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Co-opting Valuable Work Experience

International Co-op Organization Moves to Campus

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Dr. Paul Stonely, CEO, and Michelle Hansford, Director, are glad to have WACE join the UMass Lowell campus.

By Julia Gavin

In an increasingly demanding and global work world, more students are applying for internships and co-ops to complement their education. Simultaneously, companies are searching for employees  with experiences that set them apart from their peers. The World Association for Cooperative Education (WACE) has worked for nearly three decades to bring these partners together, and now they’re partnering up with UMass Lowell.

WACE, an international platform that brings together universities, corporations and students to prepare the latter for today’s increasingly diverse and global workforce, moved its main office to the Wannalancit Mills building in July. The organization had begun searching for a new home after several years at Northeastern University when UMass Lowell Provost Ahmed Abdelal, a member of the organization’s board, suggested that they move to Lowell.

“We’re very impressed by UMass Lowell’s commitment to cooperative learning and providing global experiences for their students,” says Dr. Paul Stonely, chief executive officer of the organization. “The provost was very interested in having us come to campus and it was a mutual agreement given UMass Lowell and WACE’s common interests.”

The office has been happy with their move to the renovated mill building. WACE is looking to open satellite offices on campuses in Sweden, Thailand and Turkey and expand their global reach. 

“We are very pleased to house WACE at UMass Lowell,” says the provost. “WACE is a prominent international organization that advocates and leads efforts for integrating learning in the classroom with learning from experience. Our active membership in WACE provides us with rich opportunities for strengthening collaboration with leading international universities that similarly value experiential learning.”

Providing Increasingly Global Experiences

Stonely says that WACE has seen an increase in students pursuing work-integrated learning experiences in recent years, especially international positions. He’s glad to see more universities and corporations providing such experiences for students.

“We believe this is the best form of education and the most effective way of preparing the future workforce especially in these tough economic times,” says Stonely. “If feasible, it would be terrific if every student could do at least one co-op, and it would be even better if one was international. UMass Lowell is interested in working with us because they see this desire on the rise and know that working abroad is a great way to prepare for the future workforce.”

As a platinum partner, UMass Lowell joins 64 universities and corporations from across the world with interests in work-integrated learning. WACE organizes conferences and resources to connect universities with businesses and helps its partners to begin or strengthen co-op programs. As a result of these partnerships, they were able to start a scholarship program nine years ago, which awarded $10,000 in its first year. The program has now distributed more than $26 million and has helped to place 4 million students across the globe, allowing them to participate in co-op positions and gain invaluable work experiences.
Seeing the Benefits Firsthand

Stonely and his colleague Michelle Hansford, director of WACE, have seen the results of their work benefit numerous students and businesses over the years. Hansford says she wishes she had participated in a co-op program while in college as it “would have helped [her] transition into the work world.” Stonely is now seeing the results in his own family as he watches his daughter work at the Boston Globe through Northeastern’s co-op program.

“She just had her second article published in the newspaper and is enjoying her work,” says Stonely. “It's one thing to be working on these programs, but then to have your own child benefit from it, that brings a personal perspective as I can see my daughter thrive.”