By Frank Stanko
College students differ on importance of returning to their hometowns after graduation
David Hall is a third-year student of North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton. He is originally from Minneapolis and will graduate in May. According to David, he plans to return home and further his education in business management.
Currently, he is an employee of NDSCS’ Student Success Center, where he often assists students with their registration, explains how the campus works or directs them to the resources they need. He is also employed outside of campus.
“I have been in the work field quite a bit,” he said. “(I’m returning to Minnesota) because family is there and that’s where my home base is. I know the area around there better than here.”
Family, having a network of support and working in comfortable surroundings is a priority for him. Other students feel the same way.
“My dream scenario is working as director or administrator of a smaller, specialized clinic, in a field like pediatrics,” Trevor Schommer said. “I like to figure out efficient ways of doing things and getting people working together. That’s my background. I’m from a smaller town, Munich, North Dakota, and I feel more comfortable in a smaller situation.”
Schommer is a student coordinator at Altru Health System in Grand Forks, North Dakota. While an undergraduate at the University of North Dakota, Schommer interned for Altru. Along with his full-time employment, he’s pursuing a master of business administration (MBA) degree at the university.
Although the MBA program offers a lot of avenues, Schommer said, having a specialized field of study takes a lot of stress off. As student coordinator, he works with Altru’s job shadowing program, which helps high school students better decide their career fields.
“Knowing what you want to do before you make that financial commitment releases a lot of that burden,” he said.
Officials like Jane Vangsness Frisch, vice president of NDSCS Student Affairs Office, agree. She knows that most of its graduates remain in North Dakota and largely in the local area. To promote this, NDSCS not only works closely with employers, but has conversations with students at the start of their education.
“What we do is, we work closely with those employers and ask, ‘Do you think you’re going to have a job opening, especially in the trade or technical areas? And if so, have you considered establishing that relationship with a student as they’re coming into the institution?’ which are often called sponsorships,” she said.
Sponsorship, Vangsness Frisch continued, includes both monetary support and allowing students connections with the fields they’re hoping to enter. Students are informed of the benefits of staying in North Dakota, both through events like annual career fairs and the school’s online job posting system.
“We have over 1,500 jobs that are posted every year on that online job posting website,” she said. “Students are able to access that not only when they are a student, but also when they are an alumni. You could have graduated five years ago and said, ‘You know, I want to go to California and have that experience, but I want to come back to North Dakota.’”
An increased value toward the family unit and feelings of comfort is something she’s noticed among Millennial students, or those born between 1977-97, Vangsness Frisch said.
“They’re OK going back to live with mom and dad, and mom and dad are encouraging that as well. Not only for financial reasons, but for stability reasons. And so, helping them understand at the front end (of their education) how we will facilitate that (is a priority for NDSCS),” she continued.
Marcia Foss has spent 38 years as the director of career services for Valley City State University of Valley City, North Dakota. In her time, she’s seen many of the estimated 200 students Valley City graduates each year stay in North Dakota.
“Years ago, it was primarily students from North Dakota who wanted to stay in North Dakota. Maybe if you came from out of state, you stayed because you wanted to be with your circle of friends … Parents still play a big role in what their children do. Parental influence is still there and it’s very strong, whether you go where the opportunities are or you go back home,” she said.
Justin Lupkes, Wheaton, Minnesota, is a second year at NDSCS. Mason Rademacher, Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, is a first-year. Returning to their hometowns after graduation is of varying degrees of importance to them.
“I’m going to go into the workforce,” Lupkes said, who studies business. “I’ve applied for a couple jobs here at the school and back home. I worked here during the summer as well as part of a work study right now. I really enjoyed the people here on campus. A lot of the staff, they’ve become my second family. I really like the atmosphere here.”
Rademacher, who said that from day one, NDSCS has let him know how in demand he and fellow students are to the workforce, added that the campus provides many different perspectives on what students can do after they graduate.
“It also challenges you and through that challenge, (both) academically and being involved, it really pushes you to excel, so you’re prepared to move on and go into the workforce,” he added.
A liberal arts student with a pre-law emphasis, Rademacher said he’s looking at several transfer schools. He’s not entirely sure what he’s going to major in after graduating from NDSCS, just that he’ll continue his education.
“For me, it’s all about the experience and I feel I’ve lived at home for 19 years and for me the best thing to do is to probably go someplace different. I’m looking at a college in Nebraska, also some colleges here in North Dakota, with North Dakota State University and UND, but (I’ll) probably stay away from going back home … Trying to find that happy medium between a big city and a small town is what I look for,” he said.
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