Dec. 15 will be the day many seniors will bid Gannon University farewell during its annual winter commencement ceremony. The commencement will take place at 2 p.m., followed by a reception for graduates and their families in the Waldron Campus Center’s Yehl Ballroom.
President Keith Taylor, Ph.D., will award 186 diplomas, a number only slightly lower than last year’s 210 winter graduates.
Because not all graduates attend the ceremony, only 150 – 83 males and 67 females – of those will be present during the ceremony, according to Kathy DeSante, assistant to the provost.
Of the 186 degrees, 101 are bachelor’s degrees, 80 are masters, three are Ph.D.s, and two are associate degrees. Sixty-two of the students graduating are from the College of Engineering and Business, while 52 are from the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences and 36 come from the Morosky College of Health Professions and Sciences.
Graduates represent several countries. In addition to the United States, students from Australia, China, India, Jordan, Palestine, United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia and other countries will be graduating.
Richard John Hudic Jr., a ’91 alumnus who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, will be speaking during the commencement ceremony. He will also be receiving an honorary degree – Doctor of Humane Letters.
In 2010, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett appointed Hudic executive deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, where he focuses on community and local government assistance, business attraction and international development and initiatives that improve job creation and new growth in Pennsylvania, among other areas.
Hudic began his professional career as a job coach for adults with disabilities who were seeking meaningful employment at the Dr. Gertrude A. Barber Center in Erie. He then advanced his career filling several economy- and employment-related federal positions in Pennsylvania. He also held several positions both in the private and public sectors.
Among other recognitions, Hudic received the Distinguished Young Alumni Award from Gannon.
Also receiving a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree is Irwin Belk of Charlotte, N.C., the retired executive of Belk Stores who donated $100,000 to fund the Golden Knight statue installed in September.
One graduate student walking during the ceremony is senior theatre and communication arts major Luis Pontillo. While he does not have immediate post-graduation plans, Pontillo said he plans to move out of Erie in the future.
Pontillo works as a graphic and web design intern with Watts Water Technology based in Massachusetts, where he began his internship during the summer.
While his internship experience gives Pontillo a boost in the competitive job market, it doesn’t help calm his nerves about his upcoming task. “There is a nervous energy surrounding graduation,” he said. “I feel a bit excited and a bit nervous for the real world and jobs considering how the economy is doing.”
Pontillo said he had to teach himself a few skills he didn’t learn at Gannon for his internship, but his education at Gannon helped prepare him for the tasks he was given as well.
The U.S. job market is looking optimistic for 2014 graduates. According to research by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, employers are expecting to hire 7.8 percent more Class of 2014 grads than they hired from the Class of 2013.
Jim Finegan, director of Gannon’s Career and Development Services, said finding a job in the competitive economy depends on several factors, including the graduates’ job-searching techniques, their resume organization, the place they’re searching in, their flexibility about moving and the organization of their resume.
It also depends on how consistent and persistent the applicants are, Finegan added. Many believe they will find jobs within 2-3 months at the longest or that they may only have to send out 20-30 resumes, which is unrealistic.
“It’s important that students be realistic about approaching job search,” he said, “because if not, it can get very frustrating.”
The placement rate for undergraduate students at Gannon, Finegan said, has ranged between 88-89 percent over the last five years. Approximately half of these are employed in their major while the rest are continuing their education.
This compares to a higher 90-95 percent graduate-student placement, which Finegan attributed to the fact that graduate students already hold positions in their field, while simultaneously getting a degree.
The rates have dropped a bit in the last couple of years due to the recession, he added.
However, some disciplines see more growth than others. The same research from the NACE stated that finance, accounting, business administration, mechanical engineering, mathematics, communications and political science are among the majors in demand for 2014.
The research also cited some skills employers are looking for. These include teamwork, communication, organizational and analytical skills. Other skills include proficiency with computer software programs and the ability to create and edit written reports.
A winter graduation may present a disadvantage for some majors whose industries hire during the summer, such as Education, Finegan said. However, he added that many companies looking for business or accounting majors will often do their recruiting in the fall with the actual job starting at May.