Roland Gillis, LA'72

For Roland Gillis, Northeastern is more than just a university—it's a tradition. Three generations of his family proudly call the school their alma mater, including his father, John Gillis, E'36, three of his siblings, and, most recently, his daughter, Katie (Gillis) Tenney, CSH'09. And yet, tradition is only part of his story. It was Northeastern's experiential learning model that ultimately inspired the Massachusetts native to apply.

"When I went to Northeastern, I really didn't know what I wanted to do," says Roland, whose co-op positions included posts in the United States government; Dodge Library; the Massachusetts State House; the law firm of Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP; and the Boston Army Base. "But the experiential learning model exposed me to the different jobs and industries I was considering. By the time I left, and after a co-op abroad, I was ready to focus on international business and confident that was the best path for me."

Graduating cum laude, Roland went on to earn his masters of business administration from the esteemed Thunderbird, The Garvin School of International Management in Glendale, Arizona. His long career has since landed him management and executive positions with Putnam Management Company; Keystone Custodian Funds; Loomis Sayles & Company, Inc.; and South Shore Bank & Trust. Today, he's a partner at Nichols Asset Management, LLC, in Boston.

On his decision to attend Northeastern University: "Coming from a family with six siblings, I needed to pay my way through college. The co-op work-study program allowed me the opportunity to do that."

On the value of the co-op program: "The current marketplace is highly competitive, but co-op students come away with real-world experience applicable to their studies. You are prepared to leave school and get a job, because you did leave school to work for at least six months."

On the most positive aspects of the academic program: "Being able to alternate periods of academic study with paid professional employment related to my major  helped me establish a clear direction of what industries I wanted to further pursue. I had real-life employment to guide me through that challenging decision."

Advice for students considering Northeastern’s alternative co-op education model: “Study abroad, and when possible, acquire a second language. Being able to demonstrate you are fluent in another language will give you the edge over someone else.”

Meet Roland's daughter, Katie (Gillis) Tenney, CSH'09. Katie was a recipient of Northeastern's 2009 Compass Award for her dedication and work with the university's Peer Tutoring Program.