Engineering co-op program integrates students into workforce early

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More than 50 students attended an information session about Lehigh’s Engineering Co-op program on Nov. 13.

The co-op — a selective honors program for engineering students — has existed for more than 25 years. The session, hosted by Kemal Tuzla, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and Katharine Marianacci, the associate director of the Center for Career and Professional Development, provided information on the application process, opportunities available and a panel of co-op alumni.

Eligible students include sophomore students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher who are enrolled in the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, the Computer Science and Business program, the Integrated Business and Engineering program or the Integrated Degree in Engineering, Arts and Sciences.

Students are sent formal invitations to apply for the co-op over winter break. Once invitation letters are released, students can apply to as many of Lehigh’s partner corporations as they choose, with hopes of being called back for an interview.

Students are required to attend meetings and workshops during the spring semester. Although the official list of partner corporations and positions has not yet been released, previous co-op employers included General Electric Co., Exxon Mobil Corp. and St. Luke’s.

Carolyn Wang, ’21, said she’s interested in the program because it offers a more comprehensive experience than a summer internship.

“It gives you an extended period of time where you can really experience a full-time job,” Wang said.

While the program’s schedule might seem extreme to some, the co-op offers opportunities to test career interests, build an industry network, gain confidence and receive an average pay of $20 per hour. Despite these benefits, some students at the session mentioned a “stigma” around the program, because its potential to disrupt students’ schedules.

Raivat Singhania, ’22, a prospective co-op student, said he wishes the program was publicized more. However, Singhania believes the program is valuable in part because of the time commitment.

“You get to go a lot more in depth into what you’re doing at the company since you’re there for a longer time,” he said.

If accepted to the program, rising sophomore students spend their summer taking courses at Lehigh, so their junior-year fall semester is free for the first rotation of their internships. Students return to Lehigh for their junior-year spring semester and finish the final rotation of their internships over the summer.

The panel of co-op alumni offered insights into their experiences. Some said they appreciated that their work felt meaningful, and during their rotations, they felt like real employees instead of interns.

Gray Schick, ’19, a chemical engineering student who spent his rotations at Sanofi Pasteur, described his co-op experience as filled with “heartfelt work” that set him apart. During his time at Sanofi Pasteur, Schick said he was taught by mentors, as well as being self-taught. 

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1 Comment

  1. Terrible program and would not reccomend. Might as well just take a semester off on your own. Poorly run and needs a revamping in order to attract real employers and high performing students.

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