Arun Chawan ’00 hadn’t planned to take part in the Cooperative Education Program at the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), but changed his mind after his brother, Ajay Chawan ’96, encouraged him to try it. Chawan is glad he took his brother’s advice–the opportunity led to an exciting stint as a research co-op student at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. "Langley does aeronautics research involving airplanes, helicopters, and wind tunnels," says Chawan, who majored in aerospace engineering. "Working there was a great experience, a lot of fun. The good thing about the Langley co-op program is that there are other students, so it’s not just you and a bunch of professionals."

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 experience–a semester or two, perhaps even three–and 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 O’Brien, 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 ECS’s aerospace engineering program who knew O’Brien through professional societies, facilitated Chawan’s internship. "Barry told me he had a student interested in doing a co-op with us, and asked if we were interested," O’Brien 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."

O’Brien 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 Chawan’s way had he not worked at Langley. "It’s a little difficult for an undergraduate to have a publication before he graduates," O’Brien says. "But Arun will have that, which will help him when he’s looking at graduate school. He’s 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 NASA’s space program, the co-op provided plenty of challenges. "One of the biggest changes is working a 40-hour week," he says. "There’s 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 Macy’s, 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 Macy’s stores along the East Coast. "Everything is done so far ahead of time it’s 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 college’s 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 can’t 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 glamorous–there 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, Macy’s extended a job offer and I’m 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 Syracuse’s 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."

Continued on page 2
Continued on page 3

Main Home Page Contents Chancellor's Message Opening Remarks
Up Front Harbingers of Hate Vision Fund Orange Olympic Champ
Cooperative Experience Quad Angles Campaign News University Place
Student Center Staff Circle Faculty Focus Alumni News/Notes
Cover To Cover View From The Hill

E-mail the magazine editor
E-mail the web guy
820 Comstock Ave., Rm. 308
Syracuse, NY 13244-5040