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Building Future Careers: A Co-op Course Reimagined

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

CEED Paper Session 1: Using Co-Op and Internships to Improve Diversity, Retention, Learning, and Assessment

Tagged Division

Cooperative & Experiential Education

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Scott R. Hamilton Northeastern University

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Scott Hamilton is the Director of Graduate Professional Development at Northeastern University’s College of Engineering. He is a registered Professional Engineer and has both a MS and PhD in civil engineering and a MS in engineering management from Stanford University and a BS from the United States Military Academy, West Point. He is a retired US Army Corps of Engineers officer who has had assignments in the US, Germany, Korea, and Afghanistan. During his military career he spent over 10 years on the faculty at the US Military Academy at West Point teaching civil engineering. He is a Fellow of ASCE.

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Jack Fitzmaurice Northeastern University

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Graduate Engineering Co-op Faculty Coordinator

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Paul John Wolff III Northeastern University

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Dr. Paul J. Wolff III

Since graduating with a Master of Architecture Degree from Harvard University, I have dedicated my professional career to environmental conservation, sustainability, green-building design and the creation of innovative degree and certificate programs, professional development seminars, and industry trainings that feature experiential learning activities.

My work with the higher education sector includes the development of green building-related policies, master planning, management for energy conservation/renewable energy projects and space planning for campus expansion. As a senior administrative leader, I have facilitated climate action planning in compliance with the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) and received the Outstanding Climate Leadership award that recognized successful carbon reduction strategies, innovative curriculum and the dynamic engagement faculty, staff and students in a the pursuit of carbon neutrality.

Although my primary formal training has been in the field of architecture, recent doctoral studies at the University of Pennsylvania were focused in the field of higher education management. As part of an international research team, I had the opportunity to work with senior leaders at Nazerbayev University, KIMEP University and Kasipkor, a holding company establishing 2 new colleges (Astana) and 4 interregional centers (Atyrau, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Ekibstuz and Shymkent). My research team Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) focused on examining the technical education system that is seen as a catalyst for the country’s ambition to be an international leader in the emerging green economy.

My doctoral research explores the similarities and differences of physical and virtual place making, and the extent to which the approach may impact the learning experience for students and/or the shape of online learning spaces in the future. My belief is that just as there is a need for public parks and squares to be pleasant and welcoming to a diverse population in order to function effectively, so must the interfaces and places in the online classroom environment, be designed to engender meaning and afford social interactions. I invented several analysis tools for measuring the embodiment of course materials, the flows of communication and information, and the “sense of place,” using frameworks such as the Vitruvian Triad and the concept of tacit knowledge and Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development.

Since the notion of a “sense of place” is not well understood outside the design fields, my recent research seeks to define the concept within the realm of virtual learning environments and to fill gaps in knowledge related to describing virtual places in terms of their proximity (distance), co-presence/embodiment (the feeling of being together), visibility (can you see other people), and territoriality (control/ownership of space).

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Redesigning a course to prepare for co-op and a career

Our college of engineering has recently and rapidly expanded its graduate programs and seen a dramatic growth in numbers of students. The university has a distinct history of undergraduate experiential learning that integrates theoretical knowledge and professional experience, making cooperative education (co-op) an essential element of its strategic objectives. As part of this growth a graduate co-operative education program was initiated eight years ago and has also experienced great and rapid growth since it was begun. Recently the program undertook a re-evaluation as part of effort to create a strategic vision for the future. During the evaluation process we undertook a review of recent research and literature regarding the skills, knowledge, and attributes that engineers need for success in the 21st century. We also noted the lack of assessment data available. One of the results that clearly emerged was the need for a redesign of the “Introduction to Cooperative Education” course to include a robust assessment plan.

This paper provides a record of the results of that process and answers the question what should be included in a co-op and career preparation course? We offer a summary of the literature and research, findings of industry partners, and trends in employment that impact the needs of the engineering profession in the future. As a consequence of this study it became apparent that a new emphasis and curriculum were necessary. The course was changed from “Introduction to Cooperative Education” to “Career Management for Engineers” to reflect this new focus. The paper then details the development of new objectives and learning outcomes that transformed the class from a “nuts and bolts” tactical job searching skills course to a course with a strategic level career focus. The new goals of the redesigned course include: 1) explaining and justifying the value of cooperative education; 2) creating career goals and identifying the experiences that you want to have during your cooperative learning experience to further those goals; 3) identifying and evaluating various motivators that drive your decisions; 4) articulating your own skills and abilities for a variety of audiences and identifying areas for development, to include ethical behavior; 5) applying appropriate skills and knowledge to find and obtain a position; 6) planning and being able to document how you will integrate new skills and knowledge learned during co-op in your academic program; and 7) articulating the value of reflecting upon your own experiences across settings. The authors share their experience with selecting new materials, creating lesson objectives, assignments, resources, and developing lesson outlines that all map to the new course objectives and learning outcomes. We also provide examples of the course study guide, individual lesson plans, in-class exercises, and assignments that illustrate the new focus. Finally the paper describes the plans for and initial results of assessment and measurement of the achievement of the course objectives and learning outcomes from the perspective of students, industry partners, and faculty.

Hamilton, S. R., & Fitzmaurice, J., & Wolff, P. J. (2016, June), Building Future Careers: A Co-op Course Reimagined Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26411

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