Putting their degrees to work
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Like most students graduating from the University of Iowa this spring, Drew Clark of Marion spent years studying, learning, growing, and hoping one day to get a job that would put his passion and talents to good use.
Recruited to play Hawkeye football as an offensive lineman, Clark, 24, set his sights early on a career in engineering. This spring, armed with a freshly minted Bachelor of Science degree in engineering, and a minor in mathematics, he’ll begin his job as a manufacturing engineer with John Deere in East Moline, Ill.
“As a kid I was always building with Legos and wondering how mechanical things operated,” Clark says. “Talking with my advisor, Megan Allen, my freshman year helped me make my decision to become a mechanical engineer. She encouraged me to go to the engineering career fair, where I got an interview with John Deere, and I've interned for them the past two summers.”
Clark is one of a number of graduating students who will walk across the stage at commencement and right into one of the state’s “hot jobs,” as identified by Iowa Workforce Development (IWD).
IWD defines “Iowa’s Hot 50 Jobs” as high-demand and high salary positions for which the need is only expected to grow between now and 2020. The list includes jobs for both four-year and advanced degrees, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists, as well as actuaries, marketing managers, and computer system administrators.
Couple the promise of good jobs with a strong institution-wide placement rate (which recently earned a shout-out from the Motley Fool website: 3 Colleges That Have Super-High Job Placement Rates), and this year’s crop of graduating students say they already see their UI diplomas paying off.
“From post-graduation data collected from the class of 2013, 90 percent of UI graduates had full-time jobs or had gone on to further their education within seven months after receiving their diploma, with some select programs as high as 100 percent (College of Nursing),” says David Baumgartner, assistant provost for enrollment management. “That information, combined with the fact that we have experienced high on-campus interview numbers this year, and employers are on waiting lists to attend our Career Fairs, are all positive indicators for prospects for the class of 2014.”
Many graduates are staying in Iowa and the Midwest, hoping to contribute to communities as young up-and-coming professionals. Others are venturing to other parts of the country or pursuing advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—the so-called STEM fields.
Despite coming from vastly different backgrounds, and pursuing different careers, the students all point to particular classes, college experiences, and faculty and staff members that have helped prepare them for the leap into the professional world.
For 32-year-old Kimberly Frees of Solon, the flexibility to take a combination of classroom and online courses “gave me the guidance, skill and knowledge to be able to practice to my fullest potential” while earning her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree in pediatrics in the UI College of Nursing. In July, Frees begins work as a primary care nurse practitioner at UnityPoint Clinics Hiawatha Pediatrics.
-Kelsi Pugh of West Des Moines, Iowa
“Every professor throughout my student career at the UI has been encouraging and a positive influence on my studies and in life,” she says. "Dr. Mary Berg cares for each of her students and demonstrates it by going above and beyond her duties as a professor. Dr. Sandra Ramey was available at all hours with questions regarding my DNP project and helped to relieve stress and frustration when I needed it most. And (UI alumna and Mercy Cedar Rapids nurse) Keeli Irwin, ARNP, gave me a knowledge base in clinical that has prepared me for lifelong success as a pediatric nurse practitioner.”
Sheila Renee Allison
Sheila Renee Allison, 40, of Mason City, Iowa, also credits class flexibility with helping her complete her bachelor of applied studies degree in nonprofit management. Getting a job as system administrator of the electronic medical record system at Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa in Mason City was contingent upon her completing the degree.
“Working full time outside the home, being a wife, and mom to two very active kids, I knew it would be difficult to find the balance and time needed to further my education,” Allison says. “The University of Iowa offered a mix of course delivery methods that worked well for me—including guided independent study, virtual classrooms, and traditional on campus courses—and made this possible.”
Michael Lang, 22, from Saint Charles, Illinois, has netted a job as a business solutions consulting associate with audit and accounting firm McGladrey in the Chicago/Schaumburg area of Illinois, after finishing his degree in business analytics and information systems in the UI Henry B. Tippie College of Business.
He said an internship with Integrated DNA Technologies (based in the UI Research Park) and a connection made with McGladrey through a job and internship fair hosted by the Tippie Tech student organization helped him win his job.
