South Africa conference brings attention to SUNY Oswego’s co-op program

Representatives from SUNY Oswego visited South Africa to participate in the 18th World Association for Cooperative Education (WACE) World Conference on Advancing Cooperative and Work Integrated Education.

The WACE Conference took place from June 24 to 27 in Durban, South Africa, where 396 delegates from 19 different countries came together to discuss the importance of local and global cooperative education.

Representatives from SUNY Oswego included Dr. Lorrie Clemo, provost and vice president for academic affairs, Sheila Cooley, director of cooperative education and MBA student, Jason Macleod.

The group co-presented a presentation on cooperative education and how it can be utilized to support new localism.

“New localism is a new way of life in which people invest in the places they live to make them better, spawning local economic development in new dynamic ways,” Clemo said.

The presentation focused on the development of SUNY Oswego’s co-op program and the steps taken to design it. There was a workshop portion intended to help other colleges and university who were beginning to put together a co-op program.

“In conversations I had with WACE delegates from institutions and industry partners from across the globe, co-op is the common thread to bridging that gap to finding a job upon graduation." 
Sheila Cooley 
Director of SUNY Oswego’s Cooperative Education Program

The presentation also concentrated on engaging local partners in the commitment of co-educating students through initial work experience. New localism is the idea of not only educating the students and sending them to find jobs, but to employ students locally and to serve as a key engine in efforts to revitalize New York’s workforce and regional economy.

“It’s about retaining the talent, not exporting it,” Macleod said.

Other key presentations at the conference focused on maximizing the benefits of the industry-academia partnerships, work integrated education, service learning, and work readiness programs.

SUNY Oswego had the opportunity to make connections with business leaders and different education leaders from countries such as Thailand, Australia, Switzerland, Canada and people from all over the world.

Many of these countries have had co-op programs for years and are experienced leaders in cooperative education.

“In conversations I had with WACE delegates from institutions and industry partners from across the globe, co-op is the common thread to bridging that gap to finding a job upon graduation,” Cooley said.

Cooperative education

Co-ops are partnerships between students, universities and industries. Through co-op, students integrate classroom study and real world experience, develop a professional network, earn a competitive wage, save more and borrow less for college, and secure employment after graduation.

Macleod with Dr. Sampan Silapanad, vice president for Western Digital, at the WACE conference.

SUNY Chancellor, Nancy L. Zimpher, is dedicated to providing every SUNY student with an opportunity to have a co-op experience.

“SUNY has created an open dialogue with employers state-wide to be sure our students have a competitive edge in today's job market, and that our campuses are valuable economic resources for the business community in every region,” said Chancellor Zimpher in a SUNY press release July 13.

SUNY Oswego’s Cooperative Education Program is growing quickly and creating more networks with local employers. Cooley encourages students to start planning for a co-op as early as freshman year.

“Co-op gives the employers an opportunity to try out the students as potential employees for their organization,” Clemo said. “It gives our students the opportunity to try a number of different employers to see whether or not they’re interested in working for that particular company or business.”

According to a 2013 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) survey, 71% of employers prefer to hire candidates with relevant work experience.

Macleod encourages all students to get experience, as early as possible to help them discoverer what skills and networks they need to build to succeed.

“Employers are looking to hire students with strong personal and professional skills in leadership, problem solving, communication, ability to work on a team, strong work ethics and initiative and others,” Cooley said.

Through SUNY Oswego’s mandatory Co-op preparatory course, these topics will be incorporated as well as topics on self assessment, market research, career planning, resume building, job search strategies, interviewing techniques and professional etiquette.

“My aim at SUNY Oswego would be for students to have more than one experience learning through practice, which would be a co-op experience,” Clemo said. “I would like to see our students do all of that in addition to having an international experience, so they know also what it’s like to be a citizen of the world.”

SUNY Works is also implementing a SUNY Plus degree that will transcribe a student’s participation in a co-op. This degree is being developed and will make SUNY students more valuable in the job market.

SUNY’s goal is to get all 64 campuses involved in a cooperative education program and for every student to have the opportunity to participate in a co-op and eventually receive the SUNY Plus degree.

“A combination of learning by discovery, learning by service, and learning by practice would be ideal for a student to sort of gather as their portfolio before they graduate,” Clemo said. “It would make them extremely marketable.”

A student’s story

Macleod has become the testimonial for SUNY Oswego’s Cooperative Education Program. During his undergrad, Macleod took advantage of internship opportunities through the school, which led to his co-op at O’Brien and Gere.

“I participated in an internship with facilities design and construction on campus and through that experience, I was offered a co-op though O’Brien and Gere.”

Through this co-op, Macleod realized that there are certain sets of skills that are expected of a person on different career paths and those skills vary. Macleod’s advisor and mentors on campus helped him with any questions or concerns he had about the co-op at O’Brien and Gere.

“These skills can be taught in the classroom, but you need to get the experience in the work force and the preparatory class is helpful as well,” Macleod said. “The experiences have directed my grad school studies and they have encouraged me too commit to what I need to learn and to focus on the networks that I need to develop.”

Macleod decided he needed to further his education in business administration in order to get where he wanted to go.

As a first year MBA student, Macleod was given another opportunity to build upon his knowledge and skills through a co-op funded by a Festa Fellowship, a program that supports full-time graduate students while they gain hands-on work experience in their field.

Macleod has had the opportunity to work with the CEO of The Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology (IAGT) in Auburn, N.Y.

At IAGT, Macleod has helped restructure the organization by developing new business strategies and developing business through old and new clients.

Macleod was asked to join the SUNY Oswego team in South Africa as a student representative and to co-present the presentation, Co-op: A Central Force of New Localism.


SUNY Oswego is the first SUNY campus to become a member of WACE; an internationally recognized organization dedicated to cooperative and work integrated education programs. Clemo and Zimpher are on the Board of Directors for WACE.

“There are certain standards that WACE follows and there’s a commitment by the employers that they will provide a certain learning experience for students as apart of this consortium,” Clemo said. “We’re trying to bridge that gap between employers seeking new employees and making sure that they understand what their role is.”

Through WACE, SUNY Oswego has introduced its first Cooperative Education Scholarship for 2013-14. The merit scholarship will be offered each year to fifteen qualified freshman students for $6,000 annually.

For more information on the SUNY Oswego Cooperative Education Program, visit or contact Sheila Cooley at