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Excellence in experiential learning

Northeastern recognized 17 accomplished seniors at the Outstanding Cooperative Education Awards Ceremony, held last week in the Curry Student Center Ballroom.  The students’ co-op experiences include working at Boston’s world-class hospitals; founding a social enterprise in Africa; designing compounds at a pharmaceutical company; and conducting independent field research in China.

The awards, established in 1971, recognize students who have demonstrated outstanding accomplishments in co-op. Bruce Ronkin, vice provost for undergraduate education, noted that co-op has been intricately woven into the fabric of Northeastern since the university’s founding in 1898. Since then, Northeastern has continued to lead and innovate in cooperative education, he said, by working with employers to offer three things: top-notch research positions, experience at startups and in other areas of entrepreneurship, and the opportunity for students to become global citizens.

“In co-op, we’re not just preparing students for their first job. We’re preparing students for life,” Ronkin said.

Prior to the award presentations, a video was shown featuring interviews with the awardees in which seniors shared how their transformative co-op experiences have translated to classroom learning and shaped their career goals.

Seniors were recognized for their outstanding contributions to cooperative education and the Northeastern community.

Seniors were recognized for their extraordinary talents and outstanding contributions to cooperative education and the Northeastern community.

Kenneth Venere, a physical therapy major, said his co-op at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston provided valuable real-world experience that gave him an edge in an assistive technology course, which focused on working with wheelchairs and instructing patients how to perform advanced movements like wheelies. “Using all my experience at Spaulding, I was able to pass that knowledge along to my classmates and be a resource for them,” he said.

Venere received the Thomas E. McMahon Award, which recognizes a senior with outstanding devotion and commitment to serving others through co-op. He was one of three students to receive a named award at the ceremony. Caitlin Ferguson, a communication studies major, received the Paul M. Pratt Award, which recognized a senior who demonstrates exceptional personal and professional growth through the cooperative education program. Andonis Marden, an international affairs and political science major, received the William Jefferson Alcott Jr. Award, which recognizes a senior who utilizes his or her academic knowledge in a creative way to make a positive contribution to society and demonstrates exceptional achievement in cooperative education.

Fourteen students, including journalism major Sharlene Juste, received Outstanding Co-op Awards. In her video interview, Juste described how the b-roll video and camera work experience she received while on co-op at Boston City TV inspired her to take a video news production course by Belle Adler. The skills and confidence she acquired on co-op, she said, truly paid off.

“I extended learning from co-op in the classroom, where I discovered how to create full video packages,” Juste said.

For his part, business major Michael Behan completed two co-ops in Kenya, including one for Njabini, Inc., a company he founded in 2010 that helps poor families in rural Kenya grow income-generating projects that support their families and communities. Njabini’s latest endeavor, the Potato Project, is a collaborative model that brings potato producers together to collectively increase their production and profits.

Behan said he’s been able to apply that experience to class projects that involve financing small businesses and lines of credit.

This year’s Outstanding Cooperative Education Awards ceremony was dedicated to the late Fred T. Hoskins, the former senior director for employer relations and central co-op. At the event, Hoskins was remembered as a loyal friend, a loving family member, and a well-respected member of the Northeastern community.

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