North­eastern hon­ored a group of extra­or­di­nary seniors on Thursday after­noon at the Coop­er­a­tive Edu­ca­tion Awards, an annual cer­e­mony high­lighting stu­dents who've demon­strated out­standing accom­plish­ments on their co-​​op expe­ri­ences across the globe.

In opening remarks, Susan Ambrose, senior vice provost for under­grad­uate edu­ca­tion and expe­ri­en­tial learning, noted that “co-​​op both com­ple­ments and sup­ple­ments our aca­d­emic cur­riculum by enabling stu­dents to enact the knowl­edge, skills, and per­spec­tives they have in authentic con­texts, which helps to deepen and strengthen their knowledge.”

Stu­dents, Ambrose said, bring what they've learned on co-​​op back to the class­room to enrich their own learning and that of their class­mates. She added that fac­ulty, advisers, and co-​​op employers play a vital role in the co-​​op program's success.

Co-​​op is the sig­na­ture pro­gram in Northeastern's century-​​old expe­ri­en­tial edu­ca­tion model, which com­bines rig­orous class­room learning with real-​​world work expe­ri­ence. Nearly 8,000 stu­dents were placed on co-​​op in the 2012–13 aca­d­emic year; between 2006-​​07 and 2012–13, stu­dents were placed in experiential-​​learning opportunities—including co-​​op, study abroad, and research—in 114 countries.

Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice pres­i­dent for aca­d­emic affairs, con­grat­u­lated the stu­dents and pre­sented them with their awards. “You've worked hard and we're very proud of your accom­plish­ments,” said Director, noting that many seniors will begin working full-​​time jobs and enrolling in pres­ti­gious grad­uate school pro­grams imme­di­ately after grad­u­a­tion. “Our stu­dents being rec­og­nized today—and in fact all of our students—have demon­strated excep­tional pro­fes­sional growth as a result of their co-​​op experiences.”

The event began with a video fea­turing inter­views with the stu­dent awardees as well as fac­ulty and co-​​op employers. Stu­dents described how their co-​​op expe­ri­ences pro­vided valu­able knowl­edge to bring to the class­room and research projects, improved their con­fi­dence in them­selves and their work, and pro­vided an oppor­tu­nity to explore new cul­tures, inter­ests, and entre­pre­neurial endeavors.

“Co-​​op got me to see the real-​​world appli­ca­tion of what it is I'm learning,” said Nate Bessa, CIS/DMSB'14, a com­puter sci­ence and busi­ness com­bined major whose co-​​ops included devel­oping tools for bio­chemists to help iden­tify bio­markers for dis­ease and devel­oping soft­ware to help increase pro­duc­tivity at Brigham & Women's Hos­pital. “I got even more excited about being in the class­room because now I can really see why I'm learning what I'm learning.”

The awards were estab­lished in 1987. Maria Stein, asso­ciate vice pres­i­dent for coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion and career devel­op­ment, intro­duced this year's awardees and described the out­standing co-​​ops and other accom­plish­ments throughout their North­eastern expe­ri­ence. Of the 17 stu­dents hon­ored, three received spe­cial named awards.

Bessa received the Thomas E. McMahon Award, which rec­og­nizes a senior who dis­plays out­standing char­acter and integrity com­bined with a high degree of devo­tion and com­mit­ment to serving others through co-​​op.

Emily Teb­betts, CAMD'14, a com­mu­ni­ca­tion studies major whose self-​​founded pho­tog­raphy busi­ness served as her third co-​​op, received the Paul M. Pratt Award, which rec­og­nized a senior who demon­strates excep­tional per­sonal and pro­fes­sional growth through the coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion program.

Chem­istry major Elise Miner, S'14, who devel­oped her own co-​​op in Northeastern's Center for Renew­able Energy Tech­nology, 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 received Out­standing Coop­er­a­tive Edu­ca­tion Awards, including phys­ical therapy major Lil­lian Nelson, BHS'14, who devel­oped a co-​​op as an inter­na­tional research assis­tant at the Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town in South Africa, where she worked with a phys­io­ther­a­pist on a research project related to child­hood obe­sity. Rachael Tompa, E/S'14, a mechan­ical engi­neering and physics com­bined major, worked at NASA's Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory as part of the Thermal Tech­nology and Fluid Sys­tems group.

With many stu­dents in the audi­ence set to launch their careers, one speaker reflected on how co-​​op pre­pared him to suc­ceed. Stephen Olive, E'87, MBA'96, now the group chief infor­ma­tion officer for Royal Philips, com­pleted three co-​​ops at the defense and gov­ern­ment elec­tronics firm Avco Tex­tron Sys­tems from 1983 to 1987. “I look back on this as the most impor­tant foun­da­tional ele­ments of my career. It taught me dis­ci­pline, it taught me how to be suc­cessful, and most of all it taught me that if you per­form flaw­lessly and con­stantly your man­agers will rec­og­nize and respect you for it,” Olive said.

Addressing the stu­dent awardees directly, he added, “This is a launching pad for your careers.”

The North­eastern expe­ri­ence gives stu­dents a career edge after grad­u­a­tion. Ninety per­cent of 2012 grad­u­ates were either employed or enrolled in grad­uate school nine months after grad­u­a­tion, while 87 per­cent of grad­u­ates with jobs were employed in fields related to their major. What's more, 51 per­cent of 2012 grad­u­ates who worked on co-​​op were offered a job by a pre­vious co-​​op employer.