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 Drexel Celebrates Its Co-op Centennial
Drexel University has spent 100 years cultivating a holistic approach to co-op that blends experiential education into every aspect of its academics, industry relationships and research collaborations.
This year, Drexel University celebrates the 100th anniversary of its hallmark cooperative education program. While this milestone naturally calls for a look to the past, what’s most remarkable is how this century-old program has always been forward-looking: adapting to a changing world while solving society’s problems and preparing students to be the next thinkers, leaders and agents of change. From its inception, the program has grown with the times, evolving from a niche program for engineering students to a University-wide culture of experiential education that uniquely equips graduates to help shape the future.
Born on the Cusp of Change
Drexel University — then known as the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry — launched its co-op program in 1919, at the perfect moment. World War I had ended the year before, the industrial revolution was at its apex, and companies were hungry for technical managers versed in technology, innovation and business. Within academia, a nascent cooperative education movement had inspired a handful of schools around the country to blend classroom learning with on-the-job experience. And Drexel’s second president Hollis Godfrey, himself an adviser to President Woodrow Wilson during the war on how to ensure the technical preparation of soldiers, believed in the power of practical education.
Drexel’s co-op program started small but has grown steadily. The first group of students to split time
between the classroom and workplace numbered just 152 engineering students, employed by local
companies like DuPont and Pennsylvania Railroad Co. Within 10 years, Drexel established co-ops with storied firms like Honeywell, Bell, RCA, Bethlehem Steel, General Electric and Westinghouse. Over time, more students from different fields and majors completed co-ops at companies big and small, private and federal, local and national and international.
There is now a co-op opportunity to match virtually any academic interest, including opportunities to work alongside prestigious faculty researchers, funded co-ops to launch an entrepreneurial venture, and endowed
co-ops with prestigious arts and cultural organizations.
As University President John Fry sees it, “Drexel remains as attuned to the most pressing problems of its day now as it was a century ago. In celebrating this anniversary, we recommit to the spirit in which the co-op program was created: To produce ready, engaged citizens with skills matched to those the world needs today and tomorrow.”
The program now employs 5,300 students from across 89 disciplines, constituting about 92 percent of all Drexel undergraduates.
President John Fry Drexel University
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