Five co-op students are a model for experiential learning

Award winners (from left to right): Yasin Celik, Sai Pratima Tothempudi, Aastha Kohli, and Anastasia Ovcharova

Five College of Professional Studies (CPS) students who come from all over the world – the U.S., India, Russia, and Turkey – have recently completed co-op assignments with prestigious employers including The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, IBM, and the U.S. Department of Commerce and also earned nominations by their employers for recognition. Each student was recognized at the college’s first annual co-op awards ceremony, held on June 20, 2012, for their outstanding contributions, professionalism, commitment, and leadership during their co-op program.

Co-op, which is short for “cooperative education,” is a program offered to Northeastern students university-wide that makes their education richer and more meaningful by providing practical experiences at home and abroad. This innovative program now more than 100 years old, prepares students for the global challenges of the next century. Students, who enroll at the University, are given the opportunity to gain up to 18 months of professional experience by applying the concepts they learned in the classroom into the real-world.

“Co-op strengthens the educational experience, and in this challenging economy, also equips our students to compete in the professional world,” said John LaBrie, Dean, College of Professional Studies, who presented an award, and who also provided closing remarks at the ceremony.

“Northeastern University, the College of Professional Studies, and co-op stand for rigorous academics and challenging real-world work assignments,” he continued. “That’s a great combination for our students, our communities and our economy, and today’s exemplary award winners tell the co-op story.”

The experiences of the CPS co-op award winners illustrate the opportunities for students across the spectrum of CPS degree programs.

Practicing What I Learned in the Classroom was Vital

Curtis Smith (Bachelor of Science in Leadership), interned full-time at the U.S. Department of Commerce where he assisted International Trade Specialists by helping clients with trade counseling, business matchmaking, and market intelligence. Smith’s responsibilities also included providing market research for Massachusetts based companies who are looking to expand into international markets, updating and maintaining the organization’s website, and creating promotional materials for trade events, among other duties.

“Being able to have the opportunity to practice what you learned in the classroom in a real-world situation is huge, and something that a lot of schools don’t offer,” Smith said. “Experiencing it first-hand was vital for me.”

Curtis, who is originally from Salt Lake City, UT, has just relocated to Washington, D.C., and hopes to enroll in George Washington University’s world executive MBA program while working full-time. His goal is to secure a federal employment position, preferably with the U.S. Department of Commerce in import administration.

Sai Pratima Tothempudi (Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication), who is from India, was able to complete two co-ops during her time at CPS and was also the only student to win two awards.

Tothempudi’s first co-op was at Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Inc, in Lexington, MA, and her second at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA. At both organizations, she worked as a Human Resources recruiter, where she screened and recruited prospective employees and developed and implemented recruiting strategies, among many other duties. She is currently working as a technical recruiter with Ascend Learning, LLC, in Burlington, MA, where she began in May of 2012.

“Pratima was an exceptional co-op student,” said Tia Purcell, director of staffing at Dana Farber. “She always took the initiative with projects and had an impeccable work ethic. She took full ownership of assignments and was self-directed and quite resourceful.”

Yasin Celik (Master of Science Project Management), who came from Turkey to pursue his masters at CPS, worked as a project manager at IBM for five months in Manila, Philippines, and is the first CPS student to do an international co-op.

“Yasin was supposed to be in charge of a set utilization project, but given his ability to handle multiple tasks he ended up managing three or four projects at the same time,” said Rodrigo Cal, director of Global Process Services at IBM in Manila. “He made a good contribution to the business and he navigated very well inside the company.”

John LaBrie, Dean, College of Professional Studies, presenting an award to Anastasia Ovcharova.

Developing Real-World Skills While Still in School

Anastasia Ovcharova (Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design), who is from Russia, participated in two co-ops while at CPS. Her first was at The Liberty Hotel in Boston, MA, and she is currently underway with her second co-op with Tuatara Group in Cambridge, MA. As a graphic design intern at the Liberty Hotel, Ovcharova created effective graphic elements and layouts for promotional materials, and developed creative ideas and solutions to meet marketing strategies.

“My co-ops helped me to narrow down the types of work I was interested in and I was able to develop essential skills while still in school,” she said. “I was also able to learn about the trends in the industry and establish relationships with professionals. Each work experience makes my resume stronger and makes me a better candidate. “

Aastha Kohli (Master of Science, Regulatory Affairs for Drugs, Biologics and Medical Devices), completed two co-ops at CPS: her first at Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories in Bridgewater, NJ, and the second at Acceleron Pharmaceuticals in Boston, MA. In addition to her co-ops, she published two articles in the nationally recognized Regulatory Affairs magazine. She completed her program at the end of June and had three job offers awaiting her.

“Pursuing a Masters in Regulatory Affairs was kind of a dream for which I came all the way from India to pursue,” she said. “Through my co-ops, I was able to gain insight into all the coursework that I studied. Studying along with working was actually motivating and never a pressure.”

As a Regulatory Affairs/Quality Assurance intern, Kohli supported project management, research investigation, and regulatory strategy. She also managed drug product accountability and recalls, and drafted regulatory strategy for using social media in prescription drug promotion and advertising, among many other duties.

“As you can see by these testimonials, what makes this institution one of the great institutions in America is its ability to translate an academic environment to a work environment,” said Dean LaBrie in his closing remarks at the ceremony.

About the CPS Co-op

In April of 2009, the College of Professional Studies launched an experiential learning program.During the first year, students from 14 degree programs participated in co-ops and internships around the United States. The College continues to offer a range of full-time co-op and part-time internship positions, allowing students to apply concepts from the classroom in the real-world and to explore their career interests in a practical way.

Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies (CPS) is committed to providing career-focused educational programs that are designed to accommodate the complex lives of motivated learners. Offered in a variety of innovative formats, CPS courses are taught by accomplished scholars and practitioners who have real-world experience. The result is an educational experience founded on proven scholarship, strengthened with practical application, and sustained by academic excellence.

Northeastern University is a global university with a tradition of partnership and engagement that creates an innovative, distinctive approach to education and research. Northeastern integrates classroom studies with experiential learning opportunities in 70 countries, and pursues use-inspired research with a focus on global challenges in health, security, and sustainability.