A cap and gown in the spring does not always come with a plane ticket home for all seniors. Every year some members of the graduating class stay in Poughkeepsie not as students but as Vassar College employees.
A year ago, as she neared graduation, neuroscience and behavior major Kelly Harrington ’14 was considering applying to research positions until an opportunity presented itself in an unexpected place: right here on campus.
“Then, halfway through senior year, I kind of felt like I wasn’t ready to leave Vassar and so I entertained the idea of looking for jobs here,” Harrington explained in an emailed statement. “I attended an event hosted by the [Career Development Office] about post-grad positions at Vassar,” she continued. “That’s where I was introduced to a Vassar grad who was working in the Admissions Office. From then on, the idea of working in admissions intrigued me.”
Harrington applied for a job as an admissions officer and was hired. She has been working on campus ever since.
For the students who do find jobs at Vassar, the position often comes as a surprise. Like so many other of his peers, Errol Khuns ’14 faced his very last days as a college student with uncertainty. “I graduated with a job, but only just,” wrote Khuns in an emailed statement. “Vassar made an offer late in the afternoon on Friday, May 23. I graduated on Sunday, May 25. Knowing that I’d return to campus really allowed me to enjoy those final days.”
Khuns currently works as the post-baccalaureate Fellow in the Career Development Office (CDO), helping students with their internship and job searches and promoting CDO events. “Working in the CDO has allowed me to develop certain skills I’ll need as a grad student, most notably public speaking, and given me some valuable insight into how a college administration works,” he wrote.
Other recent graduates have been thrown into positions more unexpectedly. Nick Jasso ’13 thought he would be volunteering as an assistant men’s tennis coach for a short period after graduation while he was still in Poughkeepsie. Jasso was a former member of the team and captain, so the position made sense. That summer, however, both the assistant and head tennis coach left in quick succession to pursue other jobs, and Jasso was promoted to assistant, making him responsible for the entire coaching duties until Vassar hired an interim head and finally a full replacement in November.
Along with leading practices, Jasso also handled recruiting, compliance with the National Collegiate Athletic Association and lots of paperwork. “I had coached before but I had never been in charge of so many things,” he said.
Some aspects of life still remain reassuringly familiar to the experience of being a student. “I still go to the Retreat for lunch and go to the gym after work. I attend Vassar events when I can and sometimes spend time with current Vassar students,” wrote Harrington.
Some things, however, have changed. For instance, the hectic juggling of classes, extracurricular and social obligations calms down. “The biggest change for me is not running around to five different activities and rushing to classes on opposite sides of campus every day” Harrington wrote. “I was a very busy student and was always running somewhere. Now, I’m pretty much in my office every day and only go between the Admissions Office and Main.”
The daily pattern can become more repetitive though. “I wake up at 7 a.m., work 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., don’t ever go to the library, don’t live and spend hours with my friends on the daily, don’t take classes,” wrote Khuns, describing a typical weekday for him.
Elizabeth Ruiz’s ’14 job, however, takes her out of the office regularly. An environmental studies major, she is responsible for monitoring the Casperkill and Fonteynkill streams that run through campus. The position is made possible thanks to the College’s Environmental Research Institute’s Collins Fellowship. In addition to the stream monitoring, she also works as a teaching assistant for Environmental Studies 124: Principles of Environmental Science, along with raising community awareness about the importance of the local environment. As a senior, Ruiz conducted a nationwide search for jobs, and although she said she received several different offers, it was the position at Vassar that interested her most.
Said Ruiz, “Socially, it was a little weird to be on campus immediately after graduation, I won’t lie. But I’ve been able to remain comfortably connected to Vassar with other graduates, the students I’ve worked with, and especially Strong House Team.”
All the graduates said that they still keep ties with current students. “I love visiting with friends who are still students and catching up on all of the Vassar gossip,” wrote Harrington. “There are boundaries of course. I can’t show up to a TH party at 1 a.m. and mingle with friends as though I am still a student, but I have dinner with friends on multiple occasions.”
Similarly, Jasso eventually realized that to be a good coach he had to impose some distance between himself and his former teammates. “That was incredibly difficult,” said Jasso. “I honestly still feel bad about it to this day…that I kind of had to stop talking to them and put aside our past relationship, and build this newer, more professional relationship with them.”
In addition to these shifts, there is still some uncertainty that comes along with these post grad positions. Just like where she was a year ago, Ruiz is back to sending out job applications. She hopes to find another position doing environmental monitoring and research. Wrote Ruiz, “I’ve been applying for jobs all over the place, I’m excited to see where I end up next.”