Tech Celebrates Century of Co-Op Education

If any single initiative embodies the Georgia Tech ethos of applying academic knowledge to real-world situations, it’s the Institute’s Cooperative Education Program.

For the past century, the thousands of students who have excelled during their co-op assignments and in their careers have served as a testament to the program’s impact. A prime example is Sarah Rieger, a 2010 Aerospace Engineering graduate.

“While working in the Orbit Flight Dynamics group at Johnson Space Center in Houston, I had the opportunity to train for a supporting position in Mission Control,” said Rieger, who now works with NASA. “I also was able to complete the certification of a program that is now used by the flight dynamics officer. After I came back to school, I saw the benefits of the skills that I learned in Houston. I noticed that organization and time management came much more easily to me than they did before co-oping. I also had an even stronger motivation to do well in my classes.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Tech’s Co-op Program, the largest totally optional program and fourth oldest program of its kind in the nation. The program is consistently included in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges Internships/Co-ops” list. Co-op is a part of Tech’s Division of Professional Practice (DOPP), which also includes the Graduate Co-op, Internship and Work Abroad programs.

“I believe in learning with a purpose,” said Patrick R. Antony, executive director of DOPP. “To apply knowledge to practical solutions that make the world a better place is the cornerstone of what Georgia Tech does. Many successful alumni owe their professional and personal success to the program, as they would not have been able to afford their education at Tech without it. We look forward to the entire Georgia Tech community participating in the celebration of a century of cooperative education, which is just a tremendous milestone.”

The 100th anniversary celebration — which will begin in fall 2012 — will consist of a yearlong series of events, kicking off with a 100th Birthday Bash on Sept. 18 from 11 a.m. to noon at Clough Commons. The year of celebratory events is being planned and managed by Thomas M. Akins, who retired in 2010 as DOPP executive director following a Georgia Tech career of more than three decades.

“I am looking forward to coordinating this significant event in Georgia Tech’s history,” Akins said. “As part of the effort, there will be a strong campaign to create endowment funds for the continued successful operation of Co-op and the other programs within the Division of Professional Practice. The goal is to raise over $5 million to ensure that students will be able to take full advantage of all types of experiential education, thus better preparing them for life after graduation from Tech. With state funds shrinking and the cost of attending college rising at an alarming rate, there is a critical need to assist students in a meaningful way.”

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