Opinion: Students Are Under-Prepared Following Graduation

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – Chuck Schumer tells the same story every year, one about following a girl or taking a job. While his story always ends the same way – he follows the girl, and implores Marist graduates to take the other path – current graduates are experiencing mixed levels of post-graduation anxiety.

“I have a little bit of apprehension,” explained senior communications student David Salamone. “but I felt the same way going from high school to college, and it turned out fine obviously.”

Salamone, one of roughly 1,600 seniors at Marist College, is amongst the middle of the pack, a group in which students are concerned, but cautiously optimistic. He’s not alone in such a sentiment, as his classmate and fellow communications student, Lawrence Lang, echoes the idea that everything will end up fine.

“I mean, I never thought I’d see graduation because of health issues,” Lang says. “But I have a summer job. I’ll worry about a Fall job when the time comes… for now, I’ll be okay.”

In fact, most students are okay. The college’s class of 2015 saw 97-percent of graduates go on to become employed or attend graduate school following their graduation. The webpage on which these stats are found provides a bit of a caveat; an asterisk that reads, “Marist provides an environment for success, however it does not guarantee job placement or entrance/acceptance into graduate school.” This is true of any school, but it makes for an interesting conversation. Plenty of students know the statistics. So why are they still nervous?

A survey conducted by Monster.com, a site well-known for its career services, shows that 75-percent of students immediately following their graduation don’t have jobs lined up. Another 37-percent don’t believe that they’ll find the job they desire. And yet again, the final stat recorded further breaks the record: 97.8-percent of college graduates do find employment.

But that’s the issue. Students believe that, eventually, they will find a job, but some I spoke with feel as though they’re not prepared nearly enough. Career services seems to be an office with doors that are always open, but advice that sometimes borders on flaccid. The resume tips, the indeed.com links, and the cover letter workshops are nice. How preparatory are they really?

To investigate, I attended a resume consultation back in March. I walked in with a resume that I had submitted to dozens of internships at the time, and one that I presume had acted as an assistant in my getting an internship this summer (which, at the time, I had already been offered and accepted). The office suggested that I change my resume’s format, as well as remove certain accolades/information in order to achieve more success with applications. I took their advice, applied for a few more internships. I didn’t hear back.

This experiment may have flaws, but it’s interesting to note that based on prior intuition, experience in other classes, and advice from professors rather than career advisers, I was able to achieve an internship. Is this the office’s error? That, I certainly cannot say. But I did find that my advisers in the communication internship department provided vastly superior and far more informative advice. With their help, I believe this internship was achievable. Students are stressed. It’s understandable as to why.

To help, though, Monster provided some steps, all of which you can find on their site. They feel as though most students worry because their resume isn’t done. So they suggest those students visit a professional who can provide a resume assessment. Maybe students are freaking out about their interviews (33-percent of respondents are terrified of the daunting Q&As). Practice, receive consult, and master your answers, perhaps. And some simply have anxiety related to not knowing what their dream job is quite yet. The truth is? Most people don’t.

The preparation may be limited. The anxiety may see a hike as graduation day closes in. But take it from David Salamone: this is normal.

“This is just how life works. You start new chapters. There’s uncertainty, but you’ll eventually start something new.”

Meaghan Roche’s Unshakeable Endgame

As a kid, Meaghan Roche wanted to be an author. She, unlike many millennial students, was a big reader, and hoped that someday, she would “be able to say [she] wrote a whole book that people wanted to read and would enjoy as much as I would.” While her desires have taken a slight turn since, she still loves the idea of writing something that is meaningful. “That much hasn’t changed.”

The Roche’s ties to the Hudson Valley have always kept Meaghan, now a senior communication student on track for a Spring graduation, relatively aware of Marist. “I’ve been familiar with the area my whole life… it holds a special place in my heart. I know what you’re thinking,” she says. “Really? Poughkeepsie? Yeah, I love it here.” It has been clear for some time that Meaghan belonged at Marist, specifically in the school’s Center for Sports Communication. Her love for the school came long before her enrollment.

“It was the first college I ever toured, and I first saw the “old” Marist,” she remembered. “The Marist before the dining hall ‘looked like Hogwarts” and the rotunda wasn’t nearly as impressive – back when I tagged along on my older brother’s college tours when I was just a freshman in high school. From that day on, I silently and selfishly hoped he wouldn’t choose to go to Marist because I wanted to go there and I didn’t want to go to the same college as him.”

