Entrepreneurship as Pedagogy: The Role of Internships at the University of Waterloo

Authors: Daniel Cockayne*, University of Waterloo
Topics: Economic Geography
Keywords: economic geography, education, coop, neoliberalism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8228, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The University of Waterloo (UW) hosts North America’s largest cooperative education program. Cooperative education means that students complete internships as mandatory components of their degree program for college credit. UW, since its inception in 1956, is known as the entrepreneurial university, with close ties to business, and there remains today a broad focus on entrepreneurship in a variety of forms. Many students compete, often fiercely, for internships in startup firms across North America, but in particular for coveted positions in high-profile technology firms in the San Francisco Bay Area. Students are also are encouraged to take ‘enterprise coop’ terms, in which they work on their own business ventures while receiving neither payment nor stipend. For these reasons, UW’s cooperative education program and others across North America might be considered key examples of the widely documented neoliberalization of higher education. In this paper I explore students’ understandings of the role of work in their education, drawing on interviews with students who have worked for, or founded their own, startup firms. I argue that students both acquiesce to and resist the neoliberal implications of cooperative education in a variety of ways.

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