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MC grads staying ahead in employment

Nancy Alanis
With the national unemployment rate hovering around 10 percent, finding a job is no guarantee, even for college graduates. But members of Monmouth College’s Class of 2009 have bucked the trend, as 94 percent were gainfully employed or in graduate school within six months of May’s commencement exercises.

That figure came from the annual fall survey by the college’s Wackerle Career and Leadership Center. More than 81 percent of Monmouth’s 2009 graduates participated in the survey, according to the center’s director, Michelle Shawgo.

“We are extremely proud that in these tumultuous economic times, our graduates were selected for positions from large applicant pools,” said Shawgo. “It is a testament to the rising value of a Monmouth education and the work ethic of our students.”

Monmouth graduates found employment in health sciences, banking, food service and hospitality, international trade, marketing and advertising, and retail management. Many members of the Class of 2009 found employment in Midwestern cities adversely impacted by the economic downturn.

“Our alumni groups in Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis and Des Moines continue to grow, and the support we receive from these individuals is critical to the success of Monmouth College,” said Shawgo.

Two graduates who found work in the Midwest are Edward Miller and Joshua Jacobs. Miller sang the praises of liberal arts education, while Jacobs offered advice for current MC students.

“I am a firm believer in the liberal arts approach,” said Miller, who is an information systems consultant for Miller Systems, Inc., an IT consulting firm in Mokena. “When I was designing software to sift through agricultural data, I not only had to have a basic conception of how agriculture in the U.S. works, but also what sorts of data would be useful from a marketing perspective. Then I had to design an interface that would be logical to the people in that sort of environment. I even have to understand psychology a bit to be able to predict what sorts of common errors or invalid data people would likely input.”

Jacobs also found employment shortly after his May graduation. He is a pastor at the First Church United Methodist in Dayton, Ohio, and is attending graduate school at United Theological Seminary, also in Dayton. His advice to undergraduates is, “Start networking. Who you know is just as important as what you know.”

Another member of the Class of 2009 who responded to the survey was Shota Matsuzawa, who interviewed for 10 positions during his senior year, ultimately securing employment as a securities operations analyst at Goldman Sachs in Japan.

Classes such as Negotiations, Business Writing and Small Group Communication helped him increase his team-building skills, and Matsuzawa said he also learned a lot through a part-time job he held on campus.

“I worked at the library as a sound master,” he said. “Since there were only two students who worked with sound equipment, it was a big responsibility for me. Through setting up sound devices, I had chances to participate in many kinds of events and to get to know a lot of people.”

A communication major with a minor in public relations, Matsuzawa’s liberal arts education allowed him to enter the workforce in a different field.

“As a student, I was not interested in financial business, but now I handle trading for Japanese Equity,” he said. “The point is, we don’t always find exactly what we want to do as a job while we are students. I suggest that students take as many challenges as they can, search for possibilities, and never set a hard and fast course for their future.”

With graduation a little more than two months away for the Class of 2010, the stories told by Jacobs, Matsuzawa and Miller could prove useful. There is optimistic anticipation that through Monmouth’s Wackerle Center’s initiatives, there will be the same high employment marks in next year’s graduate survey.

Shawgo pointed to increased contact between the Wackerle Center and the Class of 2010, including a 45 percent rise from a year ago in the number of participants at a Job Search for Seniors program.

“In these sessions, seniors are given advice and materials to help them through the process of searching for a job,” she said. “The feedback I have received from students who attended one of these sessions has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Shawgo said her office has had some type of contact with 78 percent of the current seniors.

“Contact includes such things one-on-one appointments, attendance at a career program or presentation, receiving a resumé critique, or using the Wackerle Center’s career resource area,” she said. “We want to help as many students as possible as they prepare for the next step in their lives, no matter what it is.”