Alumni continue growth outside the classroom

Graduation seems like the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is what comes after that is often the cause of stress, excitement and a little bit of acid reflux. Bluffton University prepares students for life outside of college in numerous ways: great portfolios, professional etiquette and ways to build positive relationships. Three young alumni share their post-graduation adventures in the Midwest, the Southwest and on the West Coast.

After graduation, Meg Short ’16, a public relations major at Bluffton, could not wait to get a fresh perspective on life but did not really expect such a big city so far from home would become close to her heart.

“Before living in [San Francisco], I would feel overwhelmed when visiting those spaces and convinced myself that I could never adapt to that environment,” Short said. “I’m so glad I was wrong.”

Short is completing a service year through Mennonite Voluntary Service, the service branch of Mennonite Mission Network. MVS is a program that allows anyone over the age of 20 to participate in one- to two-year placements in a variety of locations including: Tuscon, Ariz., Madison, Wis., Elkhart, Ind., San Antonio, Puerto Rico, San Francisco, Manhattan, N.Y., Washington, D.C., Alamosa, Colo., Chicago, Kansas City, Kan., and Seattle.

Short is placed at DISH, or Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing, where she does administrative work, as well as leads a weekly walking club for DISH residents.

DISH is a harm-reduction facility and the home to 450 formerly homeless San Franciscans with mental, physical or substance abuse disabilities. Short’s small, hometown experiences were shaken when words like “opioids,” “bed bugs” and “sharps containers” became a part of her daily vocabulary.

“This year has changed my naïve perceptions of homelessness, substance use and abuse, poverty and mental challenges,” Short said.

Short’s experiences in San Francisco are unseen, or at least not openly discussed, in northwest Ohio.

“The neighborhood I spend much of my time in can be a bit of a sensory overload sometimes,” Short said. “To give a glimpse, today I stepped over several piles of feces and other bodily fluids on the sidewalk and heard too many wildly inappropriate things to count, some directed at me.”

While some graduates can’t wait to get somewhere new, exciting and far away, others choose to stay where it is comfortable and closer to home.

Alex Parker is the afternoon news reporter for 1330 WFIN and 100.5 WKXA in Findlay. Photo provided

Alex Parker ’16, another public relations major, is the evening news reporter for Blanchard River Broadcasting in Findlay, Ohio.

BRB is a 175-year-old newspaper company that also owns three radio stations in Findlay alone: WKXA-FM, WBUK-FM and WFIN-AM, which is Parker’s station.

Parker said that Bluffton helped him make connections crucial to his success post-graduation.

“Bluffton got me in touch with the right person,” Parker said. “I met Dave Woodward there, and he taught me everything he could about radio and got me out to meet people off campus.”

Parker was full of advice for current students and aspiring professionals.

“Get experience,” Parker said. “Anything will do – show you [take] initiative and have the ability to learn, and employers will respect that.”

Networking is the buzzword of the century, and Parker affirms that it is an essential part of being successful after graduation.

“A degree is important, but it doesn’t really mean much if there aren’t any people in your corner,” said Parker. “Get off campus and meet people in your desired field. You’ll never know who will be the person that gets that position for you.”

You can’t just talk the talk – you have to walk the walk, too. Parker says that being prepared for the real world isn’t just getting good grades.

“When you look back you want to see success,” said Parker. “And, success doesn’t necessarily mean all A’s.”

Not all students find jobs right after graduation, so some alternative options are graduate education and internships. Amanda Bartel ’16 is doing both.

Amanda Bartel with the Olympic Torch; photo provided

Bartel spent her time after graduation in Colorado Springs, Colo., interning for the United States Olympic Committee. As a history major during her time at Bluffton, she was able to learn the skills needed to be successful in her internship.

“My main project was an inventory of the objects in the archive,” Bartel said. “I also designed and installed displays both within the USOC building and at various USOC events.”

Bartel also was in charge of explaining what the items in the display were and giving tours of the archive to athletes and USOC dignitaries. One her most memorable tours was with Tommie Smith, an Olympic track and field athlete known for speaking out against the treatment of African Americans at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

Bartel has since finished her internship at the USOC and is currently working at the Winona County (Minnesota) Historical Society as a project archivist. She will be there for about a year before she has to start the job search again.

“[The constant job search] is really the nature of this industry,” Bartel said. “Because of the scarcity of jobs, newcomers like me have to bounce from place to place for shorter contract-based jobs until we find a long-term position.”

Though Parker may stick with his position for a while and Bartel is hoping to graduate with her master’s degree in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University this December, Short will be returning in August, getting married and moving to Pennsylvania with her fiancé, Josh Burkholder ’16. Her employment situation following completion of the MVS placement is up in the air, but desk jobs hopefully will not be in her future.

“Through this experience, I’ve discovered that I can’t stand working a desk job, as I once thought I did,” Short said. “But, I would love to continue to work in a community of mentally handicapped adults someday, after receiving more training.”

Whether it is listening to yourself on the air, hiking up the hills and exploring the national parks in San Francisco or training in the same building as Olympic athletes, each post-graduation experience is divergent, distinct and unique to the graduate.

Bartel leaves those still unsure about their futures with this: “Try things out. Do some service. It will all fall into place.”

About the author

Claire Clay

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