Chris Plouff

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

James Barott, PhD, Chair

Committee Member

Jaclynn Tracy, PhD

Committee Member

Elizabeth Broughton, PhD


This study investigated cooperative education as an organizational phenomenon using a qualitative approach. The objectives of this study were to 1) describe the experiences of students entering an organization through a cooperative education program; 2) describe the organizational processes used to introduce students into an organization and occupational roles through a work experience; 3) understand any common patterns or themes associated with these experiences; 4) develop a model or framework that describes the processes used in these settings; and 5) determine activities and processes that will better facilitate the student’s movement from the education to the work environment through a cooperative education experience.

Engineering students participating in a mandatory cooperative education program within the School of Engineering (SOE) at Great Stateside University (GSU) were the target group for the study. Information about the cooperative education settings was obtained by compiling, summarizing, and evaluating data obtained from student and employer evaluation forms of each cooperative education semester for three cohort groups of students. Interviews were conducted with 22 students from one cohort group, three faculty/staff members, and 16 employer representatives. For confirmatory purposes, further investigation of student experiences was conducted by examining the contents of student field journals from cooperative education experiences.

Results and conclusions included:

1) Co-op programs work for effectively socializing engineering students to an engineering organization and engineering-related occupational roles and for sorting people in or out of engineering-related occupational roles.

2) A comprehensive five-stage model of the socialization processes was developed that can be used to better prepare engineering students, employers, and education organization members, with the potential for positively impacting retention in academic programs and persistence into early career.

3) Students who experience the socialization processes during the co-op program are likely to more efficiently and effectively navigate similar processes when moving to a new engineering organization or new occupational role.

4) Successful socialization to the engineering organization involves part custodial orientation and part creative individualism outcomes for larger employers and primarily creative individualism outcomes for smaller employers.

5) Successful socialization to engineering-related occupational roles results in creative individualism outcomes for most employers.


Additional committee member: Michael Erwin, PhD