Lakeland’s cooperative education program sets it apart

Lakeland University sophomore Parker Fogle is on track to earn his bachelor’s degree with no tuition debt, thanks to LU’s innovative Cooperative Education program. Co-Op is a unique approach to earning a college degree that stresses experiential learning while also supplying local employers with a much-needed workforce.

Fogle, who is majoring in business administration with an emphasis in manufacturing-supply chain and logistics, is working a Co-Op job at Johnsonville, one of many global employers that have become Co-Op partners. 

Lakeland’s Co-Op program places students in full- and part-time jobs with partner companies and organizations. Students earn academic credit and valuable experience for their work, and a combination of Co-Op scholarship dollars and wages positions them to graduate with little or no tuition debt. 

Fogle, who works in Johnsonville’s production and packing area, established a Lakeland Co-Op milestone this semester when he was approved for acceptance into Johnsonville’s tuition remission program. This puts him on target not only to graduate debt free, but likely with some money in the bank. 

“Proving to Johnsonville that I am a hard-working student and that I will do what it takes to gain their respect while getting my degree can only help with getting a full-time job at Johnsonville after graduation,” Fogle said. “I plan to show them that their investment in me was well worth it.”

Fogle worked closely with Lakeland’s Co-Op team to land the job, which is also providing him shadowing opportunities with three other departments that are all his areas of interest: supply chain, logistics, and quality and safety.

The demands of work and school are helping him balance his time. Fogle is earning six credits for his Co-Op and taking two or three classes per semester, depending on their difficulty.

“Managing credit load is very important because my Co-Op is my top priority to succeed at Johnsonville,” said Fogle, a Lakeland’s dean’s list honoree who earned 18 college credits while he was in high school. “Also, I take at least one summer class to keep up with graduating on time.”

Johnsonville reviews its employees on a frequent basis, and at Fogle’s last review it was noted that he had not missed a day of work and had never been late.

“Learning from the ground up, being on time and never missing a shift will pay dividends for me after graduation,” Fogle said. “After one year on the job, I have accomplished all these.”

Lakeland also serves thousands of students who are working adults, learning on the job and in the workplace.

Students enrolled in LU’s William R. Kellett School of Undergraduate & Graduate Studies can earn academic credit toward their bachelor’s or master’s degrees through work-based projects with Cooperative Design courses. Students meet with their academic advisor and their employer to create the content for these innovative courses. 

The approach helps students cut down the time it takes to earn a degree while solving real workplace challenges like conducting research for a new product line, creating a training manual, designing better ways to analyze company performance data and a host of others. 

Company: Lakeland University
Innovation: Co-Op employment

To view the entire 2021 Champions of Innovation edition, please click here.