Paid work and career experience await students in PSU CO-OP

PSU students Marko Bozic and Steven Tran

College students can work in paid jobs related to their major through a new cooperative education program from Portland State that combines classroom education with career experiences at Portland-area businesses.

PSU CO-OP begins in winter 2019 with up to 50 undergraduate students matched to positions in 20 area businesses. As the program grows over the coming years, PSU leaders hope hundreds of students will sign up for co-operative education, a form of hands-on learning that already flourishes on the East Coast.


Cooperative education differs from a basic internship in several ways. A co-op experience can add a full year to a student’s undergraduate degree. Students alternate periods of academic study with full- or part-time employment in paid positions that are related to their career interests. And co-op positions can last six months to a year, or longer.

“The benefits for students and employers are obvious,” said former PSU President Rahmat Shoureshi. “Cooperative education eases students’ and their families’ concerns about paying for college. Employers can groom our best and brightest students for well-paid, highly-skilled careers in their fields.”

Maseeh College of Engineering & Computer Science students have already participated in two similar cooperative education programs. Through her engineering internships, Pegah Alavi realized before graduation that she preferred planning railroads and streets to designing culverts and other water projects.

Alavi’s six-month-long internships were paid, added a fifth year to her undergraduate degree, and led her to a full-time job offer from David Evans and Associates working on projects such as the Southwest Corridor MAX light rail line. One of 130 PSU engineering students placed each year in paid internships through the Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program, Alavi is enthusiastic about her experience.

“It widens your perspective while you’re still in school,” Alavi says.

Students in the PSU CO-OP will take a course load that includes classes that prepare them for their work experiences. University leaders anticipate that the first co-op students will come from a variety of majors. In addition to engineering and computer science, students in business, arts, communications and science will also do co-op experiences. The number of students will vary by major and employer demand. Tech company Jama Software, insurance company The Standard, and senior care company Avamere are among the first employers that will offer paid positions.

"Traditionally, cooperative education programs have placements in technical and engineering fields, and PSU CO-OP will have those opportunities for all of our students," said Cliff Allen, dean of The School of Business and chair of the PSU CO-OP task force. "But our program goes much broader, offering positions in disciplines like the arts, communications and business."
Yury Kutsurenko, who took on four co-op placements related to his field of study through the Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program, says he used the income he earned to help pay for his PSU education. 

“That delayed my graduation, but I don’t regret it a bit because employers expect you to get work experience before you graduate,” says Kutsurenko.

Kutsurenko graduated this year and is currently a manufacturing intern at Intel, where he hopes to earn a permanent position. 

-> Learn more about enrolling in PSU CO-OP

Story by Paige Frank
Photos by NashCo
Top photo caption: PSU students Marko Bozic and Steven Tran at their co-op placement at CDK Global.