The end where they begin

On Wednesday June 24, the Sanderson Centre was filled to the brim with graduating students, delighted family members and robed faculty. Convocation had arrived for a slew of Wilfrid Laurier University students, with approximately 2533 students meeting their program requirements and qualifying to graduate. Over 350 of those degrees went to Laurier Brantford students, who graduated from programs including Journalism, Criminology and Leadership. Two ceremonies – one at 10:30 a.m. and another at 2:30 p.m. were held to accommodate these graduates, as well as another 140 from Nipissing, which saw many of its now-former students take home combined Laurier-Nipissing degrees in Education.

The celebration was clearly marking an end, a finality to this journey in the students’ lives. But every ending is a new beginning and this is certainly true of the university experience. Inevitably, leaving one institution means searching for your place in another.

The burning question then is where are all of these graduates going? Many students seemed uncomfortable answering, perhaps still unsure of their next steps. Others though seemed confident and optimistic. Patricia Dorsman, a Contemporary Studies grad, expressed interest in entering the field of early childhood education. Vivek Ravichandran, a Criminology graduate, is keen on job hunting next year and finding a spot in his field of study. Brette Strouth, a Concurrent education major, is attempting to add herself to the school supply list in Brantford.

For recent Journalism grads, graduation is particularly interesting. It’s no secret that news organizations across North America are cutting back on budgets or closing up shop altogether, leaving many of these new grads wondering what they’ll do with their degrees. Some, like Jill Earl, one of Laurier Brantford’s recently graduated Journalism students, are hopeful about future opportunities, but still coming up short in the present.

“I know that there’s not a lot of jobs right now,” she says. “But I’m going to keep applying anyway. I think I just need to get my foot in the door first. I have to prove myself.”

Others have already landed journalism jobs, albeit in smaller markets. Ryan Flanagan received a reporter/photographer job offer early in June to work at a newspaper in Thompson, Manitoba – a small town with only 13,000 residents. He flew out the day after convocation, eager to begin his new position.

And some grads are showing that in a supposedly dying industry, there’s room for using a degree in Journalism creatively. Rhiannon Myers, a grad who opted for the Emerging Journalism and New Media stream in the Journalism program, recently took a job with the Ontario Museum Associated as a Special Projects Assistant. She’ll be working to find new ways to use digital media to construct online exhibits, as well as using social media to promote museum activities and “reengage a disengaged public.”

“I think the Journalism degree extends to students a professional advantage, by providing… opportunities to build tangible, transferable skills,” she says. “That said, there is a real need to network and build professional experience, [through] internships.”

All of these are only a handful of cases; other grads are going on to do their Master’s degrees, while some just aren’t sure what they want to do next. Whatever the case, one thing is for sure – that along with excitement, there is fear and anxiety associated with this stage in one’s life. But the truth is that the future is ultimately whatever these bright young people make of it. By virtue of their hard work and determination, they remain undefined by their degree, but rather defined by how they choose to use it.

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