Cooperative Education Program

Antioch College promotes meaningful engagement with the world through intentional linkages between campus-centered and field-based experiential learning. For nearly a century, a central component of the College’s progressive education model has been its flagship Cooperative Education (Co-Op) Program, which enables students to gain experience and construct purposeful pathways into their careers. Antioch students spend up to a third of their undergraduate program--a minimum of three academic terms--engaged full-time with partner organizations generally off campus, where they have the opportunity to distinguish themselves through creativity, commitment, and hard work.

By linking the life of the mind with professional communities of practice, Co-Op animates a unique liberal arts curriculum that positions students to take action and apply themselves to some of the world’s most pressing problems. Not only do Antioch students graduate with an outstanding education, an impressive resume, and compelling stories of co-op adventure in distant locales, they gain exposure to innovative workplaces and discover their unique talents. Through sustained involvement with co-op partners off campus, students learn to navigate complex environments, advocate for themselves, experiment with ideas, and learn new tools to affect change in a variety of challenging settings.

At the core of the co-op experience is professional engagement--meaningful work in diverse contexts where students generally can expect reasonable compensation for their contributions. During co-op terms, students take on a fulltime job, research project, fieldwork assignment, a period of creative practice, or other professional development opportunity for a minimum of thirty hours per week throughout the duration of an eleven-week quarter.

The College’s emphasis on students’ ownership of their education allows for the integration of co-op experiences and self-designed majors. Although paid employment has been Co-Op’s stock-in-trade since the introduction of the cooperative model at Antioch in 1921, the program has responded to students’ aspirations for self-directed learning by maintaining a broad conception of the experience since at least the late 1950s. The co-op faculty recognizes that a significant number of students hope to use one or more of their co-op terms to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities with start-up firms, conduct research related to their majors, engage in artistic productions, position themselves for graduate study through special projects, or experiment with their own professional pursuits. It also understands that some students are interested in proposing a co-op job of their own design in order to realize their unique ambitions, take advantage of special opportunities, or simply develop a stronger sense of their own agency.

Co-Op Advising

The co-op faculty takes an individualized approach to helping students consider their various options and pursue the opportunities they hope to attain. Each student is assigned a co-op advisor who meets with them one-on-one throughout their time at Antioch. They also work together as a team to support students, promote strategic skill development, and effectively communicate with partner organizations off-campus. Co-Op advisors listen to students’ aspirations as they endeavor to gain traction in their careers and help them understand their abilities. They also work together as a team to support students, promote strategic skill development, develop partnerships, and effectively communicate with organizations off-campus. Although it is ultimately up to an employer to decide whether or not they can offer a position, students benefit from the support of a professional team of educators who are actively engaged in a variety of fields and are continually seeking opportunities for students.

Students who are interested in a given experience are advised to prepare a cover letter and résumé for the sponsoring organization or employer if they meet the minimum qualifications required. co-op advisors help students develop their application materials, establish communications with the employer, provide recommendations if appropriate, and coach students on how best to prepare for the interview process. Most employers require a phone, video-link, or in-person interview with the applicant before making a hiring decision. Timely planning and prompt follow-up on communications at this stage is essential as students must present themselves well in order to secure a co-op opportunity.

Over the course of four years, co-op Advisors help students position themselves for progressively challenging co-op opportunities. They offer focused coursework and support students’ involvement in research efforts, interdisciplinary projects, and various community initiatives. Co-Op faculty members also assist students with the development of long-term strategies so that they can steer themselves toward the career opportunities, graduate schools, or involvement with the communities of practice in which they hope to engage as they prepare for post-baccalaureate life.

Standard Study/Work Sequence

Fall Term N-D Block Winter Term Spring Term J-A Block
Year 1 study study work
Year 2 study work study
Year 3 study* study* study*
Year 4 work study study

*Students may choose a work term instead of a study term, or a study term instead of a work term by submitting a “Sequence Flex Term Notification” form to the Registrar.

Cooperative Education Courses

Our era is being shaped by massive demographic, economic, linguistic, and digital disruptions that are challenging long-held assumptions about the employment landscape of the 21st Century. To lead lives of significance and service in this emerging world, students must develop different skills and capacities than those of previous generations. Beyond the deep content knowledge that has always been central to Antioch’s rigorous liberal arts approach, co-op students are encouraged to develop robust collaborative, cross-cultural, and interdisciplinary capacities in order to effectively respond to challenges affecting communities at home and abroad.

The Cooperative Education experience is underpinned by required co-op coursework, which ensures that student action in the field is coupled with reflection in order to promote critical awareness of social circumstances and to maximize the potential for transformation. Co-Op courses lead students to take stock of the skills they are developing and consider how their abilities may be put to use in addressing complex issues in other contexts. They also give serious attention to the disciplinary interests of our students, the methodologies that underpin their self-designed majors, and the evolving fields in which students desire to gain experience.

