Wednesday May 1, 2013

Pomp and Circumstance

As another class of students graduate from the University of Dayton, they do so prepared to use their education to lead and to serve.

As another class of students graduate from the University of Dayton, they do so prepared to use their education to lead and to serve.

Commencement ceremonies are scheduled for this weekend at University of Dayton Arena:

  • School of Law, 9 a.m. Saturday, May 4; approximately 150 graduates
  • Graduate/Doctoral, 12:45 p.m. Saturday, May 4; 358 master's degrees, 34 doctor of physical therapy degrees and eight Ph.D. degrees.
  • Undergraduate, 9:45 a.m. Sunday, May 5; 1,367 graduates

A Pledge to Serve

The University of Dayton is one of 97 schools across the country that invites graduating seniors to sign a graduation pledge to commit to making a responsible contribution to their world:

In accordance with the University of Dayton's tradition to learn, lead and serve I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organization for which I work.

"Each student who signs the pledge is personifying the University's mission to link scholarship with service and leadership," said Kara McNamara, a graduating senior and the pledge coordinator. "Our education at the University of Dayton emphasized the dignity of the human person, respect for God's creation and concern for everyone in the human family, and the pledge provides an opportunity for graduates to consider the importance of these things and to think about ways they can live out these values."

Approximately 125 students have signed the pledge. McNamara is pursuing her commitment to service by volunteering for a year with Precious Blood Volunteers on a Navajo reservation in Crownpoint, N.M., where she will work at a hospital, the local parish and in the community. She is one of 28 seniors taking time to volunteer after graduation.

As a student, McNamara took advantage of several opportunities for service, participating in the University's summer Appalachia program in Salyersville, Ky.; taking a semester off to serve at a Dayton nonprofit; and going on service BreakOuts during fall and spring breaks.

"I realized through these experiences and through learning about social justice issues in my classes that I really wanted to serve others and learn about how others live," said the English and psychology double major. "Precious Blood Volunteers emphasizes community, simplicity, and concern for the poor, and I think that it's so important to look at the needs in my own country and help where I can."

While the seniors are the only ones taking the pledge, its spirit permeates the rest of the University. School of Law graduate Blake Eilers is using his second chance at life to help orphans and widows in Uganda as a legal fellow with a non-governmental organization.

Eilers, a 27-year-old from Dayton, Ohio, continues to battle the effects of a malignant brain tumor and subsequent radiation in 2004 that has caused him excessive fatigue that requires 10 hours of sleep a night. It hasn't stopped him from a successful law school career, which includes an appointment to the highly competitive Dayton Law Review and one of the School of Law's public interest awards.

"One of God's callings is to care for the widow, the orphan and the oppressed. It is the calling I feel," Eilers said in an update on his condition on the Mayfield Clinic website. "When you're 18 and healthy and fit, you can feel pretty much invincible. But when you realize, hey, I almost died there, you become a lot more grateful. Getting the tumor was a terrible situation. But God has brought the best out of it in giving me a life direction, waking me up to the wisdom that there is more to life than living for what you want to do."

Job outlook

While about 25 percent of graduating seniors plan to attend graduate school, volunteer or serve in the military, most will be entering the workforce, with a job outlook at least slightly better than it was for the class of 2012, according to Jason Eckert, University of Dayton director of career services.

He said according to national figures from both the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and the Collegiate Employment Research Institute, U.S. companies plan to hire between 2 to 3 percent more college graduates this year than in 2012. It is the fourth consecutive year where the current class has experienced slight, yet positive, improvement in job prospects.

Trends on campus this year reflect this improvement. The University had a record number of employers at its spring career fair, and the fall fair was moved to the University of Dayton Arena to accommodate more employers and more job seekers. The number of companies holding on-campus interviews increased 14.4 percent from last year, and the number of full-time job postings posted in the University's "Hire a Flyer" job board increased 27.1 percent.

The jobs in highest demand are those related to information technology and health care, while professional careers in engineering, business and law have improving prospects, Eckert said.

Networking with alumni

To assist students with networking, the University launched the Alumni Mentoring Program in September, designed to match students with alumni in their areas of interest. A total of 52 student-alumni pairs participated in this year's inaugural program, with about half of the alumni coming from outside the Dayton area. The University hosts three events throughout the year, and the pairs are encouraged to meet every two weeks. 

Brett Miller, who earned a master's degree in mechanical engineering from UD in 2007, currently works for the Air Force as a systems engineer and owns a marketing and business development group with his wife.

Miller was paired with Adrienne Bianchi, a marketing major from Buffalo, N.Y., with minors in international business and French. Bianchi plans to travel after graduation and continue her job at a digital marketing start-up in Cincinnati.

She joined the program looking for professional guidance. Networking is important, she said, and though she has a LinkedIn profile, the opportunity to meet with a fellow Flyer who has been in her shoes and has been successful was invaluable. She expects the relationship to continue.

Miller said the benefits of a mentor-mentee relationship are not stressed enough in society, and he was excited to have the chance to participate in this new program, which he believes will shape the lives of many future graduates.

"I have had the benefit of having some incredible mentors in my life, and I wanted to pay it forward. The best advice I can offer graduates is to continually look for mentors throughout your life and to have many of them. One person cannot know everything, so it is always wise to have multiple counselors in multiple areas. One thing I have learned from my mentors is that two things will determine where you end up in life: the people you associate with and the books that you read."

Bianchi took that advice to heart.

"Brett emphasized that the learning doesn't stop after graduation," she said. "It's your responsibility to take charge of your life and continue to grow and broaden your horizons. A great way to do so is to keep up to date with professional books such as The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz, which Brett recommended and kindly gave me a copy of."

30,000th diploma

About two-thirds through the undergraduate ceremony on Sunday, University of Dayton President Daniel J. Curran will hand out his 30,000th diploma since taking the helm in 2002. 

Nearly 30 percent of the 107,204 living University of Dayton alumni have graduated during that time.

By mere coincidence, dietetics major Alyssa Shallberg of Chicago will be the one to receive the milestone diploma. 

"I was a little surprised when I got the e-mail. It's cool, though, and it's going to make graduation a little more special."

Shallberg plans to return home to work over the summer, then she's moving to Boston in the fall to pursue a career as a dietitian.

For more information, contact Shawn Robinson, associate director of news and communications, at 937-229-3391 or