So you’re graduating, now what? 

The Beacon asked six professors to give advice to the soon to be graduates

By Fiona O'Brien | April 27, 2021 9:45pm

UP's class of 2021 graduates in less than two weeks. To honor their contributions to the community and prepare them for the road ahead, The Beacon asked six professors to give their best advice to the soon to be graduates.

Collage by Molly Lowney. Images courtesy of Unsplash and Pexels.

When we committed to UP four years ago, we had it all planned out. We were ready to walk through the academic quad with the cherry blossoms in full bloom around us. We were ready to wait in the astonishingly long line at Mack's market, and even sit through the occasional brutally boring lecture. But this, this we were not ready for. 

The class of 2021 was not ready to face an online graduation. The class of 2021 was not ready to be graduating into an uncharted job market that was mostly remote. 

In light of this, UP professors from a variety of departments have come together to give the class of 2021 heartfelt advice to help guide them in the coming months, and even years. 

Fr. Pat Hannon, English 

“Love and love and love until you don’t think you can love anymore. And then love some more.  Be generous to everyone you encounter, especially the ones who don’t deserve such graciousness. And create your own life syllabus: read what brings you pleasure, pursue the projects you are most passionate about, and write — with ink of your lives — the story you were meant to tell. It will, I promise, be riveting.”

Shaz Vijlee, Engineering

“Take some time. You don’t have to figure it all out right away. You might feel a sense of urgency to find the perfect job or the right company, but right now is about exploring.  Try something. Try a lot of things.  Don’t be flippant, but don’t be too serious either.  You’ll have a long career to figure it out, so just be open-minded and be willing to explore. Right now isn’t about doing what you love; it is about trying to find what you like to do.”

“Remember that you are about to start a job where you know very little about what you are supposed to do. There won’t be classes, office hours, tutoring, etc. That is okay. You have spent 4-ish years learning how to learn all the things you’ll need to learn. Trust that you can figure things out with support, desire, and resourcefulness.”

UP's class of 2021 graduates in less than two weeks. The Beacon asked six professors to give their best advice to the soon to be graduates.

Photo illustration by Molly Lowney.

Holy Simpson, Nursing

“If you haven’t already - work to develop relationships with faculty and staff who might serve as a trusted mentor for you as you seek job opportunities and ways to further your skills and network post-graduation. I’ve provided many recommendations and references for students, sometimes even a year or two after graduation! In these, it helps so much to have built a relationship where I know the student's goals, interests, and strengths! Reaching out to strengthen these relationships as a senior can be of benefit for years to come.”

Tara Presthold, Biology

“I’m a scientist… so I know that whether you are wading through tide pools or swimming upstream, you need to be prepared. So what is the gear our seniors need post graduation? 

Sure, we gave you a curriculum. But I hope we’ve given you the sense that you belong to something bigger. That each and every one of you has a place in the system that is this wild world. And each one of you has a responsibility for how your choice affects the system that has given you so much. You all came to UP with a limited vantage point, and you are leaving with a duty to discern and critique propaganda and hyperbole. Hopefully you learned how to be a good leader - and that to be a good leader means to be of good service. You have to consider the talents and ideas of all those before, during, and after you. 

And I want to acknowledge the sadness. The future is more uncertain than any other class before you. From covid to climate change to the social injustices that are being done around the world… it is a difficult time. It is also a time of opportunity. An opportunity to think about things differently. An invitation even, to do more and to do better than any other class before you. And I can’t wait to see and hear what you do.”

Jennifer Bird, Theology

“I hope that what [seniors] can bring from UP is an appreciation of what it means to have a conversation. What you get from the humanities, I think is that there is an appreciation for the fact that there are many perspectives on any one issue. And so respecting and learning from pursuing other people’s perspectives and experiences.”

Gary Malecha, Political Science 

“I think when I graduated college I thought everything was going to be this really nice neat plan I was going to unfold in a certain way, but it didn't, there were things that happened. I had to adapt to new environments, changes, and in many respects, I think it made life much more exciting and rewarding. As a result of that, I mean. So often we have this vision in terms of what life is going to be like and it doesn't turn out that way, but rather than being disappointed I think we can seize the moment and seize the opportunity to take advantage of that, I think that's really something quite good and really quite rewarding as well.”

Fiona O’Brien is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at

Havi Stewart contributed to this story. She can be reached at