Northeastern University

Sarah (Puccio) Bouchard - Class of 2009

Why did you choose this major, and does/did it seem like the right major for you? Why?

I chose this major as an entering freshman. At the time, my career goals were different than they are now, but the Human Services major was still perfect all along. The interdisciplinary approach prepared me for a life of service in a variety of potential professions.

Why did you choose NU? Was/is this the right school for you?

I chose NU mainly for its fantastic location in Boston and for its co-op program. NU was definitely the right school for me. Co-op is what gets graduates jobs, and nobody does it better than NU.

How many co-ops have you completed?

Two

Can you list the companies and give a quick synopsis of what you did?

My first co-op was at Crowe, Paradis & Albren LLP (CPA): I was a Legal Assistant at this Social Security Disability firm in Wakefield, MA. I assisted the paralegal and law clerk team in working up cases and preparing them for hearings.

My second was at the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) as an Appeals Clerk and Hearing Officer. Although I was hired as a clerk, I quickly caught on here and when a Hearing Officer position opened temporarily, I filled in until the BHA Officer came back from long-term leave. I loved this job. I would hear cases from applicants at the BHA who had received adverse decisions on their housing or applications for housing. I worked with a diverse group of residents and coworkers. This really turned on my professional interest in affordable housing, which is my field now after graduation.

Classes can't teach you everything you need to know about working, and really, maybe they shouldn't! Classes can teach you how to think analytically and give you a context for the work that you do. Co-op is that chance to learn applied skills that would never be taught in a classroom. At the BHA, I learned the ins and outs of housing agency operations policies, affordable housing development, and civil rights procedures for public agencies like the BHA.

Did you have any other "learning from outside of the classroom" (service learning, student leadership, study abroad, research, or volunteering) that also enriched your time here?

I participated in several service learning courses, volunteered for a variety of organizations throughout the year, and completed research projects. I voluntarily created an Independent Study semester in my senior year, and researched a senior thesis-type project on site in Salt Lake City, UT for a semester. Also, in my senior year, I participated in a Community Based Learning Initiative project with the Political Science department. This small team was chartered to research health care reform for the state of Rhode Island.

Have you Graduated from NU? If Yes, please let us know what you are doing and if you think your co-ops and experiential education have helped you in your career path. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes – I am a Research Associate at TAG Associates, Inc. based out of Norwood, MA. TAG is a management consulting firm that services affordable housing providers. Our clients are public housing authorities, and we travel all over the country to consult on operations policies, public finance and budget review, grant writing for federal funds, and finance and development of new housing projects.

I started in March 2009 and I love it. Although sometimes I am overwhelmed by how much I have yet to learn in this industry, I do feel that NU prepared me with the ability to stay on top of my own professional development.

My co-ops absolutely helped me in my career path! My work at the BHA qualified me for this position, which was advertised as "experienced non-manager" and required a working knowledge of the housing sector. My continued relationships and network of contacts also helped me jump-start my career, since the most effective way to job search is through networking. My co-op experience continues to assist my professional development.

(For what it is worth, Lisa...YOU are what is wonderful about HS co-op! :-) I have you to thank for much of my positive experience with co-op at NU and a big thank you to you is definitely in order!)

Questions Answered as of 06/18/2010