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Aoun to students: you are the trailblazers for co-op

Co-op is the ultimate form of personalization in students’ learning experiences, President Joseph E. Aoun told the Northeastern Student Government Association on Monday night.

“I don’t want you to fit in a mold that I created,” Aoun said. “I want you to create your own journey.”

The president discussed the value of global experiential learning, the global officer co-op position he’s hiring, and leadership lessons during a Q-and-A with the SGA at its weekly Senate meeting in the Curry Student Center.

Aoun was asked several questions about co-op, including how he is growing the program. In response, he said the entire Northeastern community is responsible for expanding the frontiers of co-op. He challenged students to take ownership of this effort by working hard, using these experiences to learn more about their own strengths and passions, and making an impact at their co-op employers—whether they’re working at a longstanding co-op partner or creating entirely new co-ops of their own.

“You are the ones who are the trailblazers for your successors,” he said.

Co-op is the signature program of Northeastern’s experiential learning model, which blends rigorous classroom education with real-world work experience. There were more than 9,800 co-op placements in the 2013-2014 academic year, and there has been a 133 percent increase since 2006 in the number of countries where Northeastern has offered experiential learning. What’s more, the number of global co-ops has increased 407 percent since 2006-2007.

Now Aoun is hiring his first co-op: a global officer. When asked about this new position, he said he’s looking for a creative and inquisitive student who is eager to find opportunity in new places and looks at things in different ways. But he also stressed that the job description can’t be too precise. “I want this person to be a true pioneer,” he said.

Students have until Nov. 3 to apply for the global officer position.

On what attracted him to Northeastern, Aoun noted co-op being the university’s primary differentiator and its focus on use-inspired research that addresses global challenges. Northeastern students, he added, are engaged with the world and possess a strong entrepreneurial spirit.

“Students don’t play it safe here,” he said.

Aoun also touched on leadership lessons he’s learned in his career. He said it’s important that leaders leave part of each day “un-programmed” so that they engage with and get the pulse of their communities. He also advised that they always find time to look beyond the “issues du jour” and think about the future.

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