For the sixth time in eight years, a Stevens student has been selected as the Cooperative Education and Internship Student of the Year award by the New Jersey Cooperative Education and Internship Association (NJCEIA).
Senior Erik Thompson, an Electrical Engineering major and participant in the Stevens Cooperative Education (Co-op) program, is the 2012 recipient representing four-year college students. His selection is based on his outstanding achievements on the job and contributions to the employer.
“Erik is extremely smart and hard-working,” said Christian Uhl, assistant director of Cooperative Education (co-op) at Stevens. “He’s also very advanced and mature for his age. He is a natural fit for a professional environment, and that helped him acquire very high-quality work experiences through Co-op.”
As an undergraduate at Stevens, Thompson took part in five Co-op internships. The first two assignments were with Datascope Patient Monitors, where he worked with the electrical engineering staff to test hospital products and implement fixes. Next, he worked as a computer engineer at the Armament, Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsensal. Finally, Thompson spent two semesters at Safe Flight Instrument Corporation. There, he served as project lead for the development of cockpit sensors that prevent airplanes from stalling. He was primarily responsible for overseeing the design and testing of software and electronics systems.
“I chose Stevens in large part because of the Co-op program,” said Thompson. “Each internship I did was critical, in its own way, for preparing me for the workforce. Datascope introduced me to the corporate culture and helped me understand how business is done. Picatinny gave me excellent software experience, and Safe Flight was really excellent at developing my design skills.”
Thompson earned a 3.65 GPA over his undergraduate career. Outside of his academics, he participated in numerous student activities as Stevens, including Castle Point Radio, the Anime Club and the Computer and Console Gaming Society. He also spent many hours volunteering his time to mentor younger Co-op participants by conducting mock interviewers and ushering students to employers.
“Erik was always incredibly generous with his time and always willing to give back because of the opportunities that he received through Co-op,” said Uhl. “Not only did every employer want him to join their ranks, but every student wanted to learn from his success.”
After Thompson graduates this month with a B.E. in Electrical Engineering and Graduate Certificate in Wireless Communications, he will begin full-time work as an assistant technical staff member at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, a research and development center focused on applying advanced technology to problems of national security. Thompson applied through the position through Stevens Career Services and was interviewed on campus last fall. He received the official offer while on winter holiday trip to Cancun with his family.
“Needless to say, it was a great vacation,” Thompson said.
There are numerous past Cooperative Education and Internship Student of the Year award-winners from Stevens, including Michael Phipps (’04), Jibu Abraham (’05), Poitr Czerechowski (’06), Keith Cassidy (’08) and Regina Pynn (‘11). In addition, Cassidy and Daniel Mirota (’06) were named National Cooperative Education Students of the Year by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).
Uhl said one reason behind Stevens’ leadership in cooperative education is the staff’s personal relationships with students.
“We know our students’ interests and abilities and can make an accurate determination of what employers would be the best fit,” Uhl said. “Because our students are better matched, we are able to serve both the students and the employers better.”
He added that the Co-op program’s strong connection to numerous companies is another factor in its success.
“Stevens has longstanding relationships with employers, many of whom are Stevens Co-op alumni themselves,” Uhl said. “They know where the students are coming from both academically and professionally, which – along with the preparatory programs offered through Co-op – sets the table for our students to be successful on the job.”
Thompson, whose future employer includes a deep pipeline of Stevens alumni, said the Co-op program provide students essential resume differentiation in today’s competitive job market.
“With the way the job market is right now, you really need to be able to show that you’ve done something in addition to classes,” Thompson said. “Co-op allows you to go and do something meaningful and contribute to the company success.”
Thompson will be presented with the Cooperative Education and Internship Student of the Year award at the annual NJCEIA program on June 7 in Morristown, N.J.