Networks and preparation help students post-grad

Expansive networking from teachers and former graduates, as well as early preparation for post-graduate opportunities is helping Mercyhurst students secure placements after graduation.

The post-graduate survey of the class of 2014 reveals that Early Childhood and Special Education has a placement of 79 percent for graduates respond as having a job or at graduate school.

Leanne Roberts, Ph.D., Chair of the Education Department, said that Mercyhurst’s reputation as a program which educates teachers well opens job opportunities for students. “The reputation gets them in the door, and the students get the job,” Roberts said.

The Early Childhood and Special Education program has students gaining experience through clinical hours in classrooms throughout their entire time at Mercyhurst, Roberts said.

“They start with observation as freshmen, and then get more involved as they go along. They can start teaching lessons to small groups, or teaching classes at the Carpe Diem Academy as sophomores. And junior year, if they’re focused on Special Education, they can begin clinical hours at the Barber Institute,” said Roberts.

J-Term of the students’ senior year, by which time they have completed over 200 clinical hours, students take a class called “Clinical I,” which puts them in a classroom all day and every day, said Roberts. After that, students take their Capstone Clinical in spring semester, where they are teaching every day. The capstone is split with students working for seven weeks in Early Childhood Education and seven weeks in Special Education.

This experience prepares students for the process of applying for jobs, which can spread across the country.

“We tell them to go where the jobs are. And we have relationships with districts all over the country to help facilitate that. Sometimes we have representatives from school districts call and ask us to send them our best students,” Roberts said.

The department which had the second highest positive response rate was psychology. 59 percent of its graduates responded that they were either employed or in graduate school.

Rob Hoff, M.A., chair of the Psychology Department said that approximately 50 percent of Mercyhurst graduates from the Psychology department go on to graduate school, which is twice the national average.

Hoff said that one of the department’s methods of helping students prepare for life after graduation is that it offers a one credit course for sophomores, “Majoring in Psychology,” which informs students about potential career paths and options for continuing education, and helps them prepare to take the next step.

“A lot of students major in psychology without a clear sense of direction. And so what we need to do is make the goals more clear. And so we have this whole course which describes the options that are available to psych students, which go far beyond the traditional counseling, clinical, school options,” Hoff said.
The alumni of the department also come back to help inform students of their options for post-graduate life, and help them find out about internships and jobs, Hoff said.

“They can tell current students what they’ve done with their psych degree, so they’re serving as role models. They’re also serving as a social network because these are students who are usually very open to saying, if you want more information about this program or that program, what is school psychology all about, what is the program at Edinboro, or wherever it might be, we can give you all kinds of information about that,” Hoff said.

Intelligence Studies had the lowest percentage of positive responses with only 22 percent, but also had the largest number of graduates with 58 students graduating in 2014.

Even though the School of Intelligence Studies is expanding with new programs, James Breckenridge, Ph.D., Dean of the Tom Ridge School for Intelligence Studies and Information Science, said that he does not want the number of undergraduates per year to grow.

“We’re right-sized. We want to keep the same undergraduate size of about 60 to 70 each year,” said James Breckenridge, Ph.D.

Keeping a consistent size of undergraduates allows for the professors to form close relationships with students over their time at Mercyhurst, said Breckenridge. Those relationships are essential in helping to bring in jobs and internships for current students, as well as a robust Career Services Department to help utilize the alumni network.

“We cut Career Services last year as a school, and that was a bad move. We need to boost Career Services in order to better reach out to our network of graduates,” Breckenridge said.