Class of ’06 gears up for future after University

By Sarah Hetherington

With graduation time for the Class of 2006 drawing near, fourth-years have been faced with the inevitable question: “What are you doing next year?”

Not only does the impending job hunt characterize the next step of this year’s graduating class, but it also indicates how the job market intends to greet those who have studied the life of the mind for the past four years.

According to Meredith Daw of the University’s Career Advising and Planning Services (CAPS), “not much has changed” in the job preferences of this year’s group of graduating fourth-years, apart from a “definitely more active” interest in government jobs on both state and federal levels.

“Perhaps the interest stems particularly in relation to the war and Hurricane Katrina, but students want to see how they can help out,” Daw said.

Keri Robertson, a fourth-year English Language and Literature concentrator, is one example of a student taking an interest in community-based leadership and service organizations. Robertson will be teaching secondary English to students in grades 7-12 in lower Manhattan for the next two years as part of the Teach for America program.

Robertson learned of the program, which places recent college graduates in teaching positions in underprivileged schools for a period of two years, during her senior year of high school and has been determined to work for the organization ever since. And while she said she always wanted to teach and “work with kids,” Robertson also has an eye toward law, public policy, and social work. She sees Teach for America as a valuable complement to other leadership positions she might have in the future.

“Teach for America is so oriented towards people who both want to teach and who want a second career as well,” Robertson said.

Last summer, Robertson worked for an organization in New York City that specialized in childcare policy issues, a position she found through the University’s Metcalf Fellows program. She added that her time in New York was a deciding factor in her wanting to move east “for at least the next few years.”

Patrick Schoolcraft, a fourth-year International Studies major, has different plans in mind. Schoolcraft said he had been thinking about the corporate world for about a year before finding a job with the consulting branch of the Chicago-based Aon Corporation in January.

“Business is not something you can do at this school as an undergraduate,” Schoolcraft said. He added, however, that he “didn’t know what he wanted to do” when he first arrived at the U of C and that “a Chicago degree will get you in the door anywhere.”

Schoolcraft’s method of finding his job—contacting friends and learning of opportunities “through the grapevine”—represents what Daw also recognized as a salient trend in this year’s graduating class: a more aggressive attempt at networking through friends, family, and employers introduced at CAPS-sponsored events.

Fourth-year anthropology concentrator Laura Wonderly foresees a more uncertain future for her career after graduation.

“As a U of C student, I only feel qualified for graduate school,” she said. “But after going here, I don’t want to go.”

Wonderly will be living at home in Fremont, Ohio and working as an unpaid intern at the Hayes Presidential Center, a museum and library in her hometown. She also hopes to find a position at a department store while planning her wedding to alumnus Christopher Chiu, A.B. ’03, and exploring options like more museum work and, quite possibly, graduate school.

Still, said Daw, other graduating students are seeking more “out there” jobs.

Fourth-year Leah Fosco, also an English Language and Literature major, was enthusiastic about her more esoteric post-graduation plan. Fosco will work at Clark Fork Organics, a sustainable farm in Missoula, Montana.

“This is really a childhood dream come true,” Fosco said. She explained that the thought of working on an organic farm came to her when a friend who graduated last year worked on a blueberry farm. Fosco found a government website that listed internships at sustainable farms and decided to indulge her desire “to go out West.”

Fosco said she thought it was important to spend her immediate future around people who are doing “interesting things” with their careers after graduation.

“You don’t have to have a 9 to 5 job,” she said.