UC's Co-op Heritage Paves the Way for University's Future

The University of Cincinnati, the global birthplace of cooperative education, is so strongly identified with the practice that Webster’s unabridged dictionary once defined cooperative education as “The Cincinnati Plan.”

Co-op is the timeless practice of transforming youth to experience. It’s where students studying everything from accounting to urban affairs alternate quarters or semesters in the classroom with paid professional work related directly to their major. Within their co-op sequences, students are guided toward ever greater levels of responsibility.

So respected is the university for its historic and current-day contributions to co-op that  UC’s co-op program is routinely ranked among the nation’s Top Ten by U.S. News & World Report.

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And because co-op is such a strength for the university, the program is also serving as the basis for upcoming efforts to recruit more international undergraduate students to Cincinnati. At the March 28 Board of Trustees meeting, plans were unveiled by Mitch Leventhal, vice provost for international affairs, detailing how UC will partner with industry to recruit undergraduates from abroad into the university’s co-op programs.

“The plan is merely a natural extension of what we already do both on a national and international level at UC,” said Leventhal. “We routinely partner with international, national, regional and local companies to offer our students the best practical, professionally related training while, at the same time, meeting the recruiting needs of employers.”

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As part of that training, UC routinely sends U.S. students abroad to work via its

International Co-op Program

. Now, the university will begin offering undergraduate students from abroad the specific advantages to be found via co-op.

As outlined by Leventhal, the UC global/co-op recruiting effort will begin in 13 cities in India. Multinational firms already in those cities and in need of a trained workforce are expected to partner with UC to identify likely candidates for specific co-op majors offered here at the university. Those students will begin entering UC this fall. And, just as with all other co-op students, they will begin co-opping at the end of their sophomore year.

Each of these international students will co-op at least twice in the U.S. headquarters of a  multinational. Each student will also co-op at least twice at the firm’s Indian operations. Then, upon graduation, each of these international undergraduates will go to work with his “co-op multinational” back in India. For companies, it guarantees trained, skilled and educated recruits for a firm’s most critical growth areas in overseas operations. These students will have received the best academic and practical training and excellent language immersion as well as familiarity with a firm’s corporate culture.

“It’s a program that works for everyone involved,” explained Leventhal. “The companies obtain a highly qualified, professional employee who understands the firm, the local market and the environment. The families of the students – and the students themselves – are happy because of the education received and job available upon completion of the program. And for UC, our co-op reputation spreads farther.”

Leventhal reports that the first Indian students participating in the program will arrive on campus this fall. After this first co-op extension program is in place in India, UC will implement a similar program in China and then in at least ten other countries within three years.

The kind of program that UC is implementing was first piloted by Australian universities – though not necessarily with the co-op component. In fact, Leventhal helped to pioneer such efforts on behalf of Australian universities, and he stated, “We’re not reinventing the wheel here though we’ll be the first university in the U.S. to structure a program in this way. British universities and those in New Zealand, Ireland and Canada are already following the Australian model. Co-op gives us the edge to be a first adopter in the U.S.”

U.S. educational institutions must capture a share of these students in order to serve U.S. companies. The number of students from India and China choosing to study in Australia and the United Kingdom has grown by double digits in the last year. In 2004, the number of Indian and Chinese students opting to study on the undergraduate level in Australia grew by 45 percent and 33 percent respectively. The UK saw growth of 17 percent and 35 percent among those same groups. In comparison, U.S. universities only grew by 1.2 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively, among Indian and Chinese students opting to study in this country as undergraduates.

UC colleges that offer co-op are

For more on co-op

  • Co-op Turns 100! Birthday Bash and Book Close a Chapter in UC History
  • New Book Marks UC's Role as Birthplace of Co-op
  • UC Inducts First Honorees into New Co-op Hall of Honor
  • His Family Returns to Remember Co-op's "Co-optimistic" Founder