Case Western Reserve University received the coveted E. Sam Sovilla Award For Excellence at the national Cooperative Education & Internship Association Conference on April 24 in Cincinnati. The honor was in recognition of Case's Cooperative Education Program, now in its 25th year.
What makes the honor even more significant is that Case's program was nominated by University of Cincinnati (UC) staff—the school considered to be on the cutting edge of co-op education. "They push the envelope, and people look to them as a barometer," explained Mary Rose Tichar, director of Case's co-op program.
The origins of cooperative education date back to 1906, when an educator at UC pioneered a new concept—integrating practice with theory. According to its centennial celebration materials, 43 countries around the world now participate in some form of co-op education, where students use the classroom as their home base while spending designated amounts of time gaining paid, professional experience.
At Case, co-op students are primarily from the School of Engineering, but Tichar said some science and business students also participate. This spring, 80 students participated, while each academic year, about 250 students co-op. According to Tichar, about 120 students who are graduating this May have participated in co-op.
Tichar, who has headed the co-op program for the past five years, said it works so well because "it's a fine-tuned system that works together." She added that a combination of academically and professionally prepared students, committed employers, a dean who supports the program, and faculty who encourage students to participate create a win-win situation for all involved.
According to the UC nominator, "The Co-op Program at Case has demonstrated an exceptional and consistent commitment to cooperative education for 25 years. Cleary, Case Western Reserve University is a leader in advancing the academic attributes of Cooperative Education. Case is one of only a handful of institutions that has been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Cooperative Education which clearly demonstrates their educational quality."
Case received letters of support from Provost John Anderson, School of Engineering Dean Robert Savinell, a student who has participated in co-op, and a UC administrator.
Tichar traveled to Cincinnati to accept the award along with Deborah Fatica, former director of the co-op program and assistant dean of the office of engineering student programs. Said Tichar of the recognition, "I think it confirms and affirms what we already know—we have outstanding students and a strong program. It's a tremendous honor."
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