Cornerstone Partners with the Co-Op Experience at Purdue University

October 12, 2018 - Kim Williams

Cornerstone Partners with the Co-Op Experience at Purdue University

By Kim Williams

Cornerstone Autism Center of West Lafayette is proud to be a partner with the Purdue University Psychology Department as part of a new Cooperative Education (Co-Op) program for undergraduate psychology majors. This program is meant to help students in the psychology field gain substantial experience that they can then use for their future careers. I recently sat down with Phillipe Sallade, BCaBA and Training Coordinator for Cornerstone Autism Center of West Lafayette to learn more about the co-op program.

Kim: Hi Phil, I’m excited to learn about this new program we have in West Lafayette. Can you tell me what is the Co-Op Program?

Phil: “Purdue University began a Co-Op program for their psychology department and Cornerstone was the first site to get involved. Students work with us for a total of three semesters– one semester out of their sophomore, junior, and senior year. The time they graduate totals a year of work experience. This bolsters their resume and gives them solid work experience. “

Kim: What is the difference between a Co-Op experience and an internship?

Phil: “The difference from a Co-Op and an internship is that the student is with us for three semesters verses one semester. They will also receive certification in Professional Crisis Management (PCM) and become a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT).”

Kim: How many people do you currently have doing the program?

Phil: “We have a total of five students signed up right now, two of whom are working with us this fall semester.  Those students working for us this semester include Sarah Pierce, who was our very first intern and is currently on her 2nd semester with us, and Kelsey Smith, who is in her 1st semester.”

Kim: What does a Co-Op do at CAC?

Phil: “The Co-op experience is very hands on, with a primary goal of allowing the student to be a key part of the clinical team. They initially go through a 40-hour training covering the principles and techniques that will be utilized during therapy. Once training is over, their main responsibility involves delivering direct, 1:1 therapy with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. During each therapy session they will collect data, implement ABA principles to help develop skills in areas of deficit, and implement behavior intervention plans to address challenging behaviors. There are additional opportunities to shadow other members of the clinical team (Team Leads, BCBAs, Clinical Director) to get a full view of the distinct roles within the field of Applied Behavior Analysis.”

Kim: What qualities do you look for in a Co-Op candidate?

Phil: “We look for someone who is passionate about working with children and can multitask. We also need individuals who are energetic and hard working.”

Kim: If I am interested in joining the program, then what steps do I need to take?

Phil: “ These are the steps the head of the Psychology department lists for joining the program:

  • Meet with your academic advisor in PSYC to develop a plan of study that includes your academic and Co-Op work session
  • Get approval through the faculty coordinator, Dr. Susie Swithers
  • Submit an application through the Purdue Office of Professional Practice
  • Once in the database, Cornerstone will review your application and contact you to set-up an interview if you seem to be a good fit

Kim: Thank you for sharing all of your insight and the benefits of this program!

I also had the opportunity to speak with one of the co-op students herself, Sarah Pierce, to talk about her experience so far at Cornerstone Autism Center.

Kim: Hi Sarah, thanks for taking the time to interview with me today! What is your major and do you have a focus in any particular field?

Sarah: “My major is Brain and Behavior Sciences, and I am thinking about a career in Occupational Therapy or to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with a concentration in special needs or autism.”

Kim: How did you come to learn about the Co-Op program here at Cornerstone?

Sarah: “The Co-Op program opened in the psychology department at Purdue. I thought that getting more experience was really cool along with receiving more certifications.”

Kim: What is the schedule like for you?

Sarah: “Monday through Friday from 8:15 a,m. – 3:45 p.m. with one semester on then one semester off.”

Kim: How has your experience been here at Cornerstone?

Sarah: “I don’t feel like an intern. I have the same responsibilities as other therapists and I feel like part of the team. At first it was a hard transition, but the Cornerstone staff were super helpful in the whole process. I enjoy seeing what I have learned in school in real life here at Cornerstone.”

Kim: That sounds like such a rewarding experience! It has been a pleasure hearing how the Co-Op program has helped you gain those skills you can use in the workforce outside of the classroom!

If you or someone you know would be interested in the co-op program at Cornerstone in West Lafayette, make sure to reach out to the Purdue Office of Professional Practice for more information.

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October 12, 2018, Kim Williams

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