After holding out hope on what was not an uncommon sentiment for a younger sibling, she got her wish. Even before arriving, Meaghan knew that this was her school. This was, as a matter of fact, her home. The opportunities were endless, as the old cliché goes, and Meaghan witnessed that firsthand, even before arriving.

“During my senior year [of high school], I got an email from Keith Strudler [the department’s former director] inviting me to come to one of the Center for Sports Communication’s Speaker Series events, featuring sportswriter Jeremy Schaap,” she said. Even though the event fell amidst a holiday break, Meaghan made the trip, needing to experience the environment. “Marist was already my number one school; there wasn’t much left that the campus itself needed to prove to me. But what stood out to me the most was how well spoken and interested the students were that asked questions of Schaap. I wanted to be one of them.”

Center for Sports Communication

When Center Field first began publishing, Meaghan was immediately named Executive Editor. Whilst, at that time, not having a relationship aside from “fellow classmate” with co-founders Matt Rzodkiewicz and Marco Schaden, they quickly became some of her closest friends. As time went on, Meaghan continued to climb the ranks. She has since served as Deputy Editor-in-Chief, and will be the site’s EIC starting in January of 2019. It didn’t start out that way.

“I get an email from the department about Center Field, and I go to the first meeting and sign up for what I’m interested in, but I asked the kids who seemed to be in charge if they needed someone to be an editor. They didn’t really seem to have a solid answer for me,” she says, just citing a classic Marco moment. She wasn’t entirely sure, especially at the beginning, that this publication would go anywhere, nor that she’d be so heavily involved.

“A few weeks go by, and I hadn’t really heard anything, until one day I ran into Leander [Schaerlaeckens] on the way to class. He asked if I had gotten involved and I told him I had expressed interest in editing, I’m a proofreader for the writing center, I’m good at it, I like it,” she says. “He passes on my info; I get an email from Marco later that day asking me to come to their meeting. I walked in there thinking I would just help out with copyediting the stories. I walked out of there with the title “Executive Editor.” Two semesters later, the Center is my second home, and my Center Field co-editors are my second family.”

That second family has gotten Meaghan opportunities to work with Baseball Miracles and McMillan Publishing, just two of the high profile opportunities she hopes to garner experience from in her employment search. She’s a weird journalist, one that refuses to drink coffee (see her Twitter bio). But she’s a journalist nonetheless; one with the passion and authentic drive to find success wherever she may go.

Marist Sports Communication Begins New Era with Upcoming Curriculum Changes

POUGHKEEPSIE, New York – In the coming months, the Marist College Department of Communications looks to revamp and reinvent a specific curriculum for sports communication students. With the department’s consistent growth and new director hire in Jane McManus, the curriculum’s committee feels as though it is the best and perfect time.

“Our sports [communication] curriculum is one of the oldest in country, but it has also not been updated,” said Leander Schaerlaeckens, the department’s primary lecturer and former interim director. “We felt that it was time to sort of move it along and get it more in line now with where the industry is in the 21st century.”

The department, which was founded in 2011, was directed by Keith Strudler from then until 2016. There were plenty of opportunities for students within, both curricular and extracurricular. Strudler and his friend and colleague, Geoff Brault, who serves as the play-by-play man for Marist Womens Basketball and football, hosted a student-produced radio show called “The Classroom.” It allowed students to take on fill-in hosting, producer, and audio technician roles, each closely mirroring professional roles with similar responsibilities. Strudler also employed multiple student interns, most of whom were involved through the radio show, but others who would help organize speaker events and attend events housed in New York City, like the summer of 2016’s Sports PR Summit, for which Marist was the academic sponsor.

sports comm

Curricular options, however, remain the same that they did in 2011. Classes like Sports Culture and Communication, Issues in Sports Media, and Sports Reporting have long-been staples in the department’s offerings. The current classes, as Schaerlaeckens mentioned, are quite impactful on an entry level basis. The problem, though, is that students find that they only scratch the surface. Students have noticed, too.

