Cooperative programs, offered by ECS, the College for Human Development, and the School of Information Studies, give students a chance to try out their chosen fields while they are still in school and sample what life would be like as, say, an engineer, a store manager, or a resource-management specialist. The programs are a way to "test drive" a career, an opportunity for students to apply the knowledge they have spent countless hours absorbing. And though the terms "co-op" and "internship" are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a difference, according to Debra Eischen, director of career planning at the School of Information Studies. "Normally, an internship implies a shorter work experience and one that is non-paid," Eischen says. "A co-op implies a longer work experiencea semester or two, perhaps even threeand those are normally paid. It is usually a full-time work experience."
At Langley, Chawan performed tests and then did statistical data analysis. He worked with Kevin OBrien, a senior research scientist and aeroengineer who studies fatigue and fracture of composite materials used on helicopters. Barry Davidson, a Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence in ECSs aerospace engineering program who knew OBrien through professional societies, facilitated Chawans internship. "Barry told me he had a student interested in doing a co-op with us, and asked if we were interested," OBrien says. "I knew Barry would send us someone good. We said, Yes, and it turned out to be a win-win situation. Co-op students help us by giving us more bright, enthusiastic people working on a project. At the same time, they gain real-world experience they might not get otherwise."
OBrien and Chawan also collaborated on a paper about fatigue of composites that they presented at an international conference in Williamsburg, Virginia. Such an accomplishment would not have come Chawans way had he not worked at Langley. "Its a little difficult for an undergraduate to have a publication before he graduates," OBrien says. "But Arun will have that, which will help him when hes looking at graduate school. Hes curious, a self-starter, with the kind of attributes we look for not just in co-ops but in any employee."
For Chawan, who wants to earn a Ph.D. and join NASAs space program, the co-op provided plenty of challenges. "One of the biggest changes is working a 40-hour week," he says. "Theres also the experience of living on your own, in an environment completely different from school."
As a co-op student in the New York City buying office of upscale retailer Macys, Alona DeBerry 00 discovered that the work was much what she had expected: fascinating, fast-paced, and exacting. She also found that in the highly competitive world of retail, having a crystal ball to predict future trends would come in handy. DeBerry, who majored in retailing/marketing in the College for Human Development and the School of Management, worked with a buying team in the Better Petite Collection department, helping choose stock for more than 80 Macys stores along the East Coast. "Everything is done so far ahead of time its unreal," she says. "We put Labor Day ads together in July and had to figure out what items to feature, what would sell months away. Our choices were based in part on past experiences, but also on a lot of intuition."
All retailing students in the College for Human Development must complete full-time work requirements in their junior or senior years, according to Meg Osborne, the colleges director of career development. "The primary purpose of the program is to help students apply what they have learned in the classroom and develop managerial and interpersonal skills we cant necessarily teach," Osborne says.
That on-site, hands-on experience is a big plus to anyone interested in the retail field, says DeBerry. "The program was excellent," she says. "I found out that being a buyer is not all glamorousthere are a lot of little details you have to see to. One of the best things anyone in retail can do is get an internship. You meet so many people and make connections. And at the end of my co-op, Macys extended a job offer and Im considering it."
A network of connections is one of the most important benefits a co-op program offers to students. "Our program has a 98 percent placement rate," Osborne says. "Many of those job connections come from the co-op experience."
Retailing major Heather Mitton 00 also had a job waiting for her at graduation, thanks to her co-op experience at The Finish Line in Syracuses Carousel Center. "I got a lot of experience in store management," Mitton says. "I ran my own department, had my own employees, and was in charge of their training and productivity. It was really valuable."
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