As one of the oldest and largest co-op programs in the country, the Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services at Rochester Institute of Technology has helped launch many students’ professional careers. The co-op program has been providing students with hands-on learning experiences in national and international organizations since 1912.
The Cooperative and Experiential Education Division of the American Society for Engineering Education recently recognized one of RIT’s co-op students, Emily McPherson, as a finalist in the annual National Co-op Student of the Year Award competition for 2009. McPherson is a fifth-year electrical engineering student in the Kate Gleason College of Engineering at RIT.
“Enthusiastic, bright, creative, dedicated, personable, awesome—these are all descriptors used by co-op supervisors, professors and others at RIT to describe Emily McPherson’s character,” says Maria Wiegand, program coordinator for the RIT Office of Cooperative Education and Career Services. Wiegand is also McPherson’s co-op advisor and one of several individuals who nominated her for the national award.
“Being nominated for this award was totally unexpected, and it is a great honor,” says McPherson, from Pompey, N.Y. “My success in the classroom has been motivated, in large part, by success on co-op.”
She has an overall GPA of 3.6, and has completed co-op assignments with three companies.
“Getting hands-on experience and seeing the impact engineers have on the world has pushed me to want to learn as much as I can while in school and on co-op so I can have a long, successful and fulfilling career in the field of electromagnetic compatibility engineering,” she adds.
Nominees are judged on academic achievement, quantity and quality of co-op work experience, challenges faced and overcome at work, employer awards or recognition, community involvement and overall contributions to cooperative education.
McPherson’s assignments have varied from working with a start-up engineering firm to a Fortune 500 organization. She has worked with electromagnetics, communications and imaging systems. For her assignment with ITT Geospatial Systems in Rochester she worked with senior-level engineers to refine a MATLAB script and was involved with creating and updating process documentation for the division. (MATLAB is an advanced computing program used by scientists and engineers.)
“Emily has demonstrated through this co-op experience and her academic achievements that she is one of the best and brightest,” says Michael Fairchild, supervisor, electrical subsystems engineering, ITT Geospatial Systems.
“Once upon a time I was scared about having to do co-ops,” McPherson says. “Today, I am on my fourth co-op and cannot wait to do my next one. Every co-op I have done has taught me something new and shown me different career opportunities for electrical engineers. I am proud to represent RIT and all of the students that have had a great co-op experience because of RIT’s wonderful program.”