Two students begin their careers early as graduating seniors

University Park, Pa. -- For class of 2008 graduates Becky Ferguson, a nutritional science major, and Jenna Spinelle, a journalism major, working for Penn State's College of Information Sciences and Technology seemed an unlikely next step after graduation.

Ferguson, a State College native, said she began to lose interest working professionally in the health field last fall when she got a more hands on feel in the classroom for the kind of work she would have to do in a typical nutrition job. She said it just didn't fit into what she wanted in a career. But she's not disappointed that she spent four years studying a discipline she won't be entering professionally.

"I liked what I was doing and I can always pull things that I've learned from there to what I'm doing now," she said. "I just feel more comfortable working outside of nutrition."

Ferguson, who is an external relations assistant in IST, said she discovered an interest in her new career field while interning with the Women's Leadership Initiative. She liked working behind the scenes in higher education and began looking for jobs in that field at  Penn State. By April 15, she was working 20 hours a week at her new position while finishing up her senior year. Ferguson is glad she took advantage of educational programs offered outside the classroom at Penn State, since they gave her opportunities for lifelong learning and aided her in discovering who she is and where her interests lie.

"I'm really pleased with the job," she said. "My first week was leading up to the Blue-White Game and I got to help with a lot of the events we were doing for that. It gave me a good idea of my role -- it was better than I expected."

Ferguson said she enjoys meeting alumni, working at social events, scheduling trips for her supervisors and learning more about the technology field. She said she's still pretty new to the position and is eager to learn more of her responsibilities. She hopes to get a master's degree in higher education at Penn State as well.

For Spinelle, working as a writer/editor for the college is more appealing to her than working for a newspaper -- she interned and worked at several while going to school -- because she said her job has a broader purpose. She still gets to talk to people and write stories, but now she is broadening her skill set by writing about research and getting the word out about the work done at Penn State.

Spinelle started looking for a job at Penn State in January and was hired by the college by Feb. 13. Her first day was March 5 and she's been working 25-30 hours since, while finishing up her senior year and writing her honors thesis, which focused on media law, in the Schreyer Honors College.

"It's been rough at times balancing everything out. But I've always been goal oriented anyway, so I've learned through the years to set deadlines and manage my time," Spinelle said. "It helps me stay motivated when the people around me are supportive. My boss always said school comes first."

Spinelle said sometimes she envied classmates she saw shopping or relaxing at Starbucks, while she was rushing home to write a paper after spending all day at work. But she was comforted by the fact that she had a job after graduation and they might not. Her family is also glad.

"My parents are thrilled I found a full-time job and I won't be moving home," she said. "They are both very hard-working people and have instilled a strong work ethic in me."

Ferguson said that although her professors were surprised she's not staying in the field since she did well in her classes and was a leader in a few of the College of Health and Human Development clubs, those closest to her were not shocked about her decision. Her mother works at Penn State and her brother just finished his freshman year, so they're glad she won't be leaving Happy Valley anytime soon.

Starting today (May 15), just a few days before graduation, both Spinelle and Ferguson become full-time Penn State employees. They are excited about their new roles at Penn State and seem eager to take advantage of all the opportunities offered to those working at Penn State.


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Last Updated November 18, 2010