S-L Student & Faculty Reflections

More Than Just a Co-op

By Service-Learning Program Assistant Asta MacKie

Our Service-Learning Team Managers go above and beyond in their roles within the program, and many have brought their passions for leadership and social justice beyond the Northeastern realm and into their co-op experiences. Read on to learn more about the professional experiences of Tyler Nicholson, Chelsea Lauder, and Shelbe Van Winkle and the organizations they’ve been a part of!



Tyler Nicholson

In addition to being a Service-Learning Team Manager, Tyler Nicholson is a third year student in the College of Science studying Biology with a minor in American Sign Language, and is the Service-Learning Teaching Assistant for Bret Keeling’s First-Year Writing course. Last fall, Tyler was able to combine his interests in STEM and social justice by working as a co-op for Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

Vertex is a pharmaceutical company focused on creating transformative medicines for rare diseases, with one of their largest focuses being the development of new treatments for Cystic Fibrosis, a life shortening disease that causes harmful mucus buildup with painful and difficult side effects. Additionally, the company brings in students from across the city to support STEM education through their partnerships with Boston Public Schools. During Tyler’s time there, he was responsible for assisting the head of the lab, Dr. Melodie Knowlton, in leading BPS students through an expansive variety of different lab activities in the STEM Learning Lab, giving them an opportunity to gain hands on experience with complex equipment and techniques found in research laboratories. He was responsible for preparing and cleaning up each class visit to the lab, and for aiding in revising and improving different lessons in order to provide the students with the most the most meaningful experiences possible.

“I think Vertex and their pursuits, specifically their commitment to STEM education in Boston, connect really well with some of the different goals of the Service-Learning Program!” says Tyler about his experiences in his position, “The Vertex Learning Lab addresses a really important need in the Boston community, and strives to help fill in some of the gaps that exist in regards to students having STEM related opportunities within their communities.”  The Service-Learning Program too seeks to support the Greater Boston community in their goals to aid young students in their education, and the Learning Lab even shares several partnership schools with the Service-Learning Program, including the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science and the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers.

As a Service-Learning student, Tyler worked as a tutor in the 826 Boston Writer’s Room at the O’Bryant school, and through this he developed a deeper understanding of the school’s values and how to successfully work with students that have diverse learning styles, skills that he found very useful in his position in the Learning Lab. Additionally, his previous experience as a S-LTA for Professor Missy McElligot’s Inquiries in Biology course helped greatly to prepare him for his role. “I got to work with a large network of students and community partners, and had to juggle many different stakeholders and problem-solve when different situations rose. That experience gave me a stronger grasp on how to manage relationships and work with students. It also made me much more adaptable, which was very useful in a fast-paced workplace like Vertex,” Tyler explains about the connection between his different leadership roles.

Now as a Service-Learning Team Manager, Tyler has brought his many experiences from the Learning Lab back to his role in the Service-Learning Program. “I feel much more comfortable being a presence in the classroom, and I think that my approach to working with students has shifted in a really important way. Instead of giving a long explanation when asked a question, I now try to pitch thought-provoking questions and provide guidance as students go through their own thought process to arrive at the answer,” Tyler explains. “This approach really allows students to think about the content and makes them ‘logic’ their own way to the answer, which resonates much more with them.”  Tyler has been very successful in utilizing his time spent in the Service-Learning program to build upon his own professional experiences, and then optimizing his new skills learned in his co-op role to become a stronger leader when he returned as a Service-Learning Team Manager and a Service-Learning Teaching Assistant. One of the Service-Learning Teaching Assistants that Tyler is a team manager for, Cassandra Barrett, will be working in the same co-op role at the Learning Lab next fall – just another example of Service-Learning’s amazing network!



Chelsea Lauder

Chelsea Lauder is a third year Human Services and International Affairs major with a minor in Global Social Entrepreneurship in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities. Within the Service-Learning Program, she works as a Service-Learning Team Manager and is the Service-Learning Teaching Assistant for one of Professor Sebastian Stockman’s First-Year Writing courses. While Chelsea has been involved in the Service-Learning Program for several years, last fall Chelsea paused her work with us to work as the development co-op for Buena Onda, a Guatemalan based volunteer organization that seeks to build thoughtful connections with local NGOs in the area and connect people from around the globe searching for the opportunity to channel their own skills and interests to support organizations in Guatemala.

In her role, Chelsea met with community partners and learn about their organization, mission, goals, and the community that they work with. During these site visits, Chelsea emphasized the benefits of hosting a long-term intern, and how this can contribute to the organization’s development and meet their long-term and short-term goals. After these discussions, Chelsea worked with the organizations to connect them with interested interns and create a partnership that meets both the professional goals of the volunteer and the needs of the community organization, a mission that aligns very well with the goals of Service-Learning.

Chelsea saw this connection between her Service-Learning experiences and her co-op very early in her time at Buena Onda, and explains that she “really tried to use Service-Learning as a model for how to grow and develop ‘experiential learning’ opportunities for students and professionals around the world.”  Chelsea was able to utilize her past experiences as a Service-Learning student and a Service-Learning Teaching Assistant to be an effective leader in her role at Buena Onda, which encouraged much more autonomy than the traditional ‘team’ structure that Service-Learning is built upon and challenged Chelsea to become an even stronger leader. These experiences have helped her grow now within the Service-Learning program, especially in her role as a Service-Learning Team Manager this semester. “I really feel I’ve grown as a person and as a professional through my time with Service-Learning and my co-op, and I’m continually inspired to build new meaningful and lasting relationships and to be a thoughtful part of the different communities in which I live in,” Chelsea says.

The Service-Learning team is excited to announce that Chelsea will continue to grow in our program as a Program Assistant & Co-op in our office next fall!



Shelbe Van Winkle

Shelbe Van Winkle is a fifth year International Affairs and Anthropology major in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, and this semester is serving as a Service-Learning Team Manager and the Service-Learning Teaching Assistant for Professor Paula Caligiuri’s Becoming A Global Leader course. For her second co-op, Shelbe worked at Modzi, a non-profit based in Lusaka, Zambia that works with vulnerable orphaned youth to facilitate their access to education. In Zambia, education is only free until 7th grade, and students are still required to pay for their books, uniforms, supplies, and extra tutoring, so this organization aims to provide the students with scholarship and mentoring opportunities to support their educational goals. Shelbe’s role at Modzi was to collaborate with the founders of the organization and the global team to strengthen existing partnerships and to serve as a youth mentor for some of the vulnerable students in Modzi’s communities.

Shelbe was introduced to this group through a Service-Learning based Dialogue of Civilization: Driving Social Change in Zambia, in which she volunteered at a school in Lusaka. Her experiences in Service-Learning were a huge asset to her co-op role, and vice versa. “My position as a Service-Learning student prepared me for this co-op because I understood how myself and other foreign students could have a positive impact in this new community, but I was also very aware of what this community could teach me,” explains Shelbe, “This co-op taught me a lot about leadership, organization skills, and project management, all of which I have found very transferable to my role as a Service-Learning Team Manager.” As Shelbe nears graduation, she’s very grateful for her many experiences in social justice. “Between my co-op and Service-Learning, I have learned a lot about myself and what I’m good at,” reflects Shelbe, “This has helped me realize that I want to be involved in mentorship in the future, and working to support non-profit organizations to reach their full potential.”

1 thought on “More Than Just a Co-op”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s