and research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, giving them first-hand experiences that allow them to better understand how businesses operate, what it is like to collaborate with a professional team, shed new light on a desired career path and even employment opportunities.
“Not only did I get the chance to work with some amazing colleagues who helped grow my skillset, but I also got to meet with people whose visions for the project inspired me to think about what else I could do in this field going forward,” said Emara Gordon, who is earning a BS in Digital Media and Virtual Production.
For students, the program also facilitates a learning experience that equips them with deep technical expertise, broad interdisciplinary perspectives, and essential soft skills needed when working after graduation.
Several students shared their thoughts and the value they derived from their experience with the various undisclosed companies that were involved in DSI projects.
Mohammad Alavi ’23
BS in Economics
What is the value of participating in projects that involve external partners? For me, working on such a project not only helped me to learn new things but also taught me how to implement those things for the client. There was a balance between learning and using those skills in the real world.
What was your favorite part? I really liked that it was a team effort. I worked with three other students, all of whom were my age, which helped me bond with them. Whenever any tasks were assigned, we would meet to ensure we were on the same page. Also, if there were any questions or conflicts, we would try to resolve them among ourselves before contacting our manager. This helped to increase productivity and efficiency.
Vanessa Altidor ’22
Master of Business Administration
What experience did you gain by working with external partners? I gained various skills in research, communication, branding, strategy and innovation. These abilities have strengthened my business acumen and marketability. The most useful experience I gained was presenting to executive leadership.
How has this opportunity impacted your Drexel experience? Professional experiences such as working with DSI were essential to gaining knowledge and applying my coursework to real-life scenarios.
PhD in Education
How has this project shaped your academic career beyond co-op? Prior to my experience with DSI, I knew I wanted to do something in research, though I was unsure about whether I wanted to pursue the corporate or higher education sector. I now know which career path I want to take, and this opportunity allowed me to be sure of this decision.
What is the value of participating in projects that involve external partners? By engaging in corporate partnerships, you get a much different perspective than researching for coursework or for academic publications. You have different priorities, different questions, and the final product is unique to the company you are working with.
MS in Economics
What experience did you gain by working with external partners? While many projects within the classroom space strive to obtain a pre-determined result, this project challenged me to work both individually and collaboratively in pursuit of answers to unsolved problems.
How has this project shaped your academic career beyond co-op? I will graduate at the end of spring term. Working as part of the DSI team made me feel confident as I was able to complete this co-op alongside my program of studies. I feel more sure of my interest in workforce solutions and economic development as I enter the field as a professional economist.
BS in Digital Media and Virtual Production
What is the value of participating in projects that involve external partners? Corporate partnerships provide insight into what goes on in professional industries that students may otherwise not know about prior to graduating and entering the workforce. A lot of things happen behind the scenes, and it’s very interesting to experience this firsthand.
What was your favorite part about participating in this project? I loved meeting people! Not only did I get the chance to work with some amazing colleagues who helped grow my skillset, but I also got to meet with people whose visions for the project inspired me to think about what else I could do in this field going forward.
Abhishek Kumar ’22
BS in Mechanical Engineering
What experience did you gain by working with external partners? When I joined DSI, I was a novice at data analytics. With the help of my supervisors, I gained confidence and learned skills in teamwork, storytelling and data visualization.
What is the value of participating in projects that involve external partners? The projects I worked on exposed me to real-life problem solving, teaching me to think outside the box when consulting with partners.
Ranjini Mahalanobish ’24
BS in Management Information Systems & Business Analytics
What is the value of participating in projects that involve external partners? For me, these projects are doorways to further, valuable opportunities. They have given me a space to hone my skills, while also making connections, meeting and working with professionals in the field.
How has this opportunity shaped your academic career beyond co-op? The skills I have learned are transferable. I use them in so many different spectrums of my academic career – when presenting my work to professors, speaking in front of a 300-person classroom, coding in R for projects, working and communicating with teammates, and so many other aspects. This experience has been invaluable.
Alexander Manley ’22
BA in Global Studies & Political Science
What experience did you gain by working with external partners? My co-op with DSI greatly improved my time management and organizational skills. I also gained a significant understanding of how research projects function on a corporate level. It was a privilege to be a part of many high-level discussions regarding their direction.
Did participating in this opportunity affect your career interests? Upon graduation from Drexel and within a year of my DSI experience, I immediately began work with the United States Army. There, I am in a leadership position and oversee the management of dozens of soldiers and equipment that is worth millions. The time management and professional skills I developed through DSI have been instrumental to my success!
PhD in Management
What is the value of participating in projects that involve external partners? Engaging in research with corporate partners creates a bridge between research and practice that both helps practitioners and researchers feel that our work does not remain in a vacuum of journal publication.
What was your favorite part? The most valuable part of this experience, to me, is the people. PhD programs can be lonely at times, so having the opportunity to engage in projects with students and faculty members from diverse academic, personal, and professional backgrounds has enriched my life.
Master of Business Administration
What is the value of participating in projects that involve external partners? My work with DSI helped me understand the working dynamics of a corporate environment. I think, as students, we can sometimes have a false perception of what it is like working in or with corporations; but learning about it through my own experience offered an entirely different perspective that I have found helpful in thinking about my career path.
How has this opportunity shaped your academic career beyond co-op? This project helped give me a better idea of what it would be like to work out in the real world rather than in a controlled academic environment like I have in the past.
PhD in Biomedical Engineering
What is the value of participating in projects that involve external partnerships? While involved with DSI, I gained a brand-new perspective on how to work as a team with people from diverse backgrounds. During this process, I also witnessed how academic research can contribute to industry. Hence, these projects were invaluable to me not only in being a good academic researcher, but also in being a good team player.
Did participating in this opportunity affect your career interests? Being involved in these projects helped me shape my career interests for the future. With the help of DSI projects, I was able to attend local, regional, national, and international meetings, conferences and workshops sponsored by professional organizations. I also presented papers at conferences and workshops as part of my professional development.
PhD in Marketing
What is the value of participating in projects that involve external partnerships? It has been valuable to bridge the gap between research in academia and research in industry as well as to implement findings from academic research into practical business problems.
How has this opportunity impacted your Drexel experience? The opportunity to work within DSI broadened my horizon of research and further motivated me to connect academia with industry partners in my future career.
The Drexel Solutions Institute is a gateway for industry leaders to connect with research-active faculty and our University community. To learn how to get involved, faculty, students and prospective industry partners are encouraged to visit the Drexel Solutions Institute online and contact DSI@drexel.edu.