Author Archives: Co-op Connections

Learning science while having fun

A science and engineering fair organized by Northeastern’s Center for STEM Education drew more than 200 children and their families to campus earlier this month. Photo by Lauren Horn.

How do you play piano with bananas keys? How do you detect seismic activity? How do birds use their beaks to pick up food?

More than 200 young stu­dents and their fam­i­lies explored the answers to these ques­tions ear­lier this month at STEM Sunday, a sci­ence and engi­neering event held in Northeastern’s Cabot Phys­ical Edu­ca­tion Center. Vol­un­teers from the uni­ver­sity com­mu­nity ran hands-on activ­i­ties at the “reverse sci­ence fair,” which was orga­nized by Northeastern’s Center for STEM Edu­ca­tion, led by Claire Duggan. The event was part of the National Sci­ence Foundation’s annual Engi­neering Research and Inno­va­tion Con­fer­ence, which was hosted by the Col­lege of Engi­neering.

David Truong, who just com­pleted the fifth grade at Rus­sell Ele­men­tary School in Boston, one of Northeastern’s partner schools in Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s Step UP pro­gram, loved the event. “There were a lot of fun things there, like the robot we moved with a con­troller, and making paper towers and gliders,” he said. “There was also a wizard who talked about saving electricity.”

Truong was one of four dozen middle school stu­dents who attended the event as part of their first day of the Exxon­Mobil Bernard Harris Summer Sci­ence Camp. The free, two-week pro­gram — run by the Center for STEM Edu­ca­tion and named after the first African-American to con­duct a space­walk — gives stu­dents the chance to work along­side North­eastern fac­ulty, staff and stu­dents on projects aimed at increasing their knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence in the areas of sci­ence, tech­nology, engi­neering and mathematics.

Vol­un­teers from orga­ni­za­tions including the Cam­bridge Sci­ence Fes­tival, Maker Faire, NStar, and the Cape Cod National His­tory Museum, and grad­uate and under­grad­uate stu­dents from col­leges across the country par­tic­i­pated in the conference-led activities.

David Schmidt, a North­eastern bio­engi­neering grad­uate stu­dent, helped the young engineers-in-training build the tallest tower they could using only two sheets of news­paper. “Paper towers are a nice cost-effective activity because you can bring them into any class­room and use them for any age group,” he said. “Our tallest tower was actu­ally built by a mom, so clearly building them never gets old.”

Schmidt is also a member of Northeastern’s robotics team, the NUTRONS, which demoed a robot at the event. “These activ­i­ties are a sneaky way to teach chil­dren about engi­neering,” Schmidt said. “They don’t know they’re learning.”



This article was originally posted on Northeastern News. Read it here.

Physical therapy students to work for military hospitals

Physical therapy students Alan Cheng and Katie Osterman, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army who completed her ROTC training at Northeastern, will complete clinical rotations at military hospitals. Photo by Brooks Canaday.


Most phys­ical ther­a­pists who enlist in the mil­i­tary don’t immed­i­tately have the nec­es­sary skills to suc­ceed, as they’re untrained in tasks such as ordering X-rays and diag­nosing com­pli­cated injuries. Most have not gone through basic training — or even fired a rifle.

Katie Osterman, on the other hand, a sixth-year phys­ical therapy stu­dent who was com­mis­sioned in May as a second lieu­tenant after five years in Northeastern’s ROTC pro­gram, will be pre­pared to tell a much dif­ferent story.

Through a new part­ner­ship between mil­i­tary hos­pi­tals and North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, Osterman will con­duct her clin­ical rota­tions at some of the nation’s top facil­i­ties. At the Walter Reed National Mil­i­tary Med­ical Center, in Bethesda, Md., for example, she will teach sol­diers how to use new, high-tech pros­thetic limbs.

“After these clin­ical rota­tions, I’ll be going into my career with all this back­ground and expe­ri­ence so many people won’t have,” said Osterman, whose par­ents served in the Marine Corps.

Though there’s a waiting list for ther­a­pists who want to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, there’s also a shortage phys­ical ther­a­pists with mil­i­tary training who can hit the ground running.

