The thought of finding a career after graduation can seem intimidating to most undergraduates as their time in college dwindles down. Resume building, interviews, salaries, and, of course, the location of where you will end up all matter so much.
For a lot of students at Illinois State University, they have not strayed too far away from Normal. You might have seen some familiar faces around campus because a large number of on-campus employees are School of Communication (COM) graduates.
As a school that prides itself on opening opportunities and promising a bright future to its students, the school offers a variety of programs, majors, and minors, including a very strong internship program. In fact, COM has seen a growing trend in its graduates returning to work on campus.
When asked why so many students are returning to ISU after graduation, Tom Lamonica, director of field experiences, said, “Communication is such a broad spectrum that there isn’t just one job they can do. Serving ISU is something they feel committed to do and fulfills them professionally.”
Lamonica also explained the evolution and growth of relationships outside of campus between alumni and campus leaders. He pointed to new jobs in the public relations, media, and applied sciences and technology industries have opened many opportunities for COM graduates.
The school does its best to support undergraduates by finding internship opportunities and helping them narrow down where they see their future after they graduate. According to Lamonica, the school prepares its students very well for these opportunities.
“The success of our internships starts with academic advisors (some just so happen to be COM alumni) and encourage students to think about internship experiences. Although it is not required, almost 80 percent of our graduating seniors do it anyway because they see the value behind internships,” Lamonica said.
Between the numerous job opportunities and an ever-evolving campus, it is no wonder so many COM graduates want to come back. COM graduate and current associate director of operations for University Marketing and Communications, Tracy Widergren, said, “My path back to Illinois State as an employee was a little by accident. I was looking for a new opportunity in my career after spending time in both corporate and agency communications and happened upon the opening in the dining department. Applying for and receiving that job became one of the most pivotal points in my career. I found a passion for working in higher education, as well as had the opportunity to return to school to complete my master’s degree in communication and join COM in 2016 as an instructor.”
Illinois State University offers many opportunities for alumni and encourages them after graduation to stay connected and involved with the community. The School of Communication has seen its graduates return to campus and do incredible things as volunteers and as employees. One works in ISU’s Athletics Department.
Nick Meyers, who graduated in 2015, is very familiar with the Department of Athletics. He was a student coach for the ISU football team from 2012-2015. He also had experience working as a videographer for the team as a student. He now works as the quality control (QC) coach for the football team. As he explains his role, he mostly works behind the scenes for the team and alongside the offensive line coaches to break down post-game films. He also does some database organization to recruit high schoolers for the team.
When asked what made him want to return to ISU to take on this role for the football team, he said it wasn’t a hard decision at all. Since he enjoyed his time as a student at ISU so much, it was a no brainer to come back. He said, “Being a Redbird to me means family, and I tell people this is home to me. It is such a tight-knit community. I tell my friends it is a bigger school with a small school feel.”
Perhaps it’s the home away from home and friendly feeling of being a Redbird that inspires graduates to stay on campus. That is how assistant director of Marketing, Training, and Hospitality, Erin Watts, felt when asked why she decided to work on campus after graduating from COM.
“When I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree in public relations, I never considered Illinois State University as a potential opportunity for a professional career,” she said. “However, as I approached graduation, I started to realize that I did not want to leave Normal. Illinois State University gave me my first sense of home and belonging. I honestly believe it is a university unlike any other, and I feel tremendous pride working at an institution that has had such a positive impact on my life. I will always be grateful to be part of the Redbird family.”
Plenty of other COM graduates and current employees reached out to express their gratitude and appreciation toward continuing to stay in Normal and pursue their careers at Illinois State University. Life can take you anywhere after college, and for many COM graduates, their Redbird name lives on as they stay right here at ISU.