While the approach of graduation is daunting, with resumes and job hunting on the horizon, many students eagerly look forward to leaving academia and entering the “real world.” For them, stepping out of these doors means they are finished with school and moving on.
A smaller group of students reenter these doors, walking down familiar halls on the way to their new offices, ready to put in a full day of work. Most of these alumni come back, whether because of luck or design, to use their education at the same university that provided it. Some alumni never want to leave their alma mater.
These alumni have differing paths and circumstances that led them back, but all share a love for the university and the environment it provides.
“The atmosphere gets in your blood,” says Dr. Bob Rasmussen, dean of students. For Rasmussen, the university has a dynamic atmosphere. “There is an idea of renewal as a new crop of students comes to the university every year.”
Ashley Robertson, program coordinator for student judicial affairs, worked on campus as a student before moving into a full-time position after graduation. “I had such a good experience that I just wanted to stay,” she said.
Like Robertson, Director of Student Leadership and Activities Phil Clegg found a job with the school immediately after graduation. As a first-generation college graduate, Clegg feels a particular attachment to university life.
“I have what I consider to be one of the best jobs,” he says. Working with the student government, clubs and other groups on campus, Clegg enjoys the “intangible rewards” of staying involved in improving students.
April Crawford, manager of accommodative services, actually found a job on campus three weeks before she walked at graduation. “I love working for the school,” she says, “I wouldn’t want to work anyplace else.”
A chance to work with the media side of student athletics drew Assistant Athletic Director Clint Burgi away from a local TV station. “The allure of being a part of a team and a school that I already had some investment in made it a really easy decision,” he says.
Administrative assistant Sherry Harward has left and returned several times since she earned her associate and bachelor’s degrees. She explained, “I love the environment, I love the growth and the changes. There are difficulties like anywhere else, but it’s a great place to be.”
No two alumni are the same, but the common theme with those that join the school’s faculty and staff is a love of the atmosphere that is only found in an academic setting. Many of the alumni quoted above were actively involved in student government and groups. Already steeped in the university’s culture and vision, it is no wonder that they would return in their professional careers.
Working in academia is not a career path for everyone. More than one of the alumni interviewed expressed the feeling that the lower salary found in higher education is offset by the reward found in teaching or working with students.
For those that do not work simply for a paycheck, the benefits add up. For example, tuition and fees are waived for full-time university employees, allowing many of them to take classes and work toward advanced degrees.
So when it comes time to don graduation robes and watch as classmates break for the door to go out into “the world,” slow down for a second. The same building that housed the worst class you suffered through might also contain the career of your dreams.