Alumni to speak on life after graduation

GVL / Emily Frye   
Kailee Harris during GVSU Commencement on Saturday December 9, 2017.

GVL / Emily Frye Kailee Harris during GVSU Commencement on Saturday December 9, 2017.

Ita Tsai

As the end of the winter semester draws near, many students are readying to take the step from being a student to becoming Grand Valley State University alumni. In order to prepare the soon-to-be graduate students, a panel of recent alumni will come to GVSU to talk to students about upcoming changes that will take place in their lives.

The event, titled “Life After Graduation? Navigating Your Personal, Professional and Civic Life After GVSU,” will take place Tuesday, April 3, from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Glenn A. Niemeyer Learning and Living Center. The panel was organized by Danielle Lake, GVSU professor of liberal studies.

“We value general education and what it means to prepare students for their life,” Lake said. “This project is about how their liberal education really did help prepare them, or not, for their life after they graduate in every way. Not just their professional life, their experiences navigating the next step and getting a job, but also prepare them for their personal life after they graduate, what it means to be a citizen of our society today.” 

The meeting will consist of various small round tables for different alumni. It will also allow for small group dialogues, as alumni will show how their level of education has been helpful to them.

“I hope that students can learn directly from alumni the merit and the limitations of a liberal education in life today, and start to envision what their life could look like once they graduate,” Lake said. “Also, I hope that they get ideas how they can use their time in GV to make a difference in our community and prepare themselves for their next step. For example, think about the major they want to have, what organizations they want to be involved in, extracurricular activities and community engagement opportunities that are valuable to them.”

Lake hopes the event can give those approaching graduation something to relate to.

“I think the biggest problem students face is the lack of sharing our struggle,” she said. “Once we graduate, no matter what, there are always a lot of bumps on the road and roadblocks. Maybe you don’t get hired for your dream job. Maybe you do get hired, but it’s not what you thought it would be. 

“Life comes with twists and turns, and leading to success is a series of struggles. If we don’t reveal these struggles to others, we think that it’s all our fault, that maybe we’re not cut out for this.”

Lake also shared some advice for seniors.

“The secret for students after graduation is about tenacity, flexibility and humility,” she said. “You need to believe in yourself. You need to have courage to think up and keep going. We also have to be flexible and humble enough to work through what goes your way.”

Panelists will talk about making the most of opportunities as they come up and being willing to put yourself out there and work hard. There will also be encouragement for those who might be considering non-traditional routes and risk-taking, too.

One of the panelists will be Annie Taccolini Panaggio, a graduate student at the University of Michigan who studies social policy and evaluation and currently works as a refugee resettlement policy researcher at U of M. 

“I was unsure of a set career path. I was worried about not knowing where to look for a job and what type of job,” Taccolini Panaggio said. “It took me a while to realize that I didn’t need to have a set path figured out.”

She recommends that students without a clear idea on their short-term future plans get engaged with their community and close group of friends and acquaintances.

“I wish students learn to be patient and hard-working and to also build relationships with different kinds of people to keep their eyes open for general experiences,” she said. “It’s easy to be anxious about what your immediate job after graduating is, and students get competitive with each other instead of getting to know each other, so I want to combat the idea that you have to figure everything out right after graduation.”

Like Lake, Taccolini Panaggio recommends taking life after graduation one step at a time.

“After graduating, everything feels a lot more peaceful,” she said. “It took some time, though. The first year is especially difficult. However, since then, I have understood not so much what I want to do with my career, but that the process is complex and you have to take things one step at a time.”