|By Lynne Shallcross
at Mississippi State can check out
an engineering career while still
IS A CO-OP ANYWAY? Many students
might not know, especially engineering
students who hardly get to see the
outside of a classroom or library.
Mathews has spent the past 30 years
trying to change that. And it's
been quite the year for Mathews
and the Cooperative Education Program
at Mississippi State University.
The program not only celebrates
its 50th anniversary this year,
but it also welcomes its 10,000th
student. And that's not all. Mathews,
assistant professor of engineering
and associate director of the co-op
program, was also honored with the
2005 ASEE Clement J. Freund Award
for his exemplary leadership in
State's program, which Mathews calls
a professional training program
where students gain practical experience
related to their studies, originated
in the College of Engineering in
1955. It includes students from
all majors, although engineering
students make up 60 percent. More
than 600 students are enrolled in
the program now, which consists
of three semesters of co-op work.
Mathews says the students, who have
to apply to the program as well
as interview for co-op spots with
corporations or agencies, usually
alternate the co-op semesters with
semesters of class.
Mathews says the program is valuable
in helping engineering students
experience the field, work with
professionals and confirm that engineering
is the right choice for them-or
discover it's not. "It lets them
get some exposure prior to graduating,"
he says. "It helps them see what
it is and see where they're going."
Co-ops also give companies and
government agencies, including NASA,
Dow Chemical, Chevron and DuPont,
a firsthand look at promising potential
hires. More than 2,300 employers
have done just that over the past
50 years of the program. And the
money's not half-bad either. Mathews
says his students earned a little
more than $6 million from their
co-ops last year. Some companies
and agencies even offer scholarships
on top of earnings.
What's not to like? Nothing, Mathews
says. "Quite frankly, I've never
had a student say they wish they
had not co-op'd."
Lynne Shallcross is associate
editor of Prism.