Just a few months ago, the Class of 2020 was looking forward to graduating into a strong job market, and many had employment secured – graduates’ transitions from the university to the workforce was to be relatively painless. This painless transition, like so many things from our pre-pandemic world, looks quite different now, but the Center for the Common Good is no less optimistic for the future of St. Thomas graduates.

“Both the heroism and the tragic loss of work in this crisis encourage us now more than ever to consider what our own meaningful work ought to be,” said Christopher Michaelson , professor of business ethics and social responsibility at the Opus College of Business, and faculty director at the Center for the Common Good.

Michaelson will discuss his thoughts on meaningful work and how graduates might take this opportunity to find work that advances the common good at the May 7 virtual postgraduation fair, co-hosted by the Center for the Common Good and the Career Development Center.

The Center for the Common Good was recently honored by the Catholic Volunteer Network (CVN) as a 2020 Top School for Service, and through this relationship, the postgraduate fair focused on meaningful opportunities was born.

“Some students have seen their job opportunities fall through, or they are looking around wondering what their next step will be when so many companies are temporarily downsizing,” said Kelly Sardon-Garrity, associate director of the Center for the Common Good, and organizer of the postgraduate fair. “We wanted to give students a chance to explore opportunities that will continue their education, advance the common good and add impressive experience to their resume.”

Sardon-Garrity partnered with Cheyenne Boon, recruitment associate for CVN, and the two organizations worked together to survey nearly 200 member organizations to find out which of them were still recruiting. The results of this survey were used to create an internal webpage available to students highlighting the various opportunities with organizations such as Ace Teaching FellowsAmeriCorps, Habitat for Humanity and  Jesuit Volunteer Corps. They also invited a number of partner representatives to share information about their programs with graduates through participation in what was to become the virtual postgraduate fair.

The event is not only an informational session, but also a robust, interactive exchange. Amber Bieneck Thom, career counselor, and Nicholas Abraham, recruitment specialist, both from the Career Development Center at the University of St. Thomas, were excited to contribute to the conversation.

“We know our graduates are eager to advance the common good and are looking for purpose in a world suddenly turned sideways,” Bieneck Thom said. “Through postgraduate service opportunities, the Class of 2020 can build unique and marketable skill sets and serve others as we navigate this unprecedented situation.”

Abraham, an AmeriCorps alumnus himself, is not only a co-organizer of the fair but is also a panelist in one of the four virtual sessions that compose the fair. When asked about his experience, Abraham said, “These programs give you the opportunity to build your resume and pay for school, all while contributing to something larger than yourself. When I served I began finding the ways I could better myself and along the way found myself growing and connecting to the communities I was impacting. That connectedness and experience came full circle and ultimately made me a more attractive candidate to future employers.”

The first session will feature keynote speaker Greg Carpinello, executive director, Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) Northwest, in conversation with Sardon-Garrity about the opportunity and value of participating in a postgraduate social impact program; the second session will feature Michaelson in conversation with Bieneck Thom about the importance of meaningful work; the third session will feature recruiters from 10 organizations who will present postgraduate opportunities (moderated by Manuela Hill-Muñoz, director of innovation and changemaking); and the final session will feature St. Thomas staff and alumni who have participated in postgraduate social impact programs who will discuss their experiences (moderated by Casey Gordon, program manager for the Center for the Common Good).

“We hope that students are able to leave the fair with a better sense of what their postgraduation experience can look like,” Sardon-Garrity said. “It’s definitely not a ‘year off’ – it’s an opportunity with great benefits to those who enlist, as well as great benefits for the common good. It’s an opportunity to expand your experience, get out of your comfort zone, and take a big step into the world. I think that our students are ready for this sort of challenge.”

Those interested in learning more about the virtual postgraduate fair can follow Changemaking for the Common Good on Instagram at @ustchangemaking and the Career Development Center at @ustcareer. To attend the fair on May 7 from 1:30-4:30 p.m. CDT, see more information about the event on Tommie Link. Attendees are welcome to join any and all of the individual sessions listed below.

  • 1:30 p.m. – “The Value of Postgraduation Community Engagement”: keynote speaker Greg Carpinello, executive director, Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) Northwest
  • 2:15 p.m. – “Discerning Meaningful Work in a Pandemic”: Christopher Michaelson, professor of business ethics and social responsibility at the Opus College of Business, and faculty director at the Center for the Common Good
  • 3:00 p.m. – “Meet the Program Recruiters and Learn about Postgraduate Opportunities”: Recruiters from 10 postgraduate organizations in a panel hosted by Manuela Hill-Muñoz, director of innovation and changemaking
  • 3:45 p.m. – “Meet Postgraduate Program Alumni”: Alumni from postgraduate social impact programs in a panel hosted by Casey Gordon, program manager for the Center for the Common Good
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