UPenn commencement: joy mixed with realism

Monday, May 14, 2012

When many of Monday's graduates began as freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, it was 2008. The economy was in a full free-fall.

Four years later, and the job market still hasn't recovered. And so you meet grads like Claire Oetinger, who has a degree, but no job.

"Yeah, it's a little frustrating, and I guess it's a little disheartening sometimes," said Claire. "But I'm a nursing major, and I know the market's a little difficult right now."

Six thousand grads gathered at a drizzly Franklin Field to celebrate the Ivy League school's 256th commencement Monday.

Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children's Zone, and the inspiration for the 2010 documentary "Waiting For Superman," was the commencement speaker.

CIA director David Petraeus received an honorary degree, and spoke to Action News about hope.

"I've been there, it's extraordinary experience for them," said Petraeus. "And a bright future is ahead for them and for our country." Even with the economy the way it is? I asked him. "It will get better," Petraeus replied.

Penn does not track the number of its graduates who do find work. But Daniel Urdaneta will be among the employed. He starts a $78,000-a-year job with Morgan Stanley in June.

"You completed all their requirements, you have your degree, you're clearly a very smart, talented individual," he said. "As long as you keep going at it, jobs will open up."

And Bunmi Adekugbe, a native of Nigeria, told Action News he will be working in the dental industry.

"Most people that I tell I have a job are pretty surprised that I was able to get one before graduation," he said. "It's really tough out there."

"Go Quakers!" Penn President Dr. Amy Gutmann told the graduates, "And this is a great morning for everyone at Penn. And our graduates are going to do amazing work in the world."

So some of the grads will head out on their own and into the workforce, while others might have to join the Boomerang Generation and move back in with Mom and Dad, although the lucky ones who did find jobs insist it is all about persistence, even in this economy of 2012.

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