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Higher Education Today: Antioch program takes classroom to the world

Oh, the places they go: from the Miami Valley to the San Francisco Bay, from New Orleans to Nagasaki.

And the things they do when they get there: working everywhere from small businesses to museums to hospitals to the Library of Congress, tackling issues like sustainability, immigration and community development.

And the benefits they gain: practical experience in line with their on-campus studies, and a work resume along with their college degree.

Those are just some of the advantages of Antioch College’s Co-operative Education Program or “co-op”, a staple of the Antioch experience for nearly 100 years. It’s at the heart of Antioch’s commitment to experiential education, and its belief that true preparation for life doesn’t happen only in a classroom.

How co-op works

In the early 1920s, Antioch President Arthur Morgan implemented a new curriculum, combining practical work experience with classroom learning. Today, co-op links Antioch alumni of every generation, with a shared bond of life-changing travels and experiences.

Antioch students spend one academic quarter each year on a co-op, a three-month placement doing meaningful work in challenging settings. Most co-ops are in paid positions.

Co-op advisors work to secure possible jobs for students, and help match students with their interests. Co-ops don’t have to be in a student’s declared area of study. Students then prepare resumes and cover letters to apply for the position, and have interviews with the employer in order to get the job.

In keeping with Antioch College’s practice of empowering students to own their educations, students don’t have to go through the co-op department to line up a job. They can seek approval to spend their co-op quarter on a self-selected internship, research appointment or other experience that fulfills their own learning ambitions.

While they’re on a co-op job, students prepare reports on what they’ve done and learned, often including photos, videos and other materials. Their stories are then posted on Antioch’s co-op website,

When the students return to campus, they share their co-op stories, and incorporate those experiences into their continuing academic work.

Why co-op works

“By linking the life of the mind with the practical experience of work, co-op animates our unique curriculum, and positions students to take action in the world,” said Rick Kraince, dean of cooperative, experiential and international education.

“Not only do Antioch students graduate with an outstanding education, an impressive resume and compelling stories of co-op adventures in distant locales, they gain exposure to innovative workplaces and discover their unique talents as they apply themselves to real problems in the world,” he said.

Simply put, co-op at Antioch College allows students to gain real-world experience while exploring their passions. For recent graduate Rose Hardesty, that meant teaching young students about the environment at a citizen science program in New Mexico.

“I came because I believe that environmental activism begins with a sense of connection to the spaces we inhabit – to our food, our water, our ecosystem and our planet,” she wrote.

For current student Rachel Isaacson, that meant working on women’s empowerment issues at a public relations agency for nonprofits in Washington, D.C.

“I am currently majoring in political economics and think that [this co-op] is a good first step in learning how nonprofit organizations function,” she wrote.

But many co-op lessons aren’t directly connected to the classroom. Frank Fortino, a media arts graduate, spent a co-op on a start-up organic farm in Ireland. In addition to shooting some film for his senior project, he gained valuable insight about his future.

“I want to open my mind,” he wrote, “and I want to do what I can to fix the humans living on this world. That is what this co-op has taught me.”

Antioch College student Anna Samake (front row, left) takes a selfie with co-workers at a New York City agency specializing in immigration rights, where she spent her co-op quarter in winter 2017. Co-ops provide Antioch students opportunities to explore passions and expand on their academic education by spending three-month periods on a full-time job with companies and agencies across the country and internationally. (Antioch College photo)