Hendrix is exploring new options for student work and internship opportunities. There
are several initiatives in the works, one being the co-op task force, which is currently designing a program for students to hold internships while taking courses.
“The purpose of the task force is to craft a program that will have students doing
internships on steroids,” Dr. Gess said. “The opportunity to really immerse [themselves] in the working world while they are still students. It’s a way of applying what they are learning here in the classroom to the workplace.”
Co-op task force programs have traditionally been used in STEM and engineering
programs at other institutions. Hendrix is one of the first liberal arts institutions to create a program like this.
“The task force is interested in exploring these co-op opportunities for all students,
[including] social science and humanities students,” Dr. Gess said. “You can envision, for
example, an English major that’s working in an editing role for a publisher somewhere. Co-op does not mean engineering or STEM, it actually fits very nicely with a liberal arts education.”
Hendrix’s program may take a different form than similar programs at other schools. The committee is floating ideas for a co-op compatible with Hendrix’s schedule and graduation requirements.
“The way that this looks at engineering universities would be students, during sophomore year, alternate semesters working then school, working then school,” Dr. Gess said. “Working semesters are paid by the employer, you are treated like any other employee. At engineering institutions, time is added to the length of the degrees, usually by a year—it takes five years, but students end up with tremendous experience. We don’t know what the model will look like here yet.”
“I hope this task force will be able to implement a program that will be beneficial for the
lives of students by giving them real on the job experience that can better prepare them for life after graduation in the ‘real world,’” said Chad McGonigal, a student member of a co-op subcommittee.
The general reaction from people so far seems to be “cautious optimism,” according to
Dr. Gess. McGonigal hopes that the program captures the attention of prospective students.
“The program this task force is working on can have a huge impact on Hendrix,”
McGonigal said. “It can be a deciding factor on why a student would choose to come to Hendrix over another larger university. Hendrix is already a prestigious school and having a marquee program like this will only increase the status of our college.”