Imagine an enrolled student spending six months in a paid full-time professional work environment experience that directly aligns with that student’s academic program and career plans in preparation for her or his next steps after graduating from Georgia State University. That student’s competitiveness for those next steps would be significantly increased, so much so that they may graduate with a job offer in hand, including a higher starting salary, as a result of real-world and relevant work experience.
To date, students have applied or worked at sites such as Better Cloud, Central Intelligence Agency, Cox Communication (Auto Trader), EZE Software Group, Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, Norfolk Southern and UPS. The list is expanding weekly as the program expands to include more majors and more sites.
Prior to its launch in January 2014, a diverse group of campus professionals representing many offices and programs from across the University came together in the spring of 2013 to put together the Cooperative Education Program. Headed by Dr. Robin Morris, Associate Provost for Strategic Initiatives and Innovation, this team built the program from the ground up. The process was complex as it required the revision of university policies, website development, new Banner coding, creation of audit courses and revamping academic program course sequences to accommodate a six month rotation rather than a typical semester. A true multidisciplinary and collaborative approach was used by Dr. Morris and the dedicated team brought the program to life.
The co-op program cohorts run from January to June (includes Maymester) and from June to December. University Career Services (UCS) provides on-going student support for the program as UCS has been home to the Cooperative Education and Internship Program, serving all colleges and majors across the campus. Students engage with the co-op program as early as their first year of enrollment at the university and participate in job-readiness preparation modules provided by UCS. They are coached and mentored and, if approved by their academic and faculty advisors, begin to apply for co-op sites. Students are not placed into co-op sites; they must compete as bona fide applicants. The co-op sites are developed by UCS in collaboration with the academic departments as the work experience must meet academic expectations, must be paid, and must meet other critical criteria for approval. Students participating in the program enroll in an audit course for the duration of the co-op and do not take any other academic courses; students can opt for a second co-op if their department has a two-cohort cycle. They are paid and work on-site full-time, gaining invaluable hands-on experience.
With its first outbound cohort of computer science and computer information systems students, the Co-op Program is steadily gaining ground using an intentionally-paced growth model. To initiate their students’ participation in cooperative education, departments must first realign their courses to accommodate at least one, and sometimes two, six month co-op rotation(s) all within a rigorous four-year academic plan including front loading essential courses prior to the co-op rotation to ensure co-op candidates are competitive candidates. Unlike an internship, co-op students are expected to arrive at their sites with early-level knowledge, skills, and abilities. Departments must then undergo a review of the revised curriculum plan and the feasibility of co-op sites. In the 2014 fall semester two new majors, geosciences and political science, were added to the program and three additional departments are currently in the preparation phase. As the success of the program spreads, more departments will engage.
For more information about the Cooperative Education and Internship Program located in 33 Dahlberg Hall, please contact Angela Walker, Associate Director of University Career Services, by email or by calling 404-413-1836, or visit us online.