Gabby Coons: confident and scared to death.
James Wolfe: ready and determined.
Kayla St. Marie: glad but nervous.
Ethan Sherwood: prepared and ready to move into the next chapter.
Castleton seniors are days away from stepping out into their chosen fields, but first they must practice their best marching and their best smiles for the post-ceremony photos.
For Gabby Coons, a native of Richford, Vermont who will graduate with a public relations concentrated Media and Communication degree, plans set in stone for after Castleton – at least as far as staying in Vermont.
Even though she will be graduating, she is looking to stay in the area and has been interviewed for a couple different jobs; one at a publishing company and the other at Killington.
When asked what Castleton has taught her, she had a lot to expand on.
“Academically, I’ve been taught to trust my instincts and especially in the PR field. You always have to be on your toes and learn what’s coming up next because in the social media and communication world, everything is always changing,” she said.
But even though Coons has had fulfilling training through her classes, especially her portfolio class, she is fearful of the unknown after graduation.
“I am scared that I won’t know what to do. I’m scared that I’m going to get out in the real world and not know what the next step is,” she said.
Wolfe spent this semester student teaching math to seventh- and eighth-grade students. He said he’s thankful for the time has spent here, and for all of the teachable moments he received in and out of the classroom.
“Within mathematics, it teaches a person to think logically and analyze data, whether it’s quantitative or qualitative. Any job requires that. Thanks to mathematics, I will be able to think logically, develop something of greater quality due to being able to analyze and manipulate data,” he said.
After graduation, Wolfe is looking to go into his field of study and continue to educate students at the secondary level.
“Even though I don’t have specifics, I hope to continue educating people no matter what manner it is,” he said.
Sherwood, from Montgomery, New York, will be walking across the stage at graduation and receiving a diploma with business administration and communication on it.
Unlike many graduates, he has a pretty solid plan.
“I’m going home and the Monday after graduation I’m probably going to start working for my family’s business, Sohn’s Appliance Center. I’ll be COO, Chief Operating Officer,” he said.
Sherwood said he has been taught a multitude of things at Castleton, but he highlighted learning new operating styles of business. He mentioned new marketing strategies to improve business through social media and other mediums.
St. Marie is taking a different path, headed to grad school, but she plans to work in her field until then.
“I hope to get an entry-level job in the field because the loan payments are going to kick in. I’m still searching for jobs right now, but the real plan is grad school,” she said.
Throughout her time at Castleton, she has been fascinated by the different fields of psychology. Ideally, she would like to start with industrial and organizational psychology, the study of applying psychological theories to organizations.
But while continuing her education is the plan, St. Marie has worried about picking a focused field and the debt to follow.
“I really think debt is a scary factor for a lot of college students. I just did the exiting loan counseling, not going to lie to you, that’s not a fun time. It’s something you’re going to be paying off for 10 or more years, definitely more if you’re planning on grad school,” she said.
St. Marie also mentioned a fear of picking the “wrong thing” when she continues her education.
“Putting in so much time, energy and money for the wrong thing and ending up with a career I’m not happy with is something I’m trying to get ahead of. That’s why I’m looking to get a job in the field and make sure that’s what I want to do before I put myself into more debt.”
Graduation time is interesting and sometimes tough time for professors too, who watch students grow from freshman to senior year.
Adam Chill, an associate professor and Global Studies Program coordinator, describes the moment of seeing those seniors cross the stage as “bittersweet.”
“It’s tough because I know that I won’t see them in my office and in my classes again but it’s also very happy because I know they are going to go out and make a difference in the world,” he said.
Even though graduation is a time of celebration for the students and professors, Andre Fleche, professor of History, Geography, Economics, Politics, said that he enjoys the commencement but isn’t the biggest fan of knowing he will miss them. He also mentioned the celebration with students and their parents as rewarding.
“It’s a great feeling to know that a student has gained the knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to succeed in the world. I’m always excited for the opportunities that will come their way,” Fleche said.
Scott Roper, professor and chair of the History, Geography, Economics, Politics department, said graduation isn’t the end of his relationship with students.
“I keep in touch with a lot of students I’ve had in the past, even some from the tenure-track job I held in Texas before I came to Castleton,” he said.
It’s important to celebrate the accomplishments of surviving their years of college. Professor Roper can testify to it.
“The greatest thing about graduation is seeing the profound sense of accomplishment that graduates feel. One of the joys of being a professor is that I get to see not only the journey that our students travel but also to celebrate this great achievement at the end of the journey with the new graduates and their parents.”