“They almost have to be retrained when they get there,” explained Christo­pher Cesario, a clin­ical instructor in the phys­ical therapy depart­ment who spent the last two years building the partnership.

Maura Iverson, chair of Northeastern’s Depart­ment of Phys­ical Therapy in the Bouvé Col­lege of Health Sci­ences, noted that stu­dents who com­plete the ROTC pro­gram — which requires gru­eling phys­ical training and lead­er­ship classes on top of a full aca­d­emic course load — are some of the university’s strongest.

The chance to com­plete clin­ical rota­tions at mil­i­tary hos­pi­tals is also open to civilian stu­dents. Alan Cheng, a sixth-year phys­ical therapy stu­dent, for example, will work later this year at Marine Corps Base Quantico.

“When this oppor­tu­nity pre­sented itself, I thought ‘What other chance will I have to do some­thing like this? Some­thing that could pre­pare me for any kind of phys­ical therapy work I might encounter?’” Cheng said. “I couldn’t turn it down.”



This article was originally posted on Northeastern News. Read it here.

The husky wears Prada

Journalism student Rebecca Stadlen turned a co-op and internship at Vogue magazine into a full-time summer job. Photo by Beth Babicz at Vogue magazine


“Haute cou­ture,” “on trend,” and “The Sep­tember issue” are now part of the everyday par­lance of third-year jour­nalismstu­dent Rebecca Stadlen, who has spent the last year working for Vogue, one of the world’s most influ­en­tial fashion magazines.

From June to December 2011, Stadlen com­pleted a co-op at Vogue’s New York City head­quar­ters, writing cul­ture and news sto­ries for print and and assisting with high-fashion photo shoots.

Her tenure was extended to a semester-long intern­ship, which ended in June with a full-time job offer — as an under­grad­uate — to write for the mag­a­zine over the summer.

“I didn’t always know that I wanted to work in fashion,” says Stadlen, whose child­hood dream was to become a bal­le­rina and a lawyer. “In a way, working at Vogue is a per­fect com­bi­na­tion of the two — there’s an ele­ment of inten­sity as well as this need for pre­ci­sion and poise.

Stadlen was bit by the jour­nalism bug thanks in large part to her step­fa­ther, who pro­duces and edits the leading TV news mag­a­zine 60 Min­utes. “I kind of grew up around it all,” she says. “He taught me to be a storyteller.”

This summer, Stadlen will have the oppor­tu­nity to pre­pare the iconic “Sep­tember issue” — the make or break book of the year for every major fashion glossy. The magazine’s most pop­ular edi­tion was the sub­ject of a 2009 behind-the-scenes doc­u­men­tary aptly named “The Sep­tember Issue,” which fol­lowed Vogue editor Anna Win­tour and her staff during the pro­duc­tion of the Sep­tember 2007 issue — the biggest in its 117-year his­tory and, at 840 pages in length, a world record for a monthly magazine.

Stadlen credits a freshman-year jour­nalism course for preparing her to ace high-pressure writing assign­ments and giving her the con­fi­dence and expe­ri­ence to com­mu­ni­cate daily with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the fashion industry’s top players, from Chanel to Louis Vuitton.

“We were tasked to step out­side of the box and dig for sto­ries,” she says of the class.  “For one assign­ment I had to call politi­cians at the State House, which was nerve-racking at first, but after that and my Vogue expe­ri­ence, I feel like I could com­fort­ably pick up the phone and call the Pres­i­dent of the United States.”

On the sur­face, Stadlen’s expe­ri­ence reflects that of Anne Hathaway’s char­acter in the hit film “The Devil Wears Prada,” which was adapted from the epony­mous roman a clef. In the film, Hath­away plays a jour­nalism stu­dent working for the impos­sibly demanding fashion mag­a­zine editor Miranda Priestly, who is por­trayed by Meryl Streep and believed to be based on Wintour.

But Stadlen says that that depic­tion could not be fur­ther from the truth. As she puts it, “The editor-in-chief ele­vates the whole team and her example helps to push us to want to be our best.”



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This article was originally posted on Northeastern News. Read it here.

