Graduate Co-op Program Celebrates 25 Years

Program Focuses on Specialized Work Experiences

The Georgia Institute of Technology's graduate co-op program, the nation's largest, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The program, coordinated by the Institute's Division of Professional Practice (DoPP), focuses on providing master's and doctoral students with specialized work experiences.

Despite challenging economic conditions, the program has remained viable, said Thomas M. Akins, DoPP executive director. "We have registered more than 2,460 students for work over the past four years," Akins said. "Although we have felt the impact of the current economy like other programs, we have had more than 600 students work in graduate co-op positions in 2009."

Manish Mehta, a doctoral student in human-centered computing, began a co-op position with Walt Disney Imagineering Research and Development in Glendale, California, this summer and will continue through the spring of next year. In this capacity, he is working in a position directly related to his area of research, which involves developing interactive virtual characters.

"The Disney research lab is one of the best places to work in my research area," noted Mehta. "This experience in the 'wild' is allowing me to bring the ideas and knowledge that I have gained over the past five years into a more practical theme park setting where more than 60,000 guests visit daily."

Disney Imagineering is just one of approximately 50 companies that provide co-op opportunities for Georgia Tech graduate students. For example, during the past year, the top 10 employers included Qualcomm Inc., Microsoft Corp., Google Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp., NASA, IBM Corp., Texas Instruments Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Norfolk Southern Corp.

Participation in the program is nearly evenly divided among graduate program participants with approximately 53 percent of students in master's programs and 47 percent in doctoral programs.

Mehta highly recommends the program. "I think the co-op program has provided me with practical experiences that have helped me formulate my vision and the direction and field for my career."

The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the world's premier research universities. Ranked seventh among U.S. News & World Report's top public universities and the eighth best engineering and information technology university in the world by Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Academic Ranking of World Universities, Georgia Tech’s more than 20,000 students are enrolled in its Colleges of Architecture, Computing, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Management and Sciences. Tech is among the nation's top producers of women and minority engineers. The Institute offers research opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students and is home to more than 100 interdisciplinary units plus the Georgia Tech Research Institute.