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Center for Social Concerns hosts service fair

Emma Russ | Thursday, September 29, 2011

Seniors had the opportunity to speak with representatives from more than 80 different service programs at the Center for Social Concerns (CSC) Postgraduate Service Fair Wednesday evening.

The event, held in the Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center, provided seniors with information regarding postgraduate opportunities, Michael Hebbeler, director of student leadership and senior transitions at the CSC, said.

“The postgraduate service fair is a way for seniors to explore different options,” he said. “There are so many service programs looking for dedicated workers. You don’t have to jump right into a career.”

Each year, about 10 percent of Notre Dame’s graduating class enters into a year or two of service, Hebbeler said. Due to the economic downturn in recent years, that number has increased to 12 or 13 percent.

“More and more students are taking the plunge into postgraduate service,” he said. “Those who do are better equipped to pursue fulltime jobs in the future because they have lived, experienced the world and know themselves.”

He said two of the most popular programs in recent years have been the Peace Corps and the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).

ACE is a two-year program in which graduates serve as full-time teachers in underprivileged Catholic schools throughout the United States, he said.

“Because it’s a signature ND program, ACE is pretty competitive. They take about 50 people each year,” Hebbeler said. “The most competitive program is probably the Peace Corps, which only takes 20 of the 60 to 70 students who apply.”

Despite the competition involved with some programs’ application processes, Hebbeler said students should not be discouraged.

“I encourage graduates to think about the work that can speak to them. They should think about their skills, gifts and interests,” he said. “There are programs for every student in every major. If you want to do service, you can make it happen.”

The majority of Notre Dame students either enter into their respective career fields or begin graduate or medical school the year after graduation, according to Hebbeler.

“It’s inertia. All your friends are landing jobs in October or making plans to go to med school, so it seems like the thing to do,” he said. “But that’s not the point of a Notre Dame education. The point is that Notre Dame forms you in a way that inspires you to address issues of injustice and poverty that burden the lives of so many.”

Caitlin Nichols, a member of the class of 2011, currently works with the St. Joseph Worker Program, an organization based in St. Paul, Minn. and run by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

“I work as a campus minister at a local Catholic high school in St. Paul,” she said. “It has been great getting to know the people in this community and figuring out where I fit in and how I can give back.”

Nichols, who graduated with a minor in Peace Studies, said she always knew she wanted to do a year of service after graduating.

“For me, it wasn’t even a decision,” she said. “I was involved with so many programs at ND that were so fulfilling. I knew I wanted to continue in giving back to my community. I have plenty of time to figure out what I want to do with my life, and I think this year of service will help me in the process.”

Hebbeler said it is a common misconception that a year of service will make a person less attractive to future employers.

“Most companies will honor a student’s decision to do a year of service, even for people who have already signed contracts with companies,” he said. “Students need to make the decision to either jump into four or five more years of school or to live freely for awhile and discover more about one’s self.”