How Case Western Reserve University’s Experiential Education Legacy Continues to Drive Its Career Services

Ohio-based Case Western Reserve University runs programs that offer students a whole gamut of experiential education opportunities, from lab research, to co-ops and micro internships. Now, they've added Paragon One’s remote externships to the mix.

Tamara Mathias
February 2, 2022

Ohio-based Case Western Reserve University runs programs that offer students a whole gamut of experiential education opportunities, from lab research, to co-ops and micro internships. Now, they've added Paragon One’s remote externships to the mix.

Over Zoom, Paragon One asked four Case Western Reserve University staff members to describe the university’s typical student. There were smiles across the screen.

“Our students are bold and they're going to tell you what they think.”

“They’re so engaged in their communities and are really interested in making a change in this world.”

“They’re hard workers and take pride in being part of our institution.”

“They know what they know, and what they don't know.”

All four statements are reflective of the core philosophy of education at the Cleveland-based research university, where the work of experiential learning pioneers and long-term Case Western Reserve professors David and Alice Kolb continues to influence how programs are structured.

While Case Western Reserve University doesn’t mandate the completion of experiential education programs, it does invest in opportunities that improve career outcomes for students. According to a CWRU survey, 99% of its students participate in at least one experiential education activity while enrolled, and many come to the university to make use of Sears think[box], a seven-story, 50,000-square-foot “makerspace” for creators to test ideas and entrepreneurs to grow their business ventures.

From left to right: Bob Sopko, Director CWRU LaunchNet and Drew Poppleton, Director Post-Graduate Planning and Experiential Education at Case Western Reserve University

“It’s important for us to give students the tools and resources they need to explore areas of interest and discover what career paths work and don’t work for them,” said Drew Poppleton, the university’s Director of Post-Graduate Planning and Experiential Education.

Last year, Paragon One enrolled 52 Case Western Reserve students in remote externships at five organizations, including Facebook, investment bank Crafted Capital and real estate tech company Younity. Through the partnership, students spent eight weeks receiving project-specific mentorship and training as they worked remotely on assignments in areas like investment banking, marketing, content creation, market mapping, research and deal-sourcing.

Bob Sopko, Director of Case Western Reserve’s LaunchNet program, who mentors students on startups and growth opportunities, noted that the remote externship program gave students the chance to explore new territory beyond their career verticals.

“The quality and diversity of the companies that Paragon One engages is remarkable,” he said. 

“The responsiveness we received from the Paragon One team, and (Director of Coaching Operations) Cody Rapp in particular, has been phenomenal,” Sopko said. 

“We’re protective of our students and the way Paragon One kept us informed of their progress and communicated thoughtfully with our students made us feel the company was providing an extension of the student care that we provide.”

Mentorship is a key priority at Case Western Reserve University. The university’s Post-Graduate Planning and Experiential Education department has also started offering programming and resources specific to eight career-interest areas as a way to encourage a multidisciplinary approach to career education and preparation.

“We’re trying to get students to think of ‘career interest areas,’ rather than just majors,” explained Poppleton. 


“If students are interested in the healthcare industry, we want those studying arts, sciences, social sciences and engineering to all explore that space, because the reality is that there are careers available for students with all those backgrounds within the broader industry.


“With Paragon One, the externships are diverse enough to serve different purposes for different students,” he said. 


“There are some who don’t have the confidence to apply for full-time internships and might be more open to a remote externship.

We have liberal arts students who are really bright and don’t know how to apply the skills they have. If we can expose them to externships in different industries, we’re giving them the chance to see their skills in action and discover that they really like, or are really good at, a job they’d never considered before.”


Ashley Kogoma, a Case Western Reserve sophomore studying biology and psychology, agrees.

“The externship was a learning opportunity for me,” she said. “It made me look at business development as a career path, which is something I didn’t know anything about and would not have considered before.”

* Photo Credit: Header image provided by Case Western Reserve University.

Tamara Mathias

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