“I think that redesigning the curriculum can provide a more comprehensive knowledge of the field for sports communication students,” said junior sports communication student Lily Caffrey-Levine. “Right now the professors are great, and in the focused classes we do have right now, it is possible to get a lot out of them. But the fact is, people take sports communications classes as electives and that takes away from those in the class who are trying to get a lot out of it when it’s being treated as an elective.”

The department and the offerings within have evolved during just the few months that Jane McManus has been at the helm. Upon arrival, McManus brought in multiple student interns to assist with speaker events, website development, and even jobs as mundane, however necessary, as transcribing podcasts from students. Prior to McManus’s hiring, the student publication, Center Field, was born. This type of innovation hadn’t been explored by the department, and its development has been instrumental for students hoping to find post-graduation opportunities. This, however, was something the curriculum hadn’t done beforehand, at least according to some of its earliest-enrolled students.

“It seemed like our curriculum was not thought through with the ultimate goal of getting us jobs on the other side,” said Matt Rzodkiewicz, a former sports communication major at Marist and now an employee of MLB Network. “It was based on ideas, which is problematic and simply not practical. If it weren’t for vast extracurriculars I would not be able to market myself at all.”

Hopefully, and ideally, the new curriculum fixes these issues and vets out future quibbles. Schaerlaeckens has already laid the groundwork on an upper elective Special Topics class based around Center Field. In addition, he has hinted at a class centered around statistics and analytics, as well as a sports literature class. Fluctuating enrollment numbers hasn’t stopped interest in the department. The hopes of McManus, Schaerlaeckens, and students alike are to ensure that curriculum changes will only help interest grow.

“Upstate” Charm of a Theater with the Same Name

As you pull out of Marist College, you can turn two ways.

Turning right will take you in the direction of the Poughkeepsie Galleria Mall, a shopping center that houses one of the country’s 558 Regal Cinemas. The theater is a dime a dozen, with uniformed staff members and police officers guarding the back entrance in case of any high-schooler induced chaos. It offers a copious number of showtimes for films like “What Men Want,” “Aquaman,” “Escape Room,” and more.

Turning left will greet you with a scenic and winding 25-minute drive to Rhinebeck and its crowned jewel, Upstate Films. Showtimes begin around 3:00 p.m., on most days, at least. It is so delightfully modest and valued that its size of facility and staff is misleading. The town is one that shuts down around 6 p.m. It’s pristine and pleasing; that’s the way everyone likes it. It also wouldn’t be what it is without this particularly charming entity.

“I mean, there’s no question that Rhinebeck without Upstate would not be Rhinebeck,” said Joel Griffith, an employee of Upstate Films for 23 years. “Because it’s unique and because it’s not a chain… it’s local flavor. You can go to a Regal anywhere in the country and everything is the same… this is not a commercial experience.”

Founded in 1972 by Steve and DeDe Lieber, Upstate Films has been a staple in the culture of Rhinebeck for 47 years. Since the beginnings of the humble, non-profit arthouse theater, the Liebers has expanded to two theaters, another housed in an old church in Woodstock. Their screens have doubled from one to two in Rhinebeck, giving them the opportunity to showcase more of the art that inspired them to start this project in the first place.

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The Woodstock Theater, housed inside an old church

In 1972, Rhinebeck was nowhere near what it is today. Now, its main stretch of road is filled with shops that are pictured next to the dictionary definition of the word “kitsch.” It’s the type of town that TV-producers love to film in and people love to say they’ve been. It wasn’t always. Once, there was a tavern and a few shops that would be accessed on occasion by those close by.

“Rhinebeck really only had a couple stores… and [the town] was like, ‘well, either try a Chinese restaurant or a movie theater. We’ll try it for, like, a year, maybe. That’s their story,” Griffith said of the Lieber’s, his bosses for two decades. “They didn’t do the Chinese restaurant, obviously.”

The decision has worked. Beyond the aesthetic appreciation of their community, the film community as a greater population has congregated from bordering towns. It’s a humble home for these moviegoers, one that acts as more of an experience than anything else. Membership nears 3,000, because of the people’s desire to, according to Griffith, “see good movies” and the Lieber’s desire to show good movies.

“They want to show good movies. They want to show movies that are thought-provoking, and beautiful, and from all over the world,” Griffith continued. “All the mall movies are the same. Whether it’s Iron Man or Spider-Man, it’s just a lot of explosions. For the cinephiles, this is the place.”