Real-World Learning

Hawk Co-op Students Join Alumni at Global Health Care Company AmerisourceBergen

Students in Saint Joseph’s co-op program are gaining work experience and landing full-time jobs under the mentorship of Hawk alumni.

Glass bottles in production in the tray of an automatic liquid dispenser

by Luke Malanga ’20

Brock Jablonski ’22 was walking through Mandeville Hall to one of his business classes as a freshman when a flyer about the co-op program caught his eye.

“I didn't know that St. Joe's had a co-op program coming into freshman year,” Jablonski says, “but when I found out about it, I went to the interest meeting and ended up signing up.”

Now, Jablonski, who is finishing up his senior year as a double major in finance and business intelligence and analytics, has a full time job offer with AmerisourceBergen where he did his co-op sophomore year.

At St. Joe’s, the Cooperative Education Program allows students to gain real-world experience through paid work opportunities while still in college. Undergrads hone their communication and teamwork skills while developing a work ethic, building their resume and growing a professional network in the process.

AmerisourceBergen, one of the largest global pharmaceutical manufacturers, has been part of the co-op since 2007. But it was in 2016 that the partnership greatly expanded when alumnus Matt Kaiser ’99, senior director of global indirect strategic sourcing at AmerisourceBergen, re-envisioned what co-op could be for the company. 

Kaiser was sitting in a meeting with leadership in 2016 discussing how they could use extra help to work on several key projects. He floated the idea of reinvigorating their partnership with Saint Joseph’s and AmerisourceBergen decided to start the co-op program again.

Since then, AmerisourceBergen went from hiring a single St. Joe’s student per semester to nearly a dozen. Co-op students are working in sectors across the company: financial planning and analysis, pricing, master data management, secure supply chain and marketing.

At Saint Joseph’s, Todd Krug, director of the Erivan K. Haub School of Business Co-op Program, is helping support students and connecting them with companies across the Philadelphia area. He also helps critique students’ resumes and prepares them for interviews.

"I felt like I was ahead of the curve being able to go and work in a company my sophomore year,” says Jablonski. “And I don't think I would have been able to do that if it weren't for Dr. Krug and the co-op program."

I felt like I was ahead of the curve being able to go and work in a company my sophomore year.

Brock Jablonski ’22

When Kaiser expressed to Krug that they needed workers with Microsoft Excel mastery, Krug sprung into action, ensuring that all co-op students completed their Excel Competency class before starting work.

“This may seem like a small example, but Excel is the cornerstone of so much of what a business does, and having strong and demonstrated proficiency is a critical piece of workplace success,” says Krug.

Charles Blackwell ’22, who also accepted a full-time offer from AmersourceBergen after his co-op, said his experience with the company made his classes more relevant.

“Once I came back to school this semester it was so much easier for me to understand because I was already doing it in the workforce,” Blackwell says.

Krug says students participating in co-op tell him it’s “the most important and formative decision they made during their time at Saint Joseph’s.”

“Participating in co-op allows students to find their career passions, develop professional networks, and complement all they are learning in the classroom with real-world experience,” says Krugg.

The outcomes speak for themselves. For the co-op class of 2021, 88% reported that co-op introduced them to a profession they now want to pursue.

For AmerisourceBergen, the partnership is equally as important. The company has been converting an average of three co-op students to full-time hires each year, and that number continues to increase.

Kaiser says at AmerisourceBergen they “hire the heart and train the talent,” and hiring managers consistently marvel at the quality and work ethic of the co-op students. 

“Since the co-op program is elective, the students want to work,” Kaiser says. “They want to have the experience of the real world while continuing their education. Because of that, we find the most talented, most driven and hardest working co-ops from SJU.”

For Kaiser, working with fellow Hawks is a highlight of his career. “When I was a student at SJU, I knew I wanted a career where I could feel like I was helping others in a meaningful way,” he says.

Amanda Bellino ’18, senior pricing analyst, says her co-op experience at St. Joe’s was integral to her career trajectory. She now helps manage co-op students at the company, which has a young and energetic workforce.

“For many students, it’s their first experience within a professional work environment,” Bellino says. “It brings me a lot of joy knowing that I can make a positive impact on this experience for them.”

Jablonski will start at AmerisourceBergen full time in the spring. He’ll be joining over a dozen Saint Joseph’s alumni.

“I can't wait to get back there and see Matt and Amanda, and get to work with fellow Hawks,” says Jablonski.