Lending a helping hand in the community

Through Northeastern’s Husky Volunteer Team, students create positive change in the communities surrounding campus and form strong bonds with local organizations. Above, the students who volunteered at the Yawkey Boys & Girls Club in Roxbury. Courtesy photo.


While North­eastern stu­dent Stephanie Sil­veira was vol­un­teering at the John F. Kennedy Ele­men­tary School in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neigh­bor­hood this semester, a fourth-grader in her class­room approached her with a problem: The girl was scared to read her essay in front of the class. So Sil­veira calmly took her out­side and asked her to first read the essay aloud only to her.

“She needed that con­fi­dence to have someone tell her that her essay was good so she could read it in front of the class,” Sil­veira said.

This is just one example of how Sil­veira, a senior psy­chology major, has been making a dif­fer­ence in the com­mu­nity through Northeastern’s Husky Vol­un­teer Team. The pro­gram, which began in 2008 and is run through the Center of Com­mu­nity Ser­vice, pairs groups of stu­dents with com­mu­nity part­ners each semester. Groups typ­i­cally visit com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tions once a week to vol­un­teer in ways such as tutoring in after-school pro­grams with kids, vis­iting elderly res­i­dents and preparing and dis­trib­uting meals to the needy.

Through the pro­gram, stu­dents learn about social issues within Boston’s neigh­bor­hoods while also working toward cre­ating pos­i­tive change. Stu­dent involve­ment is also on the rise: 32 stu­dents par­tic­i­pated in the spring semester, and 51 joined in Summer I.

“Our stu­dents form strong bonds with these com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tions and often find ways to keep vol­un­teering there after their pro­grams end,” said Sydney Palinkas, a pro­gram assis­tant in the Center of Com­mu­nity Ser­vice who coor­di­nates the Husky Vol­un­teer Team. “It’s also a great way for stu­dents to meet new people on campus.”

Sil­veira agreed, adding that the pro­gram allows stu­dents to become engaged in the com­mu­ni­ties sur­rounding campus. She’s been a Husky Vol­un­teer Team member for at least one semester the last four years. Her first expe­ri­ence involved run­ning a health and nutri­tion group for girls at the Deer­born Middle School in Roxbury.

Josh Mav­ilia, a third-year crim­inal jus­tice major at North­eastern, just fin­ished his first semester as a team member. He vol­un­teered in the gym­na­sium at the Yawkey Boys & Girls Club in Rox­bury, where he and another North­eastern stu­dent helped run sports programs.

Mav­ilia, who plays intra­mural soccer at North­eastern and par­tic­i­pates in a men’s hockey league out­side the uni­ver­sity, worked with kids on base­ball hit­ting and fielding drills and helped intro­duce many of the youth to the game of soccer.

Mav­ilia also recalled poking his head into the Boys & Girls Club’s music room on one after­noon to wit­ness another Husky Vol­un­teer Team member helping kids play the piano and improve their singing skills.

“It’s been incred­ibly rewarding,” Mav­ilia said. “The Yawkey Club has been fan­tastic, and the kids are really grateful. It’s been great seeing them improve in their sports, too.”

The dead­line for North­eastern stu­dents to submit appli­ca­tions to become Husky Vol­un­teer Team mem­bers for the Summer II semester is Monday, June 25. Appli­ca­tions are avail­able on the Center of Com­mu­nity Service’s website.


An ‘Idol’ follows her dreams

Senior and music industry major Courtnie Bennett won the NU Idol competition to sing the national anthem at Fenway Park during Northeastern’s Senior Week. Photo by Dominick Reuter

On Tuesday evening, North­eastern senior music industry major Courtnie Ben­nett will belt out the national anthem in front of class­mates and more than 30,000 base­ball fans inside his­toric Fenway Park.

“I’m so excited,” said Ben­nett, who earned the honor of singing on Senior Night at Fenway Park by win­ning the NU Idol com­pe­ti­tion last month. The ball­game is part of Northeastern’s Senior Week programming.

In the first round of the NU Idol com­pe­ti­tion, which was held in March, stu­dents per­formed songs of their choosing. Top per­formers moved on to the second round, in which they had to sing the Star-​​Spangled Banner.

