Fasten Your Seatbelts
Fasten Your Seatbelts
Gonzaga graduates hit the road in search of life's next stop
originally published in Gonzaga Quarterly, Summer 2007by Sabrina Jones
On the Gonzaga campus, caffeine consumption has plummeted and the availability of parking spots has soared. It must be summer. And, with apologies to Alice Cooper, Sheryl Crow, and Sly and the Family Stone, that means "School's Out," it's time to "Soak up the Sun" and have some "Hot Fun in the Summertime."
Just a few short months ago, our campus was teeming with students - learning in the classrooms, laughing on the lawn and forever talking on their cell phones. But just where do they go and what do they do once the last final has been taken? One person who knows is Gonzaga's Career Center Director Mary Ritter Heitkemper. "Our most recent comprehensive formal results are from our spring, summer and fall 2006 graduates who took an exit survey upon graduation," she said. "Even though they were just walking down the commencement aisle, more than two-thirds of them had already gained employment, secured a long-term service opportunity or were enrolled in graduate school."
The remaining one-third were either continuing to look for just the right employment or had chosen to take a "gap" year, an increasingly popular option among today's college graduates, where they often work, volunteer or travel internationally. "What's really interesting is that when asked again about their employment or graduate school status within a year of graduation, the number of them who had secured employment or received full acceptance to graduate school had increased dramatically," said Heitkemper.
The Teaching Trio
Meet Jake, Angela and Tony. (They're the ones having fun in the convertible.) Jake graduated last spring with a double major in marketing and economics, while Angela earned her degree in sociology, and Tony closed the book with a bachelor's in English literature. What could this trio possibly have in common? Each begins a two-year commitment as a public school teacher for Teach for America this fall.
|Name: Tony Emerson, '07, English literature|
|Destination: New York City Public Schools, high school English teacher|
|Distance from Gonzaga: 2,611 miles|
|Itinerary: This river-raft guide who has never traveled east of Colorado will be navigating uncharted waters in the Big Apple. Tony, who is among 1,000 Teach for America educators in New York City alone, will teach high school English in one of the city's public schools.|
|Parting Words: "Gonzaga students have a positive impact on each other and that gives everyone better ambition all around. There are so many people doing good things, it's hard not to catch the spirit of service."|
|Name: Jake Firman, '07, marketing and economics|
|Destination: Denver Public Schools, high school math teacher|
|Distance from Gonzaga: 1,092 miles|
|Favorite Pastime: Ultimate Frisbee|
|Name: Angela Wier, '07, sociology|
|Destination: Charlotte Public Schools, N.C., elementary teacher|
|Distance from Gonzaga: 2,595 miles|
Itinerary: Jake and Angela drove from Arizona to North Carolina in early June. Highlights included camping at Carlsbad Caverns, tasting their first-ever brisket in Fort Worth, Texas, and getting completely lost in Memphis, Tenn. "We busted out our 'old school' CDs along the way - some Backstreet Boys and other bands from our middle school days," said Angela. "You can imagine the zillion new inside jokes between us after spending that much time together." After taking Jake to the airport for his flight back West, Angela realized she "didn't know a soul in Charlotte ...unless I counted Adam Morrison."
|Explorers: Jenny Huston '07, political science; & Amanda Turpen, '07, psychology|
|Destination: Who knows? After all, it's the journey...|
|Mode of Transportation: Jam-packed Toyota Highlander|
|Duration: 18 days|
Itinerary: "We left Seattle June 18 and made it to Boise by the end of the day," said Jenny. "It was definitely warmer there. The next day we arrived in Salt Lake City, took in some of the sights and headed to eastern Colorado. Luckily we found some little hotels that fit our slim budget. We aimed our SUV for Texas and found a quaint little town that took us in for the night - stars and silence everywhere. What an interesting culture! Made it to our GU friend's house the next day in Dallas, where we crashed for three days, watched some baseball games and took in the metropolitan nightlife. Headed back north, with camping stops in Albuquerque and the Grand Canyon." Despite losing a toenail and earning an infected toe blister, Jenny and Amanda look back and laugh at their Grand Canyon hiking experience. In less than two days, the duo hiked 24 miles in temperatures exceeding 120 degrees and through knee-high swamp waters. "The funniest part was when we were informed we only had a half-mile to go. We looked up and saw two more switchbacks and a straight away. We threw our backpacks to the ground and collapsed, claiming there was no way we could bring ourselves to finish.
