My co-op adviser, Professor Nancy Caruso, guided me through a series of co-ops until, in 1973, I found the co-op of my dreams. Up until that time I had learned much and had kept my co-op reflections in a diary, but I had not yet found the perfect career path. I wanted to try a research position that had the potential for helping people, and Professor Caruso guided me to it.
She told me that Professor Bertram Scharf in the Psychology Department had just obtained funding from the National Institutes of Heath related to how people perceive and interpret sounds, and that he would probably be hiring an assistant. She encouraged me to talk with him about my former co-op at the MITRE Corporation with Lincoln Laboratories, in Bedford, Massachusetts, where I had worked as a research assistant writing computer programs for the study of human behavior.
My first meeting with Professor Scharf was memorable. As he talked with me, he ate his lunch and read an article, a sandwich in one hand, his journal in the other. He asked me some tough questions related to statistical methods, but I was too curious to be intimidated. He told me to come back in a week, which I did, bringing questions of my own. “You ask good questions,” he said, adding that I might make yet another appointment with him for the following week.
Professor Caruso gave me the push I needed to return a third time, and that is how my fruitful decades-long research collaboration with Professor Scharf started. Years later—after earning my doctorate at Northeastern, working as a scientist at MIT, and returning to Northeastern in 1980—I asked him why he had hired me. “It is not enough to be clever and ask good questions,” he replied. “Great scientists must be persistent.”
Today, I am the George J. & Kathleen Walters Matthews Distinguished Professor at Northeastern, enjoying my ideal career—one that began as a co-op in Professor Scharf’s laboratory. My research is focused on loudness, hearing loss, and the relationship between physical acoustics of sound and our individual perceptions of it. For more than 30 years, I have taken great pleasure in interdisciplinary teaching, involving students from health sciences, engineering, and psychology. By listening to my students, I have learned how to teach them; each brings a different perspective. Some of my students have grown into colleagues, which is a special delight.
Whenever people ask me about Northeastern’s co-op program, I say that I owe my career satisfaction to co-op and my adviser, Professor Nancy Caruso. I have hired many wonderful co-op students on my NIH-funded grants in the course of almost 25 years. I ask each to keep a co-op diary of lessons learned and personal reflections, which becomes a basis for our weekly chats.
Whenever I talk with students, I am always careful to look them in the eye—and to not eat and read at the same time!
Who Empowered You?
Behind every Northeastern graduate is a story of empowerment—often, a story about a formative personal or mentoring relationship. Please add your testimonial to the growing collection and share a favorite memory or anecdote about your empower source.
Alumni Jim and Amie Smith share what he calls “our NU DNA.” Eager to influence the future of their alma mater, they recently endowed a scholarship in Amie’s major, journalism, and made a gift to the Dean’s Innovation Fund at the library, where the couple first connected.
Bill Garvey remembers the “wake up call” of those first-quarter Cs, and a courseload so heavy that he “fell behind, overwhelmed.” But through co-op, he laid the foundations of a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry.
Joe Fleming, PAH’70, MS’71, and Chris Ford, DMSB’73, are delivering a healthy dose of mentorship through the Health Sciences Entrepreneurs program in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences.
“My first co-op advisor, Corinne Reppucci—she was Miss Cianci then—was instrumental in getting me a co-op I loved. That was the start of a wonderful career, one that gave me the ‘global mindset’ so essential for our students today.”
“I’m the first college graduate in my family, thanks to the Northeastern supporters who funded my Torch Scholarship.”
For Carla Oblas, director of Northeastern’s Balfour Academy, helping young people in underserved schools has empowered students in their quest for a college education—and it has empowered her along the way.
“I worked in Northeastern’s dining services as a part-time dishwasher and server, and was eventually invited to be a co-op assistant manager. It was the start of an incredible opportunity that far exceeded the typical college experience.”
“Northeastern has been a part of my life from the beginning. My father, William Kneeland Jr., DMSB’67, worked at the university for nearly 30 years, and to me, he is Northeastern.”
“Growing up, I launched businesses from my parents’ basement. By the time I was a high school senior, I was running a thriving IT support company and building websites for dozens of customers.”
“If you haven’t heard of The Husky Ambassadors, you have definitely seen us—the tour guides who strut through campus with prospective students, parents shuffling behind.”
“My degree provided a new level of professionalism, required for advancement in nursing. Northeastern’s innovative Nursing Interim Program influenced my work as a caregiver, manager, and risk taker—and throughout my career, I encouraged creative thinking and educational opportunities for my staff.”
“Professor Adomdza has empowered me to take full advantage of global experiential learning and has helped shape me into the person I am today: a budding entrepreneur prepared through coursework, research, and co-op for whatever opportunities come my way.”
“When I arrived at Northeastern I had very vague ideas about what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to go into medicine but I had no idea where to go or who to go to about getting that kind of mentoring.”
“At age 37, I was a stay-at-home mother of three young children and in the midst of a divorce. I knew I needed an education or I wouldn’t be able to secure a job doing much of anything.”
“Balancing work and school, and being on co-op, has taught me how to live life as an adult. Northeastern’s career-oriented atmosphere changed me. It’s made me more mature.”
“My father-in-law said if I was ever going to marry his daughter, I’d better go to college. Things worked out! Because of the people I met at Northeastern, I had a great career, and I and my late wife, Nancy—also an alum—were married for 37 years.”
“I had been a senior vice president of human resources with a successful corporate career. The day my job was eliminated, in 2007, I looked at my husband and said, ‘I’m going to start my own business and go back to school!’”
“I can still picture her: a petite college grad, not much older than I was—my co-op advisor’s assistant. When I told her I wanted a co-op with a Big Eight accounting firm, she just laughed. ‘With your grades?’”
“I was a Torch Scholar in this incredible program’s second year. My mentor at Northeastern—James Stellar, then dean of the former College of Arts and Sciences—introduced me to research and took me under his wing.”
“As a junior at the business school, I managed to slip into an oversubscribed class on real estate finance taught by Steve Kursh. There weren’t enough chairs, so only the seniors were invited to enroll that semester. Somehow, I stayed.”
“It isn’t often that you encounter a manager who is both brilliant and extraordinarily caring, but that’s exactly what I got in Brenna McCarthy. I did a co-op at John Hancock Funds, where I assisted Brenna in marketing operations.”
“I was discharged from the Army in ’73, when the economy was faltering badly. I had no career direction. Joe Golemme convinced me to enroll at the Graduate School of Professional Accounting, which he both founded and directed.”
“I have wanted to attend Northeastern ever since I watched my dad graduate in Matthews Arena, when I was ten. It was my dream to follow in his footsteps.”
LI'59, UC'62, H'89
“After I received my engineering degree, I went on to University College and took a course in business law with Professor Victor Cohen. He was one of the toughest professors I ever had, but I must tell you, he would really put the law into you.”
“As a ‘double Husky,’ I’ve had some great teacher-mentors whose knowledge and solid advice have propelled my career successes. Professor James Ramos is one, though we’ve only ever met online.”