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Saint Mary’s graduates to enter workforce, volunteer

| Friday, May 19, 2017

Saint Mary’s Office of Institutional Research conducted the annual Graduation Destination survey to chart the different paths undergraduates pursue after graduating from the College.

As of May, the survey concluded that 57 percent of respondents will pursue employment, 38 percent will enroll in a graduate school, 10 percent will pursue externships or internships, 6 percent will involve themselves with voluntary service and 3 percent will join the military.

SMC_postgrad_WEBLauren Weldon | The Observer

Stacie Jeffirs, director of the Career Crossings Office, said percentages from the survey do not change much over the years, with the post-graduation employment category usually having the highest percentage of students. She said graduate school enrollment also sees a high volume of post-graduates.

“Most of our graduating students go into job fields, as career is the number one choice for students,” she said. “High up there, too, is graduate school. Our numbers will range from year to year, but typically, we have an upwards of 25-30 percent that go on to graduate school.”

Other students choose to join service-oriented organizations or the military, according to Jeffirs.

“Then we also have students who go into service and volunteering, like Peace Corps or Teach for America,” she said. “We also have a small percentage serving in the military, like ROTC students at Notre Dame. And then a small percentage of students who do something different like travel or go back abroad.”

Jeffirs said surveys are also conducted at one year and five year intervals after graduation.

“We also do one-year and five-year surveys to see where the alumnae are and how they feel like the Saint Mary’s education prepared them for the future,” she said. “We always ask questions about whether or not they think their current job is a career path for them, or a stepping stone into a career or just a job to get them by. By far, most graduates say their current job is a career path or stepping stone towards a career.”

Jeffirs said deciding what to do after graduation forces students to consider what values are meaningful to them.

“A lot of our decisions are driven by values and what’s important to us,” she said. “What do we see as our mission?”

Senior Clare McMillan said her mission is to serve with the Olancho Aid Foundation — an organization that helps children maintain their bilingual education. McMillan said Saint Mary’s and the Career Crossings Office helped her to discover this opportunity.

“My education at Saint Mary’s had opened my perspective to the global community,” she said. “During my four years here, I have come to understand the importance of serving those in need, and that is why I will be traveling to Juticalpa, Honduras this summer and serving with the Olancho Aid Foundation.”

McMillan said she envisions her commitment to the Olancho Aid Foundation enduring over time, since she will embrace the opportunity to make valuable differences in students’ lives.

“One of the goals of this foundation is to provide a moral framework for students, enabling them to overcome challenges in their community,” she said. “I am choosing to serve with the Olancho Aid Foundation because it provides a faith-based environment, which promotes education and hope for the future — two values that I also hold in high regard. It is a seven-week commitment that I hope to continue participating in for years to come.”

Senior Mary Gring plans to attend graduate school at Columbia College Chicago. 

“I chose to attend graduate school because I really wasn’t ready to be done with school,” she said. “I love school, I love learning and I felt as though I had a lot more to learn, especially in my discipline.”

Gring will be pursuing a Master’s of Fine Arts (MFA) in Interdisciplinary Arts and Media.

“I love art, specifically video art, but I love that the program allows me to explore other areas of art and other disciplines, too,” she said. “If I want to grow as an artist, as a professional and as an individual, I think being in a program that allows for exploration would help me do that most effectively.”

Gring said Saint Mary’s helped her decide to continue her education.

“Saint Mary’s professors helped a lot in my decision to pursue graduate school,” Gring said. “My professors helped me narrow down programs I might be interested in, assisted me in writing strong statements of purpose and provided me with letters of recommendation. The Saint Mary’s community encourages all Belles to know more. It’s an environment that fosters exploration.”

Senior Isabela Hudson said she decided to enter the Peace Corps after graduation, since Saint Mary’s helped her discover her love for traveling and assisting others.

“I will be going to the Peace Corps to serve in Botswana,” she said, “I will be placed in a health facility to address the public health and HIV/AIDS needs of the community and be focused on delivering HIV prevention, treatment and care.”

Hudson said Saint Mary’s strengthens students’ passions and gives them outlets to express those passions.

“Saint Mary’s gave me the chance to grow in my experiences to strengthen my love for service,” she said. “The College gave me the chance to participate in the Uganda practicum, where I worked at the Sisters of the Holy Cross’s clinic. Saint Mary’s also provided me with the education and love for nursing. I cannot wait to put in practice what Saint Mary’s has taught me during my service in Botswana.”

It may be hard for graduating seniors to plan for the future, but it is important for them to keep their interests in mind, Jeffirs said.

“It’s hard to plan too far into the future in terms of what to do after graduation,” she said. “It’s important that [graduates] carefully consider their interests, what they would like to do in the future and what, in the next couple years, is going to help get them there. It doesn’t always have to be career-related necessarily, but it could be a job or position that will help give them some experience.”

Jeffirs said career discernment does not have to be an arduous process.

“If they’re not entirely sure what they want to do, they can look at what positions they might be happiest in, a job or even a service project, because service is a really great way to discern what your interests are and what you would like to do in the future and  it looks great on a resume,” Jeffirs said.

Career Crossings provides graduate with services, career advice, post graduation mapping, information, mock interviews and resume assistance.

“All the services we provide to students when they are students here at Saint Mary’s are also provided to them after they graduate, indefinitely,” she said. “We do provide lifetime services for alumni, so as students graduate — even if it’s right after graduation — if they need assistance, we’re available.”

Jeffirs said it is never too late for students to start planning for the future.

“Students have to start planning for post-graduation early because there are stepping stones and baby steps to get to there,” she said. “It’s a process.” 

The Career Crossings Office maintains normal office hours throughout the summer months to provide information and guidance to graduates and proactive rising seniors, Jeffirs said.

“We keep regular hours during the summer,” she said. “Even if [the student is] not in the area, I do email, phone calls and Skype calls to talk and help them.”

Jeffirs said no matter what a student decides, the future beyond college graduation is an exciting time full of new opportunities.

“That next step after graduation is exciting no matter what a student is doing,” she said. “Even if you  don’t have it all figured out just yet, this is just the very beginning into the future.”

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About Gina Twardosz

Gina Twardosz is a senior English Writing and Communication Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. She's the co-editor of the Investigative Unit, a Saint Mary's social media liaison, and she occasionally writes for SMC News and Scene. Gina is a tried and true Midwesterner and yes, she does say "ope" often.

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