Special Reports

February 28, 2013

WSU’s co-op program helps students find experience, jobs

Derek Anglemyer was looking for a chance.

Derek Anglemyer was looking for a chance.

He needed an internship, and finding one seemed next to impossible. That’s when he decided to explore Wichita State University’s cooperative education program.

“Before, I was working construction,” said Anglemyer, a senior in manufacturing engineering. “It wasn’t something I could use in resume building.”

Since last June, Anglemyer has been working at Sherwin Williams.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is how to try and relate my courses to the real world,” he said. “I’ve also learned how to work with employees and worked on some pretty fun projects.”

WSU’s cooperative education program, school officials say, is the largest among all the state’s regent schools. The program, started in 1979, worked with 871 students last year, placing them in 1,200 positions with 525 companies.

“It has grown dramatically over the years,” said Connie Dietz, the program’s director. “I think the reason for its success is because Wichita State is the only regents university located in a major metropolitan area.”

Dietz has been the director since 1995 and credits much of the program’s success to former WSU President Don Beggs.

“He really saw this as a tremendous opportunity to set WSU apart from other regent schools,” Dietz said. “He is the one who said, ‘We need to grow this. We need to talk about it and let people know.’

“He embraced it and started the university talking about it.”

Dietz said the goal is for WSU students to leave the university with a collegiate-level resume and professional interviewing skills, and to connect them with jobs and experience in the fields of their degrees.

Last year, 344 students were placed in education-related jobs, 350 in engineering, 307 in liberal arts and sciences, 166 in business, 18 in fine arts and the rest in health professions. Some students hold down more than one job per year.

“We are having them develop and implement programs in whichever direction they want to go,” Dietz said.

For Wichita employers it is a good partnership, said Rich Morrow, partner in Morrow & Co. LLC.

“We have found it to be a very valuable program not only for us but the students as well,” Morrow said. “If they get exposed to actual work while they are in school, I think their schooling means more – that’s particularly true in accounting.

“School doesn’t teach you how to do the job, it just gives you the tools. From the employer side, this gives them the foundation, and it is beneficial to us because ultimately we are looking for these students to stay with us once they graduate.”

Dietz said the majority of the students want to stay in Wichita and Kansas after they graduate from college.

“Seventy-seven percent are working in Wichita and another 13 percent are working in Kansas,” she said. “Our students who come here are looking for a career and are entering into a career when they graduate.”

True to the statistics, Anglemyer said he plans on staying with Sherwin Williams.

“I want to go right into their training program and stay with the company with a full-time position,” he said.

Hannah Coen, a senior in communications, has interned with the Republican National Committee in Washington, D.C., The Wichita Eagle and the American Diabetes Association.

“More than anything I’m getting job experience and meeting people in the Wichita area and developing connections,” Coen said.

“In these internships, I learn more about myself. For the longest time, I worked as a bank teller. I am a hard worker but I had a social awkwardness that these internships have helped me overcome. There is so much I am getting to learn and do. And I realize, I just have to take the chance and go for it.”

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