March 1-7, 2002
Back Issues
Budget: Where U.Va. stands
Budget Q&A -- First in a series
Disaster drill prepares local personnel for real emergencies
A message from Tony Motto, Energy Program manager

U.Va. planning future of Morven Farm, seeks guidance from community

Dave Matthews buys five Kluge farms
Monticello’s visitors boost local economy, study finds
Career Services builds new bridges to jobs for students
Students seek alternative job choices in tough times
A return to the nest? Parents getting involved in job searches
Basic research, collegiality on laureate’s agenda
In Memoriam
Hot Links -- Health System Web site
African clothing, past and present
Planning your retirement income
Jim McBride meets with students
Photo by Rebecca Arrington
UCS director Jim McBride (second from right) and members of his staff routinely meet with U.Va. students about career opportunities, including internships.

Students seek alternative job choices in tough times

By Joanna Gluckman

As graduation season approaches, the rocky economy has fourth-year students scrambling for a plan of action. Some students are getting creative and pursuing alternatives — joining the Peace Corps, signing up for Teach for America, or planning to ride through the economic turbulence in a log cabin out West.

According to the University’s Career Services Office, on-Grounds interviews with potential employers are down 20 percent overall compared with last year. But the pain has not been evenly distributed. While students in the McIntire School of Commerce and the School of Engineering and Applied Science have seen only a 12 percent decrease in on-Grounds interviews, those in the College of Arts & Sciences have been the hardest hit, with 38 percent fewer opportunities this year than last.

While many fourth-year students are worried that traditional jobs will be difficult to nail down, others see the uncertain economy as an opportunity to pursue unconventional career paths.

After the Sept. 11 tragedy, Lauren Franzel, a fourth-year student from Philadelphia majoring in commerce, shelved plans for a career on Wall Street to fulfill a lifelong dream of going to Africa with the Peace Corps.

“While the downturn in the job market played a role in my decision to join the Peace Corps, it was by no means the largest motivating factor,” Franzel said. “In addition to the status of the job market, Sept. 11 has caused a lot of people to reevaluate their career choices and other life decisions.”

As an economics major, Anne Martin, a fourth-year student from Norfolk, had always imagined herself in the business world after graduation. This year, however, Martin decided to channel her talents in a different direction and applied to the Teach for America program. The initiative places recent college graduates in teaching positions in low-income communities across the United States.

“I was always a little hesitant about office-type jobs, but felt that that was what I was supposed to do as an economics major,” Martin said. “When the economy started to drop and the job market stalled, lots of people got very worried and upset. But I thought it was the perfect opportunity to find something else to do that was more fulfilling. I am getting more excited every day about Teach for America.”
After fulfilling their two-year obligations with the Peace Corps and Teach for America, program alumni will have acquired new sets of skills that will help them build successful careers in any number of fields, U.Va. career officials said.

The public sector also offers viable career alternatives, and since the terrorist attacks, federal government agencies — especially those involved with national security — have stepped up their campus recruiting efforts, said Ladd Flock, director of career services for the College.

The list of government agencies attending this year’s career fair includes the CIA, the Internal Revenue Service, the State Department, the National Security Agency, the U.S. Border Patrol and the U.S. Customs Service. Demographics also factor into public sector recruitment. With 53 percent of all current government employees becoming eligible for retirement within five years, government agencies are recruiting heavily right now, Flock said.

Many graduating fourth-year students seem to be more willing to try graduate school. Requests for admission to graduate schools of business, law, journalism and education around the country have shot up by as much as 100 percent, according to a recent New York Times article.

At U.Va., the School of Law, the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration and the Engineering School’s graduate admissions office all report 30 percent increases in applications this year.

“Historically, a tough economy brings about a surge in applications,” said Beth Flye, senior associate director of admissions for Darden. Flye noted that the increase in application volume has been paralleled by a rise in quality.

For still other students, the answer lies in hitting the road. Whitney Watson, a fourth-year student from Roanoke is majoring in history, has postponed plans to apply to law school. Instead, she plans to travel and explore the country west of the Mississippi River, avoiding the application frenzy altogether. At least for now.


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