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PROFILE: Co-op Is Firmly Rooted In This Grad's Family Tree

The Pockras/Chaulk family of Cincinnati has sent four generations of students through the University of Cincinnati’s celebrated co-op program. This December, the latest “twig” off the family tree – Amity Chaulk – is set to graduate. 

Date: 12/5/2005 8:00:00 AM
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Dottie Stover
UC ingot “You need to get a job.” 

That’s what University of Cincinnati finance and international business major Amity Chaulk heard from her parents late in the summer of 2002, after her first year at college.

Amity agreed easily enough. She’d lived it up with summer study in Mexico, and the start of school was a month away. It was high time to get down to earning some money.

So Amity went to work at the same store-fixture manufacturing firm where her father was an executive. “I worked in both the front office and the factory floor, doing everything from tracking invoices and doing bills to actually working with the store shelving and metal countertops we were producing,” Amity explains. “I learned more in that month than I would have in a whole year of school. After that, I said to myself, ‘I have to co-op.’”

Amity didn’t know it, but she’d innocently forged the latest link in a Cooperative Education  legacy stretching back four generations in her family, to her great grandfather, Harry Pockras, who entered UC’s engineering program in 1916. Harry was followed into the co-op program by both a son and grandson. And now, some 90 years later, great-granddaughter Amity has branched out, opting for the co-op program in business.

Whereas her great-grandfather co-opped for only one-month stints early in the last century (standard for UC students at that time), Amity’s co-ops lasted six months each because she opted for “double-section” co-op experiences. (Today, a co-op quarter normally lasts three months, but students can elect for six-month stints.)

With that first “double-dose” of work quarters during which time she went to work for Marvin F. Poer Tax Accountants, Amity firmly rooted herself in the co-op tradition of living on her toes. Working for an international tax consulting firm was constant change, she says. “I never knew where I’d be next week or even the next day. I traveled to New Orleans, Mississippi and West Virginia. And you never knew quite what to expect when you were walking into company plants to assess the value and depreciation of their machinery, no matter how much research you’d done. When you go into a plant, there’s often just a big mess of machinery. Co-op has taught me, ‘Prepare for the worst,’ just like the Girl Scouts did.”

After that first co-op, Amity went back to school and, for a while, worked part-time for Poer. Then, she opted for another double-section co-op related more toward the finance side of her degree, going to work for Ultimus Fund Solutions here in Cincinnati. It’s paid off in unexpected ways.

Amity, who is graduating on Dec. 10, laughs, “Because of that co-op, I haven’t had to study for my exams in my two final finance classes. I already know the material. That co-op served as a great shortcut in my last quarter.”

With the link her family has to co-op, it's appropriate that Amity is graduating this year. The 2005-06 academic year marks the centennial celebration of  co-op's birth here at UC. Most people don't know it, but UC is actually the global birthplace of co-op. The practice was founded here in 1906.

Now that she’s graduating Amity figures to job hunt outside of Cincinnati in order to use the skills acquired as part of her international business degree. She hopes her first stop might be Chicago.

But no matter where she goes, Amity readily affirms that co-op has provided her a good base. “I’m definitely happy that I co-opped,” she says. “Anybody who can should co-op. It helped me to grow as a person, and it improved my people skills a lot! Also, it helped me to decide what I don’t what to do at this point. I’ve had job offers here, but I know I want to explore opportunities to live and work elsewhere. "

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