The Pepperdine graduating class of 2023 has started to feel the pressure and bittersweetness of approaching adulthood.
Five seniors agreed that although they feel excited and have a sense of accomplishment at nearing the completion of their degrees, taking the first steps to adulthood is daunting.
For seniors Myles Dennis, Matthew Harvill, Naya Edwards, Angelo Tardivo Meza and Jordyn Everett, life before graduating Pepperdine has become a blend of emotions that are sweet but also tinged with sadness.
“Pepperdine brought me a passion to be around light-minded people,” said Dennis, a screen arts major. “You’re never gonna be here again, so take advantage of it.”
All five are nervous about their future and whether they will be successful. They said they’re worried about taxes, responsibilities and the possibility of friendships being lost.
Seniors’ plans after Pepperdine
The class of 2023 has already started searching for jobs or applying to graduate school.
“I applied to the psychology grad school here at Pepperdine,” said Everett, a psychology major. “I have also applied to Azusa Pacific University and University of La Verne.”
Edwards, a sports medicine major, said she doesn’t know what graduate school she wants to attend but she looks forward to pursuing her passion.
“I want to continue my studies at a physician assistant school,” Edwards said.
Dennis said he is proud of his accomplishments and is excited to start working.
“No grad school for me,” Dennis said. “I want to start my own freelance video production company.”
Harvill, an art history and Italian studies major, said he already designed a plan for the next two years after graduation.
“I’m going back home to Michigan to take a gap year and work at a museum,” Harvill said. “After I want to go abroad to Italy and study graduate school at Sapienza University of Rome.”
Tardivo Meza, an integrated marketing communication major, said he has started looking for jobs that suit his interest in business.
Students worried about life after graduation
Seniors believe the transition to the new chapter of their lives will be initially hard.
“It will be difficult at first,” Everett said. “Because I’m stepping into a new atmosphere outside being on a college campus.”
Everett said bills and housing responsibilities in California concern her.
Affordable housing in California can be tough to find. Citing data from the 2020 Census, Public Policy Institute of California researchers calculated that “the state added 3.2 times more people than housing units over the last 10 years,” Dan Walters wrote in a 2021 California Housing Crisis Article.
Harvill said he feels he doesn’t know much about paying bills or taxes.
“I’m worried about things the world doesn’t prepare you for and you have to learn on your own,” Harvill said.
In addition, seniors said they worry about the transition to a more professional environment and worry about not being able to find a job they are happy and comfortable in. The number of college graduates competing for jobs has increased. Statistics show that the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded at California State universities and University of California institutions jumped from 121,000 in 2009–10 to 172,000 in 2019–20, Cesar Perez, Hans Johnson and Vicki Hsieh wrote in a 2020 Public Policy Institute of California Study.
“Something scarier than losing friendships might be not finding a right job,” Tardivo Meza said. “Maybe you accept a job and you don’t fit in it and you don’t know what to do.”
Tardivo Meza, an international student from Paraguay, said he is concerned about getting a job in the U.S.
“As an international student I believe that one of the worries is that less people will want to sponsor me because of my visa,” Tardivo Meza said. “I have to sponsor my OPT and my Green Card too, I’m still worried about that.”
Marla Pontrelli, director of Career Education and Coaching, said she encourages students worried about their future to reach out to the Career Center, Counseling Center and the Resilience-Informed Skills Education program for adulting advice.
“Depends on what the student’s worry is, if it’s on career exploration, reach out to the Career Center,” Pontrelli said. “If it’s personal, reach out to the Counseling Center, and reach out to RISE for building strategies for resilience, thriving in the face of adversity and being able to manage when something difficult happens.”
Aside from these tools, Pepperdine has provided for seniors, they have sought advice and safety nets with family and friends.
“In a sense in college we are living life, practicing adult things but there’s a safety net,” Edwards said. “At least for me I have the privilege to be supported by my family, extended family, friends and church family.”
The development of soft skills
All five seniors said they have acquired practical communication, leadership, networking and conflict negotiation skills to help them succeed in the future.
Pontrelli said aside from job-related skills, some skills she thinks are important for students to focus on building are their relationship, communication and leadership skills.
“I think connecting with others is really important, it can help people thrive and advance in a lot of different ways,” Pontrelli said. “Even if they don’t feel super equipped with technical and hard skills that are needed for a career or job.”
Soft skills — such as empathy, emotional intelligence, kindness, mindfulness, adaptability, integrity, optimism, self-motivation, grit and resilience — have become crucial success factors, Yolanda Lau wrote in a 2021 Forbes Article.
“Some really important skills that I’ve learned are leadership, organization and communication skills,” Everett said. “They have helped me here at Pepperdine and I know will continue once I leave.”
Dennis said knowing how to hold a conversation is paramount to his success. He said confidence is also a mental skill he developed that helped him accomplish what he puts his mind to.
“It’s never what you know but who you know,” Dennis said. “I’m thankful I have the ability to get to know any and everyone and actually meaningfully connect with people.”
The importance of empathy and social-emotional skills cannot be overstated, Lau wrote. Empathy and emotional intelligence require self-awareness and enable better listening, leading to improved communication.
Harvill said he mostly improved his communication and social skills.
“Before coming to Pepperdine, I was very shy and didn’t know how to interact with people and definitely wouldn’t have made it in the professional world,” Harvill said. “I feel like at Pepperdine I’ve learned all the skills I need to really go out in the world and be successful.”
Although Edwards said communication skills are key to success, she also said problem-solving is a key tool for her future career.
“Different conflict approach styles and how to approach any type of situation is key because there’s people who may not think like me,” Edwards said.
Pepperdine faculty who impacted seniors
Throughout the college journey, seniors have created tight bonds with some of their professors. Each student named at least one Pepperdine professor who made an impact on them.
“Brian Hemsworth, an advertising professor I took over the summer, is an amazing person,” Tardivo Meza said. “Because he put a lot of real-life examples in his class and real-life knowledge and application instead of just making you memorize.”
Students said professors have helped them professionally, spiritually and with personal growth. They have also prepared them for life outside Pepperdine.
“Fiona Stewart, my Italian professor, has not only prepared me to be a better person but also prepared me for adulthood and future goals,” Harvill said.
Edwards said former Pepperdine Communication Professor Roslyn Satchel made an impression on her. Satchel is now at Kennesaw State University.
“Dr. Roslyn Satchel, she is one of those people that you meet, have one conversation and never forget,” Edwards said. “She was really inspirational for the type of woman I want to be and reminded me of the type of person I already am.”
Dennis said former Pepperdine Screen Arts Professor John Sitter encouraged him to pursue videography.
“Apart from Pepperdine’s marketing department, I had a professor in sophomore year, John Sitter,” Dennis said. “He was my second biggest support system my entire time here — absolutely amazing.”
They all have similar experiences with professors who have invested in their academic and personal growth. This led to them creating deeper relationships they hope will last after Pepperdine.
Soliel Lara completed the reporting for this story in Jour 241 under the supervision of Dr. Christina Littlefield and Dr. Theresa de los Santos. Dr. Littlefield supervised the web version of the story.