"Ventured west until we were facing the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur, Calif. A few hundred miles north on Highway 1 took us to the Napa Valley vineyards, where we not only did some wine tasting, but truly drank in the atmosphere of it all. Continuing northward, we visited some of our Zag friends in the Portland area. By the Fourth of July we were home in Seattle, feeling like we already had our own Independence Day."
|Name: Beth Conner, '07, religious studies|
|Destination: Chicago for graduate school at the University of Loyola-Chicago; Hartford, Conn., for Jesuit Volunteer Corps year-long service commitment|
|Distance from Gonzaga: 1,821 miles|
|Why Gonzaga? "I wasn't sure where I wanted to go to college, so I took a quick on collegeboard.com and it matched my interests with specific colleges," said Beth. "Gonzaga came up Number One, but I had never heard of it before. One of my friends asked if it was in Africa. I said, 'No, just in Spokane.'"|
Name: Louis Chen, '07, philosophy and journalism, Comprehensive Leadership Program certificate
Destination: Portland, Ore., JVC recreation services coordinator
Distance from Gonzaga: 355 miles
Why JVC? "I felt the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, with its Roman Catholic tradition, Jesuit connection, and dedication to bringing peace and justice through service, was a wonderful opportunity to live in service to others while simultaneously sorting out my future plans," said Louis.
|Explorer: Melissa Hoffman, GU junior|
|Excursion: Yellowstone National Park, Zion National Park and Santiago, Chile|
|Mode of Transportation: Cramped family car and one large airplane|
|Duration: Pretty much all summer|
|Itinerary: "My parents drove to Gonzaga from Arizona to get me and we took a 'family bonding trip' to Yellowstone and Zion national parks," said Melissa. "I flew to Santiago, Chile, with my best friend and her mom on July 1. We spent the next month learning the city's subway system, speaking Spanish, discovering local cafes, skiing the Andes and exploring Easter Island. It was awesome."|
|Name: Sarah Shean, '07, accounting|
|Distance from Gonzaga: 282 miles|
|Itinerary: This Colorado native may climb mountains in excess of 10,000 feet whenever she gets the chance, but it was her jam-packed car that most recently carried her over the Cascade Mountain range. After securing an accounting position with Washington Mutual through Gonzaga's Career Center, Sarah began working in the commercial accounting division at the company's headquarters in downtown Seattle. A passionate believer in social justice, Sarah is thrilled to work for a corporation that recognizes the impact it has on the communities it serves.|
|Parting Words: "I feel like I got everything out of college that I was meant to and now I'm saying, 'OK, what's next?'" said Sarah.|
|Name: Dan Robledo, '06, civil engineering|
|Destination: Baghdad, Iraq|
|Distance from Gonzaga: 6,743 miles|
|Itinerary: Living in different parts of the world is second nature to Dan. Growing up as the son of a noncommissioned officer, Dan lived in Korea, Germany, Colorado and Washington. Since graduating from Gonzaga with his civil engineering degree and having finished the ROTC program, he has completed military training at forts in Missouri, Georgia and Texas. He was deployed to Iraq in May to begin his 15-month tour of duty as a platoon leader.|
|Parting Words: "I'm a little nervous, but a little excited at the same time."|
|Explorer: Taylor Black, '07, philosophy and classics|
|Mode of Transportation: 1991 Toyota Corolla|
Trip #1 Duration: 20 days
Trip #1 Itinerary: "My wife Anne and I left Spokane July 1 and drove our trusty Corolla to Humboldt National Forest in Nevada," Taylor said. "The next day we arrived at Anne's parents' house and stayed with them for two weeks. We participated in one of her family's long-held traditions: driving to the lowest (Badwater in Death Valley National Park) and highest (Mount Whitney) places in the lower 48 states in the span of one day. Our trip home to Spokane included some camping at Yosemite National Park, visiting the ghost town of Bodie, Calif., and touring parts of Hell's Canyon."
Trip #2 Duration: 13 days
Trip #2 Itinerary: "Time for graduate school at Boston College. Anne and I took advantage of our cross-country road trip and stopped by Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, Wind Caves and Badlands national parks, reconnected with long-lost family members and went to an extended family reunion," Taylor said. "Indiana took us to Notre Dame where we visited more family and friends, continued northeastward to Ann Arbor and Detroit, Mich., and Toronto. (I hope to earn my Ph.D. at the University of Toronto once I'm done at Boston College.) Seeing the impressive Niagara Falls capped off our journey and we recently arrived in Boston."
|Name: Thanh-Phuong Chu, '06, chemistry|
|Destination: Wickatunk, N.J.|
|Distance from Gonzaga: 2,625 miles|
|Proverbial Fork in the Road: Medical school or religious vocation? To help find the right direction, Phuong spent the past year volunteering for the Good Shepherds Volunteers Program in Wickatunk, N.J., where she worked with youth and continued her discernment. By remaining open and centered on God, Phuong's plans are now clear: she feels called to become a religious sister first, using that perspective to shape her future training and ministry as a physician.|
Parting Words: "I believe it is truly God who accomplishes the work and I am merely His instrument."