The Collegian
Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Extra-curricular experiences guide seniors to fulfilling, but uncertain futures

The liberal arts major is endlessly reminded of the cardinal sin of his field by parents, friends, and employers: is there a market for this degree? Willing to explore, some humanities students are breaking free of their major, and seeking employment in their extra-curricular fields.

Patrick Jones knew he wanted to live in New York before he looked for jobs. Jones auditioned for the theatre program at NYU and was one of 50 people to make the final round of callbacks. He will find out this week whether he is one of the 16 students accepted to the university. If not accepted, Jones said he would move to New York anyway and live with friends from Richmond. He would then try to find work acting.

Jones started acting in high school and came to Richmond because his director told him to go to college for theatre, but wanted Jones to keep his options open by attending a liberal arts university. Jones received the Richmond Artist Scholar award, which provides full tuition and a faculty mentor. Only six students annually are offered this scholarship for music, dance, art or theatre, according to the university website.

Jones is also a member of Subject to Change, an improv group; University Players, a group of student set designers, costumers, crew members and actors who perform live shows; and Sub Par Productions, a comedy-film production club. Jones said his experiences in these organizations had confirmed his decision to be an actor.

Although his plans are not solid, Jones said he was not too worried. "For the career I've chosen, uncertainty is the name of the game," he said.

Jones said he would breathe easier once he knew whether he would be at NYU, but he knew some people who were more uncertain. "I have very close friends who are still deciding what city to go to and how to just survive," he said. "Many friends applied to jobs and unfortunately have not gotten them, and some of them have given up. It's terrifying."

One senior who can breathe easily is sociology major Rose Ann Gutierrez. Gutierrez will be working for the next two years in Miami for Teach For America. After her time with TFA, she said she hoped to get her master's in social change at the University of Miami.

But, even Gutierrez found the job search to be stressful. "Back in December, I was freaking out," she said. "I think one of the worst things in life is uncertainty, and being Filipino, like I am, you're expected to go to school, get your degree and get a job afterwards, so I knew I had to be working somewhere." She said her parents had always told her that knowledge was the one thing a person could not take from you.

Gutierrez works as a volunteer at Henderson Middle School through the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement. She said her time spent working with the students - good and bad - had led her to a future in teaching. "When I would get stressed out, I would think about the students who may not have the same opportunity to succeed," she said, "and I knew I couldn't quit or give up."

Gutierrez said she learned about TFA from a recruiter last year, and she had applied because she wanted a career in social reform. "To be able to understand [education] on a structural level, you have to understand at the grassroots level," she said. "Change in this world starts with education."

Gutierrez said many seniors were feeling pressure to find jobs. "Some have come to realize that it's okay not to have plans," she said, "but others can say it's okay, but you have to resolve that feeling in yourself." Gutierrez said she thought most seniors would find jobs a couple months after graduation.

Rachel Ruderman is also interested in teaching, but doesn't have a position. She is the president of UR Ambassadors Club, a group of University of Richmond students who mentor international and exchange students and help them learn about the university and American culture. Ruderman took the position this year after spending a year abroad in Barcelona.

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Ruderman first visited Barcelona when she was 16. She has wanted to go back to Spain ever since, she said, but other responsibilities were in the way. "I am so excited," she said, "because after studying abroad, there was only this one year left in Richmond, and now I can go back to Barcelona."

Ruderman, a Latin American and Iberian Studies major, said she originally wanted to apply for a master's program in translation and had filled out various applications, but never sent them in. She said she realized it must not have been what she wanted.

Ruderman said she had no definite plans, but she was going to Barcelona indefinitely. She said her passion was being immersed in language.

This week, Ruderman applied to a 1-month English Language Training program in Boston for certification to teach ESL. She hopes to then attend la Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona for one year.

To gain experience, Ruderman worked for an organization where she translated letters from Guatemalan schoolchildren, she said. She hated it. "I was in this small room with no windows, and I didn't see any people," she said. Ruderman realized she wanted to actively engage with her clients, as a teacher.

These seniors agreed that students in the humanities were having a harder time finding jobs than business students. Consulting was considered the best field, based on the number of students they knew with consulting jobs. Jones said that internships for business students were a proving ground and set students up directly with a future employer, but students in the humanities didn't have as many opportunities.

Gutierrez said if she were not doing TFA, she would have really panicked, because she probably would not have a job yet. She would want to work for a non-profit, but the non-profit business fair is not until April. Business school job fairs are often held throughout the fall, so those students know earliest, they said.

Finance major John Froelich is one of many business students with a job secured for after graduation. He will be working for Hess Energy Trading Company. "I enjoy strategic games and taking financial risk, like poker, so combining them into a prop trading career (trading stocks, bonds and financial commodities with the firm's own money to make a profit) would be ideal," he said.

Froelich recently acquired the position at Hess, where his father also works. He said, "I felt jaded by the whole process until I was fortunate enough to get [a job] that I wanted."

He agreed that consulting jobs were the most readily available. He said he hoped to stay in the energy commodity realm until he could become a trader.

Froelich will work and live at home in New Jersey.

Contact staff writer Rachel Bevels at rachel.bevels@richmond.edu

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