Feature Story

Co-op Leads to Canadian Adventure

student at co-op in chester

At Widener University, career preparation is about more than just helping students land their first job. It’s about laying the groundwork for a lifetime of success.

From day one, students have access to a plethora of programs designed to educate them about career options, to help them gain hands-on experience in their fields, and to develop the soft, yet essential skills needed in the professional world.

This emphasis on well-rounded career preparation has served senior Haydn Fernitz well, equipping the business management major with the necessary networking skills and confidence to pursue a rather unusual form of career prep – one that involved a trip to Canada.

While conducting an eight-month co-op with the Chester Water Authority, Fernitz cultivated a mentoring relationship with an executive at Advanced Utility Systems (AUS), the Toronto-based firm that was providing the water authority with its new software system.

Spurred by networking possibilities – and advice from his professor, Dr. Dennis Laker, that it never hurts to ask for an opportunity – Fernitz emailed AUS about possibly visiting the company.

“I realized that the more I communicate with a company, the better the job opportunity is in the long run,” said Fernitz. “The more outreach, the more you get your foot in the door.”

Twelve hours after emailing AUS about a visit, the company sent him a plane ticket. In December, Fernitz flew from Philadelphia to Toronto, and spent a day shadowing AUS employees, seeing firsthand how the firm’s development, support, and services teams function. 

These opportunities help you get out of your shell. To sit down with someone and talk with them for awhile... it helps build self-confidence. —Haydn Fernitz '18

This is not the first time a student has traveled abroad to gain experience and prepare for their career. Recently, a civil engineering student conducted a four-month-long co-op in India, while a nursing student spent winter break volunteering at a children’s hospital in Nepal.

Widener’s Office of Career Design and Development helps outfit students with the skills they need to realize these types of opportunities. As early as freshman year, students have access to an arsenal of programs, including career assessments, job shadowing, resume writing clinics, and mock interviews with local employers offering real-time feedback.

Fernitz has participated in nearly every mock interview session offered. “The sessions help get some of the nerves out, and can really help prepare you, so it becomes second nature,” he said.

Widener students are also highly encouraged to gain real-world experiences in their disciplines through internships, co-ops that often lead to job offers after graduation, civic engagement, and other hands-on opportunities.

“All experiential learning is great,” said Janet Long, director of Career Design and Development. “There are so many ways to gain career exposure.”

And the numbers bear that out. The Wall Street Journal gave Widener a score of 8.7 out of 10 on a question that asked students whether their Widener education will prepare them for their careers. 

Fernitz says his co-op, trip to Canada, and other career preparation opportunities have been invaluable. While he’s not exactly sure what he wants to do after graduation, he says, “I have confidence to go on an interview and perform the way I want to perform.”

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