Experiential Education in Northeastern University’s College of Arts and Sciences

April 4, 2009 at 8:47 PM

Northeastern University is well known for its experiential education programs, particularly cooperative education. But it has only been recently that experiential education was made a part of the core curriculum in the College of Arts and Sciences and therefore a graduation requirement. So, we figured it was worth a blog post to bring you a paper that a young alumna wrote that gave a brief history of how that came about. Here it is.

Shwen and Jim



I did not know it at the time, but one of my last acts in what would be 10 years of serving as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences was to ask Sarah, a recently graduated history major, to prepare for me a short essay on the history of the College from the perspective of its commitment to require experiential education for students graduating in the class of 2000 or later. Almost 8 years later the University would follow suit making a similar graduate requirement for the University. The College’s commitment seemed to have helped its profile as this period was one of rapid growth in the College’s freshman applicant pool going from 5,000 to 17,000 applications in 10 years. Below is Sarah’s work, which now that I have stepped out of the Dean’s Office, I present as an interesting case study of a College of Arts and Sciences that committed to experiential education in all of its forms. Thank you Sarah for letting us post your work on our blog (www.otherlobe.com).

– Jim Stellar

Experiential Education in Northeastern University’s
College of Arts and Sciences
Sarah Robey ‘08

In 1909 Northeastern University began its first co-op program. At the time, the eleven-year-old university developed co-op (short for cooperative education), in part, as a way to pay for one’s education while learning a trade. Co-op catered to commuter students interested in industrial fields such as automotives and engineering. As the university developed over the next century through phases of both expansion and contraction, co-op remained an integral part of the university’s curriculum. By 2000, Northeastern University was home to nearly 20,000 students in a huge variety of disciplines. Though the university had blossomed into a large, highly competitive national university, it continued its cooperative history by instituting an experiential education requirement for all graduates.

Liberal Arts in the Early Years

Founded in 1898, Northeastern University experienced a huge amount of growth during its first few decades. When the College of Liberal Arts was added to the university in 1935, its courses served as a supplement to the established trade based courses of studies. In the years following World War II, universities across the country experienced a huge upsurge in attendance numbers and programs of study, Northeastern being no exception. However, despite widespread expansion in the colleges and departments across campus, the College of Liberal Arts continued to mainly provide the core liberal arts curriculum to students in other colleges, rather than cultivate many graduates in the humanities.

Interested? Read below or click here to get a pdf file of the whole paper (5 pages)

Cortical subcortical integration and decisions: An amygdala-prefrontal cortex neural circuit case study
1 Comment

One Response to “Experiential Education in Northeastern University’s College of Arts and Sciences”

  1. Ina Spaho says:

    The best part of the co-op experience is when you realize that you can apply the theories you learn in class to your work. The moment when you think about what you’ve studied and you can see how you can use the knowledge in practice is powerful, because it renews your motivation and drives you forward to study and learn more. And when this doesn’t happen which is less than often, students always learn new things about themselves. It all part of the personal and professional growth that comes by working in a new environment.

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