Career fair peaceful, productive

Job-seekers connected with employers at the All Majors Job & Internship Fair.
(Left to right) Students Crystal Zhang, Hin Chen, and Kevin Zhang dressed for success for the fair. (Photos by Gwen Mickelson)

Dressed in a smart gray business suit and pearls, senior Amanda Wentz said she was looking for a job in marketing at Tuesday's All Majors Job & Internship Fair, held in the College Nine/Ten Multipurpose Room.

The fact the military was at the event seemed fair to her, though she herself didn't plan on approaching the tables set up by the U.S Army or the U.S. Marine Corps Officer Programs.

"It's nice to have a wide array of options, and that includes the military," Wentz, 21, said. "I wouldn't want to stop anyone from going there."

Days after UCSC received a $100,000 grant in support of its veterans' programs, the annual job fair--which includes military recruiters and has, in the past, been the site of vigorous anti-military and anti-war protests--proceeded peacefully and without demonstration.

The College Nine/Ten Co-curricular Programs Office maintained a booth outside the fair where students Alex Fischl and Lyric Kelkar quietly made buttons proclaiming slogans such as, "Peace is Patriotic" and "We need a Department of Peace."

"I think they have every right to be here," said Kelkar, referring to military recruiters. "But I don't agree with their policies, necessarily."

The lack of spirited protest could be attributable to the election of President Obama, said Felicia McGinty, vice chancellor for Student Affairs.

"I think it's because of the new administration and the different emphasis on ending the war," McGinty said. "This time last year, we didn't know who was going to be president."

Things went well at the Army and Marines tables, said recruiters.

"It's always refreshing just to be here and not have to interact with protestors," said Capt. Brian Lionbarger, officer selection officer for the United States Marine Corps. "It's more focused on the students."

"We're glad to be here," said Staff Sergeant Alan Beckwith of the United States Army. "A lot of students tell me they're looking for something that looks good on a resume and offers leadership experience."

Beckwith said he's seen more interest than usual from students over the past few months. That increase, he said, may stem from the new GI Bill signed into law last year, which will cover the full cost of education at any public school in the country and many private schools.

In a telling indicator of the state of the economy, the number of employers at this year's fair was less than half of last year's, according to McGinty. Eighty employers were at the fair last year; this year, there were 37.

The number of students attending dropped, too, from 750 last year to 487 this year, according to Acting Career Center Director Barbara Silverthorne. She said the drop likely corresponded to the decrease in employers, but added, "We're happy to help students look in other ways by having them come into our office and talk with advisers."

Overall, she said, the employers at the fair "were pleased with the quality of students they were seeing, and that's good for everyone."

At the table for the Lash Group, a reimbursement services firm in San Bruno, Christy Shoung said she was impressed with the students she was seeing.

"I've had a number of students who've researched the company," she said. "That means they're prepared."

Prepared or not, finding a job in the today's struggling economy will be a challenge, something that was not lost on the students attending the fair. But they held onto their sense of optimism.

"I feel unlucky," said Crystal Zhang, 24, who is earning a master's degree in economics and finance. "Before, there were jobs just for our skill set. Now we have to find other things we can also do. We'll just have to try harder."