The co-op program helped Prickett adjust from college student to full-time employee. "I found the transition very smooth because I had already been exposed to the business world," he says. "Being in a co-op is such a good deal. It doesn’t cost anything, and you might as well take advantage of opportunities that are there for you at school."

The environmental engineering firm Blasland, Bouck & Lee has offered co-op jobs to SU students for a number of years, according to vice president David Hale G’90, an enthusiastic supporter of the program because of his own co-op experience. "The co-op helped me determine what my career would be," he says. "I thought it would be valuable for our organization to extend that offer to students."

Hale laughs when he recalls the unexpected outcome of his co-op experience. "I actually found out what I didn’t want to do in life, kind of the opposite side of the coin," says Hale, who discovered during his co-op that civil engineering wasn’t a good fit for him. Because of that realization, he refocused his efforts and became an environmental engineer. "Many students incorrectly think that the purpose of co-op is to gain experience so you can get a better job," he says. "I stress to the students that it’s really a learning experience and you may learn that you don’t like a particular area’s offerings. I’ve had students come here who have trouble with the 40-hour, 9-to-5 work week. Often I tell them they might want to be in a computer applications environment where they can work out of their home. People spend at least 40 years at their job and they should be sure they like it."

The only regret Cinthya Aguilar ’00 has about her co-op experience is that she didn’t start sooner. "I encourage students to start in the co-op program early, in sophomore year," says Aguilar, a School of Information Studies graduate who interned at NYSERNet, an Internet development company in North Syracuse. "I recommend it to the maximum–you’re better prepared when you graduate. The opportunities to work in a co-op are there–you just have to be a self-starter and find out about them."

Undergraduate students in the School of Information Studies are not required to do a co-op, according to career planning director Eischen. Those who do are allowed to earn up to 12 credits. Graduate students in the School of Information Studies must do a co-op as part of their exit requirement. "The school encourages all students to get hands-on work experience," Eischen says.

Most students work full time during the summer, and put in 15- to 20-hour weeks at the co-op job during the school year. "The whole purpose behind a co-op is that students really need to be more marketable," Eischen says. "If they just graduate with a degree, their degree is excellent, and they have an excellent background and grasp of the field. But they do not have the added attractiveness of a work history in the field."

The school’s graduates have a range of job opportunities from which to choose, including information specialist, knowledge manager, database developer, web site developer, systems analyst, project manager, and librarian. In such an open field, having practical experience–such as a stint at a co-op–helps students narrow their areas of interest.

That’s exactly what happened to Azeem Bandukwala G’00, who came to SU for graduate work at the School of Information Studies after earning a bachelor’s degree in his native India. Bandukwala, who received a master’s degree from SU in information resources management, worked for almost a year in the technical publications office at Carrier Refrigeration Operations, a division of Carrier and United Technologies. "My work at Carrier allowed me to know what I want to do in the future," Bandukwala says. "Before I joined Carrier I was not really sure what kind of job I wanted."

At Carrier, he developed and maintained a database for the publications department and helped build an internal electronic commerce web site that allows dealers to order items over the web. "All the work I did at Carrier was real and very useful to them," Bandukwala says. "And that made me feel good. My supervisor, Joan Pierce, was always there to guide me if I needed anything."

According to Pierce G’94, manager of publications at Carrier, her office sends out thousands of pieces of information every week to people worldwide. Until a few years ago, the mailing list and other information were kept on hard copy. The computerized database Bandukwala developed was an important improvement and helped streamline the office’s operations. Bandukwala also worked with the company’s systems department to make sure Carrier’s Internet site was user friendly. "Azeem has a very good ‘big picture’ perspective," Pierce says. "He brings in a lot of the new technology that he hears about at school. That’s really the beauty of having an intern–someone from the college who keeps track of the latest technology and brings the ideas to us."

From Bandukwala’s perspective, his hands-on work at Carrier enhanced the knowledge he gained at school. "When you are in a school and exposed to the best technology, you don’t always know how it is used in a practical setting," he says. "I had the technological expertise from my classes, but the co-op helped me really use it. It gave me an avenue to another world."

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