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Lights, camera, Co-op!

Fifth-year student Drew D’Agostino spent his co-op last year in Cameroon working for Jola Venture Inc., a social enterprise founded at Northeastern that helps farmers be more productive and profitable though low-cost technologies and education. He performed market research about African farmers’ businesses and the benefits of food preservation. His co-op also focused on helping to launch Solpod, a solar-powered food dehydrator developed by Northeastern engineering students as a capstone project.

Through his experiential-learning opportunity, D’Agostino said he realized the food preservation problems for farmers make for volatile food markets. He noted that this lesson also provided a greater overall perspective on global business.

“Different markets have very different problems, and you can discover new businesses and opportunities by getting out of your comfort zone,” he said. “When you spend your whole life in the same market, or the same country, you are only aware of the problems right in front of you.”

This week, it was announced that D’Agostino took first place in the 2013 Coolest Co-op Video Contest, an annual event run by the Office of Student Affairs. Second place went to Jackie Rapetti, who worked at NBC Nightly News. Third place went to Ducky Visutthithada, who worked on co-op in Naperville, Ill., at Gexpro, a global electrical distributor.

Watch the videos:
FIRST PLACE     SECOND PLACE     THIRD PLACE

On election night, Rapetti was stationed in the control room at NBC Nightly News headquarters in New York City as reporters and producers surveyed the state and national election results pouring in and forged ahead with the program’s news coverage. It was a night she’ll never forget—one of many from her co-op experience that provided her an up-close look at how a TV news program comes to life.

“It was incredible to work in that environment,” Rapetti said. “I had no idea how much effort goes into producing a show like this. I learned so much about everything that goes on behind the scenes.”

Jackie Rapetti worked on co-op last year at NBC Nightly News in New York. Photo courtesy of Jackie Rapetti.

Her July-to-December co-op overlapped with several significant news events, including the Summer Olympics and the fiscal cliff crisis. During that time, Rapetti worked alongside producers to assemble the program’s daily news coverage by logging videotapes, assisting on shoots in Times Square, and even serving as an extra on one segment. The experience, she said, convinced her that she wants to ultimately work behind the scenes in TV news production.

“It opened my eyes to all the possibilities available in broadcast journalism,” said Rapetti, whose passion for the news industry began in elementary school when she would tune into news programs as her friends were glued to morning cartoons.

For her part, Visutthithada’s co-op also provided a global perspective. Her work involved working with vendors and making sure parts were delivered on time, keeping tabs on inventory levels, preparing paperwork for imports and exports, and even performing market research for the company.

Originally from Thailand, Visutthithada is majoring in business with a concentration in marketing and entrepreneurship. She said her co-op provided a strong understanding of how a large company operates and taught her a valuable skill: patience.

“The company has its own warehouse management system, and it took me awhile to get everything down. It was a big learning curve, and there were times early on when I was frustrated. But one day it just clicked,” she said.

Ducky Visutthithada (right), who worked on co-op in Naperville, Ill., at Gexpro, a global electrical distributor, took third place in the 2013 Coolest Co-op Video Contest. Photo courtesy of Ducky Visutthithada.

Visutthithada hopes that skill will help her in the future, perhaps in launching her own business one day. She comes from a family of entrepreneurs and is now participating in the Entrepreneurs Club’s Husky Startup Challenge, a semester-long competition that helps students formulate a structure and business plan to turn ideas into successful companies.