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Alumni are successful despite recession

Megan Sebestyen
Staff Writer

With graduation just months away, many University of La Verne students will be entering the tight job market of this state’s tough economy – where the unemployment rate is 12.4 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report released last month.

An informal survey of La Verne graduates shows that many have found success in their chosen careers, and have been able to weather the tough economy.

Dana McJunkin-Smith is one La Verne success story. Since graduating in 2006 and completing her master’s and teaching credentials in 2008, she and now teaches third grade at Avalon Elementary School and credits La Verne with her success.

“I felt like all of the classes I needed to take were sufficient,” McJunkin-Smith said. “I felt like I had the resources I needed. …I was very well prepared for that with the classes I took and the activities I did on campus.”

Even after her graduation, McJunkin-Smith knew her professors could be of help and still keeps in contact with some of them.

“I feel like if I ever had questions or needed something, there were several people in he education department I could call,” she said.

“The University prepares a student for the job market,” said Beth Elmore, senior director of alumni relations. “We provide you with the skills, the know- how and the drive.”

ULV has an alumni population of 43,000 graduates, 18,000 of whom remain in contact.

Luis Faura, a business graduate from 1989 is the president and CEO of C and F Foods.

Robert Parry, a journalism graduate from 1999 served in the 184th California National Guard Unit and works at a public relations firm in Century City.

Bruce Hines, son of Ben Hines, graduated in 1980 and went on to become a Seattle Mariners baseball coach and the minor league field coordinator for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Lynee Shore Garcia, who graduated in 1983, was awarded the 2009 bioMerieux Sonnen­wirth Award for Leadership in Clinical Microbiology.

Ruth McDaniel Rupel graduated in 1940 and then worked for 40 years as an organist of United Methodist Churches in Cupertino and Kenville, California.

Ties to this school are strong; some alumni have even returned to work at the University.

Gail Horton, who graduated in 1973 with an education major, works as a president and CEO of California Computer School and CCS Interactive, a web technology firm.

Additionally, she is now helping other La Verne students find success after college; she began teaching the pilot program of Skills Success in 2005 in the business department. The program received complete funding in 2007 and Horton now serves as director.

“I began my career by teaching fourth grade,” Horton said. “I later opened my own company and computer school.”

The class, which is for business students, teaches 37 skills that will help students find success in the business world.

“The whole purpose of it is to get them ready so they can get internships and jobs,” Horton said.

Mock interviews, resume review, introducing people, dining etiquette, writing dreams and goals into action plans, traits of successful people, researching companies for internships and jobs and how to read and portray body language are just some of the skills in the curriculum.

“It’s been very successful and it really has made an incredible difference in preparing them for the internships they want,” Horton said.

Horton also credits the University with helping her succeed.

“I think the small classroom education allowed me to interact and taught me communication skills and accountability,” Horton said.

Many of Horton’s students keep in touch after they find jobs in the business world.

“It’s been so rewarding teaching at the University,” Horton said. “When students succeed, it just warms my heart.”

Many resources exist on campus for current students and even alumni to find great jobs.

“I think that the resources are there,” Elmore said. “There’s a lot of valuable information.”

Between the resources offered at the Career Center, online in the library databases and connections built through contacts made at the University, students do graduate with a wealth of tools for success.

Online in the A-Z library database is a tool called First Research, which helps students learn about different industries so they can learn about what different careers might entail. Few students know about this service, though.

“The combination of tools available makes it a really rich experience and it will really prepare someone,” Elmore said.

For current students, taking advantage of all of these resources can mean future success.

“At La Verne, it’s a small campus and they know people. If you ask, they’re going to help. That’s the La Verne way,” McJunkin-Smith said. “You have people around you who have been in the workforce. Use them. Ask, ask ask.”

Megan Sebestyen can be reached at megan.sebestyen@laverne.edu.

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