‘Have any plans after graduation?’

By Prof. Aron Kahn’s News Reporting and Writing class

Lawn blankets speckle the newly green campus, Frisbees soar overhead, and a teasing sun inspires sweet thoughts of summer. But for many graduating seniors, the prospect of a job is as fitful as the Minnesota weather can be. When they shake President Brian Rosenberg’s hand and embrace their long-awaited diplomas next month, many of Macalester’s best and brightest will stride from the college in a cloud of ambiguity. “It’s a little scary,” said Theatre major Thalia Kostman ’12. “I don’t want to live alone, it’s too depressing … and I don’t want to be broke, either.’’ Two weeks before commencement last year, 42 percent of seniors had secured a job or internship and 16 percent were headed to graduate school. The other 42 percent awaited a depressed economy to change. Given the endurance characteristic of Mac students, many of those without post-graduate plans traveled far and wide while contemplating the erratic job market. These numbers come from the Macalester Career Development Center (CDC), where officials wait to see if the 2012 class sends the figures up or down. Optimism abides. “I would say this year’s class will have more opportunities available than in past years, and based on the number of appointments we have seen at the CDC, the seniors have been more engaged in looking for employment,” said CDC Associate Director John Mountain. Mac is still ahead of the game Though caution needs to accompany any reliance on numbers, Macalester still trends ahead of the national average. The National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 29 percent of Macalester seniors secured full-time positions at the time of last year’s graduation. The nationwide figure was 24 percent. More good news lurks in the forest of data. The association, which surveys employers about hiring plans and habits, says its latest survey shows 10 percent more positions available for 2012 grads than for their immediate predecessors. The number of employers at the CDC’s private-college internship fair was also up 20 percent this year, despite the indefinite economy. Seniors in limbo Although Tom Fendt ’12 found a job only through August, he looks to his future with a bit less trepidation than Kostman. In the fall he hopes to move to New York City with friends to try to get a job with AmeriCorps. But monitoring employment progress of Macalester graduates is more difficult than gathering information in the weeks before commencement. After students leave campus, officials don’t always learn whether a grad got his big break in the Big Apple. Lauren Silberman ’12, co-chair of Macalester’s MPIRG chapter, initially wanted to pursue a career related to her experience in the organization. That is, until she learned about a field called industrial-organizational psychology, or the psychology of companies and employees in their daily work. The new direction lined up with her major in psychology, but she’s not sure how it will transpire. “In short, I have no idea what I’m doing with myself. So that’s the real answer,” Silberman said. Caitlyn Ruen ’12 also went through last-minute decision changes. Until last semester she was a double major in anthropology and linguistics, but linguistics is now a minor due to a credit shortage and an “annoying professor.” After graduation, Ruen plans a return to a previous summer job, waitressing at a restaurant in Glacier Park, Mont., before moving to California and possibly pursuing a career in line with her academic interests. In 2010, just 56 percent of college graduates below age 25 were working in positions that require a college degree. And 22 percent were unemployed entirely, the New York Times reported. One alternative: traveling abroad Austin Delmond ’12 will return to his previous summer job at Macalester’s ITS Help Desk before going to China. “I’m trying to make myself do that by not making other plans,” he said. “One way or another, I’ll go to China, as soon as possible.” Never having been to China, Delmond has no firm idea what to expect, but he yearns to use the Chinese he studied at Macalester for four years. He thinks he’ll teach English, given that it’s a common way for Americans to make money there. Rye Carlson ’12 also has the travel bug. “Basically, I’m gonna do everything in my power not to go live with my parents,” Carlson said. Carlson developed a passion for agriculture and food justice while studying in Cape Town, South Africa, and wants to find a way to travel to Latin America to learn about their methods of organic farming. He’s particularly interested in Cuba, where organic farming surpasses most countries, he said. Looking backward While seniors are looking forward to life after Mac, graduation also brings reflection on their time spent here. “Overall, I’m really glad I went to Mac and made really close relationships with professors… they’ve been so helpful,” Jessie Sweet ’12 said. Ruen is philosophical about Mac. “I don’t think Macalester has prepared me for the real world, but then again I don’t think you can be prepared,’’ she said. “You need to experience it first-hand.” On the contrary, Mountain thinks Macalester does a good job of preparing students to face the world of employment. By providing an education geared toward flexibility rather than a single occupation, he said, Macalester prepares students for an ever-changing jobs market. Students learn to think critically, synthesize information and communicate effectively – skills that are crucial for any career. Post-grad programs The CDC has found that many students go into programs like AmeriCorps and Teach For America, which provide introductions to real-world careers and offer assistance with student loans, Mountain said. With or without the help of the CDC, Macalester seniors are approaching graduation and asking, “What’s next?” Though Kerry Alexander ’12 has a wide-open future, and reflects fondly on her four years at Mac, she does have one regret. “I wish that Cafe Mac would have always had the cereal I wanted,’’ she said. “Lucky Charms.” refresh –>