Mueller announces creation of 125 jobs for graduates
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University President Brian Mueller meets with students regularly, and he was troubled by what many soon-to-be graduates told him the last few weeks: They didn’t have a job lined up as they prepared for Winter Commencement.
“There are a lot of students not sure what they’re going to do,” he said.
He kept reading articles that made him even more concerned.
“The pandemic has hit recent college grads almost as hard as anybody,” he said. “They’re out there competing against people who have been laid off and have significant experience for these jobs.”
It left him asking a simple question:
“Can we do more?”
Saturday, the graduates found out the answer – and learned, once again, the lengths Mueller and GCU are willing to go to make sure their degrees earn them gainful employment.
At both ceremonies, Mueller announced a new initiative in which the University will seek to provide jobs for them in four ways:
- At a cost of approximately $1 million, GCU and Grand Canyon Education are teaming up to create 125 entry-level full-time jobs that will begin Jan. 11 and continue through April if graduates want to stay that long. They are free to leave at any time if they find another job and can sign up by emailing [email protected]. More than 100 grads expressed interest after the ceremonies.
- The University will help interested students find support positions with one of the many K-12 schools that are GCU partners. These are jobs that don’t require teacher certification, such as paraprofessionals, instructional assistants and substitute teachers, but could be the impetus to pursuing that certification if the graduate’s interest is piqued.
- GCU’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program is an avenue that students with a bachelor’s degree can access to qualify for a nursing job in 16 months.
- With more than 500 companies represented on its 15 advisory boards, the University is well-positioned to get resumes in the hands of those employers.
Considering how much GCU has invested in its Academic & Career Excellence (ACE) Centers and Strategic Employer Initiatives and Internships (SEI) department, the graduates shouldn’t have been surprised. This story from the April 2020 issue of GCU Magazine spelled out those efforts.
But Saturday’s announcement still was extraordinary given how many industries – including higher education – are cutting jobs, not adding them.
“We are committed to students’ success from start to finish,” said Sarah Boeder, Executive Vice President of Campus Operations. “We are in the middle of a pandemic, and we don’t want to leave them stranded now. More than ever, I think, they need guidance and support, and I’m just proud to work for a university that continues to invest in students, even after they graduate.”
It’s a win-win for the University. Boeder said the pandemic has resulted in many potential GCU students delaying their college decision, and she expects a surge of late enrollments. Bringing in an army of grads to support the Admissions and Student Services departments will help meet the demand.
There’s another benefit for students who live outside Arizona: They won’t have to try to find work in a state where lockdowns are more daunting.
“A lot of them are not ready to go home to that,” she said. “There’s certainly joy for the holidays and ‘can’t wait to see my family,’ but also apprehension – ‘What’s my life going to look like next month?’”
Mueller believes their life will look pretty good if they utilize the second of the four options and work in a school – especially if they’re put in front of a classroom.
“I tell people all the time, the best training I ever got for leading, for public speaking was seven years of high school teaching,” he said. “When you have to get up in front of 30 kids six times a day and lead them, you have to organize them, you have to motivate them, you have to entertain them, you have to build a relationship with them because 16- and 17-year-olds, if you’re not any good, they’ll be pretty direct about that.
“Whether you’re going to be a teacher long term or not, it’s a great way to get into the workforce. There are just so many teaching skills that are transferrable.”
In his Commencement talk, Mueller told the graduates that he knows what it’s like to feel “stuck” in your career, but it’s hardly anything new. Jobs were scarce in the first century, he noted, which is why Colossians 3:23-24 stressed the importance of who the real boss is:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Mueller said it comes down to this: “Work hard and be a great teammate.”
Having any sort of Commencement ceremony at all certainly was hard work that did not go unnoticed by the graduates, who also lauded the pledge to help them find work if they need it. (See their reaction here.)
Organizers positioned the graduates at least 6 feet apart on the floor of GCU Arena and throughout the lower bowl, the masked graduates came to the stage to receive their diploma jackets in one line and the traditional “tunnel walk” – in which employees staffing the event applaud the grads as they exit the Arena – was largely outside.
It was one more challenge met head on by creative administrators and cooperative students.
“I think students have done what they needed to do to get us to the end of the semester. Look, here we are – the semester was over yesterday and Commencement is today. That’s a good thing,” said Dr. Tim Griffin, Vice President of Student Affairs, Dean of Students and University Pastor.
The challenges faced by the student speaker for the morning ceremony, Araceli Wills of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, fit right in with these times. Both she and her husband tested positive for the coronavirus, she said, but she wasn’t looking for sympathy.
“Every single person in this room has had to overcome their own battles with COVID,” she added.
That’s why holding an in-person Commencement was so important (“We all needed something to celebrate,” she said), but the events of the last nine months also inspired her to inject this:
“It isn’t my expectation or hope that the class of 2020 will do something great. I know we will – because we already have.”
But some of them, through no fault of their own, need a little assistance right now.
“We’re just trying to keep thinking about how we can keep helping kids get started,” Mueller said.
Can we do more?
He didn’t need to answer the question. Consider it done.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].