MC hosts ‘Graduating in a Recession’ panel discussion for recent grads 

MC hosts ‘Graduating in a Recession’ panel discussion for recent grads

May 26, 2020

The year 2020 has been full of unexpected challenges, and the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in different ways. As recent college graduates across the country prepare to enter the workforce, many of these grads are now faced with a new challenge: the uncertainty of an economic downturn.

To help MC’s Class of 2020 navigate the current job market, the Maryville College Career Center and Office of Alumni Affairs hosted a panel discussion titled “Graduating in a Recession” via Zoom. Ten MC alumni from the Class of 2008 and Class of 2009 joined the panel on May 7 to discuss their experiences and share advice on graduating in the midst of a recession. The recorded session was then sent to Maryville College’s graduating seniors to use as a resource.

The panelists included:

  • Michelle Wilson Bailey ’08, President of Blount County Alumni Association, Maryville, TN
  • Robbie Champion ’09, K12, Inc., Project Manager, Government Affairs, Washington, D.C.
  • Evan Giordano ’08, Dura-Line, Financial Analyst, Knoxville, TN
  • Jim LaPinska ’08, Northwestern Mutual, Growth/Development Director/Wealth Management Advisor, Knoxville, TN
  • Joe Norskov ’08, Red Arrow Industries, Manager of Development, Knoxville, TN
  • Heather Graves Parker ‘08, Bullock, Fly, Hornsby & Evans, Associate Attorney, Murfreesboro, TN
  • Rachel Rushworth-Hollander ’08, Maryville City Schools, English Teacher, Maryville, TN
  • Saray Taylor-Roman ’08, Saray Taylor- Roman Photography, Owner, Knoxville, TN
  • Emily A. Winsauer ’08, Kestral Strategy, Owner, Seattle, WA
  • Sarah Taylor Yeaple ’08, MC Career Center, Assistant Director, Maryville, TN

Christy McDonald Slavick, director of the Maryville College Career Center, said the idea for the panel came out of a conversation with the Office of Alumni Affairs.

“The Maryville College Alumni Association Board had the great idea of reaching out to Class of 2020 seniors to congratulate them on their upcoming graduation through phone, text and notes of encouragement,” McDonald Slavick said. “We anticipated that graduating seniors may have questions about college resources and support as they navigated this uncertain time. So, we thought that it may be a good idea to get the Class of 2008 and 2009 together to provide advice on how they navigated jobs and graduate schools after graduation to see if their experience could relate to our current students’ experiences.”

Each alumna or alumnus had a different career journey and a unique perspective on navigating the job market. However, nearly everyone emphasized that it’s important for graduates to remain open to opportunities they may have never considered.

“Be patient, be open-minded and be resilient,” said Yeaple, who majored in art at MC. “Take the opportunities that you have and try to leverage them in the best way possible.”

In this same vein, Giordano reminded students to “check their pride” without compromising their standards.

“From a pure business perspective, maybe give some consideration to the sectors and industries that are probably actually thriving in this environment,” said Giordano, who was a business and organization management major at MC.

Several of the panelists also spoke to how a Maryville College education can work to set graduates apart in the job market.

“Make sure you’re selling yourself when you’re applying for a job, as a graduate of a school that has taught you how to learn and do a job well,” Rushworth-Hollander, an English with teacher licensure major, said. “You have a major – something that you specialize in – but so many people in my life aren’t doing what they majored in.”

Taylor-Roman, who double majored in international studies and Spanish with teacher licensure at MC, said her MC education is helping her even now as she considers creative ways to evolve her self-made photography business during the current pandemic.

Many also reminded the recent graduates of the importance of networking. They encouraged them to take advantage of the MC network of alumni, including themselves.

“Take people up on their offers ... whether it’s someone from Maryville or someone you’ve met through your internships or just general life networking,” said Champion, who was a political science major at MC. “If they say that they’re willing to help, I would take them up on that.”

The panelists acknowledged that it won’t always be easy; there will be challenges and surprises along the way, and graduates may end up somewhere completely different than they intended. But they emphasized that it’s perfectly acceptable to not know where they’re headed just yet.

“It is OK to say, when people ask what’s next after college, that you don’t know. Accept uncertainty and be comfortable not knowing those answers,” said Norskov, who majored in psychology at MC.

Overall, McDonald Slavick said she hopes students were able to glean some understanding from the wealth of advice the alumni provided and to recognize that the path to a career is not always straight.

“Most importantly, we wanted graduates to know that pursuing a career is truly a journey and be reminded to not to get discouraged if their first job is not what they thought it to be,” she said. “Everybody has a different experience that is unique to them, and each of our panelists provided real-life examples of that fact.” 

Story written by Evy Linkous ’16


Maryville College is a nationally-ranked institution of higher learning and one of America’s oldest colleges. For more than 200 years, we’ve educated students to be giving citizens and gifted leaders, to study everything, so that they are prepared for anything — to address any problem, engage with any audience and launch successful careers right away. Located in Maryville, Tennessee, between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Knoxville, Maryville College offers nearly 1,200  students from around the world both the beauty of a rural setting and the advantages of an urban center, as well as more than 60 majors, seven pre-professional programs and career preparation from their first day on campus to their last. Today, our 10,000 alumni are living life strong of mind and brave of heart and are prepared, in the words of our Presbyterian founder, to “do good on the largest possible scale.”