Most college graduates count the days until they start their first professional job or enter graduate school, but some decide to gain experience through service. Twelve graduates of Bucknell's Class of 2016 plan to put their education to work through the Peace Corps or Teach For America (TFA).
Bucknell's Executive Director of Career Services Pam Keiser says that each year, a small but significant percentage of Bucknell graduates pursue work within a non-profit setting. "Some focus on a one or two year experience before pursuing other opportunities, while others see this as the first step toward a rewarding career path within this important sector of the work world," she said. "We are so very pleased that our graduates have seen such success in being a good fit with leading public service organizations like the Peace Corps and Teach For America."
Bucknell ranked No. 14 among small schools on the Peace Corps 2016 Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities list. There are nine Bucknell alumni currently volunteering worldwide and one member of the Class of 2016, Katherine DeRuff, will join them. DeRuff, a biology major and water polo player, will be working in women's health promotion in Peru. She says that she began to learn about the power of social justice during her Jesuit education in high school, and it continued to grow at Bucknell.
"I've developed a passion for serving communities around the world," she said. "I have volunteered on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, in an indigenous community in southern Costa Rica, and locally in San Francisco and Lewisburg." She decided to pursue the Peace Corps because it seemed like the best fit to bring her passion for social justice together with her plans to pursue a career in global health.
Eleven graduates will be joining Teach For America, a selective national nonprofit that places college students and recent graduates in high-need classrooms across the country. Teachers work in partnership with communities to expand educational opportunity for children facing the challenges of poverty. Class of 2016 graduates who have joined TFA are:
- Meghan Carroll, English and psychology; special education, Baltimore, Md.
- Paige Lommerin, history and political science; early childhood education, Chicago
- Madison Loos, animal behavior; special education, Providence, R.I.
- Sierra McCarron, education and psychology; elementary school, Jacksonville, Fla.
- Mariah Midyette, early childhood education; elementary school, Nashville, Tenn.
- Peter Murray, economics and religious studies; high school math, Oklahoma City
- Jordynn Spaulding, English and philosophy; elementary school, Buffalo, N.Y.
- Kayla Sullivan, sociology; elementary school, Newark, N.J.
- Helen Vu, education and psychology; middle school English, Springfield, Mass.
- Meghan Wentzel, education and psychology; special education, Richmond, Calif.
- Aida Woldegiorgis, education and political science; elementary school, Oakland, Calif.
Sierra McCarron, who will be working with elementary school students in Jacksonville, Fla., and Peter Murray, who will be teaching high school math in Oklahoma City, echo the sentiments of many TFA corps members who want to make a difference. McCarron says she has always been passionate about education.
"I chose TFA because I was inspired by their mission and commitment to bringing awareness to the systemic educational inequalities that exist in low-income communities," she said. "I am excited to be working with other like-minded individuals as a corps member, and hope to be a source of consistency and support that will inspire students to believe in themselves, look beyond their current situation and reach to achieve their dreams."
When Peter Murray began applying for jobs, the process pushed him to think more about what he was passionate about and how he wanted that to be reflected in his career path. Soon after, Teach For America reached out to him.
"The more I looked into Teach For America, the more excited I became at the prospect of becoming involved," Murray said. "TFA's mission of combating socioeconomic inequity through education is a mission that I felt was consistent with the kinds of issues I have started to pay more attention to and care about throughout my time at Bucknell. Not only am I committing to a mission that I am excited to support, but I feel like I will find teaching students to be an enjoyable and rewarding process."