Widener’s Unique Co-op Program Sets Students Apart

Nicole Carrera, assistant director of communications
Sign outside of the Office of Career Design and Development

Hands-on, real-world experience is invaluable for college graduates looking to make their way in the career world, and co-op opportunities at Widener allow for just that. Organized through the Office of Career Design and Development, co-ops give students up to a year of paid work experience at top companies while still allowing them to graduate on time. 

Gaining experience before graduation can help students solidify what they want to do after college. For Kayla Alves ’23, her co-op helped steer her toward the right industry while providing valuable, real-world experience. 

Kayla Alves and Sarah McFarland at the Pride statue
Kayla Alves (right) and Sarah McFarland (left)

A computer science major, Alves completed a co-op with the Department of Defense and the U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) working on a team that designed, programmed, and tested new alarm systems that will eventually be installed aboard Naval carriers. 

“I enjoyed the concept of having experience on my resume before graduating because I knew it looked good for employers,” said Alves. “I would unquestionably advise other students to take part in a co-op since it enables them to learn more about the professional world while still in school and helps them figure out what they want and don’t want in their future careers.” 

Similarly, Sarah McFarland’s ’23 co-op guided her toward her post-graduation career path. A double major in marketing and management with a concentration in human resources, McFarland completed her first co-op at a staffing agency to explore the HR world and realized that, while she liked the work she was doing, it wasn’t her passion. 

A second co-op at Catholic Relief Services, an international non-profit organization, introduced McFarland to the non-profit industry working with donors through marketing and content creation strategies. It was a perfect match.

“It was really fun. I feel like if I didn’t do my co-op, I never would have been able to figure out what I’m passionate about and the track I wanted to go on,” said McFarland.

While students participating in a co-op do not take classes, they often have to balance other social and academic obligations. For Tim Shoul, varsity athletics was his balancing act. 

Shoul ’24, a civil engineering major and member of the varsity men’s track & field and cross country teams, is currently completing an eight month co-op at the Chester Water Authority. 

“I chose to study at Widener mainly because of the co-op program. The opportunity to gain twelve months of working experience and still graduating in four years is something that very few schools offer,” said Shoul. 

As a student-athlete on co-op, Shoul learned how to balance the two with the help of Coach Vince Touey and his co-op supervisors.

Tim Shoul running for Widener Athletics
Tim Shoul

“As long as I can get all of my running and work done, I can keep a flexible schedule that makes it possible for me to be an athlete on co-op,” said Shoul. “It can be difficult at times when I have to train after long days in the field or office, but the discipline I gain from staying committed has helped me become a stronger person.”

In addition to providing students with valuable life skills, co-ops can often lead to a full-time
position after graduation. Corey Pinkas ’22 was able to pick up right where he left off in his co-op with Globus Medical as an Associate Project Engineer after earning his robotics engineering degree.

“I’m actually working on the same research and development project now as I was during my co-op. I’m in the same group so I got to continue and finish existing projects, and move forward with new ones,” Pinkas said.

Pinkas knew he wanted to do a co-op coming to Widener. While classroom learning is important, he was most interested in contributing to cutting-edge technological projects with real-world applications. Working for Globus Medical, he and his colleagues do just that by developing robotic medical devices and equipment.

Co-ops at Widener are nothing new. With the engineering co-op celebrating 50 years, this leads to a vast network of Widener alums who participated in co-ops and are now leaders in their fields. These alumni know the value of a Widener degree and they look to bring Widener co-ops into their companies. 

One such alum is Justin Lanyon ’03. A graduate of the chemical engineering program, Lanyon now serves as the Global Supply Chain Director at Arkema, an international chemical manufacturing company. 

“I knew I wanted to do a co-op; it just made perfect sense to me. And Widener offered a degree in four years with a year’s co-op experience. No other university I was looking at offered that,” Lanyon said. 

Lanyon graduated with two co-ops on his resume and landed a role at one of his co-op locations to continue the work he had started. 

His experiences drive him to guide future generations of students by advocating for Widener and its co-op program when working with hiring managers. He emphasizes the unique opportunity that Widener offers students with being able to complete a longer co-op with up to one year’s experience, which is valuable for both students and employers. 

“One thing I want to tell every student is that you are missing a golden opportunity at Widener if you do not participate in the co-op program,” said Lanyon. “Every student should be doing a co-op experience and it will set them apart in the hiring market.”

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