Co-Op Program: A Leap in Experiential Learning at the School of Business
Offering a unique experiential learning experience with hands-on training at the workplace, AUC’s new Cooperative Education (Co-Op) course is the first of its kind in the region to be initiated by a business school.
Co-Op, an elective three-credit course (BUSC 4000-Experiential Learning: Co-Op), offers students at the School of Business the opportunity to be directly engaged on a full-time basis with external entities for at least six months, including multinational corporations, startups, financial institutions, government entities, professional service firms, think tanks, local and international economic and monetary bodies, and nonprofit organizations. The course is currently in its pilot phase and featured in the six business undergraduate programs at AUC.
“Market readiness is a key quality measure of AUC School of Business students,” said Ahmed Abdel-Meguid, associate professor of accounting and associate dean of undergraduate studies and administration at the School of Business, whose office academically administers the course. “I consider the Co-Op model to be the apex of experiential learning.”
Students will have two possible time windows for Co-Op: spring and summer or summer and fall. During the six months, they will be assigned specific tasks relevant to their fields of study to get exposed to realistic on-the-job training. Assessment-wise, their performance is co-evaluated on key learning objectives by an academic faculty member and an external entity counterpart, ultimately yielding a pass/fail grade.
“The course provides an unprecedented realistic experience featuring the technical applications of the student’s field of study as well as the innate particularities of being a working professional,” noted Abdel-Meguid.
To ensure productive training, the School of Business and AUC’s Career Center joined forces to construct the program design and partner with carefully selected entities to host the students. By promoting the program to a diverse pool of employers and soliciting opportunities relevant to business majors, the aim is to develop sufficiently challenging Co-Op job descriptions for students to fully immerse them in the experience and fulfill the program’s learning objectives.
“The Co-Op program’s objectives are part of the mandate of the Career Center to provide quality experiential learning opportunities to undergraduate students that help them focus on their career goals and develop their career readiness. It also helps them apply what they learn in the classroom to real life, gain hands-on work experience, establish professional networks and enhance their employability,” said Soha Hassan, assistant director of experiential learning at the Career Center.
“On the other hand, the Co-Op program provides employers with an excellent opportunity to identify and test drive potential talent, manage short-term hiring needs and enhance their on-campus employer brand. The Career Center will act as a liaison between the School of Business, the students and the employers," added Hassan.
To date, various leading corporations and multinationals have expressed their interest in the program and are keen on being involved in the pilot and launch phases. Some have even recommended expanding the program to incorporate students from other schools at AUC.
Upon registration, the Career Center will manage the matching process by connecting with pre-selected students, understanding their Co-Op needs and matching them to the relevant experience. In addition, students will receive guidance during the application process through the Career Center’s various advising services, including resume critiques, cover letter critiques, mock interviews and more.
While an internship component is already integrated in business programs, the Co-Op model differs in three main aspects. First, it provides a significantly longer interaction with the host entity. Second, the process of matching students with host entities is jointly managed by AUC and employers to ensure a value-adding student experience. Finally, faculty members closely oversee Co-Op assignments, provide mentorship for students throughout their Co-Op journey and co-evaluate them with their host entity counterpart based on preset components.
“This practical training coupled with our robust academic programs further enhances the competitiveness of our students and prepares them to be impactful agents of change,” said Abdel-Meguid. By equipping students with a blend of comprehensive knowledge and hands-on experience, their learning experience, career readiness and placement quality are amplified. The Co-Op program establishes an open feedback channel regarding the quality of students and programs, ultimately building academic resilience.
“For the past two years, the School of Business has been focusing on revamping its undergraduate programs with the ultimate objective of further paving the path to quality graduates set to be change-makers through their competitiveness and career-readiness,” added Abdel-Meguid. “To bring that to fruition and apply it to both local and international job markets, the revamping plan was based on four guiding principles: contemporary and market-relevant content, innovative teaching and learning methods, interdisciplinarity and on-the-job training. With this plan set in motion, Cooperative Education (Co-Op) came about.”