Margaret Mary Noonan
Margaret Mary Noonan, 22, of Burlington, Iowa, parlayed her bachelor’s in journalism and mass communication, a minor in American Sign Language, and a Performing Arts Certificate into a post-graduation marketing internship at Fleishman Hillard, a public relations agency in St. Louis.
She credits experiences in the classroom, and out in the field, with preparing her for this next step in her career.
“Through classes, student organizations, and internships I feel that I’ve grown professionally and am prepared for an internship,” Noonan says. “The small class sizes and workshops that allow students to work with real clients and develop strong portfolios have definitely prepared me for a career in public relations.”
She says she was especially challenged and shaped by courses taught by journalism assistant professor Brian Ekdale, and says a highlight of her college career was serving as a student ambassador for the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication, offering guidance to both high school students and undecided college students considering a degree in journalism.
“Through this position, I've worked with [education support specialist] Paul Jensen and my co-ambassador Casey Levigne to offer a student perspective to future students through social media campaigns, our Wordpress blog, and by attending Hawkeye Visit Days,” Noonan says. “I love meeting prospective students who are excited and passionate about their college career, as I was just four years ago.”
West Des Moines native Kelsi Pugh, 22, parlayed a love of sports into a Bachelor of Arts in Sport Studies and minor in Recreation and Sport Business through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. After graduation, she’ll begin work as a sponsorship sales associate with the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network in Kansas City, Kansas.
“After exploring my in-state options, the University of Iowa seemed to be the best school for me to get an education related to the sports industry,” Pugh says. “I enrolled as a Sport Studies major, which allowed me to take classes related to the history and culture of sport. This gave me a great overall background on how sport has continually changed and the role that it has in society.”
-Kellie Seales of Baxter, Iowa
She says lecturer Dan Matheson's Sport Business Practices course taught her the basics about the professional sports industry, and that Matheson and fellow lecturer Clint Warren have been important mentors during her college experience.
“They are both great teachers who challenge their students and relate their course material to real life situations,” Pugh says. “They are also always willing to help whether it be answering questions about something you're unsure of, helping you with your resume and cover letter, or connecting you with people in the industry.”
For example, Matheson included Pugh and 12 classmates in his three-week San Diego Padres/Cedar Rapids Kernels Practicum course during the summer of 2013.
“This experience was life changing and gave me the opportunity to learn and see how a Major League Baseball team works,” she says. “It allowed me to experience what it would be like to work for a professional sport organization, and I gained many professional contacts, as well as lifelong friends. My experience doing research and presenting to the Padres executives has always been a topic of conversation in any interviews that I have.”
It also helped Pugh snag a marketing and special events internship with the Chiefs, an internship she’s wrapping up this semester and which led to her getting her job with the radio network.
“I have learned so much during my time with the Chiefs and have really been able to apply my education to my internship experiences,” she says. “I am proud to be a part of such a great program at the University of Iowa, and I am happy to see the success of the program's students.”
Kellie Seales of Baxter, Iowa, is finishing up her bachelor of arts degree with honors in elementary education, with an endorsement in English as a Second Language and a minor in Spanish. The 21-year-old recently accepted a position teaching elementary school in the Aldine Independent School District in Houston, Texas.
“The university’s support in helping me achieve all of my goals in the time frame I wanted was amazing,” says Seales. “I wanted to do a lot of things in a short amount of time, and the advisers were so helpful in assisting me to make a plan that would get me where I wanted to be.”
“Then, when I wanted to travel and gain new experiences while student teaching, Ellie Herman, a clinical professor in the UI College of Education, was very supportive and helped me get in touch with others who had done the same thing. I told the university what I wanted to do, and they not only supported my goals, but did what they could to help me achieve them.”
She also gave a shout out to Laurie Croft, an advisor with the UI College of Education Honors Opportunity Program and administrator in the college’s Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talented Development.
“She encouraged me to join the College of Education's Honors Opportunity Program, then assisted me every step of the way,” Seales says. “I was able to do research all summer about gifted student perceptions of effective teachers with her as my mentor. I have come to her with questions about school and my future plans and she is always willing to take the time to give me her advice.”
Read more graduation success stories from the UI Class of 2014 here: Graduate placements run the gamut