Turning Co-Op into Career
During his junior year at Widener University, Christian Antisell stepped away from campus and into the professional world.
Still a year shy of earning his degree in civil engineering, Antisell spent eight months on co-op working full time for Traffic Planning and Design in West Chester. There, he gained practical experience designing roadways and sidewalks, and dealing with utilities, regulations, and other issues that accompany this work.
“One of my biggest wishes was to experience different parts of the industry as much as I could, and they helped me accomplish that,” said Antisell.
Six months into his co-op, the firm offered him a full-time job as a highway design specialist – a position they would hold for him for nearly a year until he graduated in spring 2019.
The 8-month co-op made it easy to transition to going full time. It also gets you in the door earlier than most of the other applicants. — Christian Antisell '19
Antisell is not the only Widener student to turn a co-op experience into a full-time job post-graduation. Each year students field offers from their co-op employers, a testament to the powerful education and skills that Widener students bring to the table, helping them stand out from the crowd.
“Our students have clearly proven their skills and established strong relationships,” said Kelly Tierney, assistant director of experiential learning in the Office of Career Design and Development, which coordinates the co-op program.
Widener’s signature co-op program is open to business, engineering, and computer science majors. It is offered in both a 4-month and 8-month format, and students, depending on their program, can choose to do both, thus gaining up to one year of paid work experience.
And Widener co-op students, including those who opt for 12 months, still graduate on time, within four years.
“Our 8-month co-op is often referred to as a ‘long-term interview’ and many of the employers we work with view it as an opportunity to train and recruit future full-time employees,” said Tierney. “The co-op experience is a great way for students to gain experience and increases their marketability when applying for full-time jobs in the future, whether or not it’s with the same company where they completed their co-op.”
Having a job offer before graduation – let alone before senior year – can be a huge weight off a student’s shoulders. For Boyd McCoy ’20, it was “never a weight to begin with because the job offer happened so early.”
The accounting and finance major conducted an 8-month co-op at Wipfli, an accounting and tax consulting firm. Based in their Radnor office, McCoy handled audits and did accounts payable work for organizations around the region, including the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I was able to do some rewarding stuff and use what I learned in the classroom,” said McCoy.
In April 2019, Wipfli extended him a full-time offer as a staff accountant, which he will begin the summer following graduation.
Like McCoy, accounting major Herb Hampton ’20 started his senior year with an offer in-hand from his co-op employer, Global Tax Management. He will start shortly after graduation as a tax analyst.
“I came to Widener in part because of co-op and the competitive advantage it offered,” said Hampton, who even during co-op remained heavily involved in campus life, serving as a tour guide and a CREW orientation leader.
“Now,” said Hampton, “I can focus on what I’m actually doing in the classroom without worrying about job interviews. I can focus on doing well my senior year.”
Co-op students take summer classes to stay on track and finish their requirements in four years. These summer classes are small and described by students as tight-knit.
“I have a strong bond and connection with the students in my summer classes,” said McCoy. “I know I can send them an email down the road if I need anything.”
Current co-op students and alumni say that an added bonus to being hired by a co-op employer is that some of the anxiety that typically accompanies a new job – let alone a first job – is not present. That’s because they already know their employer, and their employer knows them.
“They already know what you can do, so they’re hiring off the abilities they see,” said Jesse Segal ’19, a mechanical engineer at Precis Engineering, the Ambler firm where he conducted a co-op his junior year at Widener. “They know you’re a good fit for the position.”