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CSC hosts annual post-graduate service fair

Gene Noone | Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Center for Social Concerns (CSC) held its annual post-graduate service fair Wednesday in the Joyce Center to introduce undergraduate students to opportunities available through volunteer programs.

Representatives from 86 organizations, including the Peace Corps and Teach for America, were present to give information and answer questions about their programs.

Liz Mackenzie, director of senior transition programs for the CSC, said between 300 and 400 students usually attend the fair – a figure that she said reflects Notre Dame’s role as a lead contributor to post-graduate service.

According to the Career Center’s latest Future Plans Survey, 11 percent of 2006 Notre Dame graduates went into service.

The 2006 survey found that 80 percent of students participating in service came from the College of Arts and Letters, 13 percent from the College of Science, five percent from the Mendoza College of Business and two percent from the College of Engineering. None were from the School of Architecture.

“Every year about 10 percent of graduates go into service,” Mackenzie said. “That’s around 200 students, which is pretty large compared to other schools.”

In recent years, most top universities have not seen post-graduate service rates as high as Notre Dame’s. For example, Northwestern University’s latest Career Outcomes Survey found that 6.3 percent of graduates go on to “volunteer, do community service, or travel,” while Georgetown University’s latest Senior Survey Report found that three percent of graduates go into “volunteer service.”

A CSC research report compiled in May 2004 said University graduates began a service relationship with the Peace Corps in the 1960s.

Liz Ategou, the Peace Corps representative at Wednesday’s fair, said her organization has always had positive experiences with Notre Dame students.

“[Notre Dame] students are hard working, intelligent and, most importantly, they are interested in service programs,” she said. “Students here get great volunteer experience as undergrads, and you see that in their participation after graduation.”

Notre Dame’s participation in post-graduate service has steadily risen over the past 20 years. According to the CSC report, post-graduate service has doubled since 1991.

The majority of University students who go into post-graduate service participate in faith-based programs, according to the Career Center’s survey.

Senior Laura Bradley, who is looking at both domestic and international teaching programs, said she plans on doing at least one year of faith-related service.

“My goals for next year are to live simply in a faith-based community, to teach and work with kids, to become fluent in Spanish and, ideally, to get an international perspective on poverty,” she said. “I know that a year of service will be a humbling, life-changing year full of learning and growth for me.”

Bradley looked at several programs, including the Alliance for Catholic Education, and others based in Latin America, where she would like to teach.

Like Bradley, most students go into teaching programs. Mackenzie said 40 to 50 percent of Notre Dame students that do post-graduate service will do some sort of teaching program, but there are many other fields available.

“You can do service in any area, including fields like business and law,” Bradley said.

Wednesday’s fair offered a dozen organizations with business placements, almost 40 organizations with health care placements, and more than a dozen programs with law placements.

Other placement fields were in communications, construction, peace and justice advocacy and environment.

“Post-graduate service is a great way to get deeper involved in an issue that interests you,” Mackenzie said. “It allows you to build skills with people and get your foot in the door no matter what career you want to go into later in life.”

Whether students are interested in going to graduate school or getting a job, Bradley said, a year of service “only increases your experience and knowledge.”

“It makes you a more appealing candidate for whatever you want to do,” she said.