careers to me - RIT students learn it's also who you know
Enter RIT's co-operative
education program. "The trend in industry is to identify good
students earlier in their academic careers to be able to assess
their capabilities and attract them after graduation," says Manny
Contomanolis, director of RIT's Office of Cooperative Education
and Career Services.
Manny Contomanolis, director of the Office
of Cooperative Education and Career Services.
What is co-op? Simple
definition: full-time, paid work experience that alternates
with full-time study. While industry gets a heads up on potential
employees through co-op, "The experience helps a student better
understand what they are learning and planning to learn," says
Contomanolis. Along with the aforementioned hands-on experience,
co-op jobs help students make valuable employment connections,
while paying them at a rate that recognizes their experience,
"Before co-op, I didn't
know how useful I could be," says Michael Klayman. "I thought
everything I knew was common knowledge." A 1999 graduate of the
School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, Klayman spent the summer
before his final year working for NASA-Lewis, near Cleveland.
Through a summer of test firing rocket nozzles and then analyzing
the results, Klayman found out that, "I know so much more than
I gave myself credit for." Klayman landed an after-graduation
job with an optics company in Long Island.
Michael Klayman in the lab. Co-op gave him
confidence in his skills.
RIT's co-op program,
founded in 1912, is one of the oldest, largest and most comprehensive
programs in the country. Although many schools offer a smattering
of unpaid internships and other volunteer-type programs, no
institution in New York State, and few in the country, offer
a program that matches RIT's in size and scope. About 1,300
employers hire RIT co-op students to fill more than 4,000 co-op
positions across the country.
"It is part of our
historical mission and identity," says Contomanolis. "It is
a jewel in the crown of experiential learning."
Steve Rosadini, with the printing press on board
the Queen Elizabeth II. The world now seems a little less intimidating.
RIT's print program
offers an undeniable jewel of a co-op program: students get
a semester on board the Queen Elizabeth II, serving the print
needs of a cruise liner. Steve Rosadini spent his 1998-1999
winter quarter on board, while the ship cruised from New York
City to Hong Kong via daydream-worthy ports in South America,
Tahiti, Australia and the Philippines. While students are on
call seven days a week, ("24/7," is the way Rosadini puts it.)
when they finish their assigned duties, they can act like a
ship's passenger. Rosadini printed menus and flyers on a two-color
press, then, among other activities, went deep sea fishing in
Acapulco, played soccer in Australia and visited print shops
in Hawaii. "All in all, I have a broader view of the whole world,"
he says. "I learned more about operating a press, more about
people skills. I also saw slices of the real culture in many
places and the poverty."
Of course, not all
co-op programs are floating ones. Most are slightly less glamorous,
but just as challenging as the one on the QE II. When psychology
major Kelly Neriani went to Eastman Kodak Company for her co-op
in the summer of 1998, she already knew she didn't want to be
a therapist. A former mechanical engineering major, she wanted
to use her math and science skills along with her psychology
education. At Kodak, she completed a research project on a new
product that Kodak hopes to develop. "My co-op there really
helped me narrow down what I want to concentrate on," she says.
"I have definitely decided to go into imaging science and the
psychology of color." Neriani plans to enroll in RIT's graduate
program in color science when she graduates in 2000.
Norma Moran used what
she was learning in her professional and technical communication
studies to work for Afterimage, a media-arts journal produced
by Rochester's Visual Studies Workshop. "It was a perfect fit,"
says Moran, who is deaf. "I read books, wrote reviews, proofread,
compiled a lot of information and researched grants. My supervisor
knew some sign language, which helped us communicate more effectively."
Norma Moran, in the Afterimage office
at Visual Studies Workshop. Print is her medium.
Moran says she knows
now that she wants to stay in the print medium when she graduates.
" Afterimage is different from mainstream print--newspapers,
magazines--but it definitely gave me a taste for it."
Charles Clemens with "toys" in the ESPN office
in Manhattan. He enjoys new experiences, he says.
The television medium
fascinates Charles Clemens. A marketing major, he co-oped this
past summer for ESPN in Manhattan. "Oh, this is great," he said
via long distance, after his first week on the job. "I was in
Bristol, Connecticut, yesterday, watching the taping of the
Sports Center program. These people are professionals." Although
Clemens plans to become a lawyer, he sees the co-op experience
as immensely valuable. "I get to try something new and challenging,"
he says. "It couldn't be better."
Not all co-op opportunities
at RIT are, by strict definition, co-ops, says Contoman-olis.
"Co-op is part of the RIT culture. There are also internships
and a variety of other ways that students apply their learning
in the workplace." For example, Preston Saunders, a graduate
student in ceramics, spent five months last year in Japan studying
with the famed ceramists Chozaemon Ohi and his son, Toshio.
Via an Ohi-family-sponsored scholarship, Saunders lived on the
family's estate, worked in their business three days a week
and then studied with the Ohis as he created his own pieces.
"My work really changed," he says. "The Ohis asked me to look
around at nature, at the garden, rocks, earth. My work became
larger; it took on more organic forms."
"Co-op is value
added to RIT students' educations," Contomanolis says. Co-op
is one of the top three reasons students offer when asked why
they chose RIT. Most co-op students are hired more quickly upon
graduation, he says. Their co-op employers hire almost half
of them. Co-op students often receive higher starting salaries
than other graduates do and they receive promotions more quickly.
"After co-op, students have a whole new take on the world."