Launching our graduates

May, 2011

The job search for college seniors can be daunting, but many recent grads from Minnesota's Private Colleges are finding that their creativity, flexibility and persistence are paying off. Whether they are pursuing their dream job, an option that will help others or broadening their horizons in other ways, new alumni are putting the educations they've received to work. Our campuses are helping them move forward, as these three students' stories demonstrate.

Putting the "human" in a humanities degree
Chris WiensChris Wiens knew he could make the best use of his humanities degree from Gustavus Adolphus College by finding a job that would require him to communicate with other people. Wiens, a history major and political science minor, recently landed a job as an implementation analyst at Minneapolis-based SPS Commerce. There he'll work with trading partners to relay their needs to the company's IT department, which will then create client-specific supply chain management software.

"I knew from the start that I needed to be in a position that would allow me to consistently interact with people. At SPS I can do just that," Wiens said.

He credits Gustavus, its small class sizes, and the student-professor interaction with helping him to think, write and communicate effectively with classmates. Ultimately, it was these experiences that prepared him for his new job, he said.

"In a small institution, everyone knows one another — which leads to the discussions in the classroom being furthered in students' everyday lives. The amount of personal growth that takes place in a setting like this is incredible," he said.

Wiens says the job at SPS is exactly what he was looking for and he looks forward to the company's positive working environment and overall foresight. While he was initially nervous about the impact the economy might have on his job search, he was able to land a position he is excited about by "working a little harder in my search."

He also made good use of Gustavus alumni connections while searching for jobs. In fact, his first contacts at SPS Commerce were alums he chatted with at his college's Prep Party, before the Private College Job and Internship Fair. They helped Wiens better understand the company and reaffirm it was a place he'd want to work — and he eventually got the job.

He said other recent grads seeking a job should play up their hard-earned degree, whether it is in the humanities or in another field. "While it is necessary to understand the harsh effects of the recession, it is also important to realize that companies are always looking to bring in young talent. The trick is this: know your strengths, sell your degree, and do it all in a genuine manner."

Studying abroad leads to international opportunities
Adam JamesFor Adam James, studying abroad was more than just a short-term, edifying experience — it also led to a desire to spend more time abroad. James, a student at Bethel University, studied in Greece and Turkey in 2009 and Cambodia in 2011.

Last fall he bumped into a contact from the nonprofit organization Christian Associates International (CAI), who told him about opportunities to work in the U.K. through the organization. He quickly saw that working with CAI would bring both the opportunity to live abroad and to deepen his commitment to ministry and God, fostered during his time at Bethel as a biblical and theological studies major.

"Since then, we have been talking more and more about me going to Europe, and now I'm on their official list," he said. He will leave this summer to work at the organization's Glasgow, Scotland site, called "Mosaic," where he'll be working as part of an established church to help them implement a campus ministry program. His time in Glasgow will begin with an internship that he anticipates will become a full-time job. At the same time, he will be commuting to Edinburgh Divinity School to take classes toward his master's in theology and ethics.

Both the master's program and the position relate to his future plans, he said. "This is my dream job. I am excited to be working with CAI and it fits very well with what I want to do. I can also see myself becoming a theology professor some day," James said.

James said that Bethel University was instrumental in encouraging him to pursue this opportunity. He credits the student organization Antioch Way, which aids students in determining whether the ministry profession is a good option for them, with helping him make this decision; he also found that faculty were supportive.

"Faculty have had very positive reactions, just encouraging me that this job sounds right up my alley or assuring me of my capabilities to do this and how extremely lucky I am," he said.

After James connected with CAI, he also introduced Bethel to the organization and its opportunities for missionary work. As a result, CAI will be holding an informational conference at Bethel this summer.

Choosing her own adventure — teaching or volunteering?
Ashley HumphreyIn her last weeks as a senior at Hamline University, Ashley Humphrey isn't just writing papers and taking exams. Instead, she is busy with another kind of multiple choice, this one related to what she'll be doing in the fall. On the one hand, she could teach history or psychology at an American secondary school in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; on the other, she could work for Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC), as a part of the Americorps program.

"Whoever gives me the final offer first is where I'll go," she said.

So far, Humphrey's been pursuing both opportunities and completed several phone interviews for each position. Her placement for LVC is narrowed down to one of several sites around the U.S., each with a different mission. One potential job is at a school with a high refugee population, where she would be a teacher's assistant; another is at a food shelf where she would assist the manager.

"The LVC option was something I found out about through the religion department at Hamline," she said.

Despite her passion for LVC, Humphrey said she's leaning toward teaching in Dubai. A history and religion major with a strong interest in Middle Eastern culture, she learned about teaching opportunities in the region while she was studying in Lebanon for the 2009-2010 academic year. While there, she met in person with companies that recruit American teachers. One of the pluses of the teaching abroad option is that "they provide housing and I'd have a lot less in expenses; they pay teachers really well there and are looking for people with a Western background," she said.

Before she studied abroad, Humphrey's history adviser at Hamline was instrumental in getting her involved in the Middle East. After taking an introductory course about Islam, she knew she wanted to learn more about both Judaism and Islam. Her adviser encouraged her to study abroad in the Muslim world and later informed her about opportunities to teach abroad, she said. "The faculty at Hamline have been so supportive and amazing; they really just want all of us to go out and do amazing things in the world," she said.

Humphrey's family has mixed feelings about her teaching abroad, though they've been supportive overall, she said. "Everybody's really excited, or as excited as anybody's parents can be when you tell them you want to go live 6,000 miles away," she said.

While she doesn't know which option will pan out, she said she is okay with some uncertainty surrounding her future. "I have no idea where I want my life to go. I eventually want to get my master's degree, but right now I'm really looking for a transition in my life. That's what either of these opportunities would be, and I think either one will help me figure out what my life path should be."