The Chronicle of Higher Education — January 16, 2011
A hallmark of the university’s global push is the internationalization of its signature cooperative-education program, which places students for up to six months in companies around the world. Students have worked for a soft-drink maker in Lagos, Nigeria; with an electronics manufacturer in Shenzen, one of China’s booming special-economic zones; and even at an Antarctic research station.
Jeffrey M. Riedinger, who serves on the Nafsa awards committee, says Northeastern’s approach to international education is successful because it builds on a distinctive offering that has long attracted students to the urban campus. “It plays to the university’s strengths,” says Mr. Riedinger, who is dean of international studies and programs at Michigan State University.
The approach also dovetails with growing interest among American students in not just studying but working overseas. More than 18,700 students did for-credit internships or worked abroad in 2008-9, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the Institute of International Education. That was a 37-percent increase over the previous year.
Setting up such overseas work experiences brings special headaches, among them wrestling with varying visa requirements and educating hiring managers for whom a co-op program may be a foreign idea. Still, Northeastern officials say that in an era when graduates want and employers demand global work skills, the effort is vital.
The co-op model is about “preparing students to go out into the real world,” says Joseph E. Aoun, Northeastern’s president, “and the real world is global now.”