The Power of Experience: A celebration of the 2024 Experiential Learning Awards

On April 24, nominees and winners of the College of Professional Studies’ (CPS) Experiential Learning Awards were celebrated with family, friends, sponsors, faculty, and peers.   

As Interim Dean, Jared Auclair, kicked off the event, he told the crowd: “I am a big believer in the power of learning by doing.”  

This ethos represents the cornerstone of Northeastern’s approach to education and is the heart of how CPS delivers its degree programs. As in life, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for experiential learning. CPS offers a variety of pathways, all of which were celebrated at the Experiential Learning Awards ceremony.  

Co-Ops represent arguably the most traditional form of experiential learning. They provide students with a chance to use their academic knowledge by spending a term immersed in real-world business scenarios within a sponsoring organization to tackle actual problems  

XN (or Experiential Network) is another pathway. This program enables students to obtain priceless experience by engaging in virtual, six-week projects with sponsoring organizations, offering opportunities to contribute to impactful business decisions.  

Networks spread the net of experiential learning opportunities even wider. With over 850 part-time faculty, most of whom hold senior management positions in their respective organizations, students have access to an extensive network to broaden their professional connections and learn from experienced industry practitioners. 

“I see the power and impact these opportunities make every day for our students and our employer partners and sponsors. Just to be nominated for an award in this area of a student’s academic journey is a huge honor as the quality of work is often noted as equal to if not better than businesses might find with a traditional paid consultant.”

Yvonne Rogers Assistant Dean, Center for Co-op and Professional Advancement

Referring to the awards ceremony as the equivalent of the Oscars for her, Yvonne welcomed faculty members, sponsors, and the award winners to share more about their experience during the event.  

The first student award winner, Corey Ortiz, was nominated by their XN sponsor, Merle Kummer of CoLAB, Watertown Innovation Career Collaboration. 

In the pursuit of enhancing the communications outreach, impact, and online presence of CoLAB, Corey led a three-student team that delivered a communications plan with nine key strategic recommendations that included both samples and clear directions to implement the ideas.  

According to Kummer, “From my perspective, the true mark of a leader is someone who makes those around them better. That is exactly what Corey did.” 

In sharing his experience as he accepted the Experiential Learning Award, Corey noted, “The support I received from everyone—my classmates, professors, and sponsors —has been essential in helping me succeed. I got to see the lessons learned in the class applied in the real world and I would not be on the career path I’m on now without the experiences I had here. I’m so grateful.” 

The second student award winner was Jhanvi Kalpeshkumar Patel who received the Humanics Award. This award celebrates students who personify Northeastern University’s ethos of humanics, its integration of technical, data and human literacies. Recipients contribute significantly to understanding and improving the world around them by demonstrating curiosity, empathy, adaptability, and lifelong learning.  

Nominated by her co-op employer, Hannes Bend of, Inc., Jhanvi contributed greatly to their mental and digital health software product by translating the software into other languages and it is now being used by people in 156 countries. She also spearheaded the efforts of coding the translations into a browser extension. 

According to Bend, “Jhanvi is a true team player with the right balance between curious mindset and skillful approach. She is always first to motivate the team and to support her professional peers.” 

In accepting her award, Jhanvi shared her appreciation for how the co-op experience provided her opportunities to grow and excel.  

“This award serves as a reminder of the impact one person can make when they set their mind to achieving greatness,” she said. “Let it inspire us all to continue pushing boundaries and striving for excellence in everything we do.”

Jhanvi Kalpeshkumar Patel CPS Student

In addition to individual awards, the ceremony also recognized a project team for their collaborative approach in producing exemplary work through experiential learning projects associated with their coursework. Winners of this team award included: Christina Spangler, Marchelle Jacques-Yarde, and Devin Powers. 

The students were nominated by CPS Faculty member, Cortney Nicolato, who in addition to teaching at Northeastern is the president and CEO of United Way in Rhode Island. In introducing the team, Nicolato said, “I love experiential learning, and love that others do as well.”  

In addition to teaching at CPS, she also received her Master’s degree at Northeastern, and attributes her decision to pursue her degree and her desire to teach at CPS with the opportunity for experiential learning. 

“The opportunity to learn from our students and with our students and put it into practice, really sets us apart. The students benefit but also it gives smaller non-profits and less resourced non-profits the opportunity to accelerate and scale their work in ways they otherwise couldn’t.” 

The award-winning team worked with Leading Legacies, a non-profit with a mission to equip formerly incarcerated men with opportunities for employment. The students conducted a comprehensive financial and operational analysis of the organization. This included a historical review of the organization’s finances and internal controls, a comparative analysis against like or aspiring organizations, and a series of well-thought-out recommendations. 

In accepting the award, all three students expressed their appreciation for the opportunity and lauded the experience as one that gave them access to learning that would not have been possible in the classroom alone.  

The final two awards of the night were presented to Priti Pawar and Tishya Bathija, both of whom received the Co-Op Excellence Award.  

Nominated by co-op Employer, Aditya Patil with Vor Bio, Priti participated in the implementation of Electronic Quality Management System (Veeva). She managed and monitored document workflow throughout the document approval lifecycle, ensured compliance with the training program and worked with other departments to ensure timely approvals of documents and training, provided support in designing and improving deviation program and reviewed validation documents ensure compliance. 

According to Patil, “Priti’s support during this time was appreciated by management as she proved her out of box thinking in strategizing programs like validations. She went above and beyond to support validation program improvement by reviewing more than 90 validation binders and worked with cross functional teams to resolve all the issues she found during her review, making sure all validation binders comply to the GMP and GDP regulations.” 

In accepting the award, Priti said, “This experience gave me amazing exposure to the real time world beyond anything that anyone could imagine.” 

The second co-op excellence award winner, Tishya Bathija, was also nominated by her co-op employer, Bill Sorensen with Tecomet Inc., who said, “Tishya actively participated in cross-functional meetings involving members from various departments including regulatory affairs, quality assurance, engineering, and manufacturing. She facilitated open discussions, ensuring all voices were heard and ideas were considered. Her ability to actively listen and integrate feedback led to the development of a more efficient process that significantly helped in the investigation.” 

In accepting the award, Tishya said, “This recognition is a reflection of the incredible support and mentorship I have received throughout my co-op journey, from my manager Bill Sorensen and the team at Tecomet. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow, and I am excited to continue making meaningful contributions to the healthcare industry.” 

In closing the event, Jared reminded those in attendance of the importance to pause and allow themselves to absorb important moments like this.  

“It can be too easy to let these moments pass by, but they are so valuable,” he said. “I encourage all of you to take the time to truly absorb how incredible your accomplishments are – to those students who won awards and those who were nominated – I cannot wait to see where your journey takes you next.”