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Northeastern University

André Laus, UC’69

André Laus received his degree in management from University College (now the College of Professional Studies) at a time before it offered co-op. So why has Laus, who never went on co-op himself, spent 38 years touting co-op’s benefits? Because he knows a good idea when he sees it. Just ask the Northeastern governing board member what makes the University so special. “It’s co-op,” he says. “It’s one of the main reasons that Northeastern is now one of the most popular universities in the country and even the world.”

After graduating, Laus built a highly successful career in business management. All the while, he remained connected to Northeastern and interested in higher education. In 1972, Laus joined the National Commission for Cooperative Education, an organization founded at Northeastern and charged with advancing college-level cooperative education. Later, former president Jack Curry, LA’56, MEd’60, Hon.’96, suggested he stand for nomination as chairman of the commission. Thus began Laus’ remarkable decades-long association with the commission and his continued advocacy for Northeastern’s signature co-op model.

The National Commission for Cooperative Education has promoted co-op programs within the United States since 1962. Its board and network of co-op colleges and corporate partners provide outreach programs and services that advance cooperative education. Its main goals are to increase public awareness about the benefits of co-op and to conduct quantitative research that helps colleges, employers, students, and parents understand the benefits of integrating work and study. Through its National Co-op Scholarship Program, the commission annually provides 170 merit co-op scholarships of $6,000 each with a total renewable value of $4,200,000. The scholarships go to high school seniors and transfer students planning to participate in co-op.

Laus holds the distinction of being the commission’s longest-serving board member. He plans to retire from the organization in the summer of 2010. During his tenure, he helped shape co-op as it changed and grew.

On the value of co-op:
“I think the world can stand good news and the world can stand bad news but it hates uncertainty. Co-op reduces the level of uncertainty for students as to where they’re going in the future.”

On working with the National Commission for Cooperative Education: “Co-op is unique. The commission had a lot to do with building the brand of co-op, making it known. That’s very valuable as young people educate themselves about their choices in higher education. The brand recognition created by the commission also helps teachers, guidance counselors, and parents be better prepared to advise students. With all the different programs out there, knowing the brand name of co-op allows people to know what it is they should be seeking and what they will get.”

On his time as an evening student at Northeastern: “I was working as an accounting manager at Raytheon’s Andover plant, and had about 50 people working under me. I didn’t even have my degree yet. Because I was going to school at night, there was no co-op option. Today at Northeastern, we have co-op in every school. I guess I just did my co-op in reverse!”

On the future of co-op and today’s economic challenges: “I believe that co-op will continue and grow, and I think there are certain things that will cause it to grow. Certainly the continued higher cost of education and the economic pressure that people face will make students and their parents think ‘Hey, is there a way to mitigate some of these costs?’ And co-op isn’t just earning money, because you can do that delivering pizzas. Co-op is working in your chosen professional area, meeting other people more advanced than you in terms of their careers. These individuals can help to inspire you forward.”

“Co-op is real world. This is no fantasyland that people are involved in. This is you going out and interviewing for jobs, getting paid a going rate for that job, and being expected to perform at that job. Hopefully you get an opportunity with that company or a related one. Students are better prepared when they finish school. This is really what it’s all about. It is the real world and that, I think, makes it very special as an educational process.”

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