What's Ahead for Our Graduates?

“If you haven’t gotten the ideal job yet, don’t take any job! Be bold and creative: take a year off. Look for great leadership development opportunities. Become a volunteer math or science teacher in underserved communities in America or in poor villages in Africa, South America or Asia.”

With this challenge, our 2009 Commencement speaker, Coleman Fung IEOR ’87, sent our graduates into the world on Saturday, May 23 in Berkeley’s Greek Theatre. Yes, this is a time of economic distress and record unemployment. Yet we are confident our 1,200 new owners of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral diplomas will find ways to be forces for innovation and recovery.

“This is definitely a year for patience, persistence and flexibility in the job search,” says Tom Devlin, director of the campus career center. Tom notes that the college job market may not be as grim as the general job market. “A major firm could be laying off workers, but still hiring college graduates,” he tells me. In addition, many employers continue to put a high value on a UC Berkeley degree.

At the same time, the College of Engineering has seen a 14.6 percent increase in applications for our graduate programs. Mechanical engineering senior Christopher Chaplin, for example, was job hunting up until March of this year.

“Then I learned I had a chance to go to grad school,” says Christopher. “One compelling reason to stay in school is to wait for this recession to pass.” He will enter Berkeley’s Ph.D. program in mechanical engineering this fall. His dream? “I’d like to start a biotech company and then become a professor.”

As contrary as it may seem, there is no better time for engineering graduates to think big about the impact they can make. Coleman Fung put it best when he told our graduates, “The word ‘engineer’ is derived from the Latin ingenium, meaning innate talent or ability. We must apply our engineering ingenuity to a much wider range of social, economic, environmental and political problems.”

I welcome your thoughts and ideas.

S. Shankar Sastry

Dean, College of Engineering
Roy W. Carlson Professor of EECS, BioE & ME
Director, Blum Center for Developing Economies
Email Dean Sastry