Cooperative Education courses have the following characteristics:

  • Co-Op Courses are experience-based courses for which the "text" examined generally consists of students’ own highly individualized experiences during cooperative work terms as well as their efforts to make meaning out of these experiences. Texts as such can be supported by additional readings, but the major source of content is the student’s own experience.
  • Co-Op courses emphasize reflection in the sense of encouraging self-awareness as well as understanding of how the integration of the theoretical and the active components of field-based learning promote student agency, effectiveness, and ability to reflect on place-based programming.
  • Co-Op courses are a form of high-impact learning that contribute to the assemblage of a body of work that, following the tradition of the arts, is generally subject to peer critique and shared with an audience beyond the course instructor and members of the class.
  • Co-Op courses emphasize the development of skills that are grounded in a disciplinary framework and can be mapped generally to communities of practice.
  • Co-Op courses function well when they build upon the methodological coursework offered on campus before co-op and intentionally exercise students’ methodological skills.

In terms of learning outcomes, all courses offered through the Cooperative Education Program promote integrative learning, which is defined by the co-op faculty as the iterative process through which students engage the world while making connections across ideas and experiences. Students are expected to build upon their prior knowledge, synthesize ideas, and transfer insights to the complex situations they encounter through co-op, campus-based learning, and participation in diverse communities. Upon completion of the course, students will be able to identify and develop their interests, knowledge, abilities and skills and deliberately link them to purposeful, self-determined pathways at Antioch and beyond.

Co-op Requirements: Work Experience, Community Engagement, and Reflection

Work and engagement in communities of practice lie at the heart of cooperative education. Documenting and reflecting on the experience, are also essential components of the co-op learning cycle. In order to meet the co-op requirement necessary for graduation, all students are required to complete three approved co-op field experiences and pass them with a grade of “C” (twelve credits each). Students enroll in these by registering for the appropriate Cooperative Education course that is offered at the time they engage in their cooperative work term, as determined by fulfillment of both the co-requisite and any prerequisites identified. They thus are expected to earn a minimum of thirty-six Cooperative Education credits required for graduation.

Active student participation in every aspect of the co-op field experience is necessary for success. Active participation is demonstrated in the following ways:

  • Fulltime Experiential Engagement – Co-Op students are required to work or engage at least 30 hours per week in an approved co-op job or other approved experiential learning opportunity for a minimum of 30 hours per week throughout the 11-week academic term. Leaving a position before completing the 11 weeks must be approved by the instructor and a plan for completing the experiential requirement must be formalized.

  • Regular communication, documentation, and timely submission of assignments is required to demonstrate attendance and fulfill the expectations of the Co-op Field Experience courses.

Students should remain in close contact with their co-op Course Instructors and Advisors throughout the co-op experience. It is imperative that students enter into communication with the instructor during the first week of the co-op term so that they will be counted as participating in the course. Students who have not demonstrated participation in co-op courses during the first two weeks of the quarter will be dropped from enrollment by the registrar, which may have an impact on the awarding of financial aid for the term.

The co-op team supports a student’s right to work in a safe and supportive environment. Co-op faculty members are prepared to assist students who for whatever reason feel they must leave a co-op before the completion of the term. In such instances, students may propose an alternative experience so that they have the best possible chance of successfully completing the co-op requirement.

Co-op partners are asked to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) formalizing the cooperative relationship and allowing the College to advertise available positions. Nothing contained within the MOU prevents an employer from terminating a student’s employment if they find cause to do so, as long as they operate in accordance with local, state, and federal laws. Students are informed that Antioch College is not in a position to provide legal counsel to resolve legal disputes between a student and an employer.

Additional Co-Op Option

Students may choose to enroll in an optional co-op term during any quarter of their third year of study. Please note that approval of the optional co-op is not automatic. It requires advanced planning as well as permission of the students’ advising team as well as the dean of cooperative, experiential, and international education. If this optional co-op term is to be an international and/or language immersion experience, students must meet additional requirements articulated in the policies of both the Co-Op Program and the Language and Culture Program.

Students who replace one of the study terms of their third year with an optional fourth co-op term must realize that they will have one less term in which to complete other course requirements for their degrees. By taking only the typical 15-16 credits per study term on campus, students will be one or two classes short of degree requirements at the end of the fourth year of study. Students must plan ahead to take additional classes during the first two years of study, either through over-crediting and/or taking an additional class over co-op during one of the first two co-op terms.

International/Language Immersion Co-Op

Advanced planning is especially important for students who wish to pursue an International/Language Immersion co-op. While any student is welcome to propose an international co-op, students are required to demonstrate that their language skills are appropriate for the proposed placement. Students planning to complete their Language Capstone course over co-op should embrace the commitment of language learning at Antioch and speak with their advisors as far in advance as possible.

Student Financial Responsibility during Co-Op Terms

While students are on co-op, they are responsible for the payment of tuition to the College as well as their own room, board, and other expenses. Students are also responsible for costs associated with their travel to and from their jobs, as is the case for travel to and from campus during breaks. A limited number of co-op fellowships are available on a competitive basis. Students may discuss these opportunities with their co-op advisors.

It should be noted that international co-op experiences rarely offer paid work, although at times room and board compensation can be secured. While some fellowship opportunities are available, students hoping to co-op abroad should expect to incur a number of costs, for which they would be responsible, and for which they should plan far in advance.