The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Grants open federal and computer science careers to students

By David Hertz

Students dreading entering the job market after graduation can take some solace in two new grants Macalester received that help connect students with federal government and computer science jobs and internships.The college recently received a $586,500 grant from the National Science Foundation that will fund scholarships for Computer Science majors and minors and a program to provide job experience for students in Information Technology. Another grant, $5,000 from the Partnership for Public Service, will prepare Macalester staff to connect students with jobs and internships in federal agencies.

Associate Director for the Career Development Center John Mountain went to Washington, D.C., to receive training from the Partnership for Public service as part of that grant.

The grant provides Macalester with staff training for finding federal jobs; and the website, where students can enter their majors or interests and get a list of federal agencies that employ people in those areas. Next fall, Mac will hold a Federal Careers Week, which will bring in Mac alumni from different agencies and provide job search workshops.

“We’re excited, especially given the economy right now,” Mountain said. “[The job market] is definitely challenging. We’re seeing in all sectors that businesses are retracting a bit.this is one sector that is growing. The timing of the grant couldn’t be better.”

“When I was out in D.C., I met with an alum who was working with USAID, and he’s in charge of the aid that’s going to Sudan and Chad right now. He’s only been out five years, and he’s running an aid program,” Mountain said. “If you show you are ready to do more, you’ll have the opportunity.”

That alumn, Tyler Beckelman ’03, officially the Emergency Programs Officer for USAID, said he would “absolutely” encourage students to join federal agencies, but warned that competition for federal jobs is increasing.

“I think the fact that Barack Obama is president has made it cool to work in the federal government again,” Beckelman said.

Reaching out to the 150 Mac alumni working at federal agencies in D.C. and others in federal service throughout the country to give students an edge will be a major focus of the project.

“Even though there is a portal for federal jobs, it really comes down to personal connections,” Mountain said.

The National Science Foundation Grant will provide up to $5,000 per year to around ten students trying to major or minor in computer science, and pay for a new program to get students work experience, according to co-author of the grant proposal Libby Shoop. Scholarship recipients will be enrolled in this new program, called Macalester Information Technology Scholars, though it will be open to all students.

“The reasoning behind this from the NSF’s point of view is that we need more people entering the computer science pipeline,” Shoop said. “There are more jobs than there are people to fill them.”

Shoop hopes the grant will interest more students in computer science. Enrollment in computer science in the nation and at Macalester declined for the past six years before increasing this year, according to Shoop.

Besides providing a monetary incentive through the scholarship, the grant will also bring students other opportunities through the Mac IT Scholars program. Participating students will complete an internship in information technology, attend conferences to tell other students about their internship experience, go to panel discussions of alumni in information technology jobs and teach middle school through college students about computer science.

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