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An Educational Journey: Heading Down the Co-op Path a New Experience for Sacramento Students

SACRAMENTO, CA, February 6, 2014

As an undergraduate student at Drexel University Sacramento, Jeremy Labelle has friends who have already graduated from college and accepted jobs in their career path.

Yet the excitement and high expectations many of his friends felt when the jobs began has been replaced by discontent; it turns out the field they chose in college isn't what they thought it would be.

Labelle vows not to make the same mistake and have a misguided college career.

"My generation all seems to be looking for that dream job when they get out of college," Labelle explained. "But some of my friends have graduated and gotten jobs that they hate. They found out that it isn't the type of work they want to do. That's not going to happen to me."

Labelle, 24, chose Drexel's new Bachelor in Business Administration degree program in Sacramento for many reasons. But the primary one was its cooperative education (co-op) program.

"The co-op aspect sealed the deal for me. It's similar to an internship, but it's in your chosen field and you get paid to do it for six months," Labelle said. "Drexel gives you a lot of help in lining up the job and it's very major specific. It's a great way to find out if this is what you really want to do."

That's sound logic to Amanda Miller as well. She excelled at Sierra Community College in Rocklin, east of Sacramento, leaving with associate degrees in both natural science and liberal arts.

Miller, 30, was accepted and ready to attend California State University, Sacramento before hearing a Sierra College presentation by Olivia Stelte, Drexel's Assistant Director of Admissions.

"Olivia's presentation blew me away and had a huge impact," Miller recalls. "I couldn't stop thinking about Drexel. The thought of going there really intrigued me. It made so much sense, being in Drexel's co-op program and getting real-world experience for six months. Getting that experience is very relevant and something you can't receive sitting in a classroom."

Miller and Labelle are among the inaugural class of students enrolled in the new program, which is designed for students who have finished at least the first two years of their undergraduate education.

Thanks to Drexel's main campus in Philadelphia and the vigilant efforts of John Carvana, the Manager of Career Services in Sacramento, Drexel has developed an enormous network of business relationships for their co-op students. Each term, 98 percent of Drexel students applying for a co-op have found a placement, and in 2012-13 earned an average of $16,593 for the six-month period.

There are 3,329 jobs openings available to the students in the U.S. Drexel offers co-op placements in 33 states and 40 countries worldwide. There are currently six Sacramento employers participating in the co-op program, including the NBA's Sacramento Kings.

Among the employment choices Sacramento students are considering for their April-September 2014 co-op include:

  • Accounting firm in New York City
  • Pharmaceutical company in Philadelphia
  • Boston-based foundation, sponsored by the Boston Red Sox
  • Leading PR firm that's branding the City of Sacramento
  • New York fashion showroom
  • Sacramento non-profit located next door to the home of one Drexel student

"This first group of BSBA students are the 'pioneers' of our undergraduate program," Carvana said. "They chose Drexel University Sacramento because they understand that having a degree isn't enough. They know that today's students need to graduate having practical experience along with a solid academic foundation in order to remain competitive in the job market. Our BSBA program is unique in that respect."

Drexel-Philadelphia has been nationally recognized as a co-op education leader for many years. The co-op program, which is available to every Sacramento undergraduate student, is an aspect that Dr. Sandra Kirschenmann, Associate Vice Provost and Executive Director of Drexel University Sacramento, is proud to discuss.

"I think that's the most exciting part of what we're doing," Kirschenmann said. "Providing our students with on-the-job experience gives them a much better chance of competing in the job market. The added benefit is students receive good wages while they are working and that money can be used to offset their educational costs."

Unlike many students at California universities and colleges who struggle to get classes and frequently don't graduate on time, the Drexel model is set up for students to graduate in two years.

Labelle, who lives with his wife in Sacramento, is taking 16 units in his first quarter and will have an even heavier load in the second one with 20 units. He welcomes the challenge.

"I don't have to worry about not getting the classes I need; I'm assured of that at Drexel," he said. "Being about to finish in two years was another big reason that I chose Drexel."

One year after graduating from high school, Labelle enlisted in the Air Force and served four years. During his two deployments, he spent considerable time aboard cargo planes, which were frequently the target of ground fire in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At Drexel, Labelle is not only getting his education paid for under the Yellow Ribbon Program, he's also receiving a monthly stipend. Labelle is already considering remaining at Drexel and getting his MBA.

After graduating high school in Idaho, Miller spent one year at Boise State. However, the cost was an issue, so she relocated to Sacramento and lived with her mother. Miller has worked ever since, juggling a full-time job at Costco and pursuing her education. Although she has nothing but praise for Costco, Miller is eying an accounting job after graduating from Drexel.

"I'm very excited at the prospect of having a co-op job that's in my career field," Miller said Miller. "The business administration field is very broad and there are tons of different options to take. I love anything with numbers, so I think accounting is my calling."

Besides an array of intriguing business courses, both Miller and Labelle have been impressed by the Co-op 101 class taught by Carvana. Among the goals are producing a flawless resume and getting students totally prepared for interview situations. They practice online in "InterviewStream," where mock interview questions are answered and recorded on a webcam.

Carvana critiques every aspect of the interviews and provides insightful feedback. "John is amazing. He's extremely knowledgeable and totally approachable. He's a huge help," Labelle said.

Miller also lauds the efforts of Carvana and has enjoyed the cohort aspect of a Drexel education. The intimate class of students will be together for two years.

"We've really been able to build strong relationships and we hang out together. We're almost like family now," Miller said. "I love the small class size and all the one-on-one attention we receive."

Miller and Labelle both agree that graduation in spring 2015 will be a prideful day, picking up their diplomas as the first group of Business Administration degree programs students.

"Being able to say I was part of that first class will be great," Labelle said. "I'll be very proud of that. I love talking about Drexel to other people that I know. Drexel has become a special place for me."