In the opening round, Ben­nett sang an a cap­pella ver­sion of Adele’s “One and Only” — at the sug­ges­tion of a friend.

“The lyrics really spoke to me,” she said. “A lot of young girls have the expe­ri­ence of love and heartbreak.”

Ben­nett, who describes her­self as a “jazz musi­cian, through and through,” began taking piano lessons at age 7, when her mother noticed her singing ability. At North­eastern, she is part of the Unity Gospel Ensemble, which afforded her the oppor­tu­nity two years ago to sing with the Boston Pops. She’s also a member of the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Choral Society and per­forms at after­HOURS and other local venues.

But a co-​​op last year at Reser­voir Media Man­age­ment in New York City really opened her eyes to the music industry. Ben­nett con­tacted record labels, researched up-​​and-​​coming artists and even got to meet Shaggy, a reggae artist who offered advice on the busi­ness side of the music industry and encour­aged her to follow her own mind and heart.

“It was a great oppor­tu­nity to see how the music busi­ness works and to get a better under­standing of how to place your­self and your music, and the kinds of people you need to meet,” she said.

After grad­u­a­tion, Ben­nett plans to move to New York to build her music career.

“My expe­ri­ences at North­eastern have made me an all-​​around better person and a better musi­cian,” she said. “I’m ready for a bigger pond.”

This entry was posted in Media & Arts and tagged co-op, Fenway Park, music, music industry, nu idol, senior week, students. Bookmark the permalink.

This article was originally posted on Northeastern News. Read it here.

Addressing poverty in Ecuador

Amina Temkin, right, teaches stu­dents in rural Ecuador as part of her co-​​op. Cour­tesy photo.

Amina Temkin wit­nessed poverty on a Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions pro­gram to Kenya last year, but on co-​​op in Ecuador, she’s expe­ri­encing a much more per­sonal account of what it means to be poor.

“What I saw in Kenya wasn’t like this,” said Temkin, a fourth-​​year com­mu­ni­ca­tion studies major at North­eastern. “You didn’t get a chance to talk to people, ask them what they need and become their friends.”

Temkin cur­rently works for Entre Las Estrellas, or “Among the Stars,” a non­profit orga­ni­za­tion staffed by vol­un­teers who serve under­priv­i­leged chil­dren and their fam­i­lies in Para­gachi, Ecuador.

In her role, Temkin helps stu­dents at a vil­lage school create a com­mu­nity news­paper and design arts and crafts projects. She also con­ducts field research and runs open forums to iden­tify com­mu­nity needs.

“This orga­ni­za­tion really focuses on asking what the com­mu­nity needs to suc­ceed and improve,” Temkin said. “It’s not run by Amer­i­cans who say, ‘We know what will make your com­mu­nity better.’”

Her close rela­tion­ship with com­mu­nity mem­bers has an added ben­efit: “My Spanish is def­i­nitely get­ting better,” Temkin said.

The inter­na­tional experiential-​​learning oppor­tu­nity has given her the chance to work directly with the people she seeks to help.

“I knew I wanted to do some­thing less tra­di­tional,” said Temkin, in ref­er­ence to her first co-​​op with a Mass­a­chu­setts non­profit ded­i­cated to pro­moting women’s repro­duc­tive rights around the globe. “In this role, I’m get­ting a chance to know and help people in the community.”

This entry was posted in Campus & Community, Society & Culture and tagged communication studies, dialogue of civilizations, ecuador. Bookmark the permalink.

This article was originally posted on Northeastern News. Read it here.

Service-​​learning shines at Northeastern

Freshman John Sirisuth discusses his service-learning experience at Thursday's Showcasing & Recognizing Spring 2012 Service-Learning Partnerships event at the Fenway Center. Photo by Kristie Gillooly

It’s easy for num­bers to tell Northeastern’s service-​​learning story: Over the last semester, some 430 stu­dents com­pleted nearly 13,000 hours of ser­vice for 52 community-​​based part­ners under the guid­ance of 19 fac­ulty mem­bers and 23 teaching assistants.

But another number stands out to freshman John Sirisuth: 30.

That’s how many pounds one woman, who was par­tic­i­pating in Northeastern’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Futurespro­gram, told him she had lost by taking Zumba classes. The pro­gram edu­cates fam­i­lies about the impor­tance of healthy eating and phys­ical activity.

“That’s what really made things real,” Sirisuth told stu­dents, fac­ulty and staff who gath­ered in the Fenway Center on Thursday morning for the Show­casing and Rec­og­nizing Spring 2012 Ser­vice Learning Part­ner­ships event.

Sirisuth, who took a service-​​learning class for unde­clared stu­dents called Con­nec­tions and Deci­sions, added, “It was great to make a real dif­fer­ence in the health of our community.”

Inte­grating com­mu­nity ser­vice into the cur­riculum strengthens and enhances class­room learning, noted Carlos Cruz, a Spanish lec­turer who teaches a service-​​learning class called Advanced Spanish Business.

“My stu­dents have an oppor­tu­nity to interact with the Spanish-​​speaking com­mu­nity while improving their lan­guage skills and under­standing of the cul­ture,” Cruz said.

Thursday’s service-​​learning event, held reg­u­larly at the end of fall and spring semes­ters, gives North­eastern stu­dents and fac­ulty mem­bers a chance to pause and reflect on the strong part­ner­ships they have built with com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tions that work directly with Bostonians.

“I look out and I see our stu­dents and com­mu­nity part­ners that make this city a better place every day,” said John Tobin, a former Boston city coun­cilor and Northeastern’s vice pres­i­dent for City and Com­mu­nity Affairs. “I know that you know the sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges that so many in our city face every single day, and I know that you also are making their lives better.”

This entry was posted in Campus & Community and tagged Boston, healthy kids healthy families, service-learning. Bookmark the permalink.

This article was originally posted on Northeastern News. Read it here.

The journey from idea to reality

Brian Racca

While on co-op at a global engineering firm, Northeastern University junior Brian Racca was confronted with a vexing challenge of redesigning a small, but critical component of a nuclear reactor valve.

“There were so many different design configurations I went through. I can’t say how many pieces of paper that I went through. There were piles of them,” said Racca, who ultimately produced a custom design that suited the needs of the U.K.-based company, The Weir Group PLC.

The task not only tested Racca’s ability to understand the valve’s intricate design, but it forced him to think about why the part needed to be replaced — the type of larger question engineers face every day in the real world. As a result, he gained valuable experience addressing engineering challenges in ways he’d never done before.

“There is always more than one way to look at an engineering problem,” Racca said. “Whenever I approached someone at Weir with a question, they’d always answer it with another question. It definitely helped me learn as much as I did.”

Racca, a mechanical engineering major, spent six months on co-op last year working at Weir. He tackled numerous engineering design projects that came across his desk, helping the company improve engineering solutions, often under pressure and tight deadlines. The branch where Racca was located in Ipswich, Mass., produces valves used for a range of applications in power plants, nuclear plants and other commercial facilities. The company’s valves are manufactured and used in plants throughout the world.

One of his assignments involved studying a nuclear power plant valve that carries river water but was collecting too much dirt and sediment. He fixed the problem by simulating tests to discover how to reduce the amount of friction inside the valve.

For another assignment, Racca assessed the best properties of two similar valve designs and worked to integrate them into one new design to improve efficiency and lower costs. A third task involved calculating the maximum amount of stress different valves could handle on the job.

Racca said his hands-on experience at Weir would pay huge dividends in the future, particularly because of the critical-thinking skills he developed there.

“One of the biggest things I wanted to take out of this co-op was the design experience — how you go about designing a part, and how you make it a reality,” he said.

For more information, please contact Greg St. Martin at 617-373-5463 or at

Medical co-op delivers on student’s wish

Third-year biology student Pritika Patel squeezed into a closet-sized makeshift emergency room at a public health clinic in Cape Town, South Africa, to help a woman give birth to twins. On co-op from January to April, Patel worked closely with nurse practitioners and low-income patients at a clinic in Masipumelele, a township in Cape Town.