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Stepping into their future: NIU’s newest graduates eye job market, grad school

DeKALB – Holly McIntyre figures she’ll have better luck finding a job in Texas after she graduates Saturday from Northern Illinois University.

McIntyre, an occupational therapy major, will look for a job at a clinic or as an occupational therapy aide as soon as she packs her things and moves to the Lone Star State, where she said a “help wanted” sign is found at almost every window.

“From the few times I’ve visited, there are so many clinics and hospitals,” McIntyre said. “It shouldn’t take too long before I find a job at one of them.”

If McIntyre succeeds in finding a job, she might represent a positive trend. Statistics recently released by the U.S. Department of Labor show the unemployment rate for 2013 college graduates, defined as those ages 20 to 29 who earned a four-year or advanced degree, was 10.9 percent, The Associated Press reported. That was down from 13.3 percent in 2012 and the lowest since 7.7 percent in 2007.

According to NIU’s Office of Registration and Records, 3,114 students are expected to graduate this semester, including 2,248 undergraduates and 866 graduate students.

Many NIU students who will graduate are choosing to continue their studies in hopes of standing out from other applicants, while others hope to set themselves apart through extracurricular activities.

NIU student Sarah Stuebing will head to Kansas State University this fall to begin a dual doctorate program in veterinary medicine and neuroscience. Veterinarians are not required to obtain an advanced degree in neuroscience, but Stuebing is pursuing both degrees out of love for research.

“It opens a lot of doors for me,” she said. “That’ll give me the unique set of skills to help humans and animals curably and preventatively.”

Meanwhile, NIU senior Carolina Applebee is hoping her work as the programming coordinator for the newly formed Communiveristy Gardens will give her a unique edge. The NIU-based organization partnered with DeKalb County Community Gardens, which plants crops across DeKalb County for food pantries and others in need.

“It’ll look very good on my résumé,” she said. “It’ll show I’m directly involved with community service. That’s directly involved with nutrition.”

Applebee, a nutrition major, hopes to become a registered dietitian after a dietetic internship at NIU in the 2014 fall semester.

Jacob Lawrence is using his involvement with Communiveristy Gardens for other reasons. A senior and president of Communiveristy Gardens, Lawrence will spend two years in NIU’s master’s of public administration program after he graduates Saturday.

Lawrence’s dream job would be to work at a consulting agency for nonprofit organizations in conflict zones such as Israel and Palestine. But he also has other dreams.

“I want to get a farm,” he said. “I want llamas, maybe some alpacas. Definitely chickens.”

Jessica Bernstetter has other dreams. Bernstetter, a graduate anthropology student, was recently admitted into the doctoral program for anthropology at the University of Missouri.

Her goal is to become an anthropology professor at a university. She went to Italy last summer as part of a study abroad program.

“I got to work closely with local people and got to practice my Italian, which was a lot rustier than I had hoped,” Bernstetter said.

Another graduate anthropology student, Megan Drennan, still isn’t sure what she wants as a permanent job. However, she has landed a temporary job in cultural resource management, where she’ll work in Loves Park to survey and dig land before a construction project begins.

Drennan said the job will be a nice start considering she has never worked in archaeology before.

“I got the job more through networking,” Drennan said. “I’m lucky. Networking has become more and more important as a way to get jobs.”

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