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September 26, 2013

Fenn College celebrates 90 years of continuing cooperative education

Program focuses on college’s history, goals and transformation

By Robert Bray


Fenn Tower houses over 400 Cleveland State students in its historic state-of-the-art residence complex but in 1923 it was a only a small commuter college. During the Great Depression the Fenn administration worked to meet needs of affordable tuition.
Fenn College of Engineering will celebrate 90 years of cooperative education. The celebration will highlight the co-op program’s history and goals while recognizing the college’s transformation before the development of Cleveland State University in the 1960s

“The last celebration was the 75th celebration which was 15 years ago,” said Sandra English, coordinator for this year’s cop-op celebration.
In 1923 the school was founded as part of YMCA’s education program by Sereno Peck Fenn, an early partner in Sherwin Williams.

A large number of engineers were graduates of Fenn College during the rust belt era.
“We still have text books in the basement of our house,” said Michelle Allexa, a double major in social work and Spanish.

Her father, Andrew Allexa, attended Fenn College during the 50s paid for by General Motors and he also served in the Korean War.

“When he returned he had a job at General Motors in the rust belt,” she said.
“Co-op stands for cooperative education and it is a program that allows you to get practical knowledge and hands-on experience in your field through working for companies while obtaining your degree,” English said. “Typically there will be particular semesters where you will not be taking classes on campus but instead will be ‘co-oping.’”

She explained a student’s goal would be to finish three co-op rotations before obtaining a degree. The rotations would allow the student to get a co-op education certificate along with their degree.

“Something to note here is most companies actually use co-ops to recruit and the possibility of being hired by the company at which you co-op is relatively high,” she said.
Her office is located in Stilwell Hall near the Foxs’ Den Lounge, once known as the school’s main cafeteria.

“It’s a cool atmosphere to study,” said Jose Viera, a mechanical engineering student who studies there.

Before it was a lounge or cafeteria, the area was once part of an automobile showroom during the early 1950s.

During 1951, Mercury Automobiles were on display when the building was known as the Ohio Motors Building.

In 1953 Fenn purchased the building for $1 million. It became the school’s main cafeteria shortly after it was remodeled, but the tiles on the floor are still the same.
In 1945 the freshman class of 140 was one of the largest classes in its early history while averaging two men to each woman.

“A lot of people look really surprised when I get introduced as the dean of engineering. So, just having a woman in this position challenged the norms and biases a lot of people have,” said Dr Annette Karlsson, the colleges first woman in a position as dean.

“As a woman in engineering I have always been a minority, so I think I might be more understanding of challenges other underrepresented groups and minorities might experience their education and professional life,” she said.

The celebration will take place on Thursday, Nov., 7 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Fenn Tower ballroom, 3rd floor.

“During the 90th Co-op celebration event, there will be industry partners to the co-op program at CSU along with alumni and faculty,” said English.