Antioch College offers a unique model of liberal arts learning that integrates campus-based coursework with intensive periods of cooperative education (co-op), generally in partnership with organizations off campus. All students are required to complete a minimum of three 11-week quarters of full-time co-op engagement in local, national or international settings. The program expands the boundaries of the liberal arts learning environment by immersing students in full-time work, ambitious creative projects, cultural immersion opportunities, collaborative research efforts, or other forms of socially-engaged, field-based, experiential learning.
The purpose of the Co-op Program faculty is to develop opportunities in the world for students and to help them build professional relationships, learn to navigate unfamiliar cultural settings, establish themselves within dynamic communities of practice, grow through independent living, and develop the skills necessary for productive engagement in a wide variety of fields. Each student works closely with a Co-op Program faculty member who advises them one-on-one to help them consider various options and pursue their aspirations. The Co-op Program faculty also takes a collective approach in working to ensure that every student benefits from the experience and energy of the entire Co-op team. From the moment they arrive on campus, students know that they have the support of a professional team of educators who are engaged in a variety of fields and actively expanding options for students in strategic regions.
It is the responsibility of the Co-op Program faculty to develop relationships with employers, to communicate to students about various opportunities that may be available, and to understand students’ abilities and aspirations in order to advise them well as they endeavor to gain traction in their careers. Co-op Program partner organizations typically want and expect applicants who can meet their needs. They rely on Antioch College students to complete tasks that are essential to their organizational objectives. Ultimately, it is up to the partnering organization to decide whether or not they can offer a particular student a co-op experience.
Students who are interested in a given opportunity are generally advised to prepare a cover letter and résumé for the partner organization if they meet the required qualifications. Co-op advisors help students develop their application materials, establish communications with the employer, provide a recommendation if appropriate, and then coach the student on how best to prepare for the interview process. Most employers require a virtual, telephone, or in-person interview with the student applicant before making a hiring decision. Timely planning and prompt follow-up on communications at this stage is very important as students must present themselves well in order to secure a job.
Co-op Program faculty advisors emphasize a liberal arts approach and encourage students to truly ‘own their education’ when it comes to deciding on the kind of co-op experience they would like to pursue. Students can pursue with a wide range of co-op experiences or focus on a particular field if they desire. Whatever the case, Co-op faculty work hard to ensure that all students have the best possible chance of success by giving individualized attention to every student as they prepare. Over the course of four years, they encourage students to prepare for progressively challenging co-op opportunities by engaging in focused, skill-based and methodological coursework when on campus. They also encourage them to strengthen their abilities by getting involved in community initiatives and take on part-time work if they have the time during study quarters. They also encourage students to apply for research efforts, participate in community governance, and engage in independent groups.
All of these rich curricular and co-curricular offerings are intended to help students develop and pursue long-term career strategies. Co-op is a crucible in which a student’s accumulated skills and abilities find form. It also serves as a springboard from which students launch themselves into engagement within dynamic communities of practice, future employment opportunities, graduate school experiences, and other ways that they will further distinguish themselves in post-baccalaureate life.
THE STANDARD STUDY/WORK